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Dec 21 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: Hard-Money Men, Suddenly Going Soft

I have a confession to make: I have been insufficiently cynical about modern conservative economics.

Longtime readers may find this hard to believe. After all, I declared Paul Ryan a “flimflam man” back when all the cool kids were gushing about his courage and honesty, giving him awards for fiscal responsibility. (Events have settled the issue: Yes, he was and is a flimflam man.) I predicted early and often that Republican cries about the evils of debt would vanish as soon as they held the White House; sure enough, after forcing the U.S. into job-destroying austerity when the economy was weak, once in power they blew up the budget deficit with a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, despite low unemployment.

But while I yield to nobody in my appreciation of the right’s fiscal fraudulence, I took its monetary hawkishness seriously. I thought that all those dire warnings about the inflationary consequences of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight high unemployment, the constant harping on the evils of printing money, were grounded in genuine — stupid, but genuine — concern.

Silly me.

Laurence Tribe: Yes, the Constitution Allows Indictment of the President

In a recent opinion piece, I argued that the text and structure of the Constitution, a serious commitment to the rule of law and plain good sense combine to preclude a rigid policy of “delaying any indictment of a president for crimes committed in winning the presidency.” When a scholar I admire as much as Philip Bobbitt strongly disagrees and argues otherwise in this publication, I need to rethink my position and respond—either confessing error or explaining why I continue to hold to the views I originally expressed.

Not to extend the suspense, I haven’t changed my mind. My op-ed argued against the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos opining that the Constitution prevents the indictment of a sitting president. Nearly everyone concedes that any such policy would have to permit exceptions. The familiar hypothetical of a president who shoots and kills someone in plain view clinches the point. Surely, there must be an exception for that kind of case: Having to wait until the House of Representatives impeaches the alleged murderer and the Senate removes him from office before prosecuting and sentencing him would be crazy. Nobody seriously advocates applying the OLC mantra of “no-indictment-of-a-sitting-president” to that kind of case.

The same is true for any number of other cases that come readily to mind. Among those, in my view, must be the not-so-hypothetical case of a president who turns out to have committed serious crimes as a private citizen in order to win the presidency. Whether the president committed such crimes in collusion with a shady group of private collaborators or did so in conspiracy with one or more foreign adversaries, it should not be necessary for the House to decide that such pre-inaugural felonies were impeachable offenses, and for the Senate to convict and remove the officeholder before putting him in the dock as an alleged felon and meting out justice.

Sarah Vowel: Raise Your Hand if You Want to Judge Trump

Twenty years ago this week, the House of Representatives forwarded articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton to the Senate. Whether or not that was constitutionally warranted — it wasn’t — does any citizen on either side who witnessed or participated in that partisan dust-up honestly look back on it as an exemplary exercise showcasing Americans’ shared reverence for the rule of law? I’m thinking specifically of how the House Judiciary Committee member Howard Coble, Republican of North Carolina, mentioned that his office got a call from someone who hoped he would die “a painful death from prostate cancer.”

Given that President Trump, a Republican (or thereabouts), is at the center or periphery of numerous federal investigations, including inquiries with whiffs of high crimes like conspiring with a hostile foreign power and accepting emoluments, and given that the incoming House of Representatives, the body constitutionally charged with presidential indictment, will be majority Democrat, a 2019 impeachment is not unthinkable. [..]

Now, in the cold and quiet of late December, is the time to do homework, to bone up on impeachment’s legal intricacies and precedents so as to face the months ahead with a mutual resolve to be, if not gracious — gracious was never the point of the House of Representatives — then prepared.

Senator Ron Wyden: Facebook can’t be trusted to protect users’ data on its own. It’s time for Congress to step in.

While the details of this week’s Facebook scandal — that the company had allowed partners to view supposedly private user data — were new, the arc of this story already follows a predictable script that, unfortunately, Americans are seeing over and over and over again.

Every few weeks, a new story breaks about some new corporate innovation in unauthorized sharing, selling or losing control of Americans’ data; the company will apologize and promise to always put customers first; it will make a cosmetic, largely meaningless change to its policies; and then it all happens again a few months later. Wash, rinse, repeat.

After years of this, Americans are understandably fed up with empty corporate promises. Some of the biggest tech companies have repeatedly shown that profits come first… and then we’ll see about best interests of users.

Catherine Rampell: Has the GOP tax cut delivered? Yes — and the tooth fairy was here just last night!

Happy first birthday, GOP tax cuts.

Normally we don’t expect much of 1-year-olds. This kiddo’s parents, however, had high hopes — promises, you might say — for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: It would reduce deficits, supercharge the economy (and stocks and wages), and draw droves of grateful voters to the Republican Party.

So where do those promises stand?

The White House says things are working as planned. The numbers mostly suggest otherwise.

Consider the budgetary impact. Republicans said the bill would pay for itself, contra every independent forecaster. Congress’s official scorekeepers, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, initially pegged the 10-year cost at $1.5 trillion; later they raised that to about $1.9 trillion. [..]

Usually, when the economy is doing well — and we’re not in a major war — tax revenue is strong, spending on programs such as food stamps and unemployment falls, and the budget gap narrows. In fact, the last time the unemployment rate hovered around 4 percent, we had a surplus.