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Paul Krugman at The New York Times writes about the Cliven Bundy stand-off, noting that at its heart was a right-wing "perversion of the concept of freedom" that has produced High Plains Moochers:

Start with the narrow issue of land use. For historical reasons, the federal government owns a lot of land in the West; some of that land is open to ranching, mining and so on. Like any landowner, the Bureau of Land Management charges fees for the use of its property. The only difference from private ownership is that by all accounts the government charges too little—that is, it doesn’t collect as much money as it could, and in many cases doesn’t even charge enough to cover the costs that these private activities impose. In effect, the government is using its ownership of land to subsidize ranchers and mining companies at taxpayers’ expense.

It’s true that some of the people profiting from implicit taxpayer subsidies manage, all the same, to convince themselves and others that they are rugged individualists. But they’re actually welfare queens of the purple sage.

E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes The gun supremacists’ folly:
The creativity of the National Rifle Association and other organizations devoted to establishing conditions in which every man, woman and child in our nation will have to be armed is awe-inspiring. Where imagination is concerned, the best absurdist artists and writers have nothing on the NRA. No wonder Stephen Colbert has decided to move on from the realm of satire. When parody becomes reality, the challenges facing even a comedian of his talents can become insurmountable.[...]

Georgia thinks you should be able to take guns into government buildings that don’t have screening devices or security guards. Second Amendment enthusiasts tend not to like tax increases, but as the Associated Press reported, the city of Vienna, Ga., (pop. 3,841) would have to shell out about $60,000 a year to increase security at city buildings. “Do we raise taxes to provide the police protection or do we take the risk of potential injury to our public?” asked Mayor Pro Tem Beth English, who also is president of the Georgia Municipal Association. Too bad if this gun lobby subsidy comes out of the school budget.

Oh yes, and while conservatives claim to hate the centralization of power, this law wipes out a series of local gun regulations. The gun supremacists just don’t trust those pesky local elected officials.

More pundit excerpts can be found below the fold.

Heidi Moore at The Guardian writes Thomas Piketty is a rock-star economist – can he re-write the American dream:

Piketty's research, which is immaculate, reaches back hundreds of years to establish a simple thesis: the American dream – and more broadly, the egalitarian promise of Western-style capitalism – does not, and maybe cannot, deliver on its promises. That, he writes, is because economic growth will always be smaller than the profits from any money that is invested. Economic growth is what we all benefit from, but profits from invested money accrue only to the rich.

The consequences of this are clear: those who have family fortunes are the winners, and everyone else doesn't have much of a shot of being wealthy unless they marry into or inherit money. It's Jane Austen all over again, and we've just fooled ourselves that the complicated financial system has changed a thing.

This is a deep point. Many American households, if they are lucky, will grow their wealth at the same rate as the economy. But, because the wealthy are growing their fortunes at a much faster rate, no one else can ever catch up.

Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic writes Nobel Prize-Winning Economist: We're Headed for Oligarchy:
In a recent interview at the Economic Policy Institute, Nobel Prize-Winning economist and MIT professor Robert Solow riffed on the political effects of increasing inequality and concentration of wealth at the very top. "If that kind of concentration of wealth continues, then we get to be more and more an oligarchical country, a country that's run from the top," he said.[...]

Solow's sentiments echo a point he made earlier this week in his review of Thomas Piketty's book in The New Republic. (Solow, it should be noted, is not the only Nobel Prize-winning economist to use the o-word in discussing Piketty's work.) [...]

But the consequences of that distribution are not merely economic but political: A concentration of wealth leads to a concentration of power, which in turn protects the concentration of power. That our political system is incapable of tempering Piketty's dynamic is not a bizarre coincidence but a direct result.

David Dayen at The New Republic laments Sad But True: The Only Way to Save the Open Internet Requires Sucking Up to Corporate Titans:
The net neutrality fight shares some common elements with the [Stop Online Piracy Act] battle. The universe of people affected—everyone who uses the Internet—is sufficiently big to enable a mass coalition. Demand Progress, a group active in the SOPA fight, has already begun to mobilize in conjunction with RootsAction, gathering 26,000 signatures on a petition in a matter of hours.

But the SOPA fight was truly trans-partisan, as conservatives made common cause with progressives against censorship of their websites. That potential doesn’t exist on net neutrality, as Republicans have rejected what they consider government regulation of the Internet. So the fight already begins with a narrower base. In addition, it’s easier to target individual members of Congress over proposed legislation, than rules from independent regulatory agencies (although, considering that the Obama Administration reaffirmed their commitment to net neutrality just two months ago, activists can try to hold them accountable). [...]

Most important, net neutrality advocates likely need buy-in from corporate America. In a recent political science study, Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern found that economic elites and organized business interests can have significant impact over public policy, while ordinary citizens just don’t. When the government acts in the interest of citizens at all, it’s often an accidental by-product of public preferences coincidentally matching those of business groups.

Joshua DuBois at the Daily Beat writes Killing Net Neutrality Kills the Dreams of Young Entrepreneurs:
Last week, the FCC announced that they would propose new rules to allow major companies like Netflix and Google to pay cable companies like Comcast and Verizon more for faster lanes of service to send video and other products to customers. By definition, that means that if you're a company that can't afford these "fast lanes," your service will be slower, less appealing to customers, and more likely to fail.

Over the last five years, the Obama administration has done a stellar job of investing in opportunity for our nation's young people, working at each stage of a child's development to ensure that kids have the ability to succeed and thrive. But—for at least the sizable segment of the next generation that desires to move into science, technology, engineering and math fields—these new FCC rules could waste a substantial portion of that investment, stifle innovation, and create a two-tiered opportunity structure with big companies on the top and future innovators left behind.

Zach Epstein at BGR writes How to save the Internet:
Is there any way to save the Internet? Rabble-rousing on Reddit has been proven to accomplish surprisingly great things in the past, but this time around it might take a little more effort for your voice to be heard.

The American public’s battle plan is still forming but as pointed out by Daring Fireball, there is no better way to begin this fight than by visiting Free Press’s “Save The Internet” website and following its instructions.

The site calls for users to start by signing a petition that will be sent to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. Then consumers are urged to pick up the phone and call the FCC to voice their concerns surrounding the new FCC regulations.

Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch writes Alexis Ohanian Wants To Put A Pro-Net Neutrality Billboard “Right In The FCC’s Backyard”:
Alexis Ohanian, known for his work at Reddit and HipMunk, once placed protest advertisements and hired a billboard during the SOPA and PIPA battles. He’s back, this time looking to raise $20,000 via CrowdTilt to place a billboard in “the FCC’s backyard,” protesting the potential changes to net neutrality rules.

The project has thus far raised under $3,000.

What will it say? According to Ohanian, something along the lines of “Keep the internet free & open for all!” Or, a different slogan if a suggestion submitted is found superior.

Why is Ohanian pushing the effort? In his view, the potential changes to net neutrality would “kill” the concept, and “and replace it with a ‘cable-ized’ version that costs more for consumers, enables discrimination across services that make use of the net, and makes it harder to access the stuff that we access each day today.”

Melvyn Dubofsky at In These Times writes Our Neoliberal President—Obama wants to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority:
President Obama’s 2015 budget request last month revived his abortive 2014 budget proposal to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). What are we to make of a Democratic president repeatedly proposing to sell off the publicly financed and administered redevelopment program, widely seen as one of the great successes of the New Deal? This move tells us much about Obama. [...]

A more progressive Democratic president might have proposed instead that TVA remain a public agency but one that reverted to its original mission by involving residents more directly in decision-making. Such a reform might cost money and add to the federal deficit, but it would also restore the utopian vision of TVA’s founders.  [...]

Month after month, year after year, as the labor market remains slack and long-term unemployment worsens, Obama insists that cutting the federal deficit remains more vital than putting people back to work. His proposal that TVA be privatized fits well into a neoliberal framework and satisfies Democratic Party circles in the financial world. As the nation’s first black president, Obama may represent a greater triumph for the dormant Democratic Leadership Council—which moved the party from New Deal politics to neoliberalism—than its original standard bearer, Bill Clinton, the first figurative black chief executive.

Ross Kaminsy at the Denver Post writes How Michael Lewis is hurting, not helping, the stock market:
It used to be said that the most dangerous place to stand is between Sen. Chuck Schumer and a camera. Lately that description better fits author Michael Lewis, who is blanketing the airwaves hawking his new book, "Flash Boys," which he portrays as an exposé of a stock market "rigged" by high frequency trading, or HFT.

Lewis raises legitimate questions about whether investment banks and stock exchanges have conflicts of interest when it comes to customers getting the best possible prices on their stock orders. But his claims that the stock market is "rigged" are not simply exaggerated; by discouraging people from investing, Lewis' bogus assertions potentially hurt millions of American investors.

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