«

»

Feb 27 2015

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: What Greece Won

Last week, after much drama, the new Greek government reached a deal with its creditors. Earlier this week, the Greeks filled in some details on how they intend to meet the terms. So how did it go?

Well, if you were to believe many of the news reports and opinion pieces of the past few days, you’d think that it was a disaster – that it was a “surrender” on the part of Syriza, the new ruling coalition in Athens. Some factions within Syriza apparently think so, too. But it wasn’t. On the contrary, Greece came out of the negotiations pretty well, although the big fights are still to come. And by doing O.K., Greece has done the rest of Europe a favor. [..]

For Greece to run any surplus at all – given the depression-level slump that it’s in and the effect of that depression on revenues – is a remarkable achievement, the result of incredible sacrifices. Nonetheless, Syriza has always been clear that it intends to keep running a modest primary surplus. If you are angry that the negotiations didn’t make room for a full reversal of austerity, a turn toward Keynesian fiscal stimulus, you weren’t paying attention.

The question instead was whether Greece would be forced to impose still more austerity. The previous Greek government had agreed to a program under which the primary surplus would triple over the next few years, at immense cost to the nation’s economy and people.

Michelle Chen: What You Should Know About Walmart’s Raise

Remember when Walmart got panned for running a Thanksgiving food drive for its own employees-overlooking the irony of demonstrating noblesse oblige by asking customers to subsidize the workers the company itself impoverished? The retail giant took a more strategic approach last week when rolling out its latest do-gooder scheme: raising its base wage incrementally to $10 an hour. The move was widely praised even by labor groups-for lifting wages slightly closer to… well, what it should have been paying workers all along. [..]

But even with the raise, Walmart would still seem to peg the value of its workers at less than a living wage. The lowest-paid employees rely on billions in public benefits each year, including masses of food stamps, to scrape by. According to one recent analysis based on federal estimates, “a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between… $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.” If a part-time associate is working 1,000 hours a year-roughly half its workers are part-timers-the extra dollar an hour still might not make her financially self-sufficient, much less lift her family out of poverty.

And since Walmart apparently has no plans to significantly expand full-time positions, thousands may continue to lack the working hours they need to approach a sustainable income.

David Cay Johnston: Financiers and power producers rig electricity markets

Sleepy regulators in New England allow consumers to be robbed of billions of dollars

For decades Wall Street financial engineers, teaming up with electric power producers, have gamed wholesale electricity auctions to earn bigger profits than either a regulated utility or a competitive market would yield. This month they made a major advance in their campaign to get rich by subtly draining your wallet. Yet every major news organization ignored this.

This latest development took place in New England, which already has America’s most expensive electricity. February’s electricity auction saw the annual cost to customers rise to $4 billion, up from about $3 billion in last year’s auction and less than $2 billion in the 2013 auction. That $4 billion figure would have been much higher but for a rule capping prices.

By the way, that $4 billion is not for the electricity, which costs extra. The $4 billion price tag is for capacity payments made to owners just for promising to run their power plants in 2018 and ’19.

If that sounds bizarre, it’s because it is. It is comparable to government taxing us to pay auto dealers to keep enough cars and trucks on their lots to satisfy expected future demand.

John Nichols: The Activists Who Won Net Neutrality Must Defend It in 2016

The Federal Communications Commission has finally taken the necessary steps to preserve a free and open Internet by guaranteeing net neutrality.

With the commission’s 3-2 vote on Thursday, the issue is settled.

For now.

Then it will rise again. No, there will not be a mass outcry against net neutrality, the premise that all Internet communications should be treated equally. There will be no popular demand for ending net neutrality protections against the development of a two-tier Internet, where “paying” content (from multinational corporations and powerful special interests) moves on an information superhighway, while “non-paying” content (from grassroots groups and dissenting citizens) is diverted onto a digital dirt road.

But there will be campaign donations, lobbying and spin from telephone and cable companies that have too much at stake to give up on the fight for an end to rules that prevent them from subdividing the Internet for profit. Telecommunications conglomerates stand to make a lot more money if they can charge extra to move some communications more quickly-creating a circumstance where corporations and politicians with the right connections can pay for commercial and political advantages in the digital age.

Michele Simon: Big Beef’s jig is up

Federal dietary committee recommends eating less red meat. Will science finally trump politics?

You almost have to feel sorry for the beef industry. After enjoying decades of popularity as a staple of the all-American diet, the harsh realities behind unsustainable beef production and excessive consumption are finally coming to light.

The latest red meat scare comes from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) a scientific body formed every five years to review the latest research available to tell the American public how to eat right. In the past, the committee’s work has been undermined by members with conflicts of interest with the meat, egg and dairy industries. But this year’s committee pulled no punches, even extending its reach to environmental considerations for the first time. The recommendations are not the final word on the matter. Later this year, the federal government will issue its formal Dietary Guidelines for Americans after reviewing the committee’s research and public comments. [..]

The meat lobby is not pleased.

Amy Goodman: TV Meteorologists Should Say It Loud and Clear: Climate Change Is Here

President Barack Obama issued the third veto in his more than six years in office, rejecting S.1 (Senate Bill One), the “Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act.” This was the new congressional Republican majority’s first bill this year, attempting to force the construction of a pipeline designed to carry Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. ports in Texas for export. A broad international coalition has been fighting the project for years. Climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in The New York Times that if the pipeline gets built, “it will be game over for the climate.”

This vote and veto came as much of the U.S. was gripped by extreme cold weather, with cities like Boston reeling from historically deep snowfall and Southern states like Georgia getting snowed in. Meanwhile, most of California braces for even more drought. The corporate television newscasts spend more and more time covering the increasingly disruptive, costly and at times deadly weather. But they consistently fail to make the link between extreme weather and climate change.