Jan 31 2018

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: Trumpfrastructure Is a Scam

Trump’s main goal in the State of the Union speech was to sound serious and presidential. Did he succeed? I don’t think so – I found the fear-mongering over immigrant crime disgusting. But mostly I don’t care. I’ve never seen much merit in the theater-criticism school of political punditry.

What matters is the substance, of which, let’s be honest, there usually isn’t much in a SOTU. Still, Trump was trying to sound as if he was offering serious new policy initiatives, notably on infrastructure.

So let’s be clear: while we desperately need new investment in public capital, Trump’s proposal – Trumpfrastructure? – isn’t remotely serious. At best, it would be a trivial sum of money pretending to be something big. At worst, it would amount to an orgy of crony capitalism, privatizing public assets while generating little new investment.

So, what’s being sold here? Trump gave a big number, $1.5 trillion. But a leaked draft of the plan says that it will involve only $200 billion of federal money. The rest is supposed to be induced spending from private investors. That’s quite a trick. How does it work?

Eugene Robinson: Instead of seeking ‘common ground,’ Trump gives a flabby, divisive speech

President Trump leaned heavily on the stories of American heroes in his State of the Union address Tuesday night because he didn’t have much else to say. From the Coast Guard, the fire departments, the shop floor and many other quarters they came, providing structural support for a flabby speech that was one of the least adventurous and forward-looking efforts of its kind. Without the heroes, there would hardly have been any speech at all.

And while Trump opened his speech by calling on Americans “to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground,” he kept coming back to the most divisive themes of his presidency — from “chain migration” and highlighting the role of immigrants in criminality to his calls for all to stand for the flag. Trump did not so much ask his domestic adversaries to set aside their differences as to abandon their own views. Nothing in this speech will inspire his critics with new hope that Trump is serious about negotiating anything.

Trump bragged, of course, about his tax cuts, the economy, the stock market and slashing regulations. At moments, he even sounded as though he believed in activist government, calling on the country to “invest in job training,” “open great vocational schools” and to support “paid family leave.” But there were no specifics, no sense of how budgets, strained by the very tax cuts he extolled, would actually support these objectives. Words without concrete programs are words without deeds.

Dean Baker: It’s Still the Yellen-Obama Economy

Donald Trump has been eagerly taking credit for the relatively strong economy over his first year in office. Apparently he thinks that people were so inspired by seeing him in the White House that they decided to keep doing what they were doing before he was in the White House. In other words, the economy looks like what would be expected if President Obama had served another year in office.

Just to give the basic data, we created an average of 171,000 jobs a month in 2017. That is down from 187,000 a month in 2016, and 226,000 a month in 2015. This brought the unemployment rate down to 4.1 percent at the end of 2017, compared to 4.7 percent at the end of 2016. The unemployment rate has been on a consistent downward path since it was at 9.8 percent in November of 2010 (roughly a drop of 0.8 percentage points a year), so the decline in 2017 is not any kind of break from the prior pattern.

Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans

North Korea, if not stopped, will build an arsenal with multiple nuclear missiles meant to threaten the U.S. homeland and blackmail us into abandoning our allies in Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will sell these weapons to state and nonstate actors, and he will inspire other rogue actors who want to undermine the U.S.-backed postwar order. These are real and unprecedented threats. But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.

When I was under consideration for a position in this administration, I shared some of these views.

Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake. But a strike (even a large one) would only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs, which are buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.

Richard Wolffe: The kind of night Donald Trump loves best – when he can applaud himself

It was so heart-warming to hear about Donald Trump’s love of America and the American dream in his first official State of the Union address.

Just one day after he decided to go easy on Russia for manipulating American democracy, our “America first” president declared that “Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return.”

They surely do. They will also have to wait a few years before their love is returned, based on Trump’s behavior since he won the White House by losing the popular vote.

For any other president, all this talk about love of country would be the definition of boiler plate speechifying. But for someone who so clearly loves Putin’s Russia, it was more like epic trolling. [..]

Since his first address to a joint session of Congress a year ago, the Trump presidency hasn’t exactly set popular opinion on fire. He has lost five points in his approval ratings, dropping from 43 to 38 points. That’s 13 points lower than his predecessor Barack Obama, at the same stage of his presidency, and 23 points lower than Richard Nixon, who took another three and a half years to become as unpopular as Trump.

Nevertheless, this was the kind of night Trump loves. A night of unending applause from a Congress that ridicules him behind his back; a night when he could applaud himself when all else failed.