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Mar 17 2017

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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Conservative Fantasies, Colliding With Reality

This week the Trump administration put out a budget blueprint — or more accurately, a “budget” blueprint. After all, real budgets detail where the money comes from and where it goes; this proclamation covers only around a third of federal spending, while saying nothing about revenues or projected deficits.

As the fiscal expert Stan Collender put it: “This is not a budget. It’s a Trump campaign press release masquerading as a government document.”

So what’s the point of the document? The administration presumably hopes that it will distract the public and the press from the ongoing debacle over health care. But it probably won’t. And in any case, this pseudo-budget embodies the same combination of meanspiritedness and fiscal fantasy that has turned the Republican effort to replace Obamacare into a train wreck.

Think for a minute about the vision of government and its role that the right has been peddling for decades.

In this vision, much if not most government spending is a complete waste, doing nobody any good. The same is true of government regulations. And to the extent to which spending does help anyone, it’s Those People — lazy, undeserving types who just so happen to be a bit, well, darker than Real Americans.

Eugene Robinson: Trump budgets for a dumber, dirtier America

President Trump’s first budget is an attempt to reshape the federal government in his own image — crass, bellicose, shortsighted, unserious and ultimately hollow.

Unsurprisingly, Trump titled it “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” The reality is that if Congress were to accept these numbers — which it can’t possibly do — America would be made dumber, dirtier, hungrier and sicker. That may be Trump’s idea of greatness, but it’s certainly not mine.

Would we at least be safer? I doubt it. Trump wants to boost defense spending by $54 billion, or about 9 percent. But at the same time, he proposes cutting funding for the State Department by an incredible 28 percent, slashing the relatively modest hands-across-the-sea assistance and advice the United States gives to other nations. Most of the generals and admirals I know believe in projecting U.S. strength through soft power as well as hard power. Trump apparently disagrees.

Catherine Rampell: Republicans’ four-point plan to help the poor get poorer

Sorry, poor people of America. Republicans are quietly sealing all the exits on the poverty trap.

It’s a four-part process, in which officials at all levels of government are taking part:

First, reduce poor women’s access to the reproductive services they need to prevent unintended pregnancies, so they have less control over when, and with whom, they have children.

Second, make it harder for any unexpectedly expecting women to have abortions.

Third, make the adoption process more expensive, reducing incentives for other families to adopt the babies resulting from these unplanned pregnancies. (Yes, amazingly, Republicans plan to do this.)

Finally, cut the services these involuntarily growing low-income families rely on to help support and care for their children, and to move up in the world.

Let’s take a walk through the policies that constitute this poverty-prolonging policy four-step, shall we?

Michael Paarlberg: Trump’s budget: the dream of a paranoid strongman and a vicious Scrooge

Donald Trump isn’t a details guy, which is why his skinny budget is skinnier than most. Every president sends these proposals to Congress to specify their general spending preferences. Trump’s plan is especially sketchy when it comes to how it actually pays for everything. As a political vision, though, it couldn’t be clearer: a kind of banana republic militarism designed to fleece taxpayers, enrich defense contractors, punish agencies deemed disloyal and screw the poor at every turn.

It is at least refreshing that Trump’s budget plan makes no pretenses of fiscal responsibility. It seeks to lift the spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, the last big attempt to rein in deficits, because the BCA set limits to defense and non-defense discretionary spending alike. Trump wants a $54bn boost for the military, and promises to pay for it by eliminating programs popular with many, including Republican, members of Congress. Which won’t happen, which means some combination of austerity and deficit spending instead.

Amanda Marcotte: Behind the Western land war: How the fringe ideology of anti-government cranks is becoming the GOP mainstream

When a group of incoherent right-wing radicals — led by the infamous Bundy brothers, Ryan and Ammon — took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last year, they were largely understood in the mainstream media as a bunch of fringe characters. Their politics were ramshackle, their demands were incoherent, and they seemed more fueled by some muddled white Christian conservative identity politics than by a cohesive ideology.

But while the Bundys and their friends were correctly written off as a bunch of rambling jackasses, their hostility to the previously uncontroversial notion that the federal government has a right to own and control land in the Western United States has become, ever so quietly, a popular opinion among congressional Republicans.

A closer look at what’s going on suggests that this public land issue is a good example of the way formerly marginal ideas can move into the mainstream of the Republican Party. Corporate interests and right-wing ideologies interact, feeding off each other and work to push the entire party ever further to the right.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonpartisan environmental nonprofit, released a report flagging the 15 members of Congress — nine House members and six senators — it considers most hostile to federal ownership of land.