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Jun 04 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: Trump Makes America Irresponsible Again

Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on Mexican exports unless our neighbor does something — he hasn’t specified what — to stop the flow of asylum-seekers is almost surely illegal: U.S. trade law gives presidents discretion to impose tariffs for a number of reasons, but curbing immigration isn’t one of them.

It’s also a clear violation of U.S. international agreements. And it will reduce the living standards of most Americans, destroy many jobs in U.S. manufacturing, and hurt farmers.

But let’s put all of that to one side and talk about the really bad stuff.

Trump says that “TARIFF is a beautiful word indeed,” but the actual history of U.S. tariffs isn’t pretty — and not just because tariffs, whatever the tweeter in chief says, are in practice taxes on Americans, not foreigners. In fact, it’s now a good bet that Trump’s tariffs will more than wipe out whatever breaks middle-class Americans got from the 2017 tax cut.

The more important fact is that until the 1930s, tariff policy was a cesspool of corruption and special-interest politics. One of the main purposes of the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which eventually became the template for the modern world trading system, was to drain that particular swamp by removing the capriciousness of previous tariff policy.

Trump’s erratic trade actions, unconstrained by what we used to think were the legal rules, have brought the capriciousness back, and good old-fashioned corruption ­— if it isn’t happening already — won’t be far behind.

Eugene Robinson: Trump poses a test for the Brits’ stiff upper lip

Donald “Bone Spurs” Trump is in Britain, attempting to celebrate a special relationship forged in heroic military sacrifice. Donald “I Didn’t Know That She Was Nasty” Trump is imposing his boorish presence on the royal family, including Prince Harry, whose bride he insulted. Donald “Grab ’Em by the [Genitals]” Trump is dining with the queen.

I don’t often feel compassion for the British royals, but today they have my hopes and prayers. Even their unrivaled talent at keeping a stiff upper lip is being sorely tested. [..]

Trump gives the British people one thing to unite around — not liking Trump. I suppose it’s a contribution, however short-lived the effect. When the president leaves, Britain will still be mired in its worst political crisis in decades.

At least most British voters chose Brexit, though the outcome of a second referendum would likely be different. Most American voters did not choose Trump, though the electoral college system duly put him into office.

Then again, we will get rid of Trump and his band of grifters in due course — next year, one hopes, but in a worst-case scenario in 2024. Brexit, if Britain is foolish enough to go through it, will have effects that linger and fester indefinitely. Other European governments, as well, are going through dire, long-running travails.

Trump’s trip abroad makes me feel better about our own prospects. If only the Brits could somehow just keep him.

Catherine Rampell: Happy 10th birthday to the economic expansion. Don’t count on an 11th.

Happy 10th birthday, U.S. economic expansion! Let’s hope you’ll be allowed to live a little while longer, despite a certain someone’s concerted efforts to kill you off.

The Great Recession officially ended — and the current recovery officially began — exactly a decade ago, in June 2009. That means we’ve now tied the record for the longest economic expansion on record, matching the 10-year business cycle upswing that ended in March 2001.

That’s quite an achievement, especially in light of the many policy missteps we’ve been subject to in the intervening years, including government shutdowns, trade wars and threats to central-bank independence. It speaks to the hardiness of the U.S. economy. So, too, do most recently released major economic data — including payroll job growth, the 50-year low unemployment rate, gross domestic product growth — that remain very healthy.

So while statistically speaking, we might be overdue for a downturn, the economic fundamentals appear pretty good. And recoveries don’t merely die of old age; they get murdered. A negative shock does them in, or a collective crisis in confidence.

Unfortunately, though, the temporary stimulus of the Republican tax cuts appears to be fading. And, meanwhile, a number of “softer” indicators suggest that the risks of a near-term slowdown, or even recession, are rising.

Michelle Goldberg: Democratic Voters Want Impeachment. The House Dawdles.

Until quite recently, Democratic House leaders justified their refusal to begin an inquiry into impeaching Donald Trump by saying that it wasn’t something their rank-and-file voters cared about. “I can tell you I never hear somebody bring up the Mueller report,” Representative Cheri Bustos, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in Chicago last month.

After the Memorial Day recess, that argument is no longer tenable. Across the country, Democratic voters have begun demanding that their representatives take a position on impeachment. “At virtually every town hall, round table, or even, today, a kaffeeklatsch at a senior center, people want to know what we are going to do about this guy,” Mary Gay Scanlon, Democrat of Pennsylvania, told me. Scanlon is vice chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, which would oversee an impeachment inquiry, and two weeks ago she came out in favor of starting the process.

“There’s been a shift,” said Madeleine Dean, a freshman Democrat from Pennsylvania who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, and also wants to begin an impeachment inquiry. At a town hall last week, one of the first questions she was asked was about impeachment. When she visited local stores and barbershops, she told me, constituents approached her and said, of Trump, “You cannot let the behavior stand.”

Robert Reich: The gig is up: America’s booming economy is built on hollow promises

Uber just filed its first quarterly report as a publicly traded company. Although it lost $1bn, investors may still do well because the losses appear to be declining

Uber drivers, on the other hand, aren’t doing well. According to a recent study, about half of New York’s Uber drivers are supporting families with children, yet 40% depend on Medicaid and another 18% on food stamps.

It’s similar elsewhere in the new American economy. Last week, the New York Times reported that fewer than half of Google workers are full-time employees. Most are temps and contractors receiving a fraction of the wages and benefits of full-time Googlers, with no job security.

Across America, the fastest-growing category of new jobs is gig work – contract, part-time, temp, self-employed and freelance. And a growing number of people work for staffing firms that find them gig jobs.