Mar 20 2020

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: 3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic

One: Don’t trust the president.

So Donald Trump is now calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” Of course he is: Racism and blaming other people for his own failures are the defining features of his presidency. But if we’re going to give it a nickname, much better to refer to it as the “Trump pandemic.”

True, the virus didn’t originate here. But the U.S. response to the threat has been catastrophically slow and inadequate, and the buck stops with Trump, who minimized the threat and discouraged action until just a few days ago. [..]

Why did Trump and his team deny and delay? All the evidence suggests that he didn’t want to do or say anything that might drive down stock prices, which he seems to regard as the key measure of his success. That’s presumably why as late as Feb. 25 Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist, declared that the U.S. had “contained” the coronavirus, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”

Well, that was a bad bet. Since then, the stock market has more or less given up all its gains under the Trump presidency. More important, the economy is clearly in free-fall. So what should we do now?

Michelle Goldberg: Of Course Trump Deserves Blame for the Coronavirus Crisis

There’s no moving forward without understanding what’s going wrong.

It can become tedious to dwell on the fact that the president is a dangerous and ignorant narcissist who has utterly failed as an executive, leaving state governments on their own to confront a generational cataclysm. But no one should ever forget it.

Soon, even if the pandemic is still raging, there will be an election, and the public will be asked to render a verdict on Trump’s leadership. Being clear that people are suffering and dying needlessly because the president can’t do his job isn’t looking backward. It’s the only way to move forward.

Jamelle Bouie: The Era of Small Government Is Over

We’re going to have to reach much deeper than stimulus and bailouts into the way we conduct business with each other.

To stop the spread of the coronavirus, state and local governments have shut down as much of communal life as possible. People are also social distancing, staying out of public spaces to slow transmission of the disease. But this has destroyed demand for goods and services, putting the United States on the path to a recession that could easily become an outright depression.

Washington is, finally, working toward a response. But even the most ambitious proposals are nowhere near powerful enough to actually stop the coronavirus from destroying the economy. To do that, policymakers have to go beyond stimulus or bailouts for select industries. They have to take responsibility for economic life on a scale not seen since the New Deal.

Ted Lieu: Trump is stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis

I genuinely want President Trump to succeed in stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus, and will do everything I can to help him in this effort. At stake are the lives of my elderly parents, my family, my constituents and many Americans. But Trump’s repeated insistence on calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” is more than just xenophobic; it causes harm both to Asian Americans and to the White House’s response to this life-threatening pandemic. I served on active duty in the U.S. military to defend the right of any American to make politically incorrect statements, but as a public figure, I cannot stand idly by while the president uses his pulpit to exacerbate xenophobia in a time of crisis. [..]

Trump’s rhetoric adds fuel to the growing fire of hatred being misdirected at Asian Americans. The fact that he is the president of the United States, who is responsible for the well-being of all Americans, only makes his rhetoric even more disturbing. The leaders of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have warned that we should not use terms such as “Chinese virus.” The novel coronavirus already has an official name, SARS-CoV-2, and an unofficial name, covid-19. Injecting an ethnic qualifier to the virus is unnecessary and can stigmatize Asian Americans.

Eugene Robinson: How to create togetherness without actually being together

In a crisis, our natural reaction is to do something, anything. What makes the covid-19 crisis so difficult, and so unsettling, is that we’re being asked to do nothing.

The solution, scientists tell us, is not action but inaction: Stay home. Don’t visit with your neighbors, or embrace your friends if you pass them on the sidewalk, or even shake hands. Interact with your co-workers via Slack or Skype or some other software that can only simulate something we seem to yearn to be part of at the most fundamental level: a community engaged in a common purpose.

Yet this artificial and unnatural isolation works to defeat the enemy only if we all do it in concert, and if we can maintain these conditions over an extended period of time. To do that, we must somehow create togetherness without actually being together.

Catherine Rampell: No, the airlines do not need a bailout

A lot of American companies deserve and require a taxpayer bailout right now in order to survive, and to prevent a prolonged recession or even depression.

The airlines are not among them.

President Trump has declared that airlines and other marquee companies in the travel industry (cruise lines, hotels) are “prime candidates” for a federal rescue — whether it’s called a “bailout” or perhaps a euphemistic “freedom payment.”

Airlines probably seem like sympathetic targets for massive government help — especially in light of more morally repugnant taxpayer rescues from recent history. We were willing to bail out Wall Street banks a decade ago, saving the arsonists from the fire they themselves had lit; shouldn’t we do the same for an industry victimized by a global pandemic it played zero role in creating?

But that’s not the right framework for thinking about whether a taxpayer bailout is required, or even desirable. Rather, the relevant questions are: (1) Is the failure of any of these individual businesses likely to spill over to the rest of the economy? (2) Are there more effective ways to resolve a company’s financial problems than a taxpayer-funded bailout?

For airlines, the answers are no and yes, respectively.