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Apr 08 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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Paul Krugman: Will We Flunk Pandemic Economics?

Our government suffers from learned helplessness.

Just a month ago Donald Trump was still insisting that Covid-19 was a trivial issue, comparing it to the “common flu.” And he dismissed economic concerns; after all, during flu season, “nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on.”

But pandemics come at you fast. Since Trump’s blithe dismissal, something like 15 million Americans have lost their jobs — the economic implosion is happening so quickly that official statistics can’t keep up.

In our last economic crisis the economy shrank around 6 percent relative to its long-run trend, and the unemployment rate rose around five percentage points. At a guess, we’re now looking at a slump three to five times that deep.

And this plunge isn’t just quantitatively off the charts; it’s qualitatively different from anything we’ve seen before. Normal recessions happen when people choose to cut spending, with the unintended consequence of destroying jobs. So far this slump mainly reflects the deliberate, necessary shutdown of activities that increase the rate of infection.

As I’ve been saying, it’s the economic equivalent of a medically induced coma, in which some brain functions are temporarily shut down to give the patient a chance to heal.

Eugene Robinson: The one word that explains why Trump should not be president

“What do I know? I’m not a doctor.”

It’s rare that President Trump speaks with even that level of clarity. Unfortunately, this observation came Sunday amid an avalanche of nonsense about the anti-malaria drug that he believes to be a magic bullet against covid-19. It is remarkable how a tongue-twisting word few of us were familiar with a month ago — hydroxychloroquine — has suddenly come to represent so many of the reasons Trump should not be president, especially during a time of crisis.

That one word illustrates Trump’s arbitrary, anecdote-based method of making decisions; his reliance on cronies who have no relevant expertise; his rejection of science, or perhaps his failure to understand how science even works; his defiant stubbornness in clinging to what he “knows,” even when he doesn’t actually know it; his obsessiveness even in the face of contrary evidence; and his imperviousness to fact-based arguments he does not want to hear.

Susan E. Rice: Trump Is the Wartime President We Have (Not the One We Need)

He should start leading with the decency and resolve that we deserve. I’m not holding my breath.

Donald Trump declared himself a “wartime president” just three weeks ago. On Twitter, he proclaimed “WE WILL WIN THIS WAR.” At last, he seemed to grasp the gravity of the Covid-19 crisis facing the world. Bluster aside, Mr. Trump is correct: This is war, the most consequential since World War II, and he is in charge.

Unfortunately, few of his actions display the leadership we need from a wartime commander in chief who is confronting a viral version of World War III.

The United States military develops detailed war plans for combat scenarios and exercises regularly to prepare for contingencies. The Defense Department gathers intelligence, scans the globe for impending threats, pre-positions forces and equipment, stockpiles supplies and trains its forces. Maintaining readiness is the military’s most prized prerequisite for battlefield success.

In the case of coronavirus, the Trump administration shelved the war plan, or pandemic “playbook,” prepared by the Obama administration. It disbanded the National Security Council office established to provide early warning and ensure preparedness, and disregarded the intelligence community’s warnings that a global pandemic was likely. [..]

Many thousands more Americans will die unnecessarily because of the incompetence and perfidy of our “wartime president.” It’s in our common interest that Mr. Trump stop trash-talking and start leading with the decency and resolve that we deserve. But let’s not kid ourselves: Until America changes command, we are condemned to fight with the leader we have.

Michelle Cottle: Drop the Curtain on the Trump Follies

Why does the nation need to be subjected to the president’s daily carnival of misinformation, preening and political venom?

Even as the Trump administration slowly finds its footing in the war against Covid-19, one high-profile element of its response remains stubbornly awful: President Trump’s performance in the daily news briefings on the pandemic.

Early on, Mr. Trump discovered that he could use the briefings to satisfy his need for everything to be all about him. As the death toll rises, that imperative has not changed. Most nights, he comes before an uneasy public, typically for an hour or more, to spew a thick fog of self-congratulation, political attacks, misinformation and nonsense.

Since Mr. Trump took office, a debate has raged among the news media about how to cover a man-child apparently untethered from reality. But with a lethal pandemic on the prowl, the president’s insistence on grabbing center stage and deceiving the public isn’t merely endangering the metaphorical health of the Republic. It is risking the health — and lives — of millions of Americans. A better leader would curb his baser instincts in the face of this crisis. Since Mr. Trump is not wired that way, it falls to the media to serve the public interest by no longer airing his briefings live.

Robert Reich: Politicians must put public health before the economy

Bankers and billionaires urge Americans get back to work for the sake of the “economy”

Dick Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo bank, thinks most Americans should return to work in April, urging that we “gradually bring those people back and see what happens”.

Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, whose net worth is $1.1bn, recommends “those with a lower risk of the diseases return to work” within a “very few weeks”..

Tom Galisano, founder of Paychex, whose net worth is $2.8bn, believes “the damages of keeping the economy closed could be worse than losing a few more people … You’re picking the better of two evils.”

Donald Trump is concerned that a prolonged lockdown might harm his chances of reelection. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem,” he said last week. On Sunday he backed off his Easter back-to-work deadline, saying social distancing guidelines would remain in place until the end of April.

But senior public health officials including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, think this may be too soon.

America already leads the world in coronavirus cases. Dr Fauci believes we haven’t yet felt the worst of the pandemic.

It may seem logical to weigh the threat to public health against the accumulating losses to the economy, and then at some point decide economic losses outweigh health risks. As Stephen Moore, who is advising the White House, warns: “You can’t have a policy that says we’re going to save every human life at any cost, no matter how many trillions of dollars you’re talking about.”

But whose “trillions of dollars” of costs are we talking about?