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Mar 02 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: Taxpayers, You’ve Been Scammed

So you go out for dinner with a wealthy acquaintance. “I’ll take care of everything,” he says, and orders you a hamburger. Then he orders himself an expensive steak and a bottle of wine, which he doesn’t share. And when the waiter comes with the check, he points at you and says, “Charge it to his credit card.”

Now you understand the essence of the Trump tax cut, signed into law a little over two months ago.

The key thing you need to know is that right now the U.S. government has no business cutting taxes. We need more revenue, not less.

Why? The federal government, as an old line says, is a giant insurance company with an army. Most of its costs come from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and all three programs are becoming more expensive as ever more baby boomers reach retirement age. This means that unless we cut back sharply on benefits that middle-class Americans count on, we will need to raise more revenue than in the past.

Yet even before the tax cut, federal tax receipts were looking weak for an economy with low unemployment and a rising stock market — for example, far lower as a percentage of G.D.P. than the tax take during the Clinton boom of the 1990s, and even a bit lower than they were at the end of the Bush-era expansion. The tax cut will push them lower still. Something will have to give.

And we already know what will give, if Republicans get their way: programs that benefit working Americans. In fact, the usual suspects like Paul Ryan were talking about the need for “entitlement reform” — meaning cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — to reduce deficits even as they were passing a huge tax cut that will make those deficits much worse.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s calamities are coming faster — and in bunches

In the course of a week, President Trump convulsed the markets and American business with a protectionist initiative which, if carried out, risks setting off a trade war; he scrambled Republicans by promising to back a bunch of gun measures he probably doesn’t intend to back once his aides explain that the National Rifle Association and his base oppose most of what he embraced; and he refused to empower his national security team to protect our election system against future manipulation by Russia. [..]

Now, anyone who is surprised by the utter chaos, the ethical sleaze, the policy incoherence and the nepotism/cronyism was not paying attention during Trump’s career in real estate or during his campaign. This is how Trump ran his family operation, stumbling through one failed venture after another. This is how Trump wound up declaring bankruptcy multiple times. No one — not Kelly, Ivanka, Jared, the GOP Congress or even Hicks — can keep him on task. Trump is still indifferent to learning policy and is prone to prattle in public about subjects he doesn’t bother to study. No one else can make up for his lack of diligence, ethics and decency. This is not so much as an administration as a weird fusion of the court of Louis XIV and the Mafia, all built around a cult of personality that lacks any self-restraint or awareness.

Republicans who empowered him and refused to stand up to him have a giant mess on their hands — a dysfunctional government and a looming electoral disaster. Trump will either be compelled to leave office or will continue to spin out of control. Aides tell the press this is a new level of chaos. Don’t worry — it’ll get worse. It always does.

Eugene Robinson: Never have we seen such chaos and corruption

The ceaseless barrage of news — both real and fake — from the Trump administration can be numbing, so it’s important to step back every once in a while and look at the big picture: Never have we seen such utter chaos and blatant corruption.

None of what’s happening is normal, and none of it should be acceptable. Life is imitating art: What we have is less a presidency than a cheesy reality show, set in a great stately house, with made-for-television histrionics, constant back­stabbing and major characters periodic­ally getting booted out.

Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, decided Wednesday to self-eject. Was it because she had spent the previous day testifying on Capitol Hill and was forced to admit having told “white lies” for President Trump? Was it because the man she had been dating, Rob Porter, lost his important White House position when the Daily Mail revealed he faced multiple allegations of wife-beating? Or was Hicks simply exhausted?

Michelle Goldberg: The Trump-Russia Story Gets Even Weirder

In his 2014 book “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” Peter Pomerantsev describes modern Russia as a decadently surreal place where the ruling regime fuses propaganda with over-the-top entertainment to systematically distort and recreate reality.

Pomerantsev, the British son of Russian émigrés, had worked in Russia’s state-controlled television industry, and portrayed it as a hypnotic circus full of wild, melodramatic extremes. Rationality, he wrote, “was tuned out, and Kremlin-friendly cults and hatemongers were put on prime time to keep the nation entranced, distracted, as ever more foreign hirelings would arrive to help the Kremlin and spread its vision to the world.”

We still don’t know the details of Donald Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, but as a result of his election, the febrile atmosphere Pomerantsev described has spread to the United States. Our politics feel dreamlike in their garish improbability; a running joke on Twitter is that the showrunners for this season of America have jumped the shark.

Nothing exemplifies this more than the strange saga of Anastasia Vashukevich. She is a Belarusian woman, a self-described “sex expert,” who is now in a Thai jail and who claims, in a desperate Instagram video, to be the “the missing link in the connection between Russia and the U.S. elections.”

Richard Eskow: Ben Carson’s Redecoration of HUD is Worse Than You Think

Ben Carson, the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, received some unwanted attention this week over a $31,000 dining room set that was ordered for his office, reportedly at his wife’s request.

The average income for a rural household receiving rental assistance from Carson’s department is $10,504, roughly one-third the cost of Carson’s newly-ordered office decor.

This plutocratic administration’s sense of noblesse oblige recalls the 5th Marquis of Anglesey, who had his car modified to emit perfume from its tailpipe while he squandered his fortune on costumes and jewelry.

But that’s not the most outrageous thing about this story.

Carson’s defenders, including a department spokesperson, blamed a department official who ordered the furniture. They would have us believe that a craving for gilded-age décor spontaneously arose in the heart of a career government employee, unbeknownst to the upright and abstemious Dr. Carson.

The department’s denials – also paid for, we might add, at government expense – do not have the ring of truth to them, to put it mildly. But that’s not the worst outrage, either.

This is: As Carson was being pampered with office furnishings reminiscent of Louis XIV, his department was seeking $8.8 billion in cuts to programs that help low-income Americans. He wanted them to include massive cuts to the housing voucher program.