Apr 03 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: What’s the Matter With Trumpland?

These days almost everyone has the (justified) sense that America is coming apart at the seams. But this isn’t a new story, or just about politics. Things have been falling apart on multiple fronts since the 1970s: Political polarization has marched side by side with economic polarization, as income inequality has soared.

And both political and economic polarization have a strong geographic dimension. On the economic side, some parts of America, mainly big coastal cities, have been getting much richer, but other parts have been left behind. On the political side, the thriving regions by and large voted for Hillary Clinton, while the lagging regions voted for Donald Trump.

I’m not saying that everything is great in coastal cities: Many people remain economically stranded even within metropolitan areas that look successful in the aggregate. And soaring housing costs, thanks in large part to Nimbyism, are a real and growing problem. Still, regional economic divergence is real and correlates closely, though not perfectly, with political divergence.

But what’s behind this divergence? What’s the matter with Trumpland?

Cliff Schecter: With Sinclair, We Have Trump TV. America Doesn’t Need More.

The Sinclair Broadcast Group, the country’s largest television broadcaster with 193 news stations, recently forced local news anchors across the country to read identical scripts.

The anchors warned, without a hint of irony, that “some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’” It is, they said, “extremely dangerous to a democracy.”

Indeed it is. And it is exactly what Sinclair is doing, even as the company is trying to use a regulatory loophole and the President Trump-pliant Federal Communications Commission to acquire 42 more broadcast properties in a $3.9 billion merger with Tribune Media.

However, the propaganda is not something new; it has been going on for at least a decade and a half now. I know: I once worked there. Sinclair shouldn’t be allowed to gobble up another 42 stations to add to its outsize and deleterious role in our civic life.

Eugene Robinson: Trump is hoping you’re too stupid to notice

You can tell what President Trump is afraid of by what he chooses to lie about. That means he must be petrified of losing support over his failure to build a single mile of the “big, beautiful” border wall he promised.

Trump is scared of a lot of things — special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, honest reporting by the news media, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and, reportedly, sharks. But nothing seems to make him quake and tremble more than the fear that his core base will realize all his tough-guy huffing and puffing about Latino immigration was a bunch of hot air. [..]

But a man with his name emblazoned on skyscrapers and golf courses around the globe, a man who fancies himself a master builder, has been unable to even begin construction of a new border wall. And some of the most vocal anti-immigration commentators — with influence among Trump’s base — have been getting restless.

I don’t know how to break this to you, folks, but Trump’s wall promise was no more serious than anything else that comes out of his mouth. His antipathy toward Latinos and non-whites is genuine, I trust, but his ability to follow through is pure counterfeit. With all of his heart, he hopes you’re too stupid to notice.

Jennifer Rubin: Trump and the supply-side zealots get their comeuppance

Maybe supply-side zealot Larry Kudlow, his new economic adviser, can explain it to him. Perhaps House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who decided that tax cuts justified standing behind an unfit president, can give him a tutorial. Better yet, maybe wealthy GOP donors who figured they could use the faux-populist president to push through their agenda (tax cuts, deregulation) might start to squawk. Somebody should tell President Trump: He’s doing great damage to the economy, making President Barack Obama look like Milton Friedman by comparison. [..]

Supply-siders and wealthy Trump supporters, delirious over tax cuts, have been beguiled by the distorted economic philosophy that has gripped the right ever since Ronald Reagan. For too long, they have considered a reduced top marginal tax rate as the be-all and end-all of economic policy, a magic elixir that swamps concerns about ballooning debt, long-term unemployment, decreased economic mobility, income inequality and the middle-class squeeze (rising college and health-care costs, flat wages). Failure to recognize the equal (if not greater) importance of robust immigration and trade, along with the critical stability provided by a rules-based economy (rather than one directed from on high by personal grudges), rendered them blind to the risks associated with an erratic right-wing populist such as Trump. If they were really true to conservative, market-based economic principles — rather than simply obsessed with tax cuts — they would have realized that Trump’s economic “philosophy,” if you can even call it that, is a threat to the United States’ long-term economic health.

By backing Trump, Republicans have handed Democrats the opportunity to present themselves as the responsible stewards of both the economy and our national security. The Trump GOP certainly doesn’t provide reliable, rational leadership on either. In the midterms and in 2020, Democrats will have a field day if the economy — the only thing holding Trump and the GOP afloat — falters. In that case, Republicans will have only themselves to blame for the economic and political troubles that their economically illiterate president has brought on.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Don’t let big and dark money ‘drown out the truth and drown out your voice’

Despite the tantalizing prospect of a wave election in November, Democrats face major structural obstacles to winning majorities in Congress. Recently, the potential impact of partisan gerrymandering has received needed attention, but one issue that is flying largely under the radar is the sheer amount of special-interest money that progressive candidates will have working against them.

2018 is expected to be the most expensive midterm cycle in history, beyond the $3.8 billion spent on races in 2014. That number is staggering, but not surprising, given the proliferation of money in politics over the past decade. While both parties have contributed to the current state of affairs, the exorbitant cost of mounting a credible campaign today clearly disadvantages insurgent progressive candidates and their supporters while bolstering the power of candidates with the most appeal to the donor class. In general, that’s good news for Republicans. [..]

While this deluge of spending poses a serious challenge, some Democrats have found a way to use it to their advantage by actively campaigning against it. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democrat Conor Lamb, the unlikely winner last month of a special election in a congressional district that President Trump carried by nearly 20 points, turned the money spent against him into a central part of his pitch. He bolstered his argument that the Republican tax-cut bill was “written for corporate donors” by refusing to accept money from corporate PACs. And he railed against dark money, which he told voters was being used “to drown out the truth and drown out your voice.”

There are similar stories of other candidates who are not just talking about the corrosive influence of money in politics, but actually walking the walk. In all, more than 100 federal candidates have committed to rejecting donations from corporate PACs. Hundreds are also refusing to accept NRA money in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did in 2016, Lamb, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) — who is refusing all PAC contributions for his Senate run — and others are proving that Democrats don’t need to cater to big donors to compete. The rest of the party would be smart to follow their lead.