Susan J. Douglas at In These Times writes—Dumbing America Down—The right wants us to think higher education has no value:
Among the many visionary goals of our nation’s right wing—impoverish older people, starve the poor, deny climate change, outlaw abortion and contraception, eliminate healthcare for millions—few are more foundational than defunding education in general and higher education in particular. Public colleges and universities nationwide have seen significant funding cuts over the past five years, and while the recession is usually blamed, the Right keeps the fiscal screws tight by cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Here in Michigan, in Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s first budget, there was a 15 percent cut in state aid to universities and a $1.8 billion tax cut for businesses. This equals a win-win for the Right: Keep the fat cats in your corner, and constrain the opportunity for young people to learn a host of things that might, well, make them interrogate right-wing policies. The Pew Research Center and others have found that lower income and less-educated whites are becoming more likely to vote Republican than Democrat, with 54 percent of those without a college degree identifying as Republican in 2012; only 37 percent identified as Democratic, so the gap is, well, quite wide.The Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times concludes that it wants the government to keep its hands off our laptops:
And here’s the ideological bonus: Public universities, clobbered by defunding, raise tuition. Then conservative pundits like S.E. Cupp can scream about the outrageous unaffordability (and elitism, of course) of a college degree and claim that it’s money down a rat hole.
If and when this issue reaches the Supreme Court, the justices should recognize, as the 9th Circuit did, that advances in technology require special protection for laptops and other devices that store a wealth of personal information. The best way to vindicate that principle is to require government agents to have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before they conduct a search.Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times writes—Crack Cocaine Limbo:
President Obama earned a rare moment of bipartisan acclaim last month when he commuted the sentences of eight long-serving federal prisoners. Their crack cocaine offenses had resulted in the harsh penalties mandated by a sentencing formula that Congress repudiated when it passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. [...]Additional pundit excerpts can be found below the fold.
But there were ghosts at last month’s party: thousands of federal inmates still serving time under sentences that would not have been imposed under the new law. Most are black. As is widely recognized, crack has been the cocaine of choice for African-American users and dealers even as white offenders choose powder. The racially disparate impact of the old law, which dates from the crack-cocaine panic of the mid-1980s with its now-discredited theory that crack was many times more dangerous, made reform a civil rights priority.
These prisoners remain in drug-sentencing limbo.
Lawrence Summers at the Washington Post writes what some people have been saying for years in Strategies for sustainable growth:
Even some forecasters who have had the wisdom to remain pessimistic about growth prospects the past few years are coming around to more optimistic views of 2014, at least in the United States. This is encouraging but should be qualified with the recognition that even on optimistic forecasts, output and employment stand to remain well below previous trends for many years. More troubling, even with the high degree of slack in the economy and with wage and price inflation slowing, there are signs of eroding credit standards and inflated asset values. If the United States were to enjoy several years of healthy growth under anything like current credit conditions, there is every reason to expect a return to the kind of problems of bubbles and excess lending seen in 2005 to 2007 long before output and employment returned to normal trend growth or inflation picked up again. [...]Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times reminds us that the sixth year is often tough, but Obama could triumph:
The third approach — and the one that holds the most promise — is a commitment to raising the level of demand at any given level of interest rates through policies that restore a situation where reasonable growth and reasonable interest rates can coincide. To start, this means ending the disastrous trends toward ever less government spending and employment each year and taking advantage of the current period of economic slack to renew and build out our infrastructure. If the federal government had invested more over the past five years, the U.S. debt burden relative to income would be lower: allowing slackening in the economy has hurt its long-run potential.
The obvious portents don't look good. The president begins 2014 with his popularity near an all-time low in every poll. The healthcare mess has shaken voters' confidence in his competence and his credibility, and those problems aren't going away soon. "There are still a million pitfalls to manage," a White House aide told me last week, listing healthcare implementation at the top of the administration's to-do list. If the congressional election were held this month, Republicans might well gain the six seats they need to win a majority in the Senate and control both houses of Congress.The Editors of The Nation lament Our Impoverished Poverty Debate and point fingers:
Still, there are reasons to believe Obama's Year 6 won't be the disaster his critics predict.
First, the economy is finally recovering in earnest from the Great Recession. A spate of forecasts have predicted growth around a healthy 3% this year, with unemployment slowly declining to 6.5%. [...]
Another potential plus for Obama is that he has finally settled on a central theme that appeals to independent voters as well as Democrats: economic fairness. [...]
January will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the War on Poverty, but what is most notable today is how impoverished our discussion of poverty is. Political leaders in both parties pledge to save the “middle class,” because polls show that most Americans consider themselves part of the broad middle.Michael Cohen at The Guardian believes A more liberal America will emerge, but it isn't going to happen overnight:
Democrats tout their “middle-out” economic policies against the GOP’s “trickle-down” ones. Republicans claim to be fighting to save small businesses and middle-class homeowners from the rapacious demands of government. Very little attention is being given to the poorest among us. [...]
In his recent speech on inequality, President Obama made the case for government action, insisting “we are a better country than this.” But his agenda is far less impressive than his rhetoric: it includes lower corporate tax rates, more trade accords, “streamlined” regulations and a “responsible budget” (meaning continued austerity). Obama did repeat his call for universal preschool and raising the minimum wage, but neither has been able to receive a vote in the Republican-led House.
On a range of issues, progressive goals have never been so strongly supported by the American people. From gay marriage and marijuana legalisation to raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, background checks for gun buyers and even the specifics of government spending, public opinion is strongly in their favour. Americans are more supportive of activist government, populist politics and socially liberal policies than at any time in recent memory. In addition, millennials (or those in their 20s and early 30s) are decidedly liberal, even going so far in a recent poll to prefer socialism to capitalism.Tressie McMillan Cottom at Slate learned how to get back his 5 minutes of reading David Brooks's weed column. Spreading the word via A privileged white man professes remorse for smoking pot. But it’s not privileged whites who would pay for his sins.:
The failure of liberalism to enact the types of reforms that are essential to their vision of America does not come from an inability to move popular opinion in their favour – it comes from their failure to find a way around last-gasp conservative rejectionism. But as Republicans have taken increasingly extreme positions on a host of issues – from abortion to taxes and, most damagingly, immigration – they've marginalised themselves and diminished the appeal of conservatism, particularly to young Americans, women and Hispanics (the fastest growing demographic group in the country).
I will live a long time and not forgive the Internet for making me read David Brooks’ New York Times weed opus.Leonard Pitts Jr. at the Miami Herald writes—:
If you missed it, I apologize in advance. This week Brooks responded to Colorado and Washington state’s recent decriminalization of marijuana with a retrospective on his own experience smoking the wacky tobacky. In “Weed: Been There. Done That,” Brooks makes a case for a “moral ecology” that curbs individual freedom for the collective betterment of potheads who would be better served devoting their energies to higher aspirations like running track.
If you think I’m minimizing his argument to be glib, I dare you to read his piece. That is his argument. He is dismayed by legal marijuana’s base “moral ecology,” arguing that a healthy government “encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.”
Fair warning: This is about the Duck Dynasty controversy. Yes, I know. I’m sick of it, too. [...]Laurence J. Kotlikoff at The New York Times argues we should Abolish the Corporate Income Tax:
For instance, Robertson explains his aversion to homosexuality by discoursing on the comparative merits of the male anus and the vagina. For good measure, he invokes bestiality and the Bible. He also notes how black people were “singing and happy” when he was young. “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare … they were godly, they were happy, no one was singing the blues.”
Free speech means you can say any asinine thing you want and the government may not call you on it or punish you for it. If the feds came after Robertson, I’d hold my nose and stand with him. But he wasn’t punished by the feds. He was punished by the free market.
The First Amendment gives each of us the right to bring whatever we wish into the marketplace of ideas — faith, gay rights, white supremacy, libertarianism, socialism, birtherism — without government interference. But if enough people don’t buy what you are selling, you don’t stay in the market very long. And if what you’re selling offends enough people, the market will show you the door.
Eliminating the corporate tax and raising income tax rates or lowering the corporate tax rate and eliminating its loopholes are not the only options. Elsewhere, I have proposed eliminating the corporate income tax, but making shareholders pay income taxes on their companies’ profits as they accrue. This leaves companies with no tax reason to avoid operating in the United States but ensures that shareholders, not wage earners, make up for any revenue losses through higher personal tax payments.
It’s been a long time since the typical American worker received a raise in her real pay. In fact, average weekly earnings, exclusive of fringe benefits but adjusted for inflation, are 10 percent lower today than they were in 1966. This is America’s nightmare, not its dream. Turning things around requires getting a lot of things right, starting, I’d argue, with corporate tax reform.