Sep 14 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: Days of Fear, Years of Obstruction

Lehman Brothers failed 10 years ago. The U.S. economy was already in a recession, but Lehman’s fall and the chaos that followed sent it off a cliff: Six and a half million jobs would be lost over the next year. It was a terrifying time.

Still, we didn’t experience a full replay of the Great Depression, and some have argued that the system worked, in the sense that policymakers did what was needed to avoid catastrophe.

But this is only half right. We avoided utter disaster, but nonetheless experienced a huge, sustained employment slump, one that inflicted immense human and economic cost — and may well have helped set the stage for our current constitutional crisis. Why did the slump go on so long?

There are multiple answers, but the most important factor was politics — cynical, bad-faith obstructionism on the part of the Republican Party.

Timothy Egan: The Secret to Cracking Trump’s Base

We know that Donald Trump, the first president without a pet since James K. Polk, appears to hate dogs. And the feeling is mutual, according to one of his ex-wives. He also uses pooches as pejoratives when insulting women.

Dogs, though known for their loyalty, can only take so much from one abusive human. Alas, the same cannot be said for the aging, white, rural and southern people who make up Trump’s base. He can lie to them, hurt them with tariffs, make a mockery of their values, suck up to freedom-hating dictators they once distrusted, and they’ll stick with him. Cult 45 is thought to be impermeable.

But surprise — a raft of new polls show that some of the most hard-core Trumpsters are starting to get a clue. I know, hold your applause. It’s like discovering that climate change is not a hoax when your town is under water, and all your commander in chief can do is throw you a roll of paper towels. And the woke among the true believers is small.

The decline could be because Trump’s increasingly moonstruck tweets have lost their power. Or maybe it’s because all of the people around him believe he’s an idiot and they’re going public with the consensus inside the White House (another reason to get a dog). But I think Trump’s base is showing some erosion because his followers feel he finally crossed a line: He’s now insulting them.

Paul Rosenzweig and Justin Florence: Trump cannot use a pardon to stop Manafort’s cooperation

With a plea deal announced Friday in the second trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, the possibility that President Trump will issue a pardon to prevent Manafort’s future cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warrants fresh attention.

Trump’s supportive tweet about Manafort after his conviction in August on eight felony fraud counts, praising him for not cooperating with prosecutors, was widely interpreted as a hint of future presidential leniency. Trump has insisted on his “absolute” power to pardon even himself, and his lawyers in a secret January memo to Mueller asserted the president’s complete control over federal investigations as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Trump and his team have tried to lay the groundwork for pardons to protect him from criminal charges. But can he use the pardon power in that way? Not in our reading of the law. A self-pardon, or a pardon that is self-protective and serves the same purpose as a self-pardon, would be an abuse of power that violates the Constitution and, as such, could warrant impeachment.

Catherine Rampell: Heaven help us in the next financial crisis

What we had here is a failure to communicate.

A decade after the financial crisis, it is clear the policymakers who averted a second Great Depression never convinced the public that what they did was right: They had to save the banks, and to save the banks, they had to save the bankers.

Those bankers started the fire, after all. The response that felt fair was to let their fire burn. Not to douse the thing in a shower of taxpayer dollars. Certainly not to let the arsonists stroll away to the comforts of their homes in the Hamptons.

The bailouts brought us a raging populism, on both left and right, led by those suspicious of not only the actions  of those at the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department but their motives, too. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. was a former Goldman Sachs chief, after all. The New York Fed was accused of being too cozy with Wall Street.

Yet in broad strokes, at least, what these policymakers did was correct.

We have counterfactuals to back this up. One is Europe, where policymakers took longer to intervene and ultimately enacted more punitive measures against the banks. They got substantially worse economic outcomes.

We also have a counterfactual here at home: Lehman Brothers, which failed 10 years ago this weekend.