May 31 2017

Punting 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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Dean Baker: Trump Versus Ryan: The Race to Eliminate the Federal Government

The budget proposal put forward by the Trump administration has been widely attacked on a variety of grounds. It is clearly making ridiculous assumptions on tax revenue, which don’t make sense even with its implausible assumptions on economic growth. It also calls for large cuts to a variety of programs on which low and moderate income families depend like food stamps and Medicaid. [..]

It doesn’t seem plausible that we can downsize the federal government by more than 40 percent relative to current levels and still expect it to function. As much as Republicans may hate the federal government, they still expect it to enforce laws, keep our food and drugs safe, ensure the infrastructure is usable, and support basic research in health care and other areas. This cannot be done if we downsize the government as projected in the Trump budget. This is either a joke or a plan to ensure that the government no longer provides basic services.

Unfortunately, the Trump budget is not the first time the Republicans have proposed largely eliminating the federal government. Paul Ryan went even further in the budgets that he repeatedly proposed as head of the House Budget Committee and got the Republican controlled House to approve.

Robert Reich: Trump’s Presidency Has Normalized A New Meanness In America

Last Wednesday, on the eve of his election to the House of Representatives, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper.

What prompted the violence? Jacobs had asked Gianforte for his reaction to the Congressional Budget Office’s report showing that the House Republican substitute for the Affordable Care Act would result in 23 million Americans losing their health insurance. [..]

After the attack, Jacobs was evaluated in an ambulance at the scene and taken to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. Several hours later he left the hospital wearing a sling around his arm. Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Donald Trump’s reaction? He praised Greg Gianforte’s election as a “great win in Montana.”

For years, conservatives warned that liberals were “defining deviancy down” by tolerating bad social behavior.

Donald Trump is actively defining deviancy down in American politics. He’s also making America meaner.

Paul Mason: We need a new defence strategy – Donald Trump has hung Europe out to dry

The Polish army fields three divisions, as does Germany’s Bundeswehr. France has two, Romania two, the UK two and the Baltic states could just about scrape together one. As of last week, those are the only forces Vladimir Putin has to consider as he threatens, bullies and cajoles the western diplomatic order into disintegration.

Because from the mouth of Donald Trump came only cowardice.  [..]

The true meaning of “America first” is clear. The Trump presidency will put the interests of American coal, oil and fracking companies first, before that of the planet’s ecosystem. It will place the interests of US-owned car manufacturers first, above those of Volkswagen and Mercedes. And if it comes to a military face-off with Putin’s Russia, America will fight last.

This rip in the global order may last only four years. Or it may snowball.

Richard North Patterson: We Need A Real Russia Policy

Why Russia wanted America to elect Donald Trump is no mystery. During the campaign, Trump served as an apologist, if not an advocate, for the brutal autocrat Vladimir Putin. More recently, Trump revealed classified intelligence information to the Russian foreign minister, and fired the FBI director responsible for investigating Russia’s intrusion in the 2016 election.

The sole remaining mystery is where our policy toward Russia goes from here.

The need for clarity and coherence is inescapable. In the last decade, Russia has invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea, destabilized Ukraine, menaced the Baltic states, partnered with the Assad regime in war crimes against Syrians, meddled in European elections in order to undermine NATO and the European Union, and conducted cyberwarfare meant to influence our election. Through ruthlessness and calculation, Putin’s Russia has taken on Western democracy.

Richard D. Wolffe: The New Socialism: Moving Beyond Concentrated State Power

Capitalism as a system is now increasingly challenged. Critics proliferate and steadily deepen their opposition (alongside, of course, the persistence of capitalism’s defenders). Yet capitalism’s traditional “other” — namely, socialism — has also been widely devalued. It has lost its position as the goal (however variously interpreted) for anti-capitalist social movements. When not simply ignored, socialism (and even more its derivative “communism”) is often treated as utterly passé. When taken seriously, it is mostly a vague rhetorical gesture expressing criticism of the capitalist status quo, not advocacy of a concrete alternative. Socialist parties now mainly support capitalism but with a human face — i.e. with the social supports and safety nets that their “conservative” counterparts disdain.

Sometimes the advocacy of socialism expresses a systemic rejection of, or opposition to, capitalism. But even then, the current use of the term “socialism” lacks a clear, concrete definition of what genuinely new economic system it entails. What exactly differentiates it from and renders it superior both to capitalism and to what “old” socialism used to mean?