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”.

Paul Krugman: Trump and Trade and Zombies

Almost four decades have passed since Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously declared, “Of a sudden, the G.O.P. has become a party of ideas.” And his statement still holds true, with one modification: These days, Republicans are a party of zombie ideas — ideas that should have died long ago, yet still keep shambling along, eating politicians’ brains.

The most important of these zombies is the “supply side” insistence that cutting taxes on the rich reliably produces economic miracles, and conversely that raising taxes on the rich is a recipe for disaster. Faith in this doctrine survived the boom that followed Bill Clinton’s tax hikes, the lackluster recovery and eventual catastrophe that followed George W. Bush’s tax cuts, the debacle in Kansas, and more. [..]

Yet there is more to economic policy than taxes; Trump himself, while willing to sign whatever tax cuts Congress sends him, seems far more interested in international policy, in particular the supposed evils of trade deficits. And that’s where things get interesting.

Richard Trunpka: The politicians screaming about a trade war are beholden to Wall Street

Wall Street’s hair is on fire about steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by President Trump, because closing mills and factories in the United States and moving them overseas is how investors enrich themselves.

And those wealthy investors reap even fatter profits when offshore mills and factories violate trade laws. Wall Street doesn’t care about the social and economic costs of unfair trade, because working people and our communities pay the price.

We care about working people and our jobs, and we care about holding bad actors accountable. That’s why the AFL-CIO has consistently made the case for the use of tariffs to crack down on trade law violations. In the case of steel and aluminum, it’s not just about unfair trade practices, it’s also about national security.

This isn’t about Trump. And it certainly isn’t about partisan politics. Many in both parties have failed working people on the issue of trade. The politicians who are screaming about a trade war have one thing in common: They are beholden to Wall Street.

Michelle Goldberg: Trump’s High-Tech Dirty Tricksters

Cambridge Analytica, the shadowy data firm that helped elect Donald Trump, specializes in “psychographic” profiling, which it sells as a sophisticated way to digitally manipulate huge numbers of people on behalf of its clients. But apparently, when you’re trying to win a campaign, prostitutes, bribes and spies work pretty well too.

On Monday, Britain’s Channel 4 News ran an explosive exposé of the embattled company. Going undercover as a potential client, its reporter filmed Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive, Alexander Nix, talking about entrapping his clients’ opponents by sending “very beautiful” Ukranian sex workers to their homes. He spoke of offering bribes to candidates while secretly filming them and putting the footage online, of employing fake IDs and bogus websites. Mark Turnbull, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, described how the company “put information into the bloodstream of the internet” and then watched it spread. [..]

Cambridge Analytica’s corruption helps provide the missing piece in this story. If the Trump campaign had a social media advantage, one reason is that it hired a company that mined vast amounts of illicitly obtained data.

There’s a lesson here for our understanding of the Trump presidency. Trump and his lackeys have been waging their own sort of psychological warfare on the American majority that abhors them. On the one hand, they act like idiots. On the other, they won, which makes it seem as if they must possess some sort of occult genius. With each day, however, it’s clearer that the secret of Trump’s success is cheating. He, and those around him, don’t have to be better than their opponents because they’re willing to be so much worse.

Eugene Robinson: It’s not your imagination. Trump is getting worse.

It’s not your imagination. Donald Trump’s occupancy of the White House is every bit as insane, corrupt and dangerous as you might fear. Witness this jaw-dropping message to the sitting president of the United States from the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency:

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America . . . America will triumph over you.”

I have met John Brennan, who headed the CIA for four years under President Barack Obama. To say he is not given to hysterics is a gross understatement. His picture ought to be next to the word “sober” in the dictionary. Yet there he was on Saturday morning, using Twitter to tear into the supposed leader of the free world with language normally reserved for the tinhorn dictators of obscure kleptocracies. [..]

If Trump does try to fire Mueller, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should get much of the blame. They have given Trump no reason to believe they will ever stand up to him.

Fortunately, the Constitution gives ultimate power to you and me. With every outrageous, shocking and depressing week, the November election becomes more important. The Trump presidency will keep going from bad to worse, and it is our responsibility to use our votes to make it stop.

Catherine Rampell: Trump is bent on destroying one of our winningest exports

President Trump is obsessed with trade surpluses. In his zero-sum view of the world, if we don’t sell more than we buy in a given industry, we must be losing.

Yet he seems hellbent on destroying one of our winningest exports: higher education.

Unlike with toys or televisions, the United States sells much more higher education to the rest of the world than we buy from it. In fact, the United States hosts the largest number of international students worldwide. More than twice as many foreign students come here as we send abroad.

In dollar terms — since that seems to be what Trump cares about — foreigners spent about $39.4 billion purchasing U.S. educational services in 2016, whereas Americans purchased about $7.5 billion in education imports, according to Bureau of Economic Analysis  data.

That means we have an educational trade surplus of nearly $32 billion. For context, that is relatively close to our trade surplus in completed civilian aircraft. And the figure doesn’t include what international students spend here on food, housing, books and the like.

Lest you think these international kids are somehow displacing or otherwise hurting more deserving homegrown applicants, note that they typically subsidize local students. Public schools have partially offset enormous state funding cuts by enrolling more out-of-state and international students, who can be charged double or even triple the tuition of their in-state peers.