Feb 24 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: Release of Fed Transcripts Show Fed Scary Ignorant in 2008, WaPo Scary Ignorant in 2014

It’s great to be an economist in a top policymaking position in the United States. Unlike dishwashers, cab drivers, and most other workers, you are not held accountable for the quality of your work. We already knew that, since almost none of the people responsible for allowing the housing bubble to grow large enough to collapse the economy have paid any career price. (Ben Bernanke is praised for avoiding a second Great Depression. Talk about setting the bar low.)

Anyhow, the release of the 2008 transcripts of the meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) once again show a group of people that is frighteningly ignorant of the economy. The housing market was already in a full-fledged collapse by the end of 2007 with prices falling at the rate of 1.5 percent a month. That translates into a loss of $300 billion in household wealth every single month. Yet the transcripts show the Fed debating whether the economy would see a recession until well into 2008. (The pace of decline eventually accelerated to 2.0 percent a month.) [..]

As it is, these transcripts should make readers furious that the FOMC members were getting big paychecks for their work and will enjoy fat pensions in retirement. Unlike workers in Detroit and Chicago, they did mess up on their job, big-time. Read em and weep.

Robert Kuttner: ‘Trade’ Deals on the Ropes

The globalization agenda of American financial elites that has dominated both parties’ trade policy for three decades is on the verge of crashing and burning. There is escalating, perhaps fatal, opposition to the proposed Pacific and Atlantic deals in both the U.S. Congress and among partner nations.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is opposed to granting the required “fast track” trade negotiating authority. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, opposes fast track’s up-or-down vote provisions as well. The new Senate Finance chair, Ron Wyden, is far more of a skeptic than his predecessor, Max Baucus. Last week’s “Three Amigos” NAFTA 20 anniversary summit meeting in Mexico accomplished nothing other than photo ops. [..]

The agenda of global finance, carried out via “trade” deals, has diverted attention from the real economic issues — rising inequality and insecurity for ordinary people, the use of globalization as a battering ram to empower capital and weaken labor, and to prevent government interventions from averting financial speculation and collapse.

Amid these real crises of neo-liberalism, enhanced trade has been portrayed as a deux ex machina, which will solve our problems if only we get rid of what’s left of the mixed economy. It won’t. The proposed deals would only make matters worse.

Glen Ford: Detroit’s Agony Shows Why Black America Needs a People’s Plan for the Cities

Having stolen local democracy, corporate planners now trip over themselves to create the grid for a new

Hundreds of low-wage surveyors scour the depopulated streets of Detroit, mapping the extent of “blight” that has consumed the city. The three-person teams of the Blight Removal Task Force are financed by private corporations and foundations whose mission is the “orderly” destruction of the nation’s largest Black metropolis, to clear the way for a “new” city – one in which marginalized people like the surveyors themselves will be relegated to the shadows. The resulting data-base will allow real estate moguls like Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, the task force sugar daddy, to create an urban grid that maximizes land values and forms the basis of future city planning. The corporate schemes that flow from the survey, beginning with recommendations to be released in late March, will dictate the types of people that the city will accommodate, and their “place” – if any – in the new urban configuration. Other corporate-financed demolition planners, under the so-called Detroit Blight Authority, have already begun clearing land for private exploitation.

There is no question that Detroit’s state-imposed bankruptcy has dramatically quickened the pace of the land rush. However, private capital has always positioned itself on the ground floor of urban planning in the United States, where cities are first configured by profiteers and then occupied by those populations that can manage to fit themselves into the capitalist-contoured framework. The phenomenal, stunning – and wholly unplanned – explosion of Black urban pluralities and majorities in the Sixties and Seventies occurred when capital followed white populations in flight from the cities. Capital later reasserted itself, paving the way for gentrification with its “renaissance” projects in cities across the nation, thoroughly suborning the newly established Black political (misleadership) class to the task of African American removal.

Matthew Shears: Snowden and The Politics of Internet Governance

The Snowden revelations about the mass surveillance programmes of the NSA and the complicity of other Western security agencies have generated a lot of talk about the supposed lack of trust in the Internet, current Internet governance mechanisms, and the multistakeholder governance model. These revelations have been crucial to fueling the surveillance reform effort (see CDT’s NSA surveillance reform work here). However, most commentary linking surveillance and global Internet governance conflates two important issues in inaccurate – and politically motivated – ways, driving long-standing and potentially damaging agendas related to the management of the Internet. [..]

Governments are using the Internet to undermine our fundamental rights and threaten, as the UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue has suggested, the foundations of democratic society. Our response should not be to increase government control over the management of the Internet. Instead, we should reaffirm the need for open, inclusive, participatory Internet governance processes (nationally and internationally) and resist unilateral or multilateral decision-making on Internet-related policy issues.

Ralph Nader: The Cruel and Shameless Ideology of Corporatism

Like ravenous beasts of prey attacking a weakened antelope, the forces of subsidized capital and their mercenaries sunk their fangs into the United Auto Workers (UAW) and its organizing drive at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The UAW narrowly lost – 712 to 626 – and the baying pack of plutocrats exalted, as if they had just saved western civilization in the anti-union, lower-wage South.

The days preceding the vote were a corporatist frenzy with corporatist predators bellowing ‘the sky is falling.’ VW, which sensibly stayed neutral, but privately supported the UAW’s efforts and its collateral “works councils” (an arrangement that had stabilized and made their unionized, higher-paid workers in Germany more productive), must have wondered on what planet they had landed.

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