“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.
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Dean Baker: The Entitlement of the Very Rich
The very rich don’t think very highly of the rest of us. This fact is driven home to us through fluke events, like the taping of Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent comment, in which he trashed the people who rely on Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of government benefits.
Last week we got another opportunity to see the thinking of the very rich when Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, complained at a summit with African heads of state and business leaders that there is even an argument over the reauthorization of Export-Import Bank. According to the Washington Post, Immelt said in reference to the Ex-Im Bank reauthorization, “the fact that we have to sit here and argue for it I think is just wrong.”
To get some orientation, the Ex-IM Bank makes around $35 billion a year in loans or loan guarantees each year. The overwhelming majority of these loans go to huge multi-nationals like Boeing or Mr. Immelt’s company, General Electric. The loans and guarantees are a subsidy that facilitates exports by allowing these companies and/or their customers to borrow at below market interest rates.
It is not a lack of sympathy with the historic and current circumstance of Iraq’s religious minorities – or of other persecuted peoples in that traumatized country – that leads some of the most humane and responsible members of Congress to say that President Obama must seek approval from the House and Senate before committing the United States military to a new Iraq mission.
Nor is it isolationism or pacifism that motivates most dissent.
Rather, it is a healthy respect for the complex geopolitics of the region combined with a regard for the wisdom of the system of checks and balances and the principles of advice and consent outlined in the US Constitution.
On Wednesday, August 6, the country celebrated the forty-ninth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the most impactful civil rights law ever passed by Congress. Two days later, a federal judge in North Carolina denied a preliminary injunction to block key provisions of the state’s new voting law, widely described as the most onerous in the country.
North Carolina’s new voting restrictions will now be in effect for the 2014 midterms and beyond, pending a full trial in July 2015, a month before the fiftieth anniversary of the VRA. The federal government and plaintiffs including the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters argued during a hearing last month that three important parts of the law-a reduction in early voting from seventeen to ten days, the elimination of same-day registration during the early voting period, and a prohibition on counting provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct-disproportionally burdened African-American voters in violation of Section 2 of the VRA and should be enjoined before the 2014 election.
An almost radical court ruling has only one downside: it didn’t go far enough to pay student-athletes for the sham that is ‘amateur’ college athletics
On Friday afternoon, US District Judge Claudia Wilken issued a potentially landmark antitrust ruling against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, finding that the severe restrictions the NCAA places on the ability of its players to be compensated clearly violated federal antitrust laws.
The ruling didn’t go far enough: there are still far too stringent caps on how players can be compensated, and the judge permitted the NCAA to maintain its indefensible ban on third party payments to players. But, not unlike the first tentative state court opinions requiring states to make civil unions available to same-sex couples in lieu of marriage, the biggest NCAA ruling in this era of backlash could have a ripple effect and eventually reverse their increasingly unpopular standards. Or, it’s possible that the ruling will allow the NCAA to tinker with, but maintain, a terrible system: the implications of the ruling are too unclear to be sure.
But given that the NCAA’s professed commitment to “amateurism” is an increasingly farcical sham that allows administrators and even comically inept coaches to rake in massive amounts of money while players get paid a fraction of their value, that judgment day can’t come soon enough.
We now return to our regularly scheduled Sunday shows, featuring another war, another 9/11 and Hillary. We still deserve better than this
It’s so great to be bombing again. And not like any of this BS remote-controlled bombing where we only admit to it two weeks later, after photos surface of some remote-control jockey from the 38th Chairborne precision-striking a Yemeni funeral. I’m talking real deal bombing. Maybe we even get another Outkast song out of it.
These aren’t my sentiments, but if you watched the Sunday American talk shows this week, you could get the impression that these were the attitudes of an entire nation: There is a humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq, and the only way to stop the killing is to kill our way our of it. No, dig UP, stupid. The president has already authorized several strikes in just a couple days, but, like, what is the freaking holdup?
By now seemingly every print and online outlet has had a crack at explaining why the Sunday shows are so phenomenally useless. And they are. They are invariably the most intelligence-insulting television panel discussion on a day during which their far more popular competition is usually the Beefcake Backslap Chucklefuck Hour on Fox, discussing how Stem test scores will affect our nation’s football readiness. The purpose of these shows is to give a klatsch of DC navel-gazers time to congratulate themselves on addressing problems you don’t face and with which you do not identify, by advocating policies you don’t support or need. These are people who neither know of nor care about your existence, and they are endlessly high-fiving themselves for screwing you over on your behalf.
Most Americans have long believed, in embarrassing ignorance, that the share of the U.S. federal budget spent on foreign aid is an order of magnitude higher than what we actually spend abroad. Years ago, this mistaken view was amplified from the far right by the John Birch Society. Today, it is the tea party movement complaining that joblessness and poverty in the United States result directly from the lamentable fact that “President Obama keeps sending our money overseas.”
Actually, spending on foreign assistance has remained remarkably steady for many years in Washington, at around 1 percent, a minuscule level compared with what other developed nations spend to improve living standards in the developing world. But perhaps that is because those other countries have figured out what we may soon learn from the latest Ebola outbreak: Disease vectors do not respect national or political boundaries-and the lack of medical infrastructure in one country can ultimately threaten all countries.
At this very moment, the health systems built by many years of painstaking effort in Africa-inadequate as they are-struggle to prevent the spread of this awful illness beyond the countries already struck. We would be far safer if those systems were more modern and robust.