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Mar 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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Richard (RJ) Eskow: Bill Clinton and Steny Hoyer: The ‘Wall Street Democrats’ Fight Back

If progressive and populist ideas resonate with most voters, some people have asked, why isn’t the Democratic Party doing better in the polls? Here’s one reason: Some of the party’s most prominent leaders are still pushing Wall Street’s unpopular and discredited economic platform.

Recent speeches by former President Clinton and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer showed that Wall Street continues to hold considerable sway in their party, despite the fact that its austerity agenda has failed. Its “deficits over growth” ideology has wounded both Europe and the United States. To hear Clinton and Hoyer speak, you’d think we’d learned nothing from the economic experience of the last five years. [..]

There’s a struggle underway over the future of the Democratic Party. The populist movement has scored some significant recent wins, including the electoral victories of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Its ideas resonate with the public, and are in sync with mainstream economic thought.

But the remarks from Clinton and Hoyer demonstrate that the party’s Wall Street wing is still riding tall in the saddle, despite its discredited ideas and unpopular proposals.

There’s one sure-fire way to give a person, or a country, its “swagger” back: a good job at good wages will do it every time. Too bad these Wall Street Democrats aren’t talking about that.

Paul Krugman: America’s Taxation Tradition

As inequality has become an increasingly prominent issue in American discourse, there has been furious pushback from the right. Some conservatives argue that focusing on inequality is unwise, that taxing high incomes will cripple economic growth. Some argue that it’s unfair, that people should be allowed to keep what they earn. And some argue that it’s un-American – that we’ve always celebrated those who achieve wealth, and that it violates our national tradition to suggest that some people control too large a share of the wealth.

And they’re right. No true American would say this: “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” and follow that statement with a call for “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes … increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Who was this left-winger? Theodore Roosevelt, in his famous 1910 New Nationalism speech.

Alan Grayson: Come Clean on Deadly Drone Activities

Three years ago last week, a U.S. drone strike hit the small town of Datta Khel in Pakistan. Local business owners and leaders were in the midst of a two-day tribal council meeting, called to address a dispute regarding a chromite mine in the area. Local authorities had been notified about the meeting, which is a traditional forum employed to resolve community conflicts. [..]

It’s time for our government to shed some light on its drone practices. Transparency, as uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, is an essential part of our democracy. Americans need the facts — the who, what, when, where, and (most importantly) why — in order to decide if the benefits of these strikes outweigh the negatives. And for the people in other countries, whose lives are so profoundly impacted by America’s drone activities, people like Rafiq ur Rehman and the individuals in Datta Khel, they deserve some closure, too.

Transparency, disclosure, and reporting will help accomplish both of these goals. A resolution that calls for these measures is a worthwhile proposal — one that America should seriously consider supporting.

Amy B. Dean: How Cincinnati beat the tea party

The refrain of privatization seems to play over and over. Our cities are going broke and can’t afford to make retirement payments; public health nurses, city park employees, and other workers who provide important services will not get what they worked hard for all their lives; and the only way out is to put pensions into the hands of privately held corporations. Or at least, that’s what the tea party and other political interests would have us believe.

Fortunately, there is a recent example of a city where people have fought back against this prevailing narrative and won: Cincinnati. Although public employee pensions may seem an unlikely proving ground for new alliances between local unions and business leaders, the people of Cincinnati showed that unity was possible when, last November, 78 percent of voters rejected a tea-party-backed ballot measure that would have drastically altered the retirement prospects for city workers.

Cincinnati’s resounding defeat of an organized effort to privatize public employee pensions is surprising because of the broad spectrum of people who opposed it. As a supporter of organized labor and an opponent of pension privatization, I was struck by the way in which unions and their community allies were able to mobilize major business executives, faith groups, seniors’ rights organizations and even the local chamber of commerce around a single outcome: safeguarding stable retirement for the people who have worked for it.

Roger Cohen: Obama’s Anemic Speech in Europe

Having pivoted to Asia and done the de rigueur minimum over several years to keep the trans-Atlantic alliance off life-support, Barack Obama awakened with a jolt to Europe this week and, on his first visit to Brussels as president, spoke of “inseparable allies” with a shared mission to demonstrate that Russia cannot “run roughshod over its neighbors.” [..]

He spoke in timely fashion of “our Article 5 duty” under the North Atlantic Treaty to respond with force to any attack on a NATO country, important reassurance to the Baltic states, among others. This military commitment was backed by reference to the need for “very real contingency plans” to protect NATO nations in Central and Eastern Europe. Those plans, to date, have been inadequate. Overall, the combination of sanctions against Russia, economic support for Ukraine, and the dispatch of additional military forces eastward sent a clear message to Putin – one that will not reverse Russia’s Crimea annexation but may stop him going any further.

Malcolm Harris: Why Nate Silver can’t explain it all

Between media startups Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com and Ezra Klein’s Vox.com, the newsplaining corner of the online media business is about to get a lot more competitive. Not quite reporting and not quite opinion writing, this data-driven journalism doesn’t simply strive to contribute to public policy and culture debates, it aims to end them with a decisive answer. Both sites assume a full understanding of the broad range of subjects they’re covering, and sufficient information to adjudicate all questions with responses that could invariably begin, “Actually …”

Welcome to the age of Actually Journalism. [..]

Data extrapolation is a very impressive trick when performed with skill and grace, like ice sculpting or analytical philosophy, but it doesn’t come equipped with the humility we should demand from our writers. “We’re not sociopaths,” Silver has said, but that’s not something that someone who isn’t often accused of being a sociopath usually has to say. When confronted with the lack of racial and gender diversity on their staffs, Klein and Silver have hemmed and hawed about qualifications and blown it off, but if Actually Journalism can’t find a way to examine its own underlying conditions, it will be actually worthless.