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Feb 18 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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Dean Baker: Corporate Cronyism: The Secret to Overpaid CEOs

It’s hardly a secret that the heads of major corporations in the United States get mind-bending paychecks. High pay may be understandable when a top executive turns around a failing company or vastly expands a company’s revenue and profit, but CEOs can get paychecks in the tens or hundreds of millions even when they did nothing especially notable.

For example, Lee Raymond retired from Exxon-Mobil in 2005 with $321 million. (That’s 22,140 minimum wage work years.) His main accomplishment for the company was sitting at its head at a time when a quadrupling of oil prices sent profits soaring. Hank McKinnel walked away from Pfizer in 2006 with $166 million. It would be hard to identify his outstanding accomplishments. [..]

It’s not hard to write contracts that would ensure that CEO pay bears a closer relationship to the company’s performance. For example, if the value of Raymond’s stock incentives at Exxon were tied to the performance of the stock of other oil companies (this can be done) then his going away package probably would not have been one-tenth as large. Also, there can be longer assessment periods so that it’s not possible to get rich by bankrupting a company.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Don’t Do It, Mr. President!

President Obama’s budget is scheduled to be released on March 4, and a critical question remains unanswered. Will he or won’t he reprise the “chained CPI” cut to Social Security that he proposed in last year’s budget? Nobody on his team is talking. The answer to that question could determine the financial fate of millions of Americans — and the political fate of the president’s party.

The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent reviewed some of the pushback the president has been getting on this subject. So far, 16 senators have signed a letter asking him to drop the chained CPI this time around. Two progressive groups, the Campaign for America’s Future and Social Security Works, have initiated a petition with the same demand.

Sargent also provides an overview of the chained CPI, something we’ve also done a number of times. To avoid repeating ourselves, we’ll leave it at this: It’s a benefit cut, and a pretty big one at that.

That raises a lot of questions.

Joe Sestak: Making the Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

When I entered Congress in 2007, the year the recession began, the second vote I took was to raise the minimum wage $1.40 to $7.25 an hour. I did so recognizing an important fact: This first increase of the minimum wage in 10 years was still less than the minimum wage in 1968 when adjusted for inflation ($10.74).

The reduction in the real value of the minimum wage from half a century ago is particularly tough today because the majority of those working for minimum or low wages are no longer young teenagers. For instance, 68 percent of fast-food workers are adults, of whom over a quarter have children. And 65 percent are woman, all working longer for less. [..]

What we’re missing today is pragmatic leadership where leaders are willing to say, “Here’s where we are, here’s what I think we have to do based on the facts, here’s measurable benchmarks that we need to hit, and if we don’t, hold me accountable.” So what are the facts?

Peter van Buren: Drone Killing the Fifth Amendment

How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Death at a Time

Terrorism (ter-ror-ism; see also terror) n. 1. When a foreign organization kills an American for political reasons.

Justice (jus-tice) n. 1. When the United States Government uses a drone to kill an American for political reasons.

How’s that morning coffee treating you? Nice and warming? Mmmm.

While you’re savoring your cup o’ joe, imagine the president of the United States hunched over his own coffee, considering the murder of another American citizen. Now, if you were plotting to kill an American over coffee, you could end up in jail on a whole range of charges including — depending on the situation — terrorism. However, if the president’s doing the killing, it’s all nice and — let’s put those quote marks around it — “legal.” How do we know? We’re assured that the Justice Department tells him so.  And that’s justice enough in post-Constitutional America. [..]

At the moment, we are threatened with a return to a pre-Constitutional situation that Americans would once have dismissed out of hand, a society in which the head of state can take a citizen’s life on his own say-so. If it’s the model for the building of post-Constitutional America, we’re in trouble. Indeed the stakes are high, whether we notice or not.

Michael Brenner: The American Public School Under Siege

A feature of the Obama presidency has been his campaign against the American public school system, eating way at the foundations of elementary education. That means the erosion of an institution that has been one of the keystones of the Republic. The project to remake it as a mixed public/private hybrid is inspired by a discredited dogma that charter schools perform better. This article of faith serves an alliance of interests — ideological and commercial — for whom the White House has been point man. A President whose tenure in office is best known for indecision, temporizing and vacillation has been relentless since day one in using the powers of his office to advance the cause. Such conviction and sustained dedication is observable in only one other area of public policy: the project to expand the powers and scope of the intelligence agencies that spy on, and monitor the behavior of persons and organizations at home as well as abroad.

The audacity of the project is matched by the passive deference that it is accorded. There is no organized opposition — in civil society or politics. Only a few outgunned elements fight a rearguard action against a juggernaut that includes Republicans and Democrats, reactionaries and liberals — from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York to the nativist Christian Right of the Bible Belt. All of this without the national “conversation” otherwise so dear to the hearts of the Obama people, without corroboration of its key premises, without serious review of its consequences, without focused media attention.

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