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Mar 20 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”.

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Paul Krugman: Trillion Dollar Fraudsters

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” – a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics. And that’s telling us something important about what has happened to half of our political spectrum.

Tom Engelhardt: The New American Order

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so. [..]

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

Richard (RJ) Escow: A ‘Moral Document’: GOP Again Targets Social Security, Medicare

It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with a congressional Republican on fiscal matters, but it’s hard to argue with a recent statement from Rep. Rob Woodall of the House Budget Committee. “A budget is a moral document,” said the Georgia Republican. “It talks about where your values are.”

That’s certainly true. So what are we to make of this year’s House and Senate Republican budgets? They harm seniors, use the disabled as pawns, punish the needy, pamper the wealthy, and employ deceit — all to promote a selfish agenda for the wealthy and powerful.

There’s a lot to say about these two proposals, but for now we’ll restrict ourselves to two important subjects: Social Security and Medicare. [..]

But for all the deception and evasion that permeates these documents, one thing comes through clearly: The Republicans have no interest in the well-being of seniors or the disabled. Theirs is an anti-tax agenda for the wealthy and an anti-social-contract agenda for everyone else.

Rep. Woodall is right. A budget is a moral document that “talks about where your values are.” These documents don’t paint a pretty picture.

Lynn Stuart Paramore: A bad economy fuels racism

Justice Department report on Ferguson demonstrates how economic hardship and racial tension feed off each other

The Justice Department’s stunning report on Ferguson, Missouri, has so far resulted in the ouster of the city manager and the resignation of the police chief. If you’ve followed the news, you’ve probably heard some of its twisted tales. In his press conference on the report, departing Attorney General Eric Holder told the Kafkaesque story of how a poor and sometimes homeless African-American woman endured a seven-year odyssey of harassment after receiving a $151 ticket for parking her car in the wrong place. She spent a week in jail and paid fines totaling $550 to the city – and she still owed $541 as of December.

“Inexplicable,” Holder remarked.

But is it? Perhaps not when you consider how racial tension and economic hardship feed off each other. According to a Brookings Institution report, Ferguson, like so many communities in America, has been hit with multiple economic shocks in recent years, including a skyrocketing unemployment rate, average earnings falling by a third and increased concentrations of poverty in poor neighborhoods. These trends have been driven by policies of austerity and deregulation that have created economic instability in the U.S., resulting in more severe and frequent economic downturns that suck public coffers dry, increase inequality and heighten insecurity – all of which tend to stoke racism.

Daphne Eviatar: Obama Says He Should Have Closed Guantanamo on Day 1 — He Still Can

Asked by a seventh-grade student from the Citizens Leadership Academy in Cleveland yesterday what advice he would give himself if he could go back to his first day in office, President Obama responded, “I think I would have closed Guantanamo on the first day.” That got a round of applause. [..]

Fair enough. President Obama is right that the bipartisan consensus that Guantanamo should be closed quickly dissolved as soon as he made it a centerpiece of his agenda. Congress has since barred transferring any of the men indefinitely detained at the offshore U.S. prison in Cuba to the United States for trial or detention. But that’s hardly the end of the story. President Obama can still make huge strides toward closing Guantanamo, even without Congress’ help. Here’s how.

Doug Bandow: American People Must Say No to Washington’s Foolish Policy of Constant War

American foreign policy is controlled by fools. What else can one conclude from the bipartisan demand that the U.S. intervene everywhere all the time, irrespective of consequences? No matter how disastrous the outcome, the War Lobby insists that the idea was sound. Any problems obviously result, it is claimed, from execution, a matter of doing too little: too few troops engaged, too few foreigners killed, too few nations bombed, too few societies transformed, too few countries occupied, too few years involved, too few dollars spent.

As new conflicts rage across the Middle East, the interventionist caucus’ dismal record has become increasingly embarrassing. Yet such shameless advocates of perpetual war as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham continue to press for military intervention irrespective of country and circumstance. For instance, they led the Neoconservative mob clamoring for war against Libya less than two years after supping with Moammar Khadafy in Tripoli, when they discussed providing U.S. aid to reward his anti-terrorism efforts.

Alex Kirby: Old King Coal Is Sick-but Not Yet Dying

A global investigation into every coal-fired power plant proposed in the last five years shows that only one in three of them has actually been built.

Researchers say that for each new plant constructed somewhere in the world, two more have been shelved or cancelled. They say this rate is significantly higher in Europe, South Asia, Latin America and Africa. In India, since 2012 six plants have been cancelled for each one built. [..]

But it is more than simply a question of the number of plants being built (or not). The report says:”The amount of new coal-fired generating capacity in the proposal pipeline worldwide dropped from 1,401 GW in 2012 to 1,080 GW in 2014, a 23% decline” (one GW, or gigawatt, would supply enough electricity for 750,000 to 1m typical US homes).

Against this, concentrations of planned new coal plants can still be found in Turkey, Vietnam, Indonesia, Poland, some Balkan countries and Japan. Germany is one country which continues to burn large quantities of coal, including lignite. And global coal consumption grew by 3% in 2013, well below the 10-year average of 3.9%, but still the fastest-growing fossil fuel.