Sep 09 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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Lawrence Lessig: What New Yorkers Can Do About Money in Politics

There’s a meme spreading fast through the tubes of the Internets about what explains Governor Cuomo’s refusal to debate Zephyr Teachout. Here’s one tweet:

It’s a fun way to be angry about the outrage of the governor refusing to debate. But I don’t think this is really about sexism. It’s about money-ism: Zephyr is not entitled to debate the governor not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a woman without money. (Of course that’s not unrelated.) And in this democracy, not to have money is not to be qualified.

Dean Baker: The Inflation Fighters Want to Increase the Debt Burden on Our Children

Are you worried about the government running deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars and a debt in the trillions? If so, then you should be really angry at people calling for the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates. If the rate hikers get their way, they will add trillions of dollars to the debt burden borne by our children and grandchildren.

Okay, I’ll stop with the deficit hawk garbage, but there is a simple point here. If the Fed slows the economy and keeps people from getting jobs, we will face larger budget deficits.

This is about as straightforward as it gets. When the unemployment rate falls, more people have jobs and are paying taxes to the government. Also when people are working, they are less likely to be getting benefits like unemployment insurance and food stamps. Therefore as we get to lower levels of unemployment, the deficit gets smaller.

Tim Wu: Why I’m Suing the New York State Democratic Party for Interfering in Its Own Primary

Under the direction of Andrew Cuomo, the party has spent a small fortune supporting my opponent’s campaign.

I’m a Democrat, and this year I decided to run in the primary for lieutenant governor. My opponent, former Representative Kathy Hochul, is also a Democrat, but we differ on policy, particularly in areas like immigration policy, environmental protection and gun rights.

So far so good, but here’s the crazy part. The state Democratic Party that is running the primary (ostensibly to select the best candidate) is spending money-millions, by our estimates-to try to ensure that my opponent wins. Under the admitted direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democratic Party has spent a small fortune supporting my opponent’s campaign, including spending on literature for voters, phonebanking, television ads and, most recently, robocalls performed by Hillary Clinton.

It is an obvious conflict of interest for the party to both run a primary and then provide aid to one side. That’s why, back in 1911, the New York legislature made it illegal for political parties to spend money to influence the outcomes of their own primaries. Yet despite the illegality and ethical question, the Democratic Party in New York State keeps at it.

Rick Perlstein: Watergate’s most lasting sin: Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and the pardon that made us all cynics

Ford let Nixon off 40 years ago today. That launched Iran-Contra, “too big to fail” — and proved power trumps law

When you’ve published a book about Watergate, your phone rings off the hook in the days leading up to Aug. 9, 2014, the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation. But my phone’s been quiet this week – even though the event that took place almost exactly one month later, on Sept. 8, 1974, is the one that really changed the world. It’s still changing the world 40 years later. [..]

It was an enormously unpopular act. Ford’s approval rating declined from 71 to 49 percent, the most precipitous in history. This pardon was proof, the people said, that the system didn’t work – America was still crooked. Suspicions were widespread that it was the fruit of a dirty deal between Nixon and Ford: the presidency in exchange for the pardon. “The son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch,” was how Carl Bernstein broke the news Bob Woodward on the phone.

Since then, judgment on the pardon has reversed 180 degrees. First Woodward, then Bernstein, came to conclude there had been no deal, and that this was instead an extraordinarily noble act: Ford “realized intuitively that the country had to get beyond Nixon.” After Ford died in 2006, Peggy Noonan went even further. She said Ford “threw himself on a grenade to protect the country from shame.”

They’re wrong. For political elites took away a dangerous lesson from the Ford pardon – our true shame: All it takes is the incantation of magic words like “stability” and “confidence” and “consensus” in order to inure yourself from accountability for just about any malfeasance.

Thomas Frank: Finally, Wall Street gets put on trial: We can still hold the 0.1 percent responsible for tanking the economy

Too Big To Fail bailouts let them get away with it. The amazing result of California fraud trial could change that

The Tea Party regards Barack Obama as a kind of devil figure, but when it comes to hunting down the fraudsters responsible for the economic disaster of the last six years, his administration has stuck pretty close to the Tea Party script. The initial conservative reaction to the disaster, you will recall, was to blame the crisis on the people at the bottom, on minorities and proletarians lost in an orgy of financial misbehavior. Sure enough, when taking on ordinary people who got loans during the real-estate bubble, the president’s Department of Justice has shown admirable devotion to duty, filing hundreds of mortgage-fraud cases against small-timers. [..]

“Benjamin Wagner, a U.S. Attorney who is actively prosecuting mortgage fraud cases in Sacramento, Calif., points out that banks lose money when a loan turns out to be fraudulent,” reported a now-famous 2010 story in the Huffington Post. “But convincing a jury that executives intended to make fraudulent loans, and thus should be held criminally responsible, may be too difficult of a hurdle for prosecutors. ‘It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would be deliberately defrauding themselves,’ Wagner said.”

So forget those thousands of hours of Congressional investigation and those thousands of pages of journalism on the crisis. It doesn’t make any sense to the man in charge. No jury would be convinced. Case closed.

As it happens, a trial just ended in Sacramento in which a jury was convinced that “executives intended to make fraudulent loans.” Here’s the thing, though: It wasn’t the government that made the case against the financiers; it was the defendants.