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May 04 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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Steven Rattner: Trump Folks: Tell the Truth About Your Tax Plan

Last Wednesday, President Trump unveiled his huge tax cut, unmistakably geared to helping business and the wealthy.

A few days later, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a business conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., that there would be no net tax cut for the rich because it would be offset by closing loopholes and deductions.

That was hardly the first time Mr. Mnuchin made that patently absurd assertion nor the only occasion on which he and other members of the Trump administration had similarly misled the public about the nature of the tax plan.

In fact, when Mr. Mnuchin first offered his unequivocal pronouncement, at his confirmation hearing in January, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, quickly called the commitment the “Mnuchin rule.”

David Leonhardt: The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage

When Massachusetts expanded health insurance a decade ago, state officials unknowingly created an experiment. It’s turned out to be an experiment that offers real-world evidence of what would happen if the House Republicans’ health bill were to become law.

The findings from Massachusetts come from an academic paper being released Thursday, and the timing is good. Until now, the main analysis of the Republican health bill has come from the Congressional Budget Office, and some Republicans have criticized that analysis as speculative. The Massachusetts data is more concrete.

Unfortunately for those Republicans, the new data makes their health care bill look even worse than the C.B.O. report did. The bill could cause more people to lose insurance than previously predicted and do more damage to insurance markets. The $8 billion sweetener that Republicans added to the bill on Wednesday would do nothing to change this reality. President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are continuing to push a policy that would harm millions of Americans.

Here are the basics of the new study, and why it matters:

Charles M. Blow: Senators Save the Empire

In the movie “Gladiator,” the Roman emperor Commodus storms back to his palace after paying a visit to the senate. In the senate, he bemoaned his father’s time spent at study and was quickly chided about his inexperience as other senators laughed. He angrily laments to his sister:

“Who would deign to lecture me?”

His sister tries to impress upon him the importance of the senate, but Commodus, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is not moved. He continues:

“I will give the people a vision of Rome, and they will love me for it, and they’ll soon forget the tedious sermonizing of a few dry old men.”

Commodus realizes that the one thing standing between him and his authoritarian impulses is the senate, its rules and its traditions, and he is furious about its constraints on his power.

I have thought of this movie often since Donald Trump was elected, and this scene seems particularly relevant this week. The film is a work of fiction based on some historical figures, but it has some incredibly compelling parallels to what’s happening today in America.

Theodore B. Olson: If retail politics doesn’t kill this $1 trillion tax, the Supreme Court should

With the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare continuing to struggle in the House, the Trump administration and congressional Republicans are understandably eager to notch a major policy win and fulfill a Trump campaign promise. Thus, congressional leaders are turning their attention to the great white whale of their policy agenda: tax reform.

Like Moby Dick, the opportunity to enact tax reform surfaces only rarely, and it has a penchant for turning on those who, like Captain Ahab, pursue it too closely.

In fact, a squall of serious dimensions is already appearing on the horizon. A centerpiece of the Republican leadership’s tax-reform plan is a new $1 trillion tax that proponents call a “border adjustment.” Not surprisingly, many members of Congress are hearing from constituents opposed to being “adjusted” to the tune of a $1 trillion, and Republicans in both houses of Congress are talking openly about a mutiny. The Republican leadership’s proposed “border adjustment” sounds a lot like what United Airlines might call a “re-accommodation.”

Richard Wolffe: James Comey feels nauseous about the Clinton emails? That’s not enough

James Comey is what the Soviets used to call a useful idiot: someone so full of self-righteous delusions that he cannot tell right from wrong.

Listening to the FBI director explain how and why he interfered with the 2016 election is an astonishing exercise in high-brow justification for low-brow political cowardice.

According to Comey, he had no choice but to tell Congress – in a private letter, he pointed out – that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after his agents found thousands of them on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Telling Congress was a bad option, he claimed in front of the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday. But concealing the new investigation would have been “catastrophic”.