Mar 16 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.

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Paul Krugman: Voters May Be Wising Up

There’s no mystery about the Republican agenda. For at least the past 40 years, the G.O.P.’s central policy goal has been upward redistribution of income: lower taxes for the wealthy, big cuts in programs that help the poor and the middle class. We’ve seen that agenda at work in the policies of every Republican president from Reagan to Trump, every budget proposal from party stars like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.

This policy agenda is, however, deeply unpopular. Only small minorities of voters favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; even smaller minorities favor cuts in major social programs. So how does the G.O.P. stay politically competitive? The answer is that the party has mastered the tactics of bait and switch: pretending to stand for one thing, then doing something quite different in office.

But if special elections in the Trump era are any indication, voters are wising up. Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate in a deep-red Pennsylvania congressional district that Trump won by almost 20 points, tried not one, not two, but three different bait-and-switch strategies. And on Tuesday he still seems to have suffered a hair-thin defeat.

Catherine Rampell: Get ready. Republicans want to cut taxes again.

Just months ago, Republicans got away with a massive upward redistribution of wealth, raiding $1.5 trillion from the Treasury and sticking future generations with the bill.

Now, they’re going for more.

On Wednesday, President Trump touted his ginormous, sloppily drafted, deficit-financed tax cuts, written under cover of night without benefit of hearings or experts. The whole thing was so much fun, he said, that he hopes to do it all again.

This year.

“We’re actually going for a phase two which will help — in addition to middle class, it will help companies and it’s going to be something I think very special,” Trump said in Missouri. “Kevin Brady is working on it with me, Congress is working, the Senate’s working.”

Brady (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, confirmed another tax-cut bill was in the works.

“We think even more can be done,” he gushed on Fox Business News.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s incoming National Economic Council director, has likewise declared his excitement to be slashing taxes further. During a CNBC interview, he said the next round should make the individual cuts permanent and add a cut to taxes on capital gains. Capital gains, which refer to profits on sales of capital assets such as stocks or land, had gone untouched in the law that passed in December (though they already receive preferential treatment, mind you).

This is all pretty rich. In all senses of the word.

Ruth Marcus: Trump won’t be able to buy his way out of trouble this time

Over the years, Donald Trump honed what seemed like a foolproof method for bad behavior with few consequences: Bully and buy your way out of trouble. A favorite Trump tactic, whether you were a Trump Organization employee, Trump campaign aide or Trump wife, involved the nondisclosure agreement, with the accompanying threat of litigation for daring to spill his secrets.

But this approach doesn’t work for presidents. Alas for Trump, presidents can’t impose such agreements on their aides or, increasingly in the case of this administration, former aides. And the gusher of departures increasingly and exponentially raises the risk for Trump. Some of them are going to start to talk — yes, even more than they did, anonymously, when they still worked for him.

So you might have thought that Trump, who has been wary throughout his career about the damage that exes (ex-employees, ex-wives) could do, would be more careful about how he has gone about axing senior officials — most recently and ignominiously Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, dumped in a manner calculated to impose maximum humiliation.

Note to the president: If you fire the guy by tweet before you deign to pick up the phone to tell him yourself, don’t be surprised if he turns around and spills the beans on you and your administration.

Gary Younge: Trump’s presidency is unravelling. But he won’t fall without a push

Even by Donald Trump’s standards, Tuesday was extraordinary. First came the tweet that he had fired his secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Then a state department spokesman issued a statement claiming Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal, and had heard about it on Twitter. A few hours later the spokesman had been fired too. Meanwhile the lawyer of porn actor Stephanie Clifford (stage name: Stormy Daniels), who allegedly had an affair with Trump, warned the country to “buckle up” as Clifford sought to extract herself from her non-disclosure agreement so she could “publish any materials, such as text messages, photos and/or videos relating to the president that she may have in her possession”. Back in Washington, the Trump team announced it would be hiring John McEntee, Trump’s former personal assistant, as a senior adviser for campaign operations. The day before, McEntee had been escorted from the White House because he is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes.

While all this was going on, voters in south-west Pennsylvania’s 18th district went to the polls in a byelection, in a district Republicans have held for the past 15 years. It was so safe that Democrats didn’t even bother contesting the last two elections. Trump trounced Hillary Clinton there by about 20 points. It should have been a shoo-in for the Republicans. By the end of the night Democrats were celebrating a wafer-thin victory, though this may yet be challenged. [..]

And yet, even as voters reject him and he becomes increasingly isolated in his own fetid lair, the cloud that glowers over this moment remains far more imposing than any silver lining. There are two main reasons why progressives should refrain from revelry.