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Jul 10 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: Three Legs Good, No Legs Bad

Will 50 Republican senators be willing to inflict grievous harm on their constituents in the name of party loyalty? I have no idea.

But this seems like a good moment to review why Republicans can’t come up with a non-disastrous alternative to Obamacare. It’s not because they’re stupid (although they have become stunningly anti-intellectual). It’s because you can’t change any major element of the Affordable Care Act without destroying the whole thing.

Suppose you want to make health coverage available to everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions. Most of the health economists I know would love to see single-payer — Medicare for all. Realistically, however, that’s too heavy a lift for the time being.

Charles M. Blow: Putin Meets His Progeny

Team Trump wants us all to get over this annoying Russia thing and just move on. Sorry sir, not going to happen.

At the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man whose thumb was all over the scale that delivered Trump’s victory. It was like a father meeting his offspring. But was it their first meeting? Maybe, maybe not.

For years Trump claimed not only that he had met Putin, but also that the two men had a great relationship.

Then in July 2016 came the about-face. At a news conference, Trump said, “I never met Putin,” and “I don’t know who Putin is.” This, coincidentally, was the same news conference at which he encouraged Russia’s cyberattack of Hillary Clinton’s campaign to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Dean Baker: How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on Windows?

Suppose we lived in a world where Bill Gates could not get copyright or patent protection for Windows and other Microsoft products. Anyone who wanted could duplicate these products without charge, sending Bill Gates a thank you note, if they were so inspired.

In that world, Bill Gates would certainly not be the world’s richest human with a fortune of more than $70 billion. Even without copyright protection Mr. Gates would probably still be doing fine — he seems reasonably bright, works hard and comes from a wealthy family — but he would not have amassed his huge fortune if he could not get government granted monopolies on his software.

This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress.

Robert Kuttner: How Trump Gives Protection A Bad Name

Trump’s brand of protectionism is a menace, but not for the reasons many people think.

His fulminations about NAFTA, subsidized Chinese steel, protected Canadian dairy products, and failed Obama-era trade deals, have produced a spate of articles warning about the damage Trump’s trade policy could do to the global economic order. The most instructive of these was a recent New York Times piece by their senior economic writer Eduardo Porter.

Porter began: “It seems President Trump is ready to start rolling back globalization. Let’s hope he doesn’t blow up the postwar economic order.”

According to Porter, Trump might turn his back on the World Trade Organization, as “he retreats from prior American commitments to global trade.” Porter asks, rhetorically, “Will he eschew the multilateral framework in pursuit of a set of bilateral deals, turning his back on a long history of trade diplomacy?”

But of course, this is exactly what “free trade” presidents have done for more than 30 years, with dozens of bilateral deals intended to protect U.S. special corporate interests, in NAFTA and most recently in the stalled Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Ever since the failed round of trade talks in 1999, American presidents have given up on more general deals under the auspices of the WTO.

Leo Gerard: American Workers Seek Trade Enforcement, Not Protection

American workers have made a simple request of politicians for decades: stop the trade violations that kill American manufacturers and jobs.
American factories and workers are willing to compete. They are able to compete. But the playing field must be level. American workers and employers can’t win when their rival is not a company but a country. U.S. manufacturers and unions have filed untold numbers of cases against trade law violators, and they almost always win. As a result, the United States now has 28 separate tariffs on a variety of Chinese steel products, and in January it filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization about China’s aluminum policies.

But China and other countries continue to violate and circumvent the rules. So now, President Donald Trump is contemplating invoking a section of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to ensure America can produce its own steel and aluminum for national security. Badmouthing this effort as protectionism are importers and 1 percenters. They’ve tried to characterize American workers and their employers as crybabies seeking protection. But no one is asking for protection. American workers and manufacturers want trade law enforcement to establish fair competition and ensure national security interests.

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