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Aug 20 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 World Has a Germany Problem

The debt obsession that ate the economy.

You might think that recent events — market turmoil, weakening growth, declining manufacturing production — must be producing some soul-searching in the White House, particularly over Donald Trump’s view that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” That is, you might think that if you haven’t paid any attention to Trump’s past behavior.

What he’s actually doing, of course, is attributing the economy’s troubles to a vast conspiracy of people out to get him. And his recent remarks suggest, if anything, that he’s preparing to open a new front in the trade war, this time against the European Union, which he says “treats us horribly: barriers, tariffs, taxes.”

The funny thing is that there are some aspects of European policy, especially German economic policy, that do hurt the world economy and deserve condemnation. But Trump is going after the wrong thing. Europe does not, in fact, treat us badly; its markets are about as open to U.S. products as ours are to Europe’s. (We export about three times as much to the E.U. as we do to China.)

The problem, instead, is that the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, treat themselves badly, with a ruinous obsession over public debt. And the costs of that obsession are spilling over to the world as a whole.

Eugene Robinson: Trump is melting down. Again.

Uh-oh. President Trump is in such a state of panic about his dimming reelection prospects that he’s getting his lies mixed up and occasionally blurting out the truth.

“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company [Samsung] that’s not,” the president told reporters Sunday — flatly contradicting the ridiculous and utterly false narrative that he has spent months trying to sell. Trump apparently forgot his standard lie that China is somehow paying “billions of dollars” in tariffs, acknowledging instead that they are taxes paid by U.S. companies and, ultimately, the American consumer.

This reflects more than just the difficulty of juggling multiple lies. Evidence suggests that Trump is melting down. Again.

And for good reason.

Fears of a global recession, greatly exacerbated by Trump’s erratic and self-destructive trade policies, have sent financial markets tumbling. A sharp downturn would close off one of the principal lines of attack the president was hoping to use against his Democratic opponent. He tried it out at a rally in New Hampshire last week: “You have no choice but to vote for me,” he told the crowd, “because your 401(k)’s down the tubes, everything’s gonna be down the tubes” if he loses. “So whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me.”

Fact check: No.

Catherine Rampell: Move over, Illuminati. The conspiracy against Trump’s economy is massive.

When Barack Obama was president and the economic statistics were good, then-candidate Donald Trump said they were fake. When Trump became president and inherited the exact same stats, they suddenly became real.

Now that they’re turning south, they’re apparently fake once more.

Trump, aided by his economic brain trust of cranks and sycophants, believes any indicator showing the U.S. economy could be in trouble must be fabricated. It’s all part of an anti-Trump conspiracy, he rants, according to reports in The Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times.

And move over, Illuminati, because this particular conspiracy is massive.

It’s led by the Federal Reserve, Democrats and the media, of course, or so say Trump and his Fox News minions. But it also includes the entire U.S. bond market, which flashed a warning sign last week when the Treasury yield curve inverted (meaning long-term bonds had lower interest rates than short-term ones, which usually predates a downturn).

Michelle Goldberg: Toxic Nostalgia Breeds Derangement

A writer who charted the collapse of reality in Russia now sees it worldwide.

In 2014, Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist born in the Soviet Union, published “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible,” which drew on his years working in Russian television to describe a society in giddy, hysterical flight from enlightenment empiricism. He wrote of how state-controlled Russian broadcasting “became ever more twisted, the need to incite panic and fear ever more urgent; rationality was tuned out, and Kremlin-friendly cults and hatemongers were put on prime time.”

Since 2016, the book has enjoyed a new life among people struggling to make sense of the dual shocks of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory. Both catastrophes demonstrated the triumph of xenophobic post-truth politics, and both were assisted by Russian information warfare. Pomerantsev’s book about Russia suddenly seemed prophetic about the rest of the world.

Now, he’s written a penetrating follow-up, “This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality,” that is partly an effort to make sense of how the disorienting phenomena he observed in Russia went global. The child of exiled Soviet dissidents, Pomerantsev juxtaposes his family’s story — unfolding at a time when ideas, art and information seemed to challenge tyranny — with a present in which truth scarcely appears to matter.

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