Nov 19 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.

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day

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Kristina vanden Heuvel: When Mega Corporations Get Mega Tax Breaks, We All Pay

Is corporate CEO pay really out of control? Well, consider Fleecing Uncle Sam, a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government. Of the 100 highest-paid CEOs in the US, the study finds, twenty-nine of them received more compensation than their companies paid in federal income tax.

Take American Airlines, for example. CEO W. Douglas Parker took home $17.7 million in total compensation in 2013, while his company received a $22 million tax refund. It makes you wonder. After all, American didn’t have a lot of income on which to pay taxes-the company’s pre-tax income in 2013 was negative $2 billion-so is AA sending us a message that tax avoidance, and not air transport, is their real business? Parker certainly piloted his company to be more success at the former than he did the latter.

Scott Klinger, Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government, co-authored of the report. “Our corporate tax system is so broken,” he says, “that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives.”

Amanda Marcotte: Satanists elegantly humiliate Christians into ending public school proselytization

Hail Satan! Or Satanists, at least, who have done a bang-up job in exposing the bad faith that was behind the choice of a Florida public school system to use school grounds for attempts to recruit kids into the Christian religion. The Orange County school district was allowing religious groups to distribute Bibles on school grounds, a policy they justified by suggesting that they had not ulterior motive but were just being free and open and all that jazz. So folks decided to test how far they were willing to take it. An atheist group was allowed to distribute pamphlets criticizing religion. (A criticism of the pamphlet itself should be read before fully supporting this move.) And then the Satanists got involved, and that might be the last straw for the Christians who were oh-so-innocently offering a free forum for totally free and non-judgmental discourse about faith that totally wasn’t pushing a Christian agenda.

So now they’re looking to reverse the policy: [..]

So if Christians are doing it, it’s fine. If Satanists or atheists do it, suddenly it’s “out of hand” and they are taking “advantage of the open forum”. Except it’s not an open forum, obviously. An actual open forum is open to all viewpoints. This was a closed forum, and this was easily demonstrated by the fact that the forum closed the second that viewpoints that are critical of Christianity were introduced.

Jessica Valenti: Suggestion: If You Can’t Talk About Rape Without Blaming Victims, Don’t Talk About It

Rape apologists are neither edgy nor new. Why are they given such prominent platforms?

How we think about rape matters. It determines how we talk about rape, it determines how the media writes about rape and, ultimately, it determines what we as a society do about rape.

And right now, we are not doing enough. [..]

So you might think that someone given a platform at the New York Times, like  Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld was in Sunday’s paper, might have done more than simply note that women are attacked “in appalling numbers” and colleges mishandle rape cases.

Instead, what followed that barest of acknowledgements of the epidemic of rape – on the front cover of the Times’ Sunday Review section, ostensibly some lingering bastion of “thought leadership” – was misinformation, cherry-picked research and a series of inflammatory, baseless arguments.

Joanna Rothkopf: Wrong, NRA-Right-to-Carry Laws Actually Increase Gun Violence

New study definitely debunks gun nuts’ crazy theory that more guns make us safer.

A new study from researchers at Stanford University debunks the oft-cited fact that  more guns leads to less crime. In fact, the researchers found, the opposite is the case: right-to-carry laws are associated with higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder.

The results of the study are imperfect. Lead author of the study and Stanford law professor  John J. Donohue III said, “Trying to estimate the impact of right-to-carry laws has been a vexing task over the last two decades.” While they specifically found that right-to-carry laws had yielded 8 percent more instances of aggravated assault, that number isn’t set in stone because of a number of confounding factors (such as various drug epidemics). Regardless, Donohue says that 8 percent is a low guess-the reality could be much higher.

Still, the study’s findings are significant in that it pokes a hole in the gun lobby’s main argument.

Amy B. Dean: The labor movement helps Ferguson heal

By highlighting racial injustice, the AFL-CIO is leading an effort to address tensions in working-class America

Given organized labor’s mixed record on race, it may seem hard to imagine that unions can play a vital role in bridging racial divides in working-class America. But some labor activists are insisting that they cannot do anything less.

In 2008 the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, openly criticized union members who were hesitant to vote for then-candidate Barack Obama because of his race. Trumka has since made addressing racial injustice a priority for the country’s largest labor federation. It is not surprising, then, that he has now waded into the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, pledging the AFL-CIO’s support to help address the ongoing turmoil sparked by the Aug. 9 shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. [..]

Such outspoken stances reflect an increasingly important reality: Few institutions in American life bring together as much diversity under one roof as organized labor, and even fewer have the political heft to influence our public policy discussions. This gives labor leaders and grass-roots union activists a unique platform from which they can speak about how our country’s racial divisions might be overcome.

Jill Lawrence: The Democratic comeback plan

Shower money and energy on the states to advance policy and nurture tomorrow’s big names

There’s no getting over a heartache until you plunge yourself into something (or someone) fresh and consuming. That’s what Democrats should do in the wake of their miserable midterm elections. Specifically, party activists and donors should direct their cash and attentions to state legislatures and state ballot initiatives. It’s the smart move both psychologically and politically.

Obviously Democrats can’t ignore the 2016 House, Senate, gubernatorial and presidential elections. But party movers and shakers must also understand the potential payoff of a forceful presence well below those levels. There’s a diminishing bench of prospects for the higher offices that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and a policy agenda that is making more progress through direct, state-specific appeals to voters than in Congress. Think of the possibilities: Minimum wage hikes today, Medicaid expansion tomorrow? [..]

The urgency for Democrats can’t be overstated. They need to start now if they want to have solid candidates and policies on state ballots in 2016, when they may be able to capitalize on the high turnout and friendlier electorate of a presidential year. If any further incentive is needed, how about the prospect of a second round of Republican-dominated redistricting after the 2020 census? The last remapping locked in today’s House GOP majority. It’s up to Democrats to unlock it and in the process show the country that they are a capable, competitive party.