May 08 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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Richard Eskow: Mnuchin Flips Tax-Scam Grift, Hopes Nobody Notices

With a little-noticed remark at a friendly event, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discarded his past arguments for the Trump/GOP tax bill. All Mnuchin could offer in their place was one of the oldest and most discredited ideas in the conservative playbook (and that’s saying something).

It was a startlingly cynical move, even for the preternaturally cynical gaggle of gold-plated grifters running our government – a crowd whose sole ambition is the single-minded pursuit of additional wealth for themselves and their fellow Gilded Age grandees.

When the final taxonomy of these Trump Era swamp creatures is conducted, a special category will be reserved for Mnuchin, the Goldman Sachs banker turned Treasury Secretary who took a leading role in selling the Trump/GOP tax scam to the American people. His rule seems to be: If they don’t believe one lie, tell another.

Robert Sheer: Trump’s Shameful Choice of ‘Bloody Gina’

Leave it to Donald Trump, besieged by denunciations of his torturous behavior toward women, to have nominated a female torturer to head the Central Intelligence Agency. It was a move clearly designed to prove that a woman can be as crudely barbaric as this deeply misogynistic president. When it comes to bullying, Gina Haspel, whose confirmation hearing begins Wednesday, is the real deal, and The Donald is a pussycat by comparison. Whom has he ever waterboarded? Haspel has done that and a lot worse. [..]

They call her “Bloody Gina,” and for some of her buddies in the torture wing of the CIA and their supporters in Congress, that is meant as a compliment. For a decade after the 9/11 attacks, Haspel served as chief of staff, running the vast network of secret rendition torture prisons around the globe. As a definitive Senate Intelligence Committee report established, torture is not legal, according to U.S. law and international covenants signed by President Ronald Reagan, nor does it produce any actionable information in preventing acts of terror.

After the public revelation of the vast extent of the torture program horrified the world, Haspel deliberately destroyed 92 videotapes depicting the barbaric practice, violating a Justice Department order that the tapes be preserved, and thus clearly obstructing a criminal investigation. Yet in March, Trump chose to nominate Bloody Gina to be the new head of our super-spy agency.

Paul Krugman: Gnawing Away at Health Care

At the beginning of 2017, Republicans promised to release the kraken on Obamacare — to destroy the program with one devastating blow. But a funny thing happened: Voters realized that repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean taking health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans. They didn’t like that prospect — and enough Republicans balked at the backlash that Obamacare repeal fizzled.

But Republicans still hate the idea of helping Americans get health care. So instead of releasing the kraken, they’ve brought on the termites. Rather than trying to eliminate Obamacare in one fell swoop, they’re trying to undermine it with multiple acts of sabotage — while hoping voters won’t realize who’s responsible for rising premiums and falling coverage.

Which is why it’s important to place the blame where it belongs. [..]

So here’s what’s going to happen: Soon, many Americans will suffer sticker shock from their insurance policies; federal subsidies will protect most of them, but by no means everyone. They’ll also hear news about declining insurance coverage. And Republicans will say, “See, Obamacare is failing.”

But the problem isn’t with Obamacare, it’s with the politicians who unleashed this termite infestation — who are doing all they can to take away your health coverage. And they need to be held accountable.

Eugene Robinson: Don’t be fooled. Giuliani has a strategy.

There is madness in Rudolph W. Giuliani’s incoherence on behalf of President Trump, but there is also method. He’s following the Trump playbook: Confuse, distract, provoke and flood the zone with factoids and truthiness until nobody can be sure what’s real and what’s not.

“We all feel pretty good that we’ve got everything kind of straightened out and we’re setting the agenda,” Giuliani, now the mouthpiece for Trump’s legal team, told The Post. “Everybody’s reacting to us now, and I feel good about that because that’s what I came in to do,” he said.

He’s just messing with us with the bit about getting things straightened out. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing for him he’s not under oath. [..]

Giuliani is obfuscating, not clarifying. He’s making it harder to know even what the president claims, let alone what the truth might be. As a legal strategy, this would be insane. But it’s really a political strategy.

Congress poses the only serious threat to Trump, in the form of impeachment. If the president’s loyal base can be flimflammed into thinking this is all a big witch hunt, Republican lawmakers will stay in line. At least for now.

Catherine Rampell: Dude, where’s my pay raise?

Dude, where’s my pay raise?

The economic recovery is coming up on its ninth birthday. Unemployment has fallen steadily and relatively consistently during both the Obama years and now President Trump’s tenure, down to 3.9 percent in April. That’s the lowest level since 2000.

Meanwhile, lots of other measures suggest firms are having trouble finding workers. There are 1.1 unemployed persons per job opening, tied with the lowest ratio on record, per the Bureau of Labor StatisticsHalf of firms say they can’t find qualified workers, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’s latest survey of small- and medium-sized businesses.

In theory, all this means employers should have to offer much higher wages to attract and retain talent. Somehow, though, reality isn’t cooperating with the theory.

Raises have been disappointing: Before inflation, hourly pay was up just 2.6 percent in April compared with a year earlier. Some other measures of wage growth, such as the quarterly Employment Cost Index, are stronger but still not great.

Wages are a “lagging” indicator, meaning raises generally materialize late in the business cycle. So maybe we’re all a hop, skip and a jump away from a generous pay hike. Particularly because inflation seems to be finally picking up. Maybe workers will see prices rising and put more pressure on employers to top off their paychecks.

But truly, the lack of significant raises this far into one of the longest expansions on record remains a puzzle. Let’s go through some possible explanations.