In comments at the New York Times, Winning Progressive addresses public pensions, why Janet Yellen should be appointed Federal Reserve Chair, a laughable call to revive neoconservatism, and Attorney General Holder’s defense of voting rights. (More)

In response to the article Chicago Sees Pension Crisis Drawing Near, we remind people that the blame here lies not with public servants, but with city leaders who were subsidized developers and billionaire sports team owners but failed to adequately fund city pensions:

Unlike in many cities, the pension crisis in Chicago is real. But keep in mind that the blame here lies not with public servants, but with the city which has failed to make adequate contributions to those pensions for years.

The Chicago Public School pension fund is a perfect example. CPS teacher retirees don’t receive Social Security. Instead, they pay 9% of their salary into the pension fund. The average retiree paid into the system for 28 years and receives an average pension of $42k per year, and 27% of retired teachers get less than $30k per year.

The problem is that starting in 1995, CPS was allowed to divert its annual pension contribution to its operating budget. Over the next decade, $2 billion was diverted, and from 2010 through 2013, another $1.2 billion was diverted. All this happened at the same time that Chicago gave away billions to developers and sports team owners through TIF funds and other subsidies, while undermining revenues through scam privatization of the city parking meters and the Skyway. $387 million went to Soldier Field, $200 million went to the White Sox who pay no property taxes, and now $125 million is proposed for a new basketball stadium for DePaul University.

The city wants to privatize Midway Airport. That’s a bad idea, but if it goes through, the money should be used to protect pensions for public employees, not to more wasteful corporate subsidies.

In response to Paul Krugman’s column Sex, Money, and Gravitas, which recounts the sexism underlying much of the opposition to the proposal to appoint Janet Yellen as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve, Winning Progressive explained how Ms. Yellen’s appointment would be a welcome example of someone succeeding upward rather than failing upward:

The appointment of Janet Yellen as the new chair of the Federal Reserve would be the correct call for a number of reasons that have been detailed by Professor Krugman here and by many others elsewhere. Perhaps the sweetest reason, however, is that it would be an increasingly rare instance in which the person who has consistently been right on the issues is actually rewarded for it.

Far too often, key positions in our society are filled by people who fail upwards. Somehow, no matter how many times such folks are disastrously wrong, our media continues to turn to these folks for their opinions and business and political leaders continue to select them for positions of power.

Examples abound. Iraq war cheerleader Kenneth Pollack continues to occupy a prime seat at the Brookings Institute where he writes papers about Iraq. Torture apologists Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo are consulted about Constitutional matters. Larry Summers is considered for Federal Reserve chair despite his disastrous responses to the 1994 Mexican peso crisis, the 1997 East Asian financial crisis, and promoting the deregulation that turned our financial system into a glorified Atlantic City casino.

Yellen would be a welcome change from this trend. If you agree, call the White House – 202-456-1111 – and urge President Obama to make the right choice by selecting Yellen as the new chair of the Federal Reserve.

In response to David Brooks’ column The Necon Revival, Winning Progressive responded to the claim that neoconservatives could revive the Republican Party with the derision that such a claim deserves:

The revival of neocons would save the Republican Party???? That’s the best laugh I’ve had all day.

You write that “nearly every problem with the Republican Party today could be cured by a neocon revival” while saying almost nothing about the neocons’ foreign policy disasters. Remember, it was the neocons that were the primary cheerleaders for the unnecessary Iraq War, and who are constantly urging us to get even more deeply involved in the Middle East. Those misadventures turned out to be disastrous as both a matter of policy and finances, not to mention costing thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I can’t see how bringing those same folks back would help revive the GOP.

I also found amusing the statement that “Neocons mostly sought policies that would encourage self-discipline.” Yes, they were always using the goal of encouraging self-discipline to urge harsh cutbacks to social spending, changes to education policy, and alliances with religious conservatives. But somehow ideas of encouraging self-discipline and values went out the window when it came to the wealthy. Instead, they got deregulation mantras about greed being good, and bailouts when things went wrong.

So sure, bring back the neocons, their saber rattling, and their morality for “thee but not for me.” Doing so will only help ensure that the GOP stays in the wilderness even longer.

In response to the editorial A New Defense of Voting Rights, which discussed Attorney General Eric Holder’s effort to use Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act to protect voting rights after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Act, Winning Progressive explained how voting rights is one issue where there are obvious, real, and significant differences between the two political parties:

Attorney General Holder’s actions here demonstrate yet again that it really does matter which of the two political parties is in power.

For the past more than a decade, one party – the Republicans – has been actively working to restrict voting as much as possible, especially among students, people of color, and the poor. They have fabricated the myth of widespread voter fraud, and then used that myth as an excuse to institute a wide array of legislation and policies to make it more difficult for certain people to vote. And they have worked to weaken and then eliminate federal laws designed to protect voting rights, most particularly by getting the five conservatives on the Supreme Court to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

The other political party – the Democrats – have worked to expand access to voting and have voted against and vetoed GOP voter suppression laws as often as possible. And now Attorney General Holder is working to find creative ways to continue to protect voting rights even under the weakened Voting Rights Act.

Some may argue that the Democrats are only doing this because it helps get their voters to the polls. But that argument is quite weak given that there is little evidence of today’s Democrats working to suppress GOP votes. And, even to the extent that politics is only about power, Democrats often work to benefit progressives while the GOP actively works against us. Any good progressive should keep that in mind before pretending that there is no difference between the two parties.