Apr 19 2016

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering 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 “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Dean Baker: Patently Absurd Logic On Budget Deficits and Debt

It’s spring and the budget deficit hawks are once again singing their scare songs about the deficit and the harm we are doing to our children. This is more infuriating than usual this year, with the story of the poisoning of the children of Flint fresh in our minds. Not only have the budget hawks kept many of these kids’ parents from working with their obsession with balanced budgets, they blocked funding that could have been used to fix the water system in Flint and hundreds of other communities around the country.

Just to go through the basic story yet again, the government is not like a family that has to pay off its debt. If we want an analogy, at least start with a corporation, that expects to exist in perpetuity. The CEO of GE doesn’t go to the board and tell them about his plans to pay off the company’s debt. The board doesn’t want to hear about plans to pay off the debt; the board wants to hear how he will increase profits. And if that means GE has more debt 10 years from now than today, this is just fine.

Unlike GE, the government has a responsibility for maintaining demand in the economy. This means that when the economy has a downturn, as it did when the housing bubble collapsed in 2008, the government has to spend more and run larger deficits to generate demand in the economy. As much as folks may love the private sector, it was not going to make up the demand lost when the housing bubble crashed, or at least not any time soon. If we wanted to prevent a long and severe downturn like the Great Depression, it was necessary for the government to run large deficits. These deficits were not impoverishing our kids – they were keeping their parents employed.

Trevor Timm: You may hate Donald Trump. But do you want Facebook to rig the election against him?

While the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency is a terrifying one, perhaps this is scarier: Facebook could use its unprecedented powers to tilt the 2016 presidential election away from him – and the social network’s employees have apparently openly discussed whether they should do so.

As Gizmodo reported on Friday, “Last month, some Facebook employees used a company poll to ask [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg whether the company should try ‘to help prevent President Trump in 2017’.”

Facebook employees are probably just expressing the fear that millions of Americans have of the Republican demagogue. But while there’s no evidence that the company plans on taking anti-Trump action, the extraordinary ability that the social network has to manipulate millions of people with just a tweak to its algorithm is a serious cause for concern.

Robert Reich: Why Isn’t Everyone in Favor of Taxing Financial Speculation?

Why is there so little discussion about one of Bernie Sanders’s most important proposals — to tax financial speculation?

Buying and selling stocks and bonds in order to beat others who are buying and selling stocks and bonds is a giant zero-sum game that wastes countless resources, uses up the talents of some of the nation’s best and brightest, and subjects financial markets to unnecessary risk.

High-speed traders who employ advanced technologies in order to get information a millisecond before other traders get it don’t make financial markets more efficient. They make them more vulnerable to debacles like the “Flash Crash” of May 2010.

Wall Street Insiders who trade on confidential information unavailable to small investors don’t improve the productivity of financial markets. They just rig the game for themselves.

Eugene Robinson: It may be too late for the GOP to stop Trump

For decades, the Republican Party gave voters the impression that they get to pick the presidential nominee. The much-weakened GOP establishment theoretically has the power to choose someone else — but not, I believe, the strength of purpose to do it.

The author of this dilemma is, of course, Donald Trump. After a two-week pause in the primary schedule, Trump — a Manhattan icon — is expected to romp in New York on Tuesday and capture the lion’s share of the state’s 95 convention delegates. Polls show he is also likely to post big wins the following week, on April 26, in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

The bigger his victory margins, the closer Trump can come to securing 1,237 delegates, a majority, and thus making all the “contested convention” machinations moot. But it seems likely that when all the primaries and caucuses are done, he will fall short. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that he comes to the convention with around 1,100 delegates — far more than rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. What happens then?

Amanda Marcotte: Trump’s sleazy nomination path: He’s making his scheme more obvious — when all else fails, bribe and threaten your to way victory

Things should be going well for Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination. Despite a handful of losses to Ted Cruz in states like Utah and Colorado, Trump is expected to win big states like New York and Pennsylvania, giving him a boost that, in any normal race, would be big enough to force the other candidates out of the race.

Instead, there seems to be a surge of confidence that Republican party leaders will find some way to shut Trump out, even if doing so means holding their nose and accepting Cruz as the nominee. The conversation has conclusively shifted away from whether the Republicans will have a contested convention to a debate over what that will look like and whether or not the party needs to rethink rules that haven’t been invoked for decades. If it comes to that, the only purpose would be to keep Trump from winning the nomination.

It’s tempting to believe that all this conspiring will work and, despite the burp that was the Trump campaign, in the end, the party will still find a way to nominate someone who doesn’t have a habit of retweeting people obsessed with “white genocide.” But, as I argued last week, Trump isn’t going to go easily into the good night.