“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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Paul Krugman: Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy
>Does anyone still remember the Carrier deal? Back in December President-elect Donald Trump announced, triumphantly, that he had reached a deal with the air-conditioner manufacturer to keep 1,100 jobs in America rather than moving them to Mexico. And the media spent days celebrating the achievement. [..]
Whatever Mr. Trump did or didn’t achieve with Carrier, the real question was whether he would take steps to make a lasting difference.
So far, he hasn’t; there isn’t even the vague outline of a real Trumpist jobs policy. And corporations and investors seem to have decided that the Carrier deal was all show, no substance, that for all his protectionist rhetoric Mr. Trump is a paper tiger in practice. After pausing briefly, the ongoing move of manufacturing to Mexico has resumed, while the Mexican peso, whose value is a barometer of expected U.S. trade policy, has recovered almost all its post-November losses.
In other words, showy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to last week’s missile strike on Syria.
President Donald Trump’s first major legislative goal – to “repeal and replace” the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) – has already imploded, owing to Trump and congressional Republicans’ naivety about the complexities of healthcare reform. Their attempt to replace an imperfect but popular law with a pseudo-reform that would deprive more than 24 million Americans of basic healthcare was bound to fail – or sink Republican members of Congress in the 2018 midterm elections if it had passed.
Now Trump and congressional Republicans are pursuing tax reform, starting with corporate taxes and then moving on to personal income taxes, as if this will be any easier. It won’t be, not least because the Republicans’ initial proposals would add trillions of dollars to budget deficits, and funnel more than 99% of the benefits to the top 1% of the income distribution.
A plan offered by Republicans in the House of Representatives to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, and to make up for the lost revenues with a border adjustment tax (BAT), is dead on arrival. The BAT does not have enough support even among Republicans, and it would violate World Trade Organisation rules. The Republicans’ proposed tax cuts would create a $2tn revenue shortfall over the next decade, and they cannot plug that hole with revenue savings from their healthcare reform plan or with the $1.2tn that could have been expected from a BAT.
Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria have attracted worldwide attention (and disgraceful plaudits) in recent days. But much less airtime is being given to his administration’s risky and increasingly barbaric military escalations on several other fronts across the world.
Let’s put aside, for the time being, that the Trump administration openly admits it has no clue what it is going to do in Syria next. Or that key members of Congress and in the administration are clearly eager for “regime change” in Syria with no plan for the aftermath. And the fact that hardly anyone seems to care that Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev said over the weekend that Syrian strikes put the US “on the verge of a military clash with Russia” – a nuclear power with thousands of warheads.
As troubling as these developments are, we should be just as concerned about the explosion of civilian deaths – more than 1,000 in March alone – that have come directly as the result of the Trump administration’s other reckless military campaigns across the Middle East over the past few weeks.
Charles M. Blow: War as Political Weapon
Donald Trump has turned his back on pretty much everything he has ever said about United States military involvement in Syria and launched nearly 60 missiles at an air base in the country.
Trump’s official statement claimed that the strikes were in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s monstrous chemical weapons attack against his own people. But the statement also went further into the fiction of fear often touted to buttress humanitarian missions: “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
This has echoes of the George W. Bush warning about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” a lie that led us into a near decade-long war.
Not to be indelicate here, but atrocities happen in the world all the time (and have happened on an even larger scale before in Syria). Humans are capable of unimaginable cruelty. Sometimes the victims die quickly and are made visible by media for the world to see. Other times, they die in slow motion, out of sight and out of mind. Sometimes banned weapons are used; sometimes conventional weapons; sometimes, neglect, isolation and starvation.
Steven Reisner: Trump Has Taken A Page Straight From The Hitler Playbook
As a child, I lived in two worlds: the world that I shared with other kids on the streets of Brooklyn, and the world inside my house – a place of tension, strange stories, uncomfortable silences and sudden outbursts; a place where you never knew what would evoke rage and fear or what would trigger a horrific memory or what would turn light, empty talk into the subject of a dire warning. My parents were refugees who had escaped from Poland during the Second World War – and my family kitchen was, in a way, an outpost of the Holocaust.
So, although I lived the privileged life of lower middle-class white America in the 60’s, I didn’t know it as a child. Because simultaneously, I lived in a world where friendship was determined by who I believed would hide me when the Nazis came to take us away; and where naiveté was represented by those who wouldn’t take these threats seriously or wouldn’t recognize when it was time to flee.
This is why, when reading about what Donald Trump and his appointees are doing to our current immigrant population and to those seeking refuge, I can’t help but identify with the “aliens,” intuitively replacing the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Syrian refugee’ with ‘Jew’ and ‘Jewish refugee.’ I instinctively transpose the language, for example, of Trump’s new Federal program, Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement, to Victims of Jewish Crime Engagement, just to feel what it would be like to be Trump’s target, and wondering, if it were written that way in newspaper headlines, whether it would change anyone’s consciousness of what is happening.