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Feb 28 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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Paul Krugman: No Big Deal

Everyone knows that the Obama administration’s domestic economic agenda is stalled in the face of scorched-earth opposition from Republicans. And that’s a bad thing: The U.S. economy would be in much better shape if Obama administration proposals like the American Jobs Act had become law.

It’s less well known that the administration’s international economic agenda is also stalled, for very different reasons. In particular, the centerpiece of that agenda – the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or T.P.P. – doesn’t seem to be making much progress, thanks to a combination of negotiating difficulties abroad and bipartisan skepticism at home.

And you know what? That’s O.K. It’s far from clear that the T.P.P. is a good idea. It’s even less clear that it’s something on which President Obama should be spending political capital. I am in general a free trader, but I’ll be undismayed and even a bit relieved if the T.P.P. just fades away.

New York Times Editorial Board: Business and the Minimum Wage

Much of the discussion about the Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016 has rightly focused on the workers who will clearly benefit from the move. But what about businesses? How would higher wages affect them?

The answer – contrary to a great deal of reflexive hand-wringing by some conservative think tanks and politicians – is surprisingly positive. Scholarly studies and the experience of businesses themselves show that what companies lose when they pay more is often offset by lower turnover and increased productivity. Businesses are also able to deal with higher costs by modestly increasing prices and by giving smaller increases to higher-paid employees. [..]

The argument that a higher minimum wage would hurt business is old and tired. There is clear and compelling evidence that the economy and companies enjoy real benefits when workers are paid more.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Covenant: Why Wall Street Gives Trade Reps Big Paydays … In Advance

If you take the king’s shilling, says the old saying, then you do the king’s bidding. So what happens when you take 100 million of them?

Here’s one possible answer: You negotiate trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the new pact that the administration is currently trying to ram through Congress.  A recent report confirms that some of the officials crafting this latest agreement were paid handsomely by the Wall Street institutions who stand to benefit from them.

As the United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman has primary responsibility for the TPP. A new investigation from Republic Report reveals that Froman received more than $4 million in payouts from his then-employer Citigroup as he was leaving to join the Obama administration.

Robert L. Borosage: Tax Reform: Republicans Abandon Their Own Baby

Remember the Republican promises about comprehensive tax reform? A flatter, simple tax code. Lower rates, paid for by closing loopholes. Well, never mind. [..]

Well, now we know. When Dave Camp, Republican Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, unveiled comprehensive tax reform three years in the making, Republicans ran for the exits. Senate leader Mitch McConnell announced, “I have no hope for that happening this year.” House Speaker John Boehner did his imitation of a 5-year-old, muttering “blah, blah, blah” when asked on about the details of the Camp reform, saying that this was only the “beginning of a conversation, a discussion draft.” That’s the Republican position: Comprehensive tax reform, flatter, simpler lower taxes, centerpiece of the Republican growth agenda — ah, forgeddaboutit.

Karen Breenberg: The Five Commandments of Barack Obama

In January 2009, Barack Obama entered the Oval Office projecting idealism and proud to be the constitutional law professor devoted to turning democratic principles into action.  In his first weeks in office, in a series of executive orders and public statements, the new president broadcast for all to hear the five commandments by which life in his new world of national security would be lived.

Thou shalt not torture.

Thou shalt not keep Guantanamo open.

Thou shalt not keep secrets unnecessarily.

Thou shalt not wage war without limits.

Thou shalt not live above the law.

Five years later, the question is: How have he and his administration lived up to these self-proclaimed commandments?

Let’s consider them one by one:[..]

Five years later, Obama’s commandants need a rewrite.  Here’s what they should now look like and, barring surprises in the next three years, these, as written, will both be the virtual law of the land and constitute the Obama legacy.

Thou shalt not torture (but thou shalt leave the door open to the future use of torture).

Thou shalt detain forever.

Thou shalt live by limitless secrecy.

Thou shalt wage war everywhere and forever.

Thou shalt not punish those who have done bad things in the name of the national security state.

Robert Johnson: The Political Underbelly of the Pensions Crisis: What Broke the System, and How Do We Fix It?

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, policymakers and reporters have spoken of a growing crisis in public pensions. Many state and local governments are struggling to meet their obligations to retirees, and the easiest explanation is that government workers are overpaid and their pensions are unaffordable. But the evidence suggests that the pensions crisis is both less pervasive and more complex than that. Beyond the economic crisis, which put enormous pressure on state and municipal budgets, a range of factors including poor decision-making and the influence of big money interests has led to the underfunding of some state and city public pensions. With a clearer understanding of the problem, we can begin to take steps to solve it and keep our promises to public workers. [..]

The pensions crisis has far-reaching implications for the future of the U.S. economy: the state and local government sector is about 14 percent of the American workforce. Failure to uphold the promises we’ve made to current workers and retirees would create a brain drain in the public sector, drive down private-sector wages, exacerbate inequality, and lead to more economic volatility. The good news appears to be that there are a large number of pension plans that are solvent thanks to prudent management. The real problem rests with the governments of a few states that have historically failed to provision adequately for their pension obligations and are increasingly turning to riskier investment assets. These problems can be solved, but it will require substantial reform and swift and collective action.

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