“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: Voodoo Economics, the Next Generation
Even if Republicans take the Senate this year, gaining control of both houses of Congress, they won’t gain much in conventional terms: They’re already able to block legislation, and they still won’t be able to pass anything over the president’s veto. One thing they will be able to do, however, is impose their will on the Congressional Budget Office, heretofore a nonpartisan referee on policy proposals.
As a result, we may soon find ourselves in deep voodoo.
During his failed bid for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination George H. W. Bush famously described Ronald Reagan’s “supply side” doctrine – the claim that cutting taxes on high incomes would lead to spectacular economic growth, so that tax cuts would pay for themselves – as “voodoo economic policy.” Bush was right. Even the rapid recovery from the 1981-82 recession was driven by interest-rate cuts, not tax cuts. Still, for a time the voodoo faithful claimed vindication.
A dirty trick by politicians will come back to haunt them if a looming fight exposes the motherlode of spying power – and shuts off the data vacuum
NSA reform is not going away, even if officials in Congress and the White House are praying it does. The NSA’s staunchest defenders are currently making one last attempt to kill any meaningful restrictions on surveillance, but in the process, they’re are on the verge of painting themselves into a corner they can’t get out of – just as even more secret spying on Americans comes to light. [..]
NSA defenders may think they’re successfully running out the clock on reform efforts, but it’s about to come back to haunt them. As the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman explained on Friday, if Congress refuses to vote on the USA Freedom Act when they come back for their lame duck session after Election Day, their strategic cowardice will set up a showdown come June, when Congress must re-authorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act – the law allowing the NSA to vacuum up every American’s phone records.
The law will expire altogether if Congress doesn’t affirmatively vote “yes” on it, which should effectively shut down the NSA’s domestic metadata spying program. And it’s pretty clear the House doesn’t have enough votes to pass any re-authorization.
The European Union’s finding that Apple negotiated a sweetheart tax deal with the Irish government was no surprise. In 2013 the US Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations, which I chair, first made Apple’s special tax deal in Ireland public as part of our probe into Apple’s tax avoidance schemes.
Though Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, later claimed “we have no special tax deal with Ireland”, and the company again denied negotiating a tax break even after the EU’s findings, what we found last year was damning. The way Ireland taxed Apple’s income resulted in a tax rate of less than 1% and allowed Apple to set up three Irish subsidiaries with no tax residency in any country.
Still, last week’s EU release is immensely significant. Why? Because it adds important information to the public’s record, and it promises to raise the pressure, both political and financial, on Apple and other companies that use similar gimmicks to shift their tax burden on to other taxpayers and leave governments less able to fund education, national security and other important priorities
Gary Younge: Carmen Segarra, the whistleblower of Wall Street
One Federal Reserve employee’s refusal to play along with a rigged financial game has made her a true modern dissident
Carmen Segarra, in the spirit of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden before her, is like the greengrocer who said no. Segarra, a former employee of the New York Federal Reserve, was fired after she refused to tone down a scathing report on conflicts of interest within Goldman Sachs. She sued the Fed over her sacking but the case was dismissed by a judge without ruling on the merits because, he said, the facts didn’t comply with the statute under which she had filed. Segarra is now appealing.
Before she left she secretly recorded her bosses and colleagues, exposing their “culture of fear” and servility when dealing with the very banks they were supposed to be regulating. The Fed is the government agency charged with overseeing the financial sector – a task it singularly failed to achieve in the run-up to the recent financial crisis. What emerges from Segarra’s tapes – released by the investigative website ProPublica – is a supine watchdog wilfully baring its gums before a known burglar so that he may go about his business unperturbed
It’s as though all the Fed employees were told to put a small sign on their desk saying “Under Capitalism Everyone is Equal Before the Law”, and Segarra took hers down. She has disrupted the game, and now everyone can peer behind the curtain; the Fed is the system, and lives within the lie.
Alexander Nekrassov: Why the spooks keep getting it wrong
Is an over-reliance on electronic surveillance why intelligence-gathering is failing both the West and Russia so often?
In an interview with CBS on September 28, US President Barack Obama admitted that US intelligence agencies had “underestimated” the activity of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
So suddenly, as if out of nowhere, civil war-torn Syria became “ground zero for jihadists around the world”, he said.
Indeed, as ISIL fighters occupied a third of Iraq under the very noses of western intelligence services that were supposedly monitoring the situation on the ground in the Middle East, the question everyone ought to be asking is: How come spooks get it wrong so often?
In the past decade, intelligence agences worldwide have failed spectacularly, having missed the devastating financial crash and failing to foresee the consequences of the invasion of Iraq – not to mention those elusive WMDs. They also appeared to have missed the Arab Spring by about a thousand miles and could not predict what would happen in Egypt and Libya once their strong leaders were removed.
Robert Parry: NYT’s Belated Admission on Contra-Cocaine
Nearly three decades since the stories of Nicaraguan Contra-cocaine trafficking first appeared in 1985, the New York Times has finally, forthrightly admitted the allegations were true, although this belated acknowledgement comes in a movie review buried deep inside Sunday’s paper.
The review addresses a new film, “Kill the Messenger,” that revives the Contra-cocaine charges in the context of telling the tragic tale of journalist Gary Webb who himself revived the allegations in 1996 only to have the New York Times and other major newspapers wage a vendetta against him that destroyed his career and ultimately drove him to suicide. [..]
Although the Times’ review still quibbles with aspects of Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series in the San Jose Mercury-News, the Times appears to have finally thrown in the towel when it comes to the broader question of whether Webb was telling important truths.