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Jan 09 2014

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Richard (RJ) Eskow: Now We Know: JPMorgan Chase Is Worse Than Enron

It’s beginning to look as if JPMorgan Chase has had a hand in every major banking scandal of the last decade. In fact, it’s the Zelig of Wall Street crime. Take a snapshot of any major bank fraud and chances are you’ll see JPMorgan Chase staring out at you from the frame.

Foreclosure fraud, investor fraud, cheating customers, market manipulation, LIBOR… and now, the coup de grace to JPM’s tattered reputation: a $2 billion fine for closing its eyes and covering up as Bernie Madoff literally bilked widows and orphans, along with a lot of other families and charities. (Here’s a list of investors.)

Does Jamie Dimon, the bank’s CEO, still think people don’t say enough nice things about him? Do his friends? More importantly, how does the largest bank in the country (measured in assets) get away with being worse than Enron?

That one’s easy: By being the largest bank in the country.

Robert Sheer; Exposing Public Wickedness Is More American Than Apple Pie

It’s the revolt of the geeks. Edward Snowden is John Peter Zenger digitized, a post-Internet free-press hero soaring above the security obsessions of the past decade to assert the inalienable requirements of individual sovereignty in a wired world.

It was Zenger whose journalistic efforts to expose the wrongdoing of a colonial governor appointed by the crown landed him in jail facing the charge of “seditious libel,” quite similar to that brought against Snowden for exposing the NSA’s illegal spying.

Their defense is the same: True patriotism demands a vigilant confrontation with government infamy. “I know not what reason is,” Zenger published in his defense back in 1734, “if sapping and betraying the liberties of a people be not treason.” After Zenger spent more than eight months in jail, a jury of his peers exonerated him and his cry for an unfettered free press came to be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Mark Weisbrot: How Change Takes Place in the United States: The Minimum Wage

Last week, the New York Times reported that “Democratic Party leaders … have found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014: an increase in the minimum wage.”

This is a good signal that millions of underpaid workers in the world’s richest country will finally get a raise. It’s not a done deal yet, but it’s worth looking at how we got to this point.

Although the fact that the majority of Americans were not sharing in the gains from economic growth had been well known and well documented for decades, it was not a significant political issue until a grassroots movement, known as Occupy Wall Street, made it one. [..]

Unfortunately the White House-supported increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 over two years — important as it is — will not reverse that much of the damage of the past four decades. Now imagine a movement for labor law reform, of the kind that President Obama promised to support in his 2008 presidential campaign: in particular, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would restore the rights of U.S. workers — vastly degraded since 1980 — to form unions and bargain collectively. Of course the big business lobbies would fight it much harder than a minimum wage increase. But in 2009, when the Democrats had the Congress as well as the presidency, there was at least a possibility.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Marijuana Injustices

I have no desire to smoke marijuana, partly because doing so might drive me back to the cigarette habit I broke two decades ago. I don’t want to be one of those “cool parents” who pretend to be as culturally advanced as their kids. In my case, that’s a ridiculous aspiration anyway.

And I agree with those who call attention to the dangers of excessive indulgence in marijuana and want to encourage people to resist it. Nobody wants us to become a nation of stoners.

Nonetheless, I have come to believe that we should legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana use. The way we enforce marijuana laws is unconscionable. The arrest rates for possession are astoundingly and shamefully different for whites and African-Americans. The incongruence between what our statutes require and what Americans actually do cannot be sustained.

Dean Baker: Obamacare and Those Invincible Youngsters

There is an ongoing media obsession with the number of young people who sign up for health care insurance through Obamacare. We have been repeatedly told that the success of the program depends on large numbers of healthy young people — the “young invincibles” — signing up for the program. [..]

The key issue about the success of the exchanges has always been their ability to attract healthy people of all ages. The subsidy from healthy to less healthy already exists in the employer provided insurance market where employers effectively deduct the same amount from workers’ wages for insurance regardless of their health condition. So this re-distributional aspect of Obamacare already exists in the market that provides most people with their insurance.

The other reason why the focus on the young invincibles is harmful is that it distracts the public from looking at ways to improve Obamacare. These focus on reducing or eliminating the role for private insurers in the system as well as other sources of waste.