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.

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Paul Krugman: The Venezuela Calumny

Alas, Michael Bloomberg. You aren’t the man I thought you were.

On Tuesday, asked about Elizabeth Warren’s (very smart) proposal for a wealth tax, he responded with the favorite right-wing calumny of the moment – suggesting that her plan would turn us into Venezuela.

That’s a shameful line of argument. In fact, whenever you see someone invoking Venezuela as a reason not to consider progressive policy ideas, you know right away that the person in question is uninformed, dishonest, or both. It basically shows that the speaker or writer isn’t willing to engage in serious discussion, preferring to scare people with a boogeyman of which he or she knows nothing. [..]

But what, exactly, does any of this have to do with the policy ideas of Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris, or even a genuine radical like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Is anyone in U.S. politics, even those who call themselves socialists, proposing that we nationalize large parts of the private sector? Is there anything in the record of U.S. progressives suggesting that they are less fiscally responsible than the people who keep using voodoo economics to push massive tax cuts for the rich?

Eugene Robinson: This is no time for Howard Schultz’s foolishness

Just what we need, another ego-crazed billionaire with zero experience in government who thinks he is destined to be president. What could go wrong?

Howard Schultz, the man who put a Starbucks on every corner, said in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday that he is mulling a run for the White House as an independent. Schultz admits he’s “not the smartest person in the room,” but he must be smart enough to know he can’t possibly win.

He is quite capable of reelecting President Trump, though.

At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm elections and Trump’s cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I’m pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich.

He does have a chance in 2020, however, if the anti-Trump vote is split between two or more candidates. Imagine Schultz, a lifelong Democrat, siphoning off even 5 percent of the Democratic candidate’s vote in, say, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The horror of 2016 threatens to become a recurring nightmare.

Karen Tumulty: Put Washington in a time-out. Bring in people who know something about the border.

If we really want to get serious about border security, it is time to put the Washington politicians in a timeout and bring in people who know what they are talking about.

At a closed meeting of senior House Democrats a couple of weeks ago, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) came up with an idea that had some promise: Why not ask the governors of the four states along the U.S.-Mexico border — who happen at the moment to be two Democrats and two Republicans — for their ideas of how best to spend federal money to make the border safer?

Her proposal has not gotten anywhere. But it — or some version of it — deserves serious consideration now that one partial government shutdown is over and another looms.

What is needed is an approach that goes beyond the immediate challenge before a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators. Their task, plenty difficult on its own, is to come up with a spending agreement that soothes President Trump enough to keep the government open past the next deadline, which is Feb. 15.

But they should also take this opportunity to find a more rational way to discuss border security, which is a goal that both parties say they want.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Warren’s push for a wealth tax could be a game changer

Last week, the New York Times reported that hedge fund billionaire and GOP megadonor Kenneth Griffin shelled out a record $238 million for a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park. The news came just days after Oxfam International reported that 26 billionaires have the same combined net worth as the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet. Meanwhile, many of America’s richest corporate executives spent the week hobnobbing in Davos, Switzerland, where they focused on the preposterous idea of “upskilling” as a potential answer to rising economic inequality.

It seems every day brings a fresh reminder of how the economy is rigged in favor of an out-of-touch financial elite gobbling up more and more of America’s wealth. Yet until recently, our political leaders have, with few exceptions, failed to respond with the kind of bold policies required to make a dent in the problem. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) idea for a new “wealth tax” is the latest reason to believe that may finally be changing.

Robert Reich: Air traffic controllers defeated Trump. That’s worker power

Air traffic controllers hold the trump card (pardon the expression) in upcoming negotiations between Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over border security.

That’s because the president and the Republicans know that another shutdown would likely cause a repeat of what happened last Friday, when so many of the nation’s air traffic controllers called in sick that America’s air traffic came to a near standstill. Hours later, Trump agreed to reopen the government without funding for his wall.

Never underestimate the power of airport delays to arouse the nation. Nancy Pelosi deserves credit for sticking to her guns, but the controllers brought the country to its knees. [..]

The larger story is that public workers who lack any formal power to strike – but have the informal power not to work – are becoming a new force in American politics and labor relations.