Sep 20 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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Matt Taibbi: Single-Payer Movement Shows: Life After Trump May Not Suck

The president is behaving like a candidate again, which is bad news for his political opponents

Donald Trump sure has changed a lot. Back in 2000 he wrote a vociferous defense of single-payer health care in his otherwise odious book The America We Deserve.

But as president, Trump is fighting single-payer tooth and nail. In a tweet this week, he called it “a curse on the U.S. and its people.”

He wasn’t the only one. Much of the Beltway intelligentsia is recoiling in horror after Bernie Sanders introduced a new Medicare-for-all bill, an idea that has gone from zero to 16 sponsors in the Senate in the space of two years.

In the pre-Trump universe, a Medicare-for-all bill would have had no chance of passage. But now that the hated Trump has come out against it, and moreover since Democrats were forced to argue during the Trumpcare debate that leaving people uncovered is morally untenable and even murderous, single-payer suddenly has wheels.

Trevor Timm: America gives $700bn to the military – but says healthcare is a luxury

When Bernie Sanders released his much anticipated healthcare plan last week, countless pundits and members of Congress asked why the government should pass such a bill given its potential cost. Now that Congress on the verge of sending a record-setting $700bn Pentagon spending bill to Trump’s desk, you can bet those deficit scolds will be nowhere to be found.

On Monday evening, the Senate passed – in bipartisan fashion – a policy bill that set the parameters for military spending in 2018 that tops $700bn, including tens of billions in spending for wars Trump has been expanding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Amazingly, the bill far exceeds even the increase in spending that the Trump administration was asking for, and as the Associated Press reported, it would put “the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Michael H. Fuchs: Is Trump about to repeat George W Bush’s worst mistake?

In 2003, the United States initiated perhaps the greatest strategic disaster in US history by diverting attention from a necessary war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary war in Iraq. The Iraq war resulted in hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, untold economic catastrophe, states in the Middle East in complete ruin, and the rise of Isis – all while the effort to go after terrorists in Afghanistan languished.

President Donald Trump’s first speech before the United Nations general assembly this week made clear that Trump wants to take America down a similar path by diverting much-needed attention from North Korea to starting an unnecessary conflict with Iran.

If the United States and the world cannot convince Trump to support the Iran nuclear deal and instead focus on real problems, America may once again plunge into a violent disaster in the Middle East, and in the process damage efforts to deal with a country that already has nuclear weapons.

Robert Kuttner: How The Trump Nightmare Ends

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I find the following scenario increasingly plausible. Let me begin by giving away the punch-line: When Robert Mueller’s report comes out, the Republican leadership will quickly huddle, and tell Trump that he needs to resign or face impeachment.

Why is this prediction other than wishful thinking? For starters, Trump could not do a better job of alienating the Republicans in Congress, who he needs to save his bacon, if it were his deliberate plan.

He insults Mitch McConnell personally. Then he makes separate deals with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, first on the debt extension, then on the Dreamers, and next quite likely on taxes.

The far-right base is enraged at Trump as never before. Breitbart has become an anti-Trump screed. [..]

So when Mueller’s report is tendered, there will be no partisan reservoir of goodwill left to cause Republicans to rally to Trump’s defense. Democrats, never mind their deals on the budget or on taxes or on DACA, will immediately file a bill of impeachment — leaving Republicans in an election year to decide whether to defend a president who is clearly damaged goods and whom they detest.

Robert Reich: The Growing Danger Of Dynastic Wealth

White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs, said recently that “only morons pay the estate tax.”

I’m reminded of Donald Trump’s comment that he didn’t pay federal income taxes because he was “smart.” And billionaire Leona Helmsley’s “only the little people pay taxes.”

What Cohn was getting at is how easy it is nowadays for the wealthy to pass their fortunes to their children, tax-free.

The estate tax applies only to estates over $11 million per couple. And wealthy families stash away dollars above this into “dynastic” trust funds that escape additional taxes.

No wonder revenues from the estate tax have been dropping for years even as wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands. The tax now generates about $20 billion a year, which is less than 1 percent of federal revenues. And it applies to only about 2 out of every 1,000 people who die.

Now, Trump and Republican leaders are planning to cut or eliminate it altogether.