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Dec 27 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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Paul Krugman: And the Trade War Came

Donald Trump got within striking distance of the White House — or, more precisely, Comey-and-Putin range — thanks to overwhelming support from white working-class voters. These voters trusted his promise to bring back good manufacturing jobs while disbelieving his much more credible promise to take away their health care. They have a rude shock coming.

But white workers aren’t alone in their gullibility: Corporate America is still in denial about the prospects for a global trade war, even though protectionism was a central theme of the Trump campaign. In fact, the only two causes about which Mr. Trump seems truly passionate are supposedly unfair trade deals and admiration for authoritarian regimes. It’s naïve to assume that he’ll let his signature policy issue slide.

Let’s talk means, motive and consequences.

Gene B. Sperling: The Quiet War on Medicaid

Progressives have already homed in on Republican efforts to privatize Medicare as one of the major domestic political battles of 2017. If Donald J. Trump decides to gut the basic guarantee of Medicare and revamp its structure so that it hurts older and sicker people, Democrats must and will push back hard. But if Democrats focus too much of their attention on Medicare, they may inadvertently assist the quieter war on Medicaid — one that could deny health benefits to millions of children, seniors, working families and people with disabilities.

Of the two battles, the Republican effort to dismantle Medicaid is more certain. Neither Mr. Trump nor Senate Republicans may have the stomach to fully own the political risks of Medicare privatization. But not only have Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s choice for secretary of health and human services, made proposals to deeply cut Medicaid through arbitrary block grants or “per capita caps,” during the campaign, Mr. Trump has also proposed block grants.

If Mr. Trump chooses to oppose his party’s Medicare proposals while pushing unprecedented cuts to older people and working families in other vital safety-net programs, it would play into what seems to be an emerging strategy of his: to publicly fight a few select or symbolic populist battles in order to mask an overall economic and fiscal strategy that showers benefits on the most well-off at the expense of tens of millions of Americans.

Dean Baker: As President, Will Donald Trump and His Cabinet Trade Inside Information?

I don’t know that Donald Trump will take advantage of the inside information he will have access to as president, but no one knows that he won’t. And the president has access to a massive amount of inside information.

Just for beginners, the president gets advance access to the monthly jobs numbers and the quarterly GDP report. Suppose Trump finds out that the job growth in March is far weaker than the markets expected, or that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 is surprisingly strong.

These reports would have a huge effect on the stock and bond markets. Trump could make a fortune by making highly leveraged bets just before the government reports are officially released. Or, if he doesn’t want to make the trades himself, he can pass the information along to Vincent Viola, his designee for secretary of the US Army, who became a billionaire running a high-frequency trading company. Apparently, Viola plans to maintain a stake in his high-frequency trading company even after he enters the government.

This is just the beginning of ways in which Donald Trump and his top appointees can personally profit from their positions in government. We already have heard accounts of foreign diplomats changing their reservations so that they can stay at Donald Trump’s new hotel in Washington. And, it seems likely that foreign leaders will be more generous in considering licensing requests from Trump-owned properties throughout the world.

E. J. Dionne Jr.: The electoral college is the worst of both worlds. It’s time for it to go.

It’s important for those who favor the popular election of our presidents to separate their arguments for direct democracy from the outcome of a particular contest.

My colleague George F. Will’s recent column in defense of the electoral college offers an excellent opportunity to make a case that has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump.

After all, Will, admirably and eloquently, insisted that Trump was unworthy of nomination or election. So our disagreement relates entirely to his insistence that we should stick with an approach to choosing presidents that, twice in the past 16 years, overrode the wishes of Americans, as measured by the popular vote.

Will brushes aside these outcomes. “Two is 40 percent of five elections, which scandalizes only those who make a fetish of simpleminded majoritarianism.”

But when is a belief in majoritarian democracy a “fetish” or “simpleminded,” and when is it just a belief in democracy? The current system makes a fetish of majoritarianism (or, to coin an awkward but more accurate word, pluralitarianism) at the state level, but it’s held meaningless nationally. Who is fetishizing what?