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Jun 18 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: Why Isn’t Trump a Real Populist?

He seems determined to betray his base.

“I love the poorly educated.” So declared Donald Trump back in February 2016, after a decisive win in the Nevada primary. And the poorly educated love him back: Whites without a college degree are pretty much the only group among whom Trump has more than 50 percent approval.

But in that case, why has Trump been unwilling to do anything, and I mean anything, to help the people who installed him in the White House?

News media often describe Trump as a “populist” and lump him in with politicians in other countries, like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who have also gained power by exploiting white resentment against immigrants and global elites. And there are indeed strong and scary parallels: Orban has effectively turned Hungary into an authoritarian state, retaining the forms of democracy but rigging the system in such a way that his party has a permanent lock on power.

It’s alarmingly easy to envision the U.S. going the same way, and very soon: If Trump is re-elected next year, that could mark the end of America’s democratic experiment.

Eugene Robinson: Trump plans to turn the Fourth of July into a political rally in honor of himself

The Fourth of July celebration in Washington has long been a grand pageant of democracy, a family-friendly event that transcends ideology and partisanship. President Trump intends to turn it into a cult-of-personality political rally in honor of himself.

No, I’m not surprised, but what Trump is doing makes me angry. And it makes me sad to see one of our very best traditions being trampled and dishonored.

Anyone who has raised children in the D.C. area knows what I mean. Independence Day is a highlight of the summer, a chance to wave the flag and watch the fireworks. The crowds on the Mall are always thick. The muggy heat is reliably oppressive. Clouds often reduce the pyrotechnics to diffuse flashes of colored light. The traffic jam afterward is epic. And the whole thing, every minute of it, is simply wonderful. [..]

Most presidents understand that the theme of the day is “we the people,” not “me, me, me.” They usually have the good sense to keep a low profile. Some, beginning with Ulysses S. Grant, have made a point of leaving town; others have opted for symbolic activities befitting the occasion. George W. Bush and Barack Obama chose to preside over naturalization ceremonies for new citizens. Last year, Trump appropriately hosted a picnic at the White House for military families.

This year, the real Trump — the bullying narcissist — promises to make an appearance.


Catherine Ramppell: The struggling iconic American industry you’re not thinking of

An iconic American industry is struggling.

This sector has long been battered by forces beyond its control: globalization, automation, “disruptive” new competitors, changing tastes. Bankruptcies mount, and workplaces shutter around the country. Big, empty buildings, once bustling with young people ,  have been left to rot.

To add insult to injury, the industry is poised to get slaughtered by President Trump’s escalating trade wars. But notwithstanding the U.S. trade representative’s (USTR) public hearings on the subject that began Monday, hardly anyone seems to care.

The industry I’m referring to? Why, retail, of course.

Retail is larger than any of the sectors Trump usually dotes on, the ones he bestows with bailouts and subsidies and affectionate tweets. “Retail salesperson” is the single biggest occupation in the country. Total industry employment eclipses that of manufacturing by some 3 million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In fact, more people work in department stores alone than in the entire coal mining industry — by a factor of 20. [..]

Trump’s trade wars have caused plenty of pain for U.S. companies already, but he’s cushioned the blow to at least some of them through taxpayer-funded bailouts. No such rescue seems in the offing for retail — neither for the businesses and workers themselves, nor the customers who will have to absorb price increases, as they have in earlier rounds of tariffs.

Even if Trump were inclined to execute such a bailout, designing it would present a challenge. How, after all, would you bail out nearly every taxpayer in the country?

Max Boot: In Iran crisis, our worst fears about Trump are realized

More than three years ago, in March 2016, I joined 121 other Republican foreign policy analysts (I was then a Republican) to sign an open letter about then-candidate Donald Trump published on the national security website War on the Rocks.

The letter warned:

“His vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence.

His advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars is a recipe for economic disaster.

His embrace of the expansive use of torture is inexcusable.

His hateful, anti-Muslim rhetoric undercuts the seriousness of combating Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world. …

… His insistence that Mexico will fund a wall on the southern border inflames unhelpful passions, and rests on an utter misreading of, and contempt for, our southern neighbor.

… His insistence that close allies such as Japan must pay vast sums for protection is the sentiment of a racketeer, not the leader of the alliances that have served us so well since World War II.

His admiration for foreign dictators such as Vladimir Putin is unacceptable. …

He is fundamentally dishonest. …

His equation of business acumen with foreign policy experience is false.

The letter concluded: “Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.”

I wish we had been wrong, but we were all too right. The only warning that has not been vindicated is that his anti-Muslim rhetoric would alienate Muslim allies; President Trump’s kowtowing to the rulers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has kept them aligned. But all the other debilities we foresaw are now abundantly manifest.

ox News chyrons. He is today the same compulsive liar and erratic ignoramus he was at the start of the 2016 campaign. Only now, the stakes are much higher. Trump is commander in chief as the United States is locked on a collision course with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The crisis in the Persian Gulf shows the danger of having a president who is so unfit for office. Indeed, this crisis is largely of Trump’s own making.

Michelle Goldberg: Stop Sneering at Bill de Blasio

He shouldn’t run for president, but he’s been a good mayor.

A common type of viral news story in our age of American decline involves school lunch debt.

School employees have seized lunches from students whose parents fall behind on their bills and thrown them in the trash. Kids who owe lunch fees have been branded with stamps and markers and served inferior cold meals.

Recently, a sweet third grader made national news for using his allowance to pay off his classmates’ debt, a feel-good story with a dystopian undercurrent, since individual altruism is no match for systemic desperation.

These stories never come from New York City, which has the country’s largest public school system. In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration made school lunch free for all students, eliminating both the problem of school lunch debt and the stigma of getting a government subsidy.

That’s in addition to the city’s free school breakfasts, which are often served in classrooms to make sure more kids eat them. The free meals start at an early age, since de Blasio has instituted universal free pre-K for 4-year-olds and is scaling up a program for 3-year-olds.

Conventional wisdom holds that de Blasio is a joke, a sanctimonious dork held in widespread contempt by the city he governs. New York’s tabloids despise him. His presidential bid has been greeted with a combination of sneering, eye-rolling and baffled pity.

I’m as confused as everyone else about why de Blasio is running for president. But the mockery greeting his every move obscures what a successful mayor he’s been, particularly for working- and middle-class families.