Nov 12 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.

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Paul Krugman: Bursting the Billionaire Bubble

No, America isn’t waiting for a tycoon savior.

Immense wealth isn’t good for your reality sense.

Billionaires aren’t necessarily bad people, and most of them probably aren’t. However, some are, and my unscientific sense is that billionaires are more likely than the rest of us to exhibit bad judgment warped by runaway egos, especially in the political sphere.

It’s not hard to see why: Great wealth attracts people eager to tell an extremely rich man (or woman, but political egotism is mainly a male thing) what he wants to hear. In the political arena this means telling billionaires both that their lavish financial rewards are a mere fraction of the vast contribution they have made to society, and that the public is clamoring for them to take their rightful role as leaders.

Put it this way: These days, many political factions are accused, with varying degrees of justice, of living in some kind of bubble, out of touch with American reality. But few live as thoroughly in a bubble as the billionaire class and its hangers-on.

And now the billionaires in the bubble find themselves in an environment in which concerns about soaring inequality, about the extraordinary concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, finally seem to be getting political traction. And they’re not handling it well.

Michael Tomasky: Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots

Bloomberg, Dimon and Gates call liberal tax ideas unfair. But excessive wealth is the real threat.

The billionaire class has begun unloading on Elizabeth Warren. A few days ago, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase — at just $1.6 billion in net worth, a comparative piker — said Senator Warren “vilifies successful people.” Then Bill Gates ($107 billion), in an onstage interview with The Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, mused about what his tax bill might be in a Warren presidency and left the door open to voting for Donald Trump should Democrats nominate Ms. Warren. And then Michael Bloomberg ($52 billion), who had previously criticized Ms. Warren as anti-corporate, signaled his intention to jump into the race, obviously out of concern at her rise.

I’m not expert enough to judge the wisdom of Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax. I know that there are questions about its constitutionality and that several European nations tried a similar approach and found it unworkable (though four countries still have it). I don’t get why the candidates aren’t simply proposing to increase marginal income tax rates on dollars earned above some very high figure. That seems a lot more straightforward to me.

So this column is not a brief for Ms. Warren’s wealth tax or for her candidacy — I don’t have a preferred candidate. Instead, I want to make a simple plea to the country’s billionaires: Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy.

Michelle Goldberg: To Exonerate Trump, Republicans Embrace Russian Disinformation

In this week’s impeachment hearings, expect a lot of G.O.P. conspiracy theorizing.

On Friday, House investigators released the transcript of the former National Security Council official Fiona Hill’s testimony from last month. It showed a Republican staff member trying and failing to get Hill to concede that there might be some validity to the conspiracy theories underlying Donald Trump’s demands of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. [..]

A few of Trump’s more responsible aides have reportedly tried to disabuse him of Ukraine conspiracy theories, to no avail. Instead it appears that House Republicans, out of slavish fealty to the president, are going to use high-profile hearings to amplify them.

In her testimony, Hill seemed to warn Republicans off their current path. She mentioned the report issued last month by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee about how Russia used online propaganda to boost Trump in 2016. “If we have people running around chasing rabbit holes because Rudy Giuliani or others have been feeding information to The Hill, Politico, we are not going to be prepared as a country to push back on this again,” she said. “The Russians thrive on misinformation and disinformation.” Unfortunately, so do Trump’s defenders.

Eugene Robinson: Rank partisan solidarity is all Trump’s defenders have left

If President Trump is impeached by the House without the vote of a single Republican, you know what? He’ll still be impeached, and for good reason.

The same will be true if every Republican senator votes to acquit him. Partisan GOP solidarity might keep Trump in office — for another year — but it neither changes the facts as we know them nor absolves Congress of its constitutional responsibility. A decision by Republicans to put party loyalty ahead of the national interest cannot be allowed to derail this necessary process.

Would a “partisan” impeachment divide the country? If you haven’t noticed, the nation is pretty divided already. It’s understandable to worry about the reaction of the nearly 45 percent of Americans who, according to the FiveThirtyEight average of polls, oppose impeachment and removal. But what about the 48 percent who support it?

I put the word partisan in quotes because the House, in constitutional terms, is acting not as “House Democrats” but as the House itself. The fact that the Democratic Party holds the majority does not absolve Speaker Nancy Pelosi or any other House member of the duty to hold Trump accountable for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” If Trump grossly abused his power and committed bribery in his dealings with Ukraine, as evidence strongly indicates, the House has no choice.

Tribalistic party identity is basically all the president’s defenders have left.

Catherine Rampell: We thought Trump was the biggest con man. We were all wrong.

Many of President Trump’s critics (myself included) have portrayed him as a fantastically successful con artist, a man who has swindled customers, vendors and voters alike.

We were all wrong. Trump isn’t history’s biggest scam artist; he’s history’s biggest dupe.

At least, that’s the narrative Trump and his defenders are spinning as they portray the president as the victim of an elaborate, long-running political sting, perpetrated by his own devious underlings.

Trump claimed once upon a time that he was recruiting the “best people” to the White House and senior ranks of the executive branch. He now claims he got conned into hiring a cabal of covert Never Trumpers.

The list of people who allegedly hustled the master hustler is long, an “Ocean’s Eleven”-like dream team carefully cultivated to undermine their guileless boss. But rather than ninjas, pickpockets or pyromaniacs, this political heist has been perpetrated by diplomats, donors, lawyers, economists and generals who earned and then abused the trust of their mark. [..]

These connivers have been astoundingly effective. Somehow they’ve tricked Trump into saying and doing racist and corrupt things, in public and on camera. They hoodwinked him into passing economic policies that punish his working-class base while rewarding wealthy donors. And, worst of all — in the case of Ukraine — these schemers suckered Trump into subordinating U.S. national security to his own selfish political interests.

Either that or they cleverly framed him.