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Sep 21 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: The Rage of the Bankers

Last week the Federal Reserve chose not to raise interest rates. It was the right decision. In fact, I’m among the economists wondering why we’re even thinking about raising rates right now.

But the financial industry’s response may explain what’s going on. You see, the Fed talks a lot to bankers – and bankers reacted to its decision with sheer, unadulterated rage. For those trying to understand the political economy of monetary policy, it was an “Aha!” moment. Suddenly, a lot of what has been puzzling about the discussion makes sense: just follow the money. [..]

It’s true that rates – near zero for the short-term interest rates the Fed controls more or less directly – are very low by historical standards. And it’s interesting to ask why the economy seems to need such low rates. But all the evidence says that it does. Again, if you think that rates are much too low, where’s the inflation?

Yet the Fed has faced constant criticism for its low-rate policy. Why?

New York Times Editorial Board: Use Medicare’s Muscle to Lower Drug Prices

Many of the people most affected by rising drug prices are older patients on Medicare, who often live on modest incomes, are in poor health, and take four or more prescription drugs. One way to reduce drug costs for this population is to reverse the policy set by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, which created Medicare’s prescription drug program.

At Republican insistence, that law barred the federal government from negotiating with drug manufacturers. It relied on bargaining by private insurers that manage drug benefits for Medicare patients, like UnitedHealth, Aetna and CVS Caremark, to wring discounts from the drug makers. That wasn’t enough. [..]

While drug prices paid by insurers are usually discounted from the list price, those prices can still be very high. Medicare, with its enormous buying power, could drive costs down more. This is important because the newest, most expensive drugs for high cholesterol, hepatitis C, cancer and other ailments are needed by a large number of the elderly and disabled people enrolled in that program. Those high prices then result in high co-payments and other cost sharing for its beneficiaries.

Robert Reich: Why the Republican Assault on Planned Parenthood Is Morally Wrong and Economically Stupid

The Republican assault on Planned Parenthood is filled with lies and distortions, and may even lead to a government shutdown.

The only thing we can say for sure about it is it’s already harming women’s health.

For distortions, start with presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s contention at last week’s Republican debate that a video shows  “a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ ”

Wrong. In fact, the anti-abortion group that made that shock video added stock footage of a fully-formed fetus in order to make it seem as if that’s what Planned Parenthood intended.

But as Donald Trump has demonstrated with cunning bravado, presidential candidates can say anything these days regardless of the truth and get away with it.

Robert Kuttner: America’s Collapsing Trade Initiatives

Chinese president Xi Jinping will be in Washington this week on an official state visit. President Obama had hoped to impress Xi with an all but sealed trade deal with major Pacific nations called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to demonstrate that America is still a force to be reckoned with in China’s backyard.

But Obama’s trade policy is in tatters. The grand design, created by Obama’s old friend and former Wall Street deal-maker, trade chief Mike Froman, comes in two parts — a grand bargain with Pacific nations aimed at building a U.S.-led trading bloc to contain the influence of China, and an Atlantic agreement to cement economic relations with the European Union.

Both are on the verge of collapse from their own contradictory goals and incoherent logic.

James Powell: If Congress won’t listen to exploited workers, will they listen to the pope?

The pope has denounced the “structurally perverse” global economic system that exploits the poor. His message is about workers like me. I’m the chef at the Senate dining room inside the US Capitol. I work for a UK-based multinational conglomerate that makes billions in profit yet leaves workers around the globe destitute.

I prepare breakfast and lunch for the US senators, several of whom are running to be the next president of the United States. When the pope comes to deliver his message to Congress on 24 September, I hope his words encourage the senators to open their hearts to the suffering of the working poor who serve them every day.

In recent months, my co-workers and I have walked off our jobs several times to protest poverty pay and shared our stories of struggle in these pages. Despite our strikes and our heart-breaking stories, the Senate has not taken any action to help us win living wages and a union. Even worse, the Senate has allowed our company to threaten and try to intimidate us into silence.

John Nichols:  Bernie Sanders Offers GOP Debaters a Tutorial on Democratic Socialism

 Bernie Sanders earned quite a few mentions in the second round of Republican debates, which at the very least offers a measure of the extent to which the senator from Vermont has become a factor in the 2016 presidential race.

Sanders was not generally referred to by name, but his democratic socialism came up frequently enough.

Republicans in both debates on Wednesday night noted the fact the Democratic presidential race has been shaken up by “a socialist”-employing a term that at the Reagan Presidential Library is still considered a choice epithet.