This was an exciting week for comments at TheNation.com. Our "OpinionNation: Should Jeffrey Sachs Be the Next World Bank President?" elicited responses from prominent activists, including Phyllis Bennis, David Korten and Frances Moore Lappé. We also organized our first ever real-time discussion with commenters. “This Week in Poverty” blogger Greg Kaufmann joined with Lisalyn Jacobs and Tim Casey from Legal Momentum, the oldest legal defense fund in the United States dedicated to women and girls, to take questions from our readers. Below are some of the best comments this week from OpinionNation, This Week in Poverty and a few other pieces.

As always, let us know what you think—in the comments!

JackSparrow: I don’t think anyone supports "voter fraud" but if it really is the problem people say it is, why aren’t we more transparent about substantiating the facts and focusing on improving the entire voting process? It is one thing to promote a so-called needed change, and quite another to turn a blind eye to the barriers created and/or in place for people to get a Voter ID in order to participate in the electoral process. If voting is an obligation/right and/or an entitlement I believe we should be creating an inclusionary rather than exclusionary system for ALL our citizens regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and/or race or rank or station in life. In other words, why aren’t we implementing other administrative procedures to make easier for those most directly affected by these laws like students, the poor, minorities and our seniors to get voter ID’s and vote? Why aren’t we also looking at other positive changes to make voting more inclusionary rather than exclusionary? We already have one of the lowest voting rates of any democratic country in the world. When the focus is limited to creating a requirement for Voter ID’s adversely impacting certain categories of voters, without other positive changes, it only gives rise to more suspicions and concerns about the integrity of  our entire electoral process. One more point, why don’t we see an equal level of concern from so-called reformists about how voting machines are handled? Why is it that we don’t have a paper trail? What safeguards are in place to protect the sanctity of our vote using these machines? Why are we allowing our voting process to be profitized with few safeguards and little meaningful public oversight? Could it be that this offers yet another opportunity to game the system by unethical political partisans?
In response to Ari Berman’s “DOJ Blocks Discriminatory Texas Voter ID Law.” March 12, 2012

Frances Moore Lappé: I am grateful to my colleagues Robin Broad and John Cavanagh. Over a life’s work struggling to understand the roots of hunger and poverty, I’ve come to see both as symptoms of powerlessness. So I’ve been distressed by Jeffrey Sachs’ failure to acknowledge that ending poverty requires democratizing power relationships from the village level to the international arena. Reading Sachs’ comments in the recent New York Times story on the World Bank’s news that we’d achieved the Millennial Development Goal of halving the proportion of people in poverty five years early, I was struck by what he did not say. Sachs struck a happy note, saying nothing about increasing inequality throughout most of the world (where 71% of the world’s people live), nothing about the terrible burden of rising food prices (February’s FAO Food Price Index in real terms is well above its 2008 peak and close to last year’s historic high), nothing about more and more land being diverted to agrofuel and “grabbed” by outside interests from small farmers in the Global South. He also said nothing to alert readers that, in terms of the number of people escaping extreme poverty, China accounts for virtually all the gain over 27 years (1981 to 2008). Moreover, excluding China, the number of people living below $2.00 actually climbed by 29%, to over 2 billion, during this period. He says nothing to caution us, as Cavanagh and Broad do, about celebrating an escape from poverty in a totalitarian nation where the increase in cash income (lifting one out of extreme poverty) can come at the price of horrific living conditions. Finally, in defending the record of the Millennium Villages, Sachs seems unaware that significant social movements, from Brazil to India, are achieving similar results without dependency on corporate inputs.

What I want in the next World Bank president is someone with a systemic overview, exploring these questions, and eager to figure out how the Bank can remove the obstacles to the rapid spread of these empowering movements.
In response to “OpinionNation: Should Jeffrey Sachs Be the Next World Bank President?” March 14, 2012

DeborahJame: It seems to me that there is a strategic element to the debate that might be useful to ponder. One thing I think we all agree on, is that we wish we had more candidates (someone with an analysis on development more like our own, whatever that may be; and from a developing country, to encapsulate much more extensive critiques). The problem I see is that we don’t. And while it’s good to argue that we should, I don’t see a single country organizing a campaign for an alternative candidate. I work extensively with Martin Khor and would love to see him as a candidate – but his government (Malaysia) – has endorsed Sachs! I would love to see, at the very least, the BRICS nominate someone. Yet they have not. They have repeated that what is important is an open and transparent process with real criteria, not a selection based on nationality. And other poor countries – well, many of them have nominated Sachs, something which not one critic has acknowledged.

Thus, while in my view, it’s not our job to decide for the Malaysians, or the Haitians, or the Bhutanese, or the Kenyans, who they should choose as their nominee, as people in the US we can play a role to try to ensure that the US candidate is the best candidate possible. And let’s be clear – the rest of our choices are all far, far worse, with Summers at the top of the list. I think that Sachs has many qualities that would make him a visionary WB leader; I’m sure he also has many faults, and that were he to become the head of the WB, we would have plenty of reason to still criticize WB policies. However, it seems like the strategic commitment many of us make in the US is how we mobilize to change the negative impacts of US policies on the rest of the world. And here, I think we have an opportunity to do that, by putting pressure on Obama to nominate someone – who at the very least is committed to eradicating extreme poverty – instead of a banker or politician. If you haven’t seen the short list, it would make you shudder. 

One last note – Sachs devotes an entire chapter in Common Wealth to critiquing US foreign policy for its unilateralism, its squandering of resources in misguided wars, and for emphasizing military "solutions" when diplomacy (and a commitment to global sustainable development) would yield far greater real security. He has another chapter critiquing (developed) market economies for their inequality, poverty, and weak social safety net, as compared with mixed and social-welfare economies with comparable rates of growth and wealth. Throughout the book, he argues extensively in favor of the UN’s multilateral system for resolving global problems and as a forum to figure out how to manage the global commons – including dealing with our generation’s mega-challenge of climate change. These are obvious reasons why he is unlikely to be considered in the White House; and they are further reasons, among others, to support his candidacy.
In response to “OpinionNation: Should Jeffrey Sachs Be the Next World Bank President?” March 14, 2012

Paul Sutera: Let’s not forget the other corporations that are destroying other industries in America through relentless off shoring to the third world.  Wall Street is only part of the puzzle.  Companies like IBM have destroyed the I/T industry in this country by getting small companies to offshore their I/T departments to Wipro, InfoSys and IBM India, all India companies.  Then they say: we don’t have enough engineers in the USA, so we have to offshore.  Some I/T Architects are told to train their China/India replacements or they will get no severance.   Keep the focus on other companies in addition to Wall Street firms.
In response to Michael Moore’s “The Purpose of Occupy Wall Street is to Occupy Wall Street.” March 14, 2012

Cat in Seattle: Another frustration I have is about the "falling middle class."   While I know they are falling, it is as if the poor who have always been here due to the laws and policies they’ve been abused by just do not exist.  If I hear one more time, "I did everything right, I worked hard, etc," I think I will scream.  As if the low-income people who have been there all along didn’t "do any right things?"  Most of them were doing the right things too, but the things affecting them then are affecting the "falling middle class’ now.  All of a sudden it is a shock and of course they "deserve" what few resources there are while the poor who’ve been there all along don’t deserve them. Worse many of these "falling middle class" were the ones applauding while Welfare Reform was put into law.
In reponse to “This Week in Poverty: Me, Mom and Reagan.” March 16, 2012

Bobbolink: Greg, a lot of organizations that say they "work with" poor people, actually do not. And for others, it is spotty. For instance, I feel like I have been heard at the National Coalition for the Homeless, but the local coalition, NO. As we know, saying and doing are often two different things. We often experience something different from what is promoted.

Certainly, the local church-run agency, which is often all there is in smaller areas, has no route at all for people on the receiving end to be heard. I suggested a third-party ombudsman, and one clergy supported that, but it has never happened. I think poor people need to be part of the training that "volunteers" get! These volunteers need to hear what life is like for us
In reponse to “This Week in Poverty: Me, Mom and Reagan.” March 16, 2012

Lisalyn Jacobs: A few thoughts on the budget: 1) we are subsidizing the wrong things, including taxes that are too low on those who can afford to pay more and subsidies for oil companies who are making record profits; 2) we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to cut social services as opposed to figuring out how, now that we are out of Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan, we can pare back the military industry, particularly the contracting piece of it. It’s unclear to me why, when we look at this economy and need reductions, the people who we hyper-focus on, the poor, are those with the least resources. Probably because they command the least attention politically.
In reponse to “This Week in Poverty: Me, Mom and Reagan.” March 16, 2012