Mar 24 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.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Joseph E. Stiglitz: The COVID-19 stimulus can’t be a corporate bail-out. We need a new playbook for relief

Our democracy and economy is at great risk if we respond by giving money to the loudest and most powerful voices

Three years ago, in an ugly display of pigs feeding at the trough, there was a rush of special interests to take advantage of a secretive tax bill moving quickly through the Senate, with tens of billions of dollars going to certain industries, like real estate. We saw what happened: a short burst of economic growth that turned out to be remarkably weak, given the size of the deficit that it brought about. This year, growth was expected to decline to anemic levels—lower than 2 percent. While the predicted 1 trillion dollar deficits quickly emerged, the promised increases in investment and wages did not, as corporations paid out almost a trillion dollars in share buybacks.

This is all prelude to the current debate over responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Had big business not treated itself so well, it would have had an ample cushion to weather the storm. Had it lived up to its promises of greater investment and higher wages, Americans would have placed greater trust in it;  likewise, if it hadn’t resisted giving workers a measly 10 days of sick leave even limited to the crisis itself.  Our democracy and economy is at great risk if we respond to COVID-19 by giving money to the loudest and most powerful corporate voices rather than thinking through where funds are most needed. Our fiscal position is at risk if we don’t work out the best way to provide the money. America is a rich country able to run large deficits, but that doesn’t mean that resources are unlimited. Inevitably more money in corporate largesse means less money for those who need it, and more inequality. The well-being of Americans today is at risk if we don’t think carefully about how best to deliver money to those who need it now.

Paul Krugman: Republicans Add Insult to Illness

Greed, germs and the art of no deal.

If you want a quick summary of the state of play over fiscal stimulus legislation, here it is: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need.

And if legislation is stalled, as it appears to be as I write this (although things change fast when we’re on Covid time), it’s because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is holding needy Americans hostage in an attempt to blackmail Democrats into giving Donald Trump a $500 billion slush fund. [..]

So what’s in the stimulus bill that McConnell is trying to ram through the Senate? It grudgingly provides some, but only some, of the aid Americans in distress will need. Funny, isn’t it, how helping ordinary Americans is always framed as a “Democratic demand”? And even there the legislation includes poison pills, like a provision that would deny aid to many nonprofit institutions like nursing homes and group homes for the disabled.

But it also includes a $500 billion slush fund for corporations that the Trump administration could allocate at its discretion, with essentially no oversight. This isn’t just terrible policy; it’s an insult to our intelligence.

Amanda Marcotte: Why are people buying guns? That’s about the last thing we need right now

Do people think virus-zombies are coming for their toilet paper stash? Bringing a gun into your home is stupid

Way too many Americans mistake zombie movies for real life: This is what we are learning from the public response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. While public health officials offer advice like “wash your hands” and “for heaven’s sake, stay home,” huge numbers of Americans are instead stampeding to gun stores to buy up weapons and ammunition. In my South Philly neighborhood, social distancing rules were being ignored as people lined up to grab weapons.

No doubt these folks are aware that COVID-19 is a microscopic virus and therefore is not something you can shoot. No, obviously, the fear is about the economy collapsing (thanks for the negligence, Donald Trump!), leading to a rise in crime and violence, in which people imagine they can use these guns to defend their lives, families and property. Also, decades of NRA propaganda have convinced people to associate guns with safety. Indeed, as the economy craters, the NRA is treating this crisis as another opportunity to sell guns to people. What else would it do?

But the last thing anyone should be doing in this crisis, if they want to stay safe, is to buy a gun. Buying a gun right now will make your family and your home less safe, especially if you, like many panic buyers, are not trained in gun safety and don’t have the proper storage.

Buying a gun significantly raises the chances of someone in your house being injured or killed in an accident, a suicide attempt or interpersonal violence. The hospitals are already buckling down, fearful that coronavirus will fill up ICUs and emergency rooms. Adding avoidable gun injuries to the mix isn’t just foolish. It’s selfish.

Eugene Robinson: Trump, as usual, is just making things worse

he nation is suffering through a terrible crisis. Day by day, tweet by tweet, unhinged briefing by unhinged briefing, President Trump is making it worse. That is a hard conclusion to reach, even for someone like me who has long considered Trump one of the worst presidents in our history.

The covid-19 pandemic is the definition of a moment when everyone should hope and pray for strong, smart, steady presidential leadership. Indeed, the restrictions Trump imposed against travel from China and Europe, where the novel coronavirus was running rampant — whether his motives were scientific or xenophobic — had a good impact. He bought us some time. But then he squandered it.

If you can bear to watch Trump’s performances during the daily White House update briefings, you can only conclude that any effective federal response is happening not because of the commander in chief, but despite him.

Michelle Goldberg: Here Come the Death Panels

Obamacare didn’t lead to rationing. The mismanagement of the coronavirus will.

We were told that if America passed Obamacare, it would result in death panels.

This lie was invented by Sarah Palin in 2009, during the fight for what would become the Affordable Care Act. It was the hysterical version of the common conservative critique that universal health care means government rationing.

“Virtually every European government with ‘universal’ health care restricts access in one way or another to control costs, and it isn’t pretty,” said a Wall Street Journal editorial about the A.C.A. The Journal allowed that our system already rations health care according to people’s ability to pay for it, but argued that that’s how freedom works: “This is true of every good or service in a free economy and a world of finite resources but infinite wants.”

This argument was always specious, but it looks especially absurd in light of the coronavirus tearing through the world. America’s inadequate health care system, far from increasing liberty, is poised to make death panels more likely.