“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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Joseph E. StiglitzL How Trade Agreements Amount to a Secret Corporate Takeover
The United States and the world are engaged in a great debate about new trade agreements. Such pacts used to be called “free-trade agreements”; in fact, they were managed trade agreements, tailored to corporate interests, largely in the US and the European Union. Today, such deals are more often referred to as “partnerships,”as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But they are not partnerships of equals: the US effectively dictates the terms. Fortunately, America’s “partners” are becoming increasingly resistant.
It is not hard to see why. These agreements go well beyond trade, governing investment and intellectual property as well, imposing fundamental changes to countries’ legal, judicial, and regulatory frameworks, without input or accountability through democratic institutions.
Perhaps the most invidious – and most dishonest – part of such agreements concerns investor protection. Of course, investors have to be protected against the risk that rogue governments will seize their property. But that is not what these provisions are about. There have been very few expropriations in recent decades, and investors who want to protect themselves can buy insurance from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, a World Bank affiliate (the US and other governments provide similar insurance). Nonetheless, the US is demanding such provisions in the TPP, even though many of its “partners” have property protections and judicial systems that are as good as its own.
New York Times Editorial Board: Banks as Felons, or Criminality Lite
As of this week, Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are felons, having pleaded guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges of conspiring to rig the value of the world’s currencies. According to the Justice Department, the lengthy and lucrative conspiracy enabled the banks to pad their profits without regard to fairness, the law or the public good.
Besides the criminal label, however, nothing much has changed for the banks. And that means nothing much has changed for the public. There is no meaningful accountability in the plea deals and, by extension, no meaningful deterrence from future wrongdoing. In a memo to employees this week, the chief executive of Citi, Michael Corbat, called the criminal behavior “an embarrassment” – not the word most people would use to describe a felony but an apt one in light of the fact that the plea deals are essentially a spanking, nothing more.
The Justice Department’s latest settlement with felonious big banks was announced this week, but the repercussions were limited to a few headlines and some scattered protestations.
That’s not enough. We need to understand that our financial system is not merely corrupt in practice. It is corrupt by design – and the problem is growing. [..]
Our banking system has a design problem, because its incentives are broken. Financialization is stifling the productive economy. And the systemic threat posed by our biggest banks has made them immune from real punishment.
These massive financial institutions don’t need a PR campaign. They need to be cleaned up – and they need to be broken up.
“If you ain’t cheating,” said one of the traders involved in the currency exchange scandal, “you ain’t trying.” If we’re not addressing the financial sector’s systemic threat to our economy, or its affronts to our system of justice, then we ain’t trying either.
Eugene Rodinson: Chasing Miracles in Iraq
If Iraqis won’t fight for their nation’s survival, why on earth should we?
This is the question posed by the fall of Ramadi, which revealed the emptiness at the core of U.S. policy. President Obama’s critics are missing the point: Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many troops he sends back to Iraq or whether their footwear happens to touch the ground. The simple truth is that if Iraqis will not join together to fight for a united and peaceful country, there will be continuing conflict and chaos that potentially threaten American interests.
We should be debating how best to contain and minimize the threat. Further escalating the U.S. military role, I would argue, will almost surely lead to a quagmire that makes us no more secure. If the choice is go big or go home, we should pick the latter.
Senator Bernie Sanders is making waves with a big idea to reinvent education: Making public colleges and universities tuition-free.
I couldn’t agree more. Higher education isn’t just a personal investment. It’s a public good that pays off in a more competitive workforce and better-informed and engaged citizens. Every year, we spend nearly $100 billion on corporate welfare, and more than $500 billion on defense spending. Surely ensuring the next generation can compete in the global economy is at least as important as subsidies for big business and military adventures around the globe.
In fact, I think we can and must go further — not just making public higher education tuition-free, but reinventing education in America as we know it.
The inside-the-Beltway debate set off by the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) on Sunday is, as usual, Dadaistic in its disconnection from reality. Republican talking points blame Barack Obama for withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2011, as though Daesh suddenly began in 2012. The GOP figures typically don’t mention that it was George W. Bush who set the end of 2011 as the date for a total US withdrawal from Iraq, because that was all he could get from the Iraqi parliament.
But the whole debate about “who lost Ramadi?” assumes facts not in evidence, i.e. that Ramadi has ever been “pacified” or somehow a United States protectorate, sort of like Guam or Puerto Rico.
The United States has been for the Sunni Arabs of Iraq what the Mongols were to Baghdad in 1258, an alien invading force that came in and turned things upside down.