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Nov 11 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”.

Katrina vanden Huevel: Democracy Beats Oligarchy

“From coast to coast, conservatives score huge victories,” announced a Washington Post headline after last week’s elections. “Liberals Got Smoked Across the Country Last Night,” read another in Slate.

The post-election media narrative has focused on setbacks for progressives, including Democratic losses in Kentucky and Virginia, along with the failure of Houston’s equal-rights ordinance. Yet, while it was a disappointing election night for the Democratic Party, it was also a promising one for democracy, as voters across the country acted decisively to reform the electoral process and fight the corrosive influence of money in politics. […]

Money in politics will pose a significant threat to our democracy for as long as Citizens United remains the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our electoral system fairer and more democratic. Last week, voters in Ohio, Maine and Seattle demonstrated that there is a broad transpartisan appetite for real reform, and a path to achieving it. If lawmakers and grass-roots activists follow their lead, the headlines next time will be different.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The ‘New Democrats’ Meet the New Reality

Several recent news articles have suggested that, in the words of a Washington Post headline, “there’s … a big economic fight happening in the Democratic Party.”

It’s true. The corporate-friendly policies of the party’s more conservative wing have fared poorly, both as policy and as politics, and as a result the party has moved to the left. The insurgent candidacy of Bernie Sanders is the most conspicuous sign of this shift. It’s a major setback for the so-called “New Democrats” who have dominated the party since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. [..]

Now they’re fighting back. A Wall Street-funded Democratic think tank called Third Way has released a lengthy report which argues that an inequality-based, populist theme will doom Democrats. Its board member, former White House Chief of Staff (and JPMorgan Chase executive) Bill Daley, even insisted to HuffPost’s Stein that Sanders’ political positions are “a recipe for disaster.”

The Third Way report is available online. It introduces a number of catchphrases, often paired in threes: the Hopscotch Workforce, the Nickel-and-Dimed Workforce, and the Asset-Starved Workforce; Stalling Schools, the College Well, and Adult Atrophy; the Upside-Down Economy, the Anywhere Economy, and the Malnourished Economy.

Sadly, most of the content amounts to Misleading Minutiae, Gimmicky Wordplay, and Downright Deception.

Dean Baker: Economic myths are a bipartisan affair

Many observers have been amused by the boasting war going on between the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination with their tax cut plans. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush led the way with a multi-trillion dollar tax cut plan that is supposed to lead to 4 percent annual growth over the next decade.

Not to be outdone, real estate developer Donald Trump came out with an even bigger plan that would get us to 6 percent annual growth, he promised. Most of the other contenders have now produced similar plans, even if their growth targets are not quite as ambitious. [..]

Not only do tax cuts fail as a growth strategy in theory, we actually did test the tax cut route: twice. Even with the Reagan tax cuts, we had marginally slower growth in the 1980s than in high-tax 1970s. And the George W. Bush tax cuts were associated with the worst growth performance since the Great Depression.

In short, producing a tax cut plan may be akin to a fraternity ritual that Republican presidential candidates must go through, but it is not a serious policy for promoting economic growth.

Unfortunately the Republicans are not the only party with silly growth myths. The Democrats have their own growth myth around the magical qualities of balanced budgets.

Lauren Carasik: US should not stonewall international inquiry into Kunduz attack

On Nov. 5, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) released its preliminary internal review of the U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, last month. It reiterated that the deadly attack, which killed at least 30 people and injured dozens more, violated the agreement among all parties to the conflict that the hospital was protected under international humanitarian law. It also contradicted Afghan claims that there was fighting in the area at the time of the strike. [..]

MSF sought the backing of 76 governments for an independent inquiry through the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, a permanent body set up under the Geneva Conventions to foster respect for international humanitarian law by conducting independent investigations when facts are in dispute. But U.S. and Afghan officials have stonewalled the commission’s process by refusing to consent to a probe.

The international community has long agreed that certain rules, including the protection of hospitals that maintain their neutrality, apply equally to all nations even amid the fog of war. Member states cannot simply suspend or disregard these rules when they are deemed inconvenient. Dismissing deliberate attacks on protected medical facilities serving the wounded as an inevitable aspect of war sends a terrible message. And a failure of accountability for such acts will lead to incalculable human suffering. A transparent and independent investigation is a crucial first step toward safeguarding humanitarian protections that ensure medical care for both civilian and military casualties of war.

Amy B. Dean: Millennials are revitalizing organized labor

Millennials are often made out to be selfish and individualistic, but they appear to be taking a greater interest in social movements and dramatic social change than some previous generations. A series of polls suggests that, compared with other demographic groups, Americans in their 20s have less favorable views of capitalism and higher opinions of unions and government intervention in the economy. Millennials are also the first generation in a long time to feel a sense of common purpose in the economy and to look toward collective action as a means of improving their circumstances. Millennials are entering the workforce during the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, so it’s harder to buy into the myth that working hard and narrowly focusing on your own fortunes will be enough to ensure success. [..]

The lamentable state of labor law, in which employers always hold the upper hand and can fire worker activists with impunity, has prevented this activism and favorable attitudes toward unions from directly benefiting labor as much as it should. Even though the Service Employees International Union is the biggest supporter of the Fight for $15, few millennials are union members. In the case of Gawker, the union drive of the workers at Gawker faced unusually weak management opposition to their organizing campaign.

Nevertheless, there’s a new sense that the challenges millennials are facing — from increasing debt loads to stagnating wages to a lack of job prospects — can be tackled only by collective action. Organized labor and young people who have recently entered the workforce have common cause. By championing the issues millennials care about most, unions not only promote a more just economy for a new generation; they also chart a course for their own revival.