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Nov 16 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: Why Was Trump’s Tax Cut a Fizzle?

Last week’s blue wave means that Donald Trump will go into the 2020 election with only one major legislative achievement: a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Still, that tax cut was supposed to accomplish big things. Republicans thought it would give them a big electoral boost, and they predicted dramatic economic gains. What they got instead, however, was a big fizzle.

The political payoff, of course, never arrived. And the economic results have been disappointing. True, we’ve had two quarters of fairly fast economic growth, but such growth spurts are fairly common — there was a substantially bigger spurt in 2014, and hardly anyone noticed. And this growth was driven largely by consumer spending and, surprise, government spending, which wasn’t what the tax cutters promised.

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?

Jessica Powell: Facebook told us it wasn’t a typical big, bad company. It is

Facebook, like so many companies in Silicon Valley, has always told us it was a different kind of company. Not so much a business really, but a social utility. That it was linking the world for the benefit of democracy, friendship and human connection.

It made grand statements about providing internet access to rural areas through special solar-powered planes. (The project was scrapped earlier this year.) It told the developing world it was giving them the internet for free via Free Basics. (Users in India rose up in protest once they realised they weren’t getting the internet but rather a walled garden of just Facebook and some partner sites.) It let anyone, anywhere, use its platform to target ads and news stories to people around the world. (We all know how that turned out, да?) [..]

But the events over the past year have made it abundantly clear that Facebook is no different from several other large corporations adept at feeding us one line while actually serving up something a bit less palatable.

Cas Mudde: Voter suppression is an all-American problem we can fight – and win

Voter suppression is as American as apple pie. It has been part of the country’s history since its foundation. For instance, in the wake of the civil war many southern states (and some northern states too) introduced literacy tests and “good character” tests to prevent African Americans from exercising their newly won right to vote.

The last fundamental progress on expanding voting rights was made during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. Most notably, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 put several southern states under federal supervision. While this didn’t root out voter suppression, it made it much harder to organize practically and uphold legally.

But the supreme court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, in Shelby County v Holder, arguing that it went against basic principles of federalism and that “40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day”.

Since then, Republican legislators have unleashed a flood of new voter suppression initiatives, most notably in the southern states previously under federal supervision.

Max Boot: Did Matthew Whitaker compromise the Mueller investigation?

President Trump says and does so many outrageous things that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important. Nothing that has happened since Election Day is as important as the fact that Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for refusing to stop an investigation of the Trump campaign and replaced him with a political hatchet man who has expressed his desire to throttle special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. [..]

The more we know about his successor, the more alarming his appointment appears to be. Whitaker’s track record, apart from a stint as U.S. attorney in southern Iowa, consists of running small businesses such as a day-care center, trying penny-ante cases involving a dry-cleaning business, and acting as a consultant for a shady company, since shut down, known as World Patent Marketing. The very name screams fraud. Whitaker now denies being aware of fraud allegations, but at the time he vigorously defended the firm.

Clearly, Whitaker was not appointed based on his legal credentials. He was appointed because he was such an outspoken booster of Trump and basher of Mueller. As a private legal commentator, he dismissed allegations of both collusion and obstruction of justice against Trump.

Mark Weisbrot: When will America stop participating in Yemen’s genocidal war?

On Wednesday the Republican leadership briefly transformed the US House of Representatives into a theater of the absurd in order to block a debate and vote on US military participation in a genocidal war.

In an odd spectacle, representatives went back and forth between speaking about wolves, who kill other animals, to the Saudi monarchy, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people – mostly civilians including children – and pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

The Republicans had hijacked the “Manage our Wolves Act” – a bad but unrelated piece of legislation – to pass a rule that would prohibit the House from debating H Res 138, introduced by Ro Khanna, a Democratic representative from California. The latter resolution would give the president 30 days to get the US military out of the war in Yemen.