“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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Paul Krugman: The Fall of France
François Hollande, the president of France since 2012, coulda been a contender. He was elected on a promise to turn away from the austerity policies that killed Europe’s brief, inadequate economic recovery. Since the intellectual justification for these policies was weak and would soon collapse, he could have led a bloc of nations demanding a change of course. But it was not to be. Once in office, Mr. Hollande promptly folded, giving in completely to demands for even more austerity.
Let it not be said, however, that he is entirely spineless. Earlier this week, he took decisive action, but not, alas, on economic policy, although the disastrous consequences of European austerity grow more obvious with each passing month, and even Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is calling for a change of course. No, all Mr. Hollande’s force was focused on purging members of his government daring to question his subservience to Berlin and Brussels.
Reading companies’ annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission is a reliable cure for insomnia. Every so often, though, there is a significant revelation in the paperwork. This year, one of the most important revelations came from Microsoft’s filings, which spotlighted how the tax code allows corporations to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship yet avoid paying U.S. taxes.
According to the SEC documents, the company is sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore. That amount of money represents a significant spike from prior years.
To put this in perspective, the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company’s home state of Washington.
The disclosure in Microsoft’s SEC filing lands amid an intensifying debate over the fairness of U.S.-based multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying American taxes. Such maneuvers – although often legal – threaten to significantly reduce U.S. corporate tax receipts during an era marked by government budget deficits.
In California, reform to shine light on big political donors is on verge of losing. Here’s a surprising reason why
The biggest reason why it will be so hard to get money out of politics is that there’s so much money in politics. The system favors incumbents, from incumbent politicians to their incumbent funders. And they have little incentive to shake up the status quo that brought them to power, even if their constituents and their ideological principles call out for reform.
This is precisely what’s playing out in California. One of the most liberal legislatures in the country has struggled to pass a campaign finance measure that would merely force disclosure on political advertising, because several labor unions that spend heavily on campaigns oppose it. This has infuriated progressive groups in California and across the nation.
The bill, known as the California DISCLOSE Act, is based on the national DISCLOSE Act that came within one vote of passage back in 2010. It would require all political advertising to prominently display the names of the three largest funders, whether on print, radio, mailer, billboard, Web or television spots. The names would have to be the actual original funders, not some fake front group like “Californians for a Better World” or something. The DISCLOSE Act also require campaign committees to publish a website for voters, listing all funders who donated $10,000 or more.
Sasha Weblin: Blockbuster bank settlements leave consumers hanging
Details of homeowner relief stay opaque while tax deductions and accounting loopholes lower cost to banks
Last week Bank of America reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to the tune of $16.65 billion for its role in selling faulty mortgages in the financial crisis. Such big-dollar settlements with large banks – including, in the past year, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase – sound like harsh punishments but in actuality amount only to slaps on the wrist.
For one, those colossal dollar figures are rarely the actual prices the banks will pay. The real costs to these companies is muddled by tax deductions, unclear directives and accounting loopholes. The secretive negotiation process for settlements is also inconsistent with the civil and criminal process the average American faces.
It’s no wonder, then, that the nation has settlement fatigue; the feeling among consumer advocates and the public is that these agreements have negligible impact on the lives of homeowners affected by the financial crisis.
Miles Rapoport: Sen. McConnell Makes the Case
Those of us working on political money issues have a fresh appreciation today for the old saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows. That’s because Sen. Mitch McConnell, long known as a champion of big money in politics, has made a stunningly compelling case for a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and the states to restore sensible limits on political spending. We appreciate his help and his clarity.
By happy coincidence, the Senate will vote on just such a proposal next month, the Democracy for All Amendment (S.J. Res 19). Senators still undecided about the amendment should study Sen. McConnell’s remarks carefully. [..]
Sen. McConnell called the Democracy for All Amendment radical; it is anything but. In a few sentences, it restores an understanding of the Constitution that was in place for at least a century until recently unraveled by the Roberts court. It affirms that money is not speech and that no one, however wealthy or powerful, has a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.