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.

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Washington Post Editorial Board: Convicted for leaving water for migrants in the desert: This is Trump’s justice

A FEW weeks ago, federal prosecutors in Arizona secured a conviction against four humanitarian aid workers who left water in the desert for migrants who might otherwise die of heat exposure and thirst. Separately, they dropped manslaughter charges against a U.S. Border Patrol agent who fired 16 times across the border, killing a teenage Mexican boy. The aid workers face a fine and up to six months in jail. The Border Patrol officer faces no further legal consequences.

That is a snapshot of twisted frontier justice in the age of Trump. Save a migrant’s life, and you risk becoming a political prisoner. Kill a Mexican teenager, and you walk free.

The four aid workers, all women, were volunteers in service to an organization, No More Deaths, whose religious views inform its mission to prevent undocumented migrants from dying during their perilous northward trek. They drove into the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, about 100 miles southwest of Phoenix, to leave water jugs along with some canned beans.

Juliette Kayyem: The NFL, not the federal government, should pay for Super Bowl security

We just came out of the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history — during which many federal agents, including, but not limited to, employees of the Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), FBI, FEMA and TSA were required to work unpaid. And we’re just a few days from the Super Bowl, an event that carries a hefty price tag for law enforcement agencies, including at the federal level.

No expense should be spared to protect the thousands of fans who attend: In the world’s greatest superpower, we should be able to carry on with our most cherished single-day sporting event, confident that every precaution has been taken to make it as safe as possible. When my now-hometown New England Patriots square off against my childhood-hometown Los Angeles Rams, I want to be focused on the game, the halftime show, the clever new commercials and the snacks on my coffee table, not worried about game security.

But particularly given where the nation is, budget-wise, it’s time that the NFL picked up the tab for Super Bowl security, not American taxpayers.

Steve Rattner: A Better Way to Tax the Rich

Kudos to our latest political supernova, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for helpfully bringing taxes back into focus, with her call for a new top tax rate of 70 percent on incomes above $10 million a year.

That seemingly simple concept makes for a great headline, but it’s not great tax policy. While I’m all for raising taxes on the wealthy (in large part because we need to deal with our growing deficit), there are more sensible ways to do it.

For starters, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez seems to be ignoring the burden of state and local taxes, particularly for residents of places like her hometown. For us New Yorkers, the top rate for those levies is 12.7 percent. And thanks to the 2017 Republican tax cut, it is no longer deductible, bringing her proposed top rate to 82.7 percent.

There are other, better ways to raise revenue — in particular, by increasing the tax rate on capital gains and dividends and closing loopholes.

Vanessa Williamson: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax on the Rich Isn’t About Revenue, It’s About Decreasing Inequality

Asked earlier in January by “60 Minutes,” how she might pay for a Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that top marginal tax rates in the mid-20th century were “as high as 60 percent or 70 percent.” A slew of articles have since debated whether higher tax rates would actually raise much revenue. But these articles miss the point. Taxes on the very wealthy are corrective taxes, like tobacco taxes, that should be judged by their societal impact, not simply their revenues. The purpose of high tax rates on the rich is the reduction of vast fortunes that give a handful of people a level of power incompatible with democracy.

Among progressive economists, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments have mostly been received with something akin to relief. Though top marginal income tax rates were, for decades, substantially higher than 70 percent, even Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 plan to fund “Medicare for All” tapped out at a top rate of 52 percent. For liberals, high tax proposals have long remained taboo. Now, it seems, that barrier has finally been broken.

Mary Bottari: ALEC’s New Union-Busting Toolkit Illustrates the Goal Is to Bankrupt Unions Not Protect Workers

It’s becoming an annual ritual. The Koch-funded cluster of groups, which has long abused their 501(c)3 IRS “charitable” designation by working to destroy political enemies, has concocted another “union busting” toolkit, giving ammunition and guidance to Republican politicians on how to attack and dismantle a major funder of the Democratic Party.

The toolkit appears to have been prepared by American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) staff shortly after the Supreme Court’s June 2018 Janus vs. AFSCME decision, which held that unions could no longer require individuals in a bargaining unit who did not want to be members of a union to pay agency or “fair share” fees. Fair share fees compensate union staff who are required by law to represent all workers in a bargaining unit in their quest for better wages and working conditions.