“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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Dean Baker: Lehman Day: Making Fun of the Second Great Depression Crowd
This week marks the 7th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the huge investment bank. This collapse set off the worldwide financial panic that brought Wall Street to its knees. The anniversary of this collapse, September 15th, is the day set aside to ridicule the people who warned of a second Great Depression (SGD) if the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board didn’t rescue the Wall Street banks. [..]
There is no doubt that the initial downturn would have been more severe if the market was allowed to work its magic and put these banks out of business. But the question the SGD gang could never answer is how this collapse would prevent the government from boosting the economy immediately afterward? After all, then Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke once ridiculed people who questioned the ability of the government to boost the economy, commenting the government “has a technology, called a printing press… .”
Rather than sitting through a decade of double-digit unemployment, why would Congress not pass a large stimulus package supported by aggressive monetary policy from the Fed? There certainly was no economic obstacle to this path. And the claim that political gridlock somehow would have prevented any stimulus flies in the face of history. Even Republicans have supported stimulus to counter economic slumps. For those too young to remember, the last such incident was the stimulus package signed by President George W. Bush in February of 2008, when the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent.
David Cay Johnston: New DOJ white-collar crime policy just reheated cabbage
We know how to fight corporate fraud, but Congress and the White House are unwilling to do what is necessary
After years of coddling corporate criminals, is Barack Obama’s Justice Department, under the leadership of new Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now serious about prosecuting corrupt individual bankers, executives and traders?
Will the disreputable practice of imposing big fines, which end up being paid by shareholders, be replaced by criminal charges against those who abused their positions?
The White House certainly wanted to create that impression last week when it gave a scoop to The New York Times, headlined “Justice Department sets sights on Wall Street executives,” based on a new memo by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
The Times story was much more nuanced than the headline, but many other news organizations ran with the simplistic version, as so often happens. And hardly any reports noted, as my column did a few weeks ago, that federal prosecution of white-collar crime is at a 20-year low.
Sadly, don’t expect much to change, despite the alleged new policy. But don’t miss the real story here either: Bluster and magical thinking is supplanting the hard work of governing in America. Creating the appearance of tough law enforcement is the goal here, not justice.
Steven W. Thrasher
: The Ferguson Commission won’t bring social change. Black Lives Matter will
It’s going to get a lot harder to pretend that the suffering in Ferguson, Michael Brown’s death and the explosive reaction after his shooting weren’t all about race now that the Ferguson Commission has bluntly written: “make no mistake: this is about race.” [..]
The commission’s assessments about structural racism in and around St Louis are direct and to the point. The commission acknowledged its own limitations, writing: “we do not know for certain if these calls to action are the answer. We can’t”. They wrote that, historically, commissions after riots have focused on “economic revitalization ‘to the exclusion of social issues, such as racial tension, segregation and discrimination”; this whitewashed over racism in an expedient, cowardly way. Citing political scientist Lindsey Lupo, the Ferguson Commission scolds previous commissions for (emphasis added).
“Arguing that our society has moved beyond race, thus the problems must be purely economic. But race remains at the root of the violence, as evidenced by its very inception with every riot studied here being the result of white law enforcement harming a black civilian.”
Luis Gallardo: The burden of paying back Puerto Rico’s debt should not fall on the island’s poor
In the wake of Governor Alejandro García’s June declaration that the Puerto Rican government’s $72bn public debt is unpayable – putting an end to the traditional practice of financing the government’s massive annual deficits and rampant spending through loans – citizen and labor groups have taken to the streets concerned that the burden of paying off the debt will fall disproportionately on the island’s poor, working and middle class residents.
The release last week of the Fiscal and Economic Growth Plan, the product of a special working group commissioned by the government, has not allayed their concerns. Though some of the measures – such as the simplification of tax codes and investment in energy infrastructure – are a necessary condition of reform and recovery, large corporations and the wealthy will wind up almost unscathed by the proposals. On the other hand, those least able to afford to pay the consequences of years of profligate government spending will have to tighten their belts.
Martin O’Neill: The unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn
Victory rebukes Blair third-way politics and British austerity policies
On the morning of Sept. 12, Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage for his victory speech at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster dressed like Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Syriza. Wearing an open-neck shirt, a style favored by Europe’s new radical left, he addressed the crowd with a stark anti-austerity message.
“We don’t have to be unequal,” he said. “It does not have to be unfair. Poverty isn’t inevitable. Things can – and they will – change.”
This summer has seen an extraordinary transformation of the British Labour Party. This wave culminated in the party election of Corbyn, a veteran from its hard-left faction, as its new leader. Few outside Labour circles had even heard of the man even a few months ago.
While other European countries such as Spain and Greece have seen the rise of radical socialist alternatives to established parties of the center-left, in Britain the anti-austerity socialist surge has transformed Labour from the inside rather than displaced it. Nobody saw this coming, Corbyn included.
How did this happen? And what will be the consequences of Labour’s unexpected change of direction?
Alex Kane: It’s time for Israel to disarm
A nuke-free Israel will create a more stable Middle East
It’s September in New York: the start of a diplomatic marathon that will no doubt bring renewed attention to Israel’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
Since 1974, the United Nations General Assembly has passed a laudable Egyptian-sponsored resolution calling for the Middle East to become a nuclear weapons free zone each year. Starting five years later, the UN began repeatedly passing an Egyptian-authored resolution calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which it would disarm and place its nuclear materials under international inspection. But these resolutions are nonbinding, and the leading Arab state’s calls to focus on Israel’s arsenal of at least 80 nuclear warheads are usually ignored by Western powers.
That reality is unlikely to change this year. But it should.
The July signing of the Iran nuclear accord is certain to produce political clashes at the UN. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won’t be able to resist railing against the deal in front of the world. But the expected focus on the Iranian nuclear program makes the UN General Assembly, which opens its 70th session on Tuesday, the perfect opportunity to probe another nuclear program in the Middle East – one that has actually produced a weapon, unlike Iran’s.