Sep 01 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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Dean Baker: The China Syndrome: Bubble Trouble

The financial markets have been through some wild and crazy times over the last two weeks, although it appears that they have finally stabilized. The net effect of all the gyrations is that a serious bubble in China’s market seems to have been at least partially deflated. After hugely overreacting to this correction, most other markets have largely recovered. Prices are down from recent peaks, but in nearly all cases well above year-ago levels.

But the stock market is really a sideshow; after all, back in 1987 the U.S. market fell by almost 25 percent for no obvious reason, with little noticeable effect on the U.S. economy. The more serious question is what is happening with the underlying economy, and there are some real issues here.

Oliver Burkeman: Credit cards with chips are coming to the US, but I promise it’ll be fine

To a European, the fact that chip-enabled credit cards make their official debut in the US next month might prompt a similar reaction to last week’s news that Walmart will stop selling assault rifles: wait, you mean this wasn’t already the case?

But it wasn’t. And, actually, cards with embedded microchips won’t become ubiquitous here just yet. October 1 merely marks the “liability shift”, when retailers that continue to allow transactions using the old magnetic stripe will have to assume responsibility for any fraud that happens as a consequence. [..]

But the times are changing – and I’m here, as a condescending British expat, to assure you, America, that it’s all going to be OK. There’s no need to be scared. By the end of the year, it’s estimated, around 50% of US cards in circulation will have chips. Soon enough, it’ll be all of them. And then, eventually, the conversion to chip-and-pin will come – doubtless just in time to be rendered obsolete by the latest version of Apple Pay, or Bitcoin-enabled contact lenses that enable you to purchase things by staring at them meaningfully.

One day – one shining, glorious day – it might even be possible to transfer $40 from one bank to another bank in less than a week. Dare I let myself dream? If anyone reading this works at a US bank and knows when such a time might come, please hasten to see your company’s head of carrier-pigeon messaging, and let me have the answer before the year is out.

David Ferguson: Required gun insurance would put two powerful lobbies at odds. We’d benefit

If you alone are not strong enough to vanquish your opponent, you must find someone who is – and then find a way to set them against each other. Neither, probably, will ever be your friend. However, once they have occupied each other’s attentions, one is generally once again at liberty to roam the school halls unmolested while dressed like Siouxsie Sioux’s sparkly kid brother.

This tactic works beyond the cafeteria – and it’s how we as Americans should finally fight back against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the other pro-gun lobbies keeping our country armed to the teeth and unwilling to hear any sense regarding gun safety laws, even as gun violence in the US remains disproportionately high: we must find something big, ugly and ruthless enough to take on the NRA. [..]

I believe the insurance industry may be our only hope.

Let everyone in this country keep their guns, but force them to insure those guns. It seems so obvious when you think about it. We insure our cars, our houses, our boats and bodies, even our plane tickets and rental cars. And some of those policies are legally mandated. We should absolutely require gun owners to pay against the indemnity they might incur when their gun does what it is statistically most likely to do – kills or injures them, or someone else.

John Atcheson: The Paris Climate Conference: Playing Craps With Our Planet’s Future

The climate change talks to be held in Paris this December (COP 21 in UN lingo) are all about how much risk to the livability of our planet we’re willing to accept.

And the dirty little secret is, we’re accepting a hell of a lot right now, and we’re imposing even more on our children and future generations. [..]

It’s the physics, stupid:  If we want a reasonable margin of safety for the world, we have to get off fossil fuels as soon as possible, preferably within the next five or six years.

Impractical? No more impractical than pretending it makes sense to adopt a carbon budget that risks global catastrophe simply because we failed take the action we needed to take in the past.

The amount of GHG we can emit without ushering in Armageddon is determined by physics, not politics.  And as I said back in July, the approach we’re adopting in COP 21, poses an existential threat to humanity and the global ecosystem because “… in a clash between physics and politics, physics always wins.”

C. Robert Gibson: Cutting Pentagon pork could fund free childcare in the US

The cost of childcare is bankrupting America’s parents. But providing free, universal childcare for all parents is easily affordable by simply cutting a small handful of military programs whose absence almost nobody would notice. [..]

One solution for funding free childcare for all parents could be found by simply cutting out Pentagon waste that nobody would notice.

To find out how much free, universal childcare would cost for all American children under age 5, I calculated the median cost of childcare in all 50 states using data published by The Boston Globe in 2014. The Globe’s research showed the estimated cost of full-time childcare for one child in all 50 states in 2012 dollars. The cheapest was Mississippi ($4,863 per year for an infant), while the most expensive was Washington, D.C. ($21,948 per year for an infant). The median figure was $9,230 – the halfway point between 26th-most expensive (Wyoming, $9,100 per year for an infant) and 25th-most expensive (Maine, $9,360 per year for an infant). By multiplying that figure by the estimated 21,005,852 children in the U.S. under age 5, I estimated the total cost for providing childcare to all of these children to be $193.8 billion.

Jeff Bryant: People Don’t Like Current Education Policies, So Why Do Policy Leaders?

The big annual poll on how Americans view public schools and education policy is out, and people who are eager to don the mantle of “education reform” might want to rethink their wardrobe.

As education journalist Valerie Strauss reports the news from her blog at The Washington Post, “The 47th annual PDK-Gallup poll, the longest continuously running survey of American attitudes toward public education … finds that a majority of Americans, as well as a majority of American public school parents, object to some of the key tenets of modern school reform.”

What is particularly jarring about the findings of this year’s PDK-Gallup poll is how much those results contrast to the pronouncements of current policy leaders from the Democratic Party and Republicans who are vying for their party’s presidential nomination.