Dec 21 2016

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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Katrina vanden Heuvel: Sham populism, shameless plutocracy

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last week, former House speaker Newt Gingrich portrayed President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration as a historic moment for conservatism. “This is the third great effort to break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model” of government, he said, following the Reagan revolution” of the 1980s and Gingrich’s Contract with America in the 1990s.

Such a bold proclamation may sound peculiar after Trump’s fellow Republicans spent much of 2016 attacking him as a heretic who threatened the party’s commitment to right-wing policy orthodoxies. On the campaign trail, Trump explicitly disavowed cuts to safety-net programs that have long been a hallmark of the GOP agenda. “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” he pledged.

But as his administration takes shape, Trump is sending signals to the right that he is prepared to fulfill their wildest fantasies. With his sham populism giving way to shameless plutocracy, it appears increasingly likely that Trump will attempt to reverse more than the progress achieved over the past eight years under President Obama. The tremendous advances and reforms of the 20th century — from the New Deal to the Great Society — may be on the chopping block.

Dean Baker: The Trade Deal Crusaders: Can They Never Learn?

One certain outcome of the 2016 election is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is dead, for the moment. The qualification is necessary because the proponents of the TPP and similar trade pacts refuse to accept that the country is not interested in further trade agreements along the same lines as past pacts.

Rather than accepting the reality that these trade deals really are unpopular, they seem to believe that they really just face a marketing problem. With a better jingle or a few witty phrases, the public will suddenly be anxious to buy the trade deals they are trying to sell.

Viewing the unpopularity of failed trade deals as being a problem of messaging is a denial of reality that deserves the name Trumpian. In the last 15 years, millions of workers have lost jobs due to imports and tens of millions have seen weaker wage growth — this is not a problem that will go away with better messaging.

Eugene Robinson: Donald Trump is serious about smashing GOP orthodoxy

President-elect Donald Trump’s victory tour was more than just an opportunity to strut and preen around the country like a peacock with a comb-over. It was a warning to Republican leaders in Congress that Trump intends to be in charge — and that there will be consequences if the party establishment does not fall in line.

The post-election rallies also served as venues for Trump to make grandiose promises, including some that will stick in his party’s craw.

Trump billed the series of campaign-style events as a way to thank the voters who elected him. It seems obvious that he is addicted to adulation, basks in the grandeur of his own celebrity and chafes at the prosaic labor of assembling an administration. This is a man who cannot be bothered to hear a daily intelligence briefing about threats to the nation, yet finds time to meet with Kanye West.

Les Leopold: The Invention Of The White Working Class

History warns us to be very, very careful when using the phrase “white working class.” The reason has nothing to do with political correctness. Rather, it concerns the changing historical definitions of who is “white.”

Eduardo Porter in the New York Times, uses this construction to ask, “Did the white working class vote its economic interests?” He claims that current data shows white people losing out to blacks and Hispanics in getting their fair share of the new jobs created since 2007:

Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.

Porter further argues this is happening because blacks and Hispanics live mostly in the thriving urban areas while most white people live in declining rural areas.

Only 472 counties voted for Hillary Clinton on Election Day. But ….they account for 64 percent of the nation’s economic activity. The 2,584 counties where Mr. Trump won, by contrast, generated only 36 percent of America’s prosperity.

Porter therefore believes that the white working class flocked to Trump as a way to protest their economic decline.

But this conclusion is flawed:

  • Neither the studies nor Porter provide a definition of “white working class.” Is it [..]

William Rivers Pitt: This Is Real, This Is Happening

I baked cookies the other day. Chocolate chip with those little nuts mixed in, the crumbly ones that get everywhere as soon as you crack the bag. I didn’t do the Toll House thing, the easy stuff in a yellow tube you find in the aisle next to the yogurt. No, I went full Nana, hunting every shelf in the market for ingredients like a nearsighted quarterback doing check-downs after a busted play. Brown sugar, chocolate chips, butter, the crumbly nuts … I started to get worried when I found myself squinting at a row of bleach bottles looking for flour. As for the cookies, well … they exist. I sharpened the kitchen knives on the first one out of the oven. Didn’t leave a mark.

This is what it’s been like for a few weeks now. Distracting the mind has become a paramount priority on the order of breathing. Projects, projects, nothing but projects. The kitchen cupboard needed to be reorganized; now the Triscuits and the stuffing and the colon-challenging bran cereals are organized according to the Dewey Decimal System. Too many dead leaves on the houseplants; now they all have one leaf, and you can hear them photosynthesizing for dear life as soon as the sun comes up over the mountain. Daughter needs a haircut; now she looks like a roadie for Black Flag. My driveway is many long feet of loose gravel. I found myself grasping a push broom and wondering if it needed to be swept.

Something has clearly gone wrong.