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Dec 19 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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Eugene Robinson: Welcome to The Trump Family Swamp

The presidency was never meant to be a profit center for a nepotistic, money-grubbing family. But that was before the Trumps moved in.

This scandal is lying in plain sight, overlooked because of the constant stream of missteps, outrages and distractions that come and go at an exhausting pace. While everyone watches his Twitter feed, President Trump is using the White House like a marketing agency for his family brand. This is not normal or acceptable — and it surely isn’t what laid-off factory workers and coal miners had in mind when they jumped on the “populist” Trump train.

Last week, Ivanka Trump opened a retail store inside Trump Tower, her father’s New York skyscraper, to sell her eponymous foreign-made handbags and other items. We can now finally dispense with the notion that she is an “unpaid” adviser to the president. [..]

This is just the latest example of how the Trump family is seeking to monetize the presidency. We haven’t seen anything like it since 1977, when Jimmy Carter’s brother started hawking Billy Beer. (President Carter, at least, had the decency to be embarrassed.)

Paul Krugman: Passing Through to Corruption

Unless something drastic happens, this will be the week Republicans ram through a tax cut that adds more than a trillion dollars to federal debt while undermining health care for millions. They will do so by violating all previous norms for major legislation, having held not a single hearing and rushed to a vote before the new senator from Alabama could be seated.

The question is, why are they doing this? For this bill isn’t just a policy crime; it also seems to be a political mistake. It will, however, be good, one way or another, for the bank accounts of quite a few Republican members of Congress. Is that why it will pass?

About the politics: Normally, politicians willing to add a trillion dollars to the debt can hand out enough goodies to make their plans popular, at least for a while. The George W. Bush tax cuts heavily favored the rich over the middle class, but they contained enough clear middle-class tax cuts to have broad public approval, at least at first.

This bill, however, faces heavy disapproval. Ordinary voters may not be able to parse all the details, but they have figured out that this bill is a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy that will end up hurting most families. This negative view isn’t likely to change.

Nevertheless, Republicans have persisted. Why?

Robert Kuttner: The Tax Cut And The Fake Trump Boom

With the economy turning rising growth rates and falling unemployment, will Donald Trump and the Republican tax bill take political credit for the boom of 2017-18? Maybe not.

For starters, the boom was already roaring along in 2015 and 2016, before Trump took office, as the post-recession recovery finally kicked in. The year 2015 showed the strongest GDP growth in more than a decade, and 2016 was not far behind.

Unemployment was already down to 4.7 percent when Trump took office and its further drop to 4.1 is entirely the result of policies established pre-Trump.

Even with these low rates of joblessness, profound structural changes in the labor market fail to translate low unemployment rates into significant gains in earnings or career prospects. The rise of gig employment, the bashing of trade unions, the elimination of reliable career paths – all of this is intensifying. A slight uptick in median wages doesn’t change that.

The job market is still unreliable for most working people. The ratio of employed people to population is unchanged this year, at just 60.1 percent.

The changes in the tax code will do nothing to alter that. And the tax bill will only widen inequality of after-tax income.

Catherine Rampell: The tax code isn’t a real emergency

There are emergencies, and there are “emergencies.”

The tax bill, which Republicans are desperate to jam through before even they themselves have time to read it, is the latter.

There is zero urgency in passing this terrible, glitchy, sloppily drafted piece of legislation. Even if you actually like what the bill does, it’s hard to argue that its major provisions would be well-timed.

The economy doesn’t need $1.5 trillion in unfunded stimulus right now. We’re nearly nine years into an economic expansion (making this one of the longest expansions on record), unemployment is at 4.1 percent (its lowest level in 17 years), and debt as a percent of GDP is near record highs.

If you’re a Keynesian — and per Milton Friedman, we’re all Keynesians now — these measures suggest it is precisely the wrong moment to pump money into the economy.

As outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen explained in her final news conference last week, passing a major deficit-financed tax cut today means Congress will have less “fiscal space” to act in a future downturn.

Dana Milbank: Trump’s ticket to survival: Ban all the words

President Trump has the best words — and only the best. If there is a word he does not like, or a phrase or proper noun that is not performing up to his expectations, he calls that word into his office and he tells that word, in no uncertain terms, “You’re fired.”

Earlier this month, we learned that Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel dropped “Romney” from her official communications — at the request of Trump, who did not like McDaniel using the name “Romney,” even though that is her name, because it is also the name of her uncle Mitt, who Trump regards as a “loser.”

Word dismissed. Problem solved.

Now The Post’s Lena Sun and Juliet Eilperin report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention barred the use in budget documents of terms Trump officials find objectionable: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.” The CDC helpfully offered alternatives, suggesting that instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the preferred phrase should be “[based] on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The CDC disavowed the word ban after a brutal couple of days in which the response proved, to a science-based* certainty, that the Trump administration had made itself vulnerable* to a great diversity* of mockery. The prevailing view: What the fetus* is going on?