Sep 12 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: Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate

After the devastation wreaked by Harvey on Houston — devastation that was right in line with meteorologists’ predictions — you might have expected everyone to take heed when the same experts warned about the danger posed by Hurricane Irma. But you would have been wrong.

On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh accused weather scientists of inventing Irma’s threat for political and financial reasons: “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he declared, adding that “fear and panic” help sell batteries, bottled water, and TV advertising.

He evacuated his Palm Beach mansion soon afterward.

In a way, we should be grateful to Limbaugh for at least raising the subject of climate change and its relationship to hurricanes, if only because it’s a topic the Trump administration is trying desperately to avoid. For example, Scott Pruitt, the pollution- and polluter-friendly head of the Environmental Protection Agency, says that now is not the time to bring up the subject — that doing so is “insensitive” to the people of Florida. Needless to say, for people like Pruitt there will never be a good time to talk about climate.

Eugene Robinson: The cruelest insult to Harvey and Irma’s victims

When, if not now, is the time to talk about global warming and what to do about it? The answer from the Trump administration and the Republican Party, basically, is succinct in its willful ignorance: “How about never? Is never good for you?

No rational U.S. administration would look at the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and seek to deny climate change. At present, however, there is no rational U.S. administration.

We have instead a president and an Environmental Protection Agency chief who refuse to acknowledge the obvious. Thoughts and prayers are welcome at times such as these, but they are insincere if not supplemented by analysis and action. Future megastorms will likely be worse, scientists say; the question for policymakers is to what degree.

According to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, for scientists to “use time and effort to address” the cause of these massive, anomalous storms would be “very, very insensitive to [the] people in Florida.” If I search the archives, I can come up with a few statements from Trump administration officials that are more irresponsible, but not many.

Bill McKibben: Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It’s here; it’s happening

For the sake of keeping things manageable, let’s confine the discussion to a single continent and a single week: North America over the last seven days.

In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history, and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees. Meanwhile, San Francisco not only beat its all-time high temperature record, it crushed it by 3F, which should be pretty much statistically impossible in a place with 150 years (that’s 55,000 days) of record-keeping. [..]

That one long screed of news from one continent in one week (which could be written about many other continents and many other weeks – just check out the recent flooding in south Asia for instance) is a precise, pixelated portrait of a heating world. Because we have burned so much oil and gas and coal, we have put huge clouds of CO2 and methane in the air; because the structure of those molecules traps heat the planet has warmed; because the planet has warmed we can get heavier rainfalls, stronger winds, drier forests and fields. It’s not mysterious, not in any way. It’s not a run of bad luck. It’s not Donald Trump (though he’s obviously not helping). It’s not hellfire sent to punish us. It’s physics.

Catherine Rampell: This nifty GOP trick will punish the poor and increase the deficit — at the same time!

Never accuse Republicans of being uncreative. Once again, they’ve found an innovative way to punish the poor and simultaneously increase budget deficits — all with one nifty trick!

To pull off this impressive twofer, they would put every American applying for the earned-income tax credit (EITC) through a sort of mini-audit before getting their refund. This would both place huge new burdens on the working poor and divert scarce Internal Revenue Service resources away from other audit targets, such as big corporations, that offer a much higher return on investment.

For those not familiar, the EITC is basically a way to top up low- and moderate-income people’s pay through a tax refund, to give them a bigger payoff from working. [..]

Sometime in the next few weeks, the House is expected to vote on the fiscal 2018 budget resolution, a procedural step that’s designed to pave the way for tax cuts. That’s gotten a fair amount of coverage, of course. Less publicized is troubling language in the budget resolution committee report, which proposes decreasing “improper” EITC payments by requiring verification of all income before benefits go out.

The language is vague but appears to refer to a Heritage Foundation proposal that would require the IRS to “fully verify income through a review of Form W-2, Form 1099, business licensing or registration, and relevant invoices” before dispensing any refunds. So, a mini-audit.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The progressives in the Democratic Party keep marching forward

Tuesday’s release of Hillary Clinton’s campaign memoir, “What Happened,” has already set off a new round of sniping and score-settling, providing grist for the media’s addiction to covering political intrigue at the expense of serious policy issues. In telling her side of the story, Clinton takes jabs at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former FBI director James B. Comey and even former vice president Joe Biden. That’s her right. And her critics are likewise entitled to take issue with her portrayal of certain events. But rather than reopening old wounds and refighting past battles, maybe it would be healthier to reflect on how far Democrats have come since the beginning of 2016 and how the progressive wing is now ascendant in the party at the grass roots and to consider the contributions that Sanders’s campaign made toward building a more progressive party.

Wednesday, Sanders will formally introduce legislation to provide “Medicare for All,” a policy that was central to his insurgent presidential campaign. Although Sanders has sponsored single-payer health-care plans for years, this will be the first time that he does so with meaningful support from prominent Democrats. Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) — rising party leaders and potential 2020 contenders — will be co-sponsoring the bill. Meanwhile, top Democrats including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) have also expressed support for the idea of Medicare for All.

“This is what an emerging party consensus looks like,” writes Vox’s Dylan Matthews. “Over time, some issues become so widely accepted within a party as to be a de facto requirement for anyone aspiring to lead it. . . . And the way things are going, soon no Democratic leader will be able to oppose single-payer.”