Apr 13 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: The Paul Ryan Story: From Flimflam to Fascism

Why did Paul Ryan choose not to run for re-election? What will be the consequences? Your guess is as good as mine — literally. I can speculate based on what I read in the papers, but so can you.

On the other hand, I do have some insight into how Ryan — who has always been an obvious con man, to anyone willing to see — came to become speaker of the House. And that’s a story that reflects badly not just on Ryan himself, not just on his party, but also on self-proclaimed centrists and the news media, who boosted his career through their malfeasance. Furthermore, the forces that brought Ryan to a position of power are the same forces that have brought America to the edge of a constitutional crisis.

About Ryan: Incredibly, I’m seeing some news reports about his exit that portray him as a serious policy wonk and fiscal hawk who, sadly, found himself unable to fulfill his mission in the Trump era. Unbelievable.

Paul Waldman: The Republican war on struggling Americans takes another cruel turn

As Paul Ryan prepares to head off into the sunset, many have noted that his dream of destroying the safety net has not come to pass. The kind of frontal assault on social programs Ryan favored was politically suicidal, so it kept getting put off for another day, even now that Republicans have complete control of government.

But that doesn’t mean Republicans will stop trying to chip away at whatever meager benefits Americans might count on to mitigate the suffering that poverty imposes.

The latest effort comes as part of the new farm bill. Because it involves food, the food-stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is funded through the farm bill. So Republicans are taking this opportunity to expand work requirements for the program. [..]

And one more thing: President Trump wants to make food stamp recipients take drug tests. Because it isn’t hard and humiliating enough already.

Michelle Goldberg: Madeleine Albright Is Worried. We Should Be, Too.

Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, was born into a totalitarian age. She was only a toddler when she and her parents, who were of Jewish descent but later converted to Catholicism, fled Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s invasion in 1939. They returned following the war, but fled again in the wake of the Communist coup in 1948.

Her father, the diplomat Josef Korbel, sought asylum for the family in the United States, writing in a letter to an American official that if they returned home he’d be arrested “for my faithful adherence to the ideals of democracy.” America took them in as refugees. Korbel became an eminent foreign policy scholar, and in 1997 Bill Clinton made Albright the country’s chief diplomat, the first woman to hold that position. [..]

So it is sad and jarring that Albright, now 80, has just published a book with the stark title “Fascism: A Warning.” The book is not just a warning about Donald Trump; Albright is concerned with the eclipse of liberal democracy all over the world and told me in a recent interview that she had planned to write on the subject before Trump’s election. But the president looms over her project. “If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab,” she writes.

The mere fact of this book would be astonishing, if Trump hadn’t pulverized our capacity for astonishment. Albright has long been an optimistic exponent of American exceptionalism, a consummate establishment figure not given to alarmist diatribes. It should be shocking that she feels the need to warn us not just about fascism abroad, but also at home.

Catherine Rampell: A balanced-budget amendment is always stupid. Right now, it’s a joke.

A balanced-budget amendment is pretty much always a stupid idea. But you know when it’s stupidest?

When you’ve just blown a multitrillion-dollar hole in the deficit, and also, umm, don’t even really plan to pass a budget.

House Republicans voted Thursday to make deficits unconstitutional. There is no universe in which this would be good policy. Were it to ever actually become a part of the Constitution (spoiler alert: It won’t, and not only because the House measure fell short of the two-thirds vote needed to advance), it would be catastrophic for our economy.

Sometimes the government needs to spend more money than it receives in a given year to respond to a crisis, such as war, natural disaster or recession. In the case of recession, for instance, federal tax revenue automatically falls as the economy shrinks and businesses and individuals earn less. Under a balanced-budget requirement, this situation would require Congress to slash federal spending, raise taxes or both.

Which is exactly the opposite of what economists prescribe during a recession, when you want the government to plug the hole left by a contracting private sector.

Zephyr Teachout: Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook hearing was an utter sham

On Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg was in the hot seat. Cameras surrounded him. The energy in the room – and on Twitter – was electric. At last, the reluctant CEO is made to answer some questions!

Except it failed. It was designed to fail. It was a show designed to get Zuckerberg off the hook after only a few hours in Washington DC. It was a show that gave the pretense of a hearing without a real hearing. It was designed to deflect and confuse.

Each senator was given less than five minutes for questions. That meant that there was no room for follow-ups, no chance for big discoveries and many frustratingly half-developed ideas. Compare that to Bill Gates’ hearing on Microsoft, where he faced lawyers and staff for several days, or the Kefauver hearings, which were over a year. By design, you can’t do a hearing of this magnitude in just a couple of hours.