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Mar 07 2019

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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Reverend William Barber and Phyllis Bennis: If America can find $716bn for the military, it can fund the Green New Deal

At long last the political debate in the world’s richest country is vibrant with proposals that would help the most vulnerable in our society. And what do we hear in response? A growing chorus of naysayers.

“Just pipe dreams” – that’s how the Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson referred to proposals for guaranteed jobs, Medicare for All, universal childcare, and the Green New Deal.

Like many other pundits and politicians, Samuelson says we can’t afford such luxuries. Taxing the rich wouldn’t raise enough money. We’d have no choice but to resort to deficit spending.

Funny how some politicians have no qualms about ballooning the deficit with tax cuts for the rich but balk at investing in the long-term health of our people and communities. Just as peculiar: the fact that military spending cuts are virtually never mentioned as an option for freeing up funds for social good instead of war.

This year the US military budget is $716bn – and boy is it ripe for slashing.

Joshua Leifer: Ilhan Omar and the weaponisation of antisemitism

It should not be difficult to recognize the meaningful distinction between Ilhan Omar’s recent comments and the kind of antisemitism surging on the right

Ilhan Omar’s most recent comments have been stripped entirely of their context, their intentions twisted and reversed. During an event in Washington DC last week, she spoke sensitively about her commitment to human rights advocacy, her experiences of Islamophobia, and her compassion for her Jewish constituents. Then Omar said: “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country … I want to ask, why is it OK for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil-fuel industries, or big pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy?” [..]

To be sure, Omar’s comments were not perfect – few people are flawless during unscripted panels or debates. And given the unfair and disproportionate amount of scrutiny she faces, perhaps it would have been wiser to have avoided some of the terms she used – in particular, “allegiance to a foreign country”. But what she said was not antisemitic: on the contrary, the full text of Omar’s remarks shows that she was careful not to conflate the pro-Israel lobby (which is also comprised of non-Jewish evangelical Zionists) or the state of Israel with all Jews, nor did she employ the dual loyalty canard, which asserts that Jews are more loyal to each other (or Israel) than to the countries they live in.

In fact, Omar did not say anything that other critics have not said before: that the pro-Israel lobby enforces rigid support for the increasingly rightwing Israeli government’s policies, and that questioning US support for a government that commits human rights abuses – some of which, the UN recently warned, may be war crimes – should be acceptable if not encouraged. If she were not a black, hijab-wearing Muslim woman, the reaction to her words surely would have been different.

Catherine Rampell: What’s behind the ballooning trade deficit

For years President Trump has been obsessed with trade deficits, (incorrectly) viewing them as a good measure of which countries are “winning” and which are “losing.” The United States has run a trade deficit for decades, thereby designating us a perennial loser in Trump’s worldview. He promised to turn things around by picking a few easy-to-win trade wars.

Instead, by Trump’s own measure, we’re bigger “losers” than ever before. The trade deficit just jumped to its largest size in a decade. Even worse: Our deficit in goods, which Trump for some reason emphasizes most, just hit its largest level ever. [..]

But the bigger question is this: Why exactly is the trade deficit expanding when Trump promised it would shrink? The answer largely (though not exclusively) has to do with Trump’s own economic policies.

To be clear, trade deficits — whether bilateral or otherwise — are not necessarily bad, nor are they a sign that we’re being somehow “cheated” by other countries. They reflect broader trends in the economy, including savings and investment rates.

Harry Littman: Trump’s impeachable antitrust power grab

The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer has reported that President Trump ordered aides to sue to block the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger in summer 2017 out of personal animus toward CNN. The episode provides a pristine example of the abuse of the president’s executive powers. [..]

The president’s animus toward CNN is well established. In a pre-inauguration news conference, he refused to take a question from CNN, literally yelling at a CNN reporter, “You are fake news!” and “your organization is terrible.”

If the New Yorker report is accurate, the president’s conduct constituted a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. Trump sought to exploit the executive power — here, the power to determine how and when to enforce the antitrust laws — to punish speakers based on the content of their messages.

We are once again in banana republic territory: The president of the United States may not use the laws of the United States to harass the media based on his personal, petty displeasure with what he views as unwarranted criticism. That’s not how it works here.

E. J. Dionne, Jr.: How will we repair our democracy after Trump? H.R. 1 offers a clue.

A central challenge of the Trump era is how to deal urgently with the president’s transgressions while also taking steps to prevent politicians from abusing power in the future.

Equally important is restoring faith in our republican democracy as a genuinely representative system open to broad participation and protected from the outsize influence of the financially privileged.

President Trump is doing far more to pollute the political “swamp” he loves to invoke than draining it. But this doesn’t mean that citizens worried about the swampiness of our politics are wrong.

So here’s a challenge to citizens and the media alike: Pay attention this week to the House debate over H.R. 1, perhaps the most comprehensive political-reform proposal ever considered by our elected representatives.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that Trump and his antics will always get more attention than any bill that includes lots of provisions. Legislation makes us work our brains a lot harder than Trump does.

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