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Apr 15 2019

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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Paul Krugman: Purity vs. Pragmatism, Environment vs. Health

A surprising, important difference between the Green New Deal and Medicare for all.

Right now there are two big progressive ideas out there: the Green New Deal on climate change and “Medicare for all” on health reform. Both would move U.S. policy significantly to the left. Each is sponsored by a self-proclaimed socialist: the Green New Deal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Medicare for all by Bernie Sanders. (Of course, neither of them is a socialist in the traditional sense.) Both ideas horrify not just conservatives but also many self-proclaimed centrists.

Yet while they may seem similar if you think of everything as left versus right, they’re very different on another dimension, which you might call purity versus pragmatism. And that difference is why I believe progressives should enthusiastically embrace the G.N.D. while being much more cautious about M4A.

You see, for all its sweeping ambition, the Green New Deal is arguably an exercise in pragmatism — in the proposition that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Owen Jones: Whatever you think of Julian Assange, his extradition to the US must be opposed

Extraditing the founder of WikiLeaks is an attempt by the US to intimidate anyone who exposes its crimes

States that commit crimes in foreign lands depend on at least passive acquiescence. This is achieved in a number of ways. One is the “othering” of the victims: the stripping away of their humanity, because if you imagined them to be people like your own children or your neighbours, their suffering and deaths would be intolerable. Another approach is to portray opponents of foreign aggression as traitors, or in league with hostile powers. And another strategy is to cover up the consequences of foreign wars, to ensure that the populace is kept intentionally unaware of the acts committed in their name. [..]

But Assange’s extradition to the US must be passionately opposed. It is notable that Obama’s administration itself concluded that to prosecute Assange for publishing documents would gravely imperil press freedom. Yes, this is a defence of journalism and media freedom. But it is also about the attempt to intimidate those who expose crimes committed by the world’s last remaining superpower. The US wishes to hide its crimes so it can continue to commit them with impunity: that’s why, last month, Trump signed an executive order to cover up civilian deaths from drones, the use of which has hugely escalated in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan.

Silence kills, because a public that is uninformed about the slaughter of innocent people by their own government will not exert pressure to stop the killing. For the sake of stopping crimes yet to be committed, this extradition – and the intentionally chilling precedent it sets – must be defeated.

Jamelle Bouie: There Is No Good Reason Prisoners Can’t Vote

Maine and Vermont allow inmates to cast ballots. The 48 other states should too.

At a forum in Iowa last weekend, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts gave what has become a standard answer for Democrats on the question of felon disenfranchisement.

“Once someone pays their debt to society, they’re out there expected to pay taxes, expected to abide by the law, they’re expected to support themselves and their families,” she said. “I think that means they’ve got a right to vote.”

Most Americans agree with her. Nearly two-thirds of respondents in a March 2018 poll by HuffPost and YouGov said that former felons should have the right to vote. Voters and lawmakers across the country have begun to roll back the laws and procedures that, according to the Sentencing Project, kept an estimated 6.1 million citizens from the ballot box in the 2016 presidential election. [..]

But the growing tide against felon disenfranchisement raises a related question: Why disenfranchise felons at all? Why not let prisoners vote — and give the franchise to the roughly 1.5 million people sitting in federal and state prisons? Why must supposedly universal adult suffrage exclude people convicted of crimes?

There is precedent for this idea. California allows voting for those in county jails (with limited exceptions). Colorado does too. New York recently allowed those on parole or probation to vote. And two states, Maine and Vermont, already let prisoners vote. In fact, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont affirmed his support for voting rights in prison the same week Warren backed automatic enfranchisement for former felons.

 

Catherine Rampell: The Democrats’ new tax plan is their clearest, most efficient blueprint yet

Just in time for Tax Day, we have new insight into the dueling partisan visions for the U.S. tax system.

We already knew that the GOP’s 2017 tax law mostly benefited corporations and the wealthy; that’s old news. But on Thursday, we got some illustrative examples, courtesy of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The organization found that at least 60 profitable Fortune 500 firms paid no federal income tax in 2018, about twice as many as in the years leading up to the law’s passage.

In fact, most of these companies got a federal tax rebate.

For context, Americans’ top complaint about the tax system remains the “feeling that some corporations don’t pay their fair share,” according to a March poll from the Pew Research Center. (In second place: “the feeling that some wealthy people don’t pay their fair share.”)

Now let’s consider what Democrats have on tap. [..]

Some of these ideas are better thought through — legally, fiscally, politically — than others. But the general theme is this: Forget (or reverse) those tax cuts for the rich. Focus on cutting taxes for low- and middle-income families instead.

This week, we saw Democratic senators coalesce around a specific iteration of that theme. In new legislation, they offered the clearest blueprint yet for what they would do if they regained unified control of government.

It’s called the Working Families Tax Relief Act. Already, nearly every Democratic senator  has signed up to co-sponsor it — including every senator now running for president.

Robert Reich: America is now a hotbed of socialism — for the rich

“We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump said recently.

Someone should alert him that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. This pretty much describes General Motors’ receipt of $600 million in federal contracts, plus $500 million in tax breaks, since Trump took office.

Some of this corporate welfare has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22 million in total compensation in 2017 alone.

But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

The nation’s largest banks saved $21 billion last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, thousands of lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs.

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