May 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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Paul Krugman: The Economics of Donald J. Keynes

Austerity for Democrats, stimulus for Republicans.

I made a bad economic call on election night 2016, predicting a Trump recession. But I quickly realized that political dismay had clouded my judgment, and retracted the call three days later. “It’s at least possible,” I wrote on Nov. 11, 2016, “that bigger budget deficits will, if anything, strengthen the economy briefly.”

What I didn’t realize at the time was just how much bigger the deficits would get. Since 2016, the Trump administration has, in practice, implemented the kind of huge fiscal stimulus followers of John Maynard Keynes pleaded for when unemployment was high — but Republicans blocked.

Contrary to what Donald Trump and his supporters claim, we are not seeing an unprecedented boom. The U.S. economy grew 3.2 percent over the past year, a growth rate we haven’t seen since … 2015. Employment has been growing steadily since 2010, with no break in the trend after 2016. Still, the long stretch of growth has pushed the unemployment rate down to levels not seen in decades. How did that happen, and what does it tell us?

The strength of the economy doesn’t reflect a turnaround of the U.S. trade deficit, which remains high. Nor does it reflect a giant boom in business investment, which proponents of the 2017 tax cut promised, but didn’t happen. What’s driving the economy now is, instead, deficit spending.

Eugene Robinson: We’re killing off our planet, and our enlightenment may come too late

There are roughly 8 million plant and animal species in the world. One of them — homo sapiens — may soon wipe out a million of the rest. And we’re just getting started.

That’s the depressing bottom line from a comprehensive new United Nations report on biodiversity. Species are going extinct at a rate unmatched in human history — and the die-off is accelerating. It sounds melodramatic to say that we’re killing the planet, but that’s what the scientific evidence tells us. And ignorant, shortsighted leadership makes optimistic scenarios elusive.

Species extinction is one of those problems whose vast scale, in space and time, makes it difficult to comprehend, let alone address globally. As any paleontologist can tell you, species appear and disappear naturally at a gradual rate with no human intervention. And in the 3.5-billion-year history of life on Earth, there have been five abrupt mass extinctions when more than three-quarters of all living species were quickly wiped out. The most recent came 66 million years ago, when an asteroid strike is believed to have killed off the dinosaurs.

If there are intelligent observers 66 million years from now, their scientists may conclude that the sixth mass extinction was caused by us — and that we saw what we were doing but lacked the wisdom and courage to stop ourselves.

Lawrence Lessig: American democracy is broken. We must demand 2020 candidates commit to a fix

Nancy Pelosi’s HR1 bill is an important start but the key to tackling a broken system is a president committed to fundamental reform

The wires were abuzz last week with news that the presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was returning $30,000 in contributions from lobbyists. He has now joined many other Democratic candidates in swearing off particular kinds of money, whether from corporate Pacs or lobbyists. Since Beto O’Rourke launched his campaign for Senate in 2017, this type of reform-through-abstinence has become a single metric for whether a candidate is a reformer for democracy. If you don’t give up corporate cash, then you can’t be for us.

But this is an odd and fake measure of reform. The important question is not how you get elected, but what your fundamental commitment is if you are elected. Money from Pacs and lobbyists is actually among the most moderate, and least polarizing of the money in American politics today. Removing it alone won’t fix democracy. And this obsession with where the money comes from obscures the real questions about what type of reformer a candidate would be.

Michelle Goldberg: Trump Helps Bigots Go Viral

As Facebook tries to ban extremists, the president amplifies them.

In 2017, the Canadian right-wing activist and filmmaker Lauren Southern joined a group of young European nationalists on a boat in Mediterranean waters. Their mission was to interfere with humanitarian groups that rescue migrants at sea. The next year Southern released a documentary about the threat of “white genocide” in South Africa. She’s a proponent of the “great replacement” theory, which holds that white Europeans are being systematically supplanted by Muslim migrants.

On Friday, her public profile got a boost from Donald Trump when he retweeted her.

Last week, Facebook announced that it was banning a group of extremist figures from the platform. Among them were the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Louis Farrakhan; and Paul Joseph Watson, a British former editor at large for Jones’s website, Infowars, who now makes anti-Islam and anti-feminist YouTube videos like “Why Are Feminists Fat & Ugly?”

It was the latest wave of bans for Facebook, which last year kicked white nationalist Richard Spencer off the site. People on the far right have been incensed about losing access to technology platforms, and some, like Spencer, have been publicly angry Trump hasn’t done more to help them.

Catherine Rampell: It’s obvious what we don’t want in a Fed nominee. Here’s what we do.

It’s pretty easy to identify what we don’t want in a Federal Reserve Board member. So let’s talk about what we do want.

Last week, President Trump told us that one of his announced-though-never-formally-nominated choices for Fed, Stephen Moore, had withdrawn from consideration. This came just 10 days after another Fed pick, Herman Cain, bowed out.

Both men were unfit for one of the world’s most powerful economic policymaking jobs. That was obvious from their confused and often self-refuting economic commentary, not to mention personal baggage and troubling attitudes toward women.

While some saw Moore and Cain as merely the latest in Trump’s pattern of selecting the worst possible people for any given job, in a key way, they were a departure from trend.

Trump’s earlier Fed nominees had actually been reasonable, competent professionals. Four of the five sitting Fed governors were selected by Trump (one, Jerome H. Powell, was originally appointed to the board by President Barack Obama and then elevated to chair by Trump). All four easily sailed through Senate confirmation.

Which means the Trump administration has proven itself capable of identifying and nominating qualified Fed candidates. So, what makes a qualified Fed candidate in 2019?