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Apr 05 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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New York Times Editorial Board: No Spring Thaw in the Job Market

One of the many good things about the arrival of spring is that politicians, economists and other policy makers can no longer blame the winter weather for the slow economy and the grinding pace of job growth.

The employment report for March, released Friday, indicates that weather did not have as negative an impact in January and February as originally believed; job tallies for those months were revised upward. Accordingly, the springtime bounce in employment was not as great as anticipated. The 192,000 new jobs created in March fell short of the consensus forecast for stronger growth. Monthly job growth averaged 178,000 in the first quarter, compared with the monthly average of 194,000 in all of 2013.

That’s not progress. The sluggish job market is consistent with economic growth forecasts for the first quarter of 2014, which generally top out around 2.5 percent, and broader economic-growth data from the last quarter of 2013, which showed little momentum heading into 2014.

Andrea Gabor: Charter School Refugees

LAST week, the New York State Legislature struck a deal ensuring that charter schools in New York City would have access to space, either in already crowded public school buildings or in rented spaces largely paid for by the city. Over the next few years, charters are expected to serve an increasing proportion of city students – perhaps as much as 10 percent. Which brings up the question: Is there a point at which fostering charter schools undermines traditional public schools and the children they serve?

The experience of Harlem, where nearly a quarter of students are enrolled in charter schools, suggests that the answer is yes. High-quality charters can be very effective at improving test scores and graduation rates. However, they often serve fewer poorer students and children with special needs. [..]

We should not allow policy makers to enshrine a two-tier system in which the neediest children are left behind.

Joe Conason: On Our Highest Court, a Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

For a large and bipartisan majority of Americans, the increasing power of money in politics is deeply troubling. But not for the conservative majority of the United States Supreme Court, whose members appear to regard the dollar’s domination of democracy as an inevitable consequence of constitutional freedom-and anyway, not a matter of grave concern. Expressed in their decisions on campaign finance, which continued last week to dismantle decades of reform in the McCutcheon case, the court’s right wing sees little risk of corruption and little need to regulate the flamboyant spending of billionaires. [..]

But if right-wingers like Scalia and Thomas are simply pursuing ideological objectives, what about Anthony Kennedy, the Ronald Reagan appointee from California who is sometimes viewed as a moderating influence and a “swing vote”? On the issue of campaign finance, Kennedy has marched along with the majority, seeming just as fervent in his urge to destroy every regulation and protection against the “malefactors of great wealth” erected since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.

Joe Nocera: Michael Lewis’s Crusade

There is always something just a little frustrating about reading a Michael Lewis book. On the one hand, Lewis’s core point – whether it is that left tackle has become the second most important position in football (“The Blind Side”), or that the stock market has become rigged by high-frequency traders, as his new book, “Flash Boys,” claims – is almost always dead-on. His ability to find compelling characters and tell a great story through their eyes is unparalleled. He can untangle complex subjects like few others. His prose sparkles. [..]

Always before, discussions around high-frequency traders took place after events like the “Flash Crash” of 2010. Then the question was whether the computer technology used by high-frequency traders was destabilizing the market.

The arrival of “Flash Boys” has put a more important question on the table: whether high-frequency traders have been given an unfair advantage that needs to be dealt with. Lewis’s answer is clearly yes, and “Flash Boys” is both clear enough and persuasive enough that Lewis’s millions of readers are likely to agree with him.

A little literary license is a small price to pay.

Richard Reeves: Voting Laws: The Last Stand of the Old and the White

When the Constitution of the first modern democracy, the United States of America, was written, only about 10 percent of the population of the 13 states was granted the right to vote: white men who owned property.

Those were the days, my friend! And it often seems that if 21st-century Republicans had their way, those days would never have ended. Cut to The New York Times of last Sunday under the front-page headline: “GOP IS ENACTING NEW BALLOT CURBS IN PIVOTAL STATES … Rulings Paved Way-Fewer Places, Hours and Ways to Vote.”

“Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin,” began the third paragraph of the story, “this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.”

David Sirota: The Labor Market’s Double Standards

Technology, sports and politics are distinct worlds. They have their own junkies, their own vernaculars and their own peculiar customs. Yet, in recent weeks you may have noticed a common economic argument coming from those worlds’ respective leaders-an argument about who should have a right to engage in collective action and who should not.

In Silicon Valley, this argument was expressed in a flood of old emails from top executives at major companies such as Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe. As reported by my PandoDaily colleague Mark Ames, the correspondence released in court proceedings shows those executives agreeing to avoid hiring away employees from one another.