Apr 09 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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Elizabeth Warren: Congress Needs a Plan to Confront the Coronavirus. I Have One.

Government action is essential to save lives and to rescue our economy. Let’s get back to work.

Congress has passed three coronavirus packages aimed at providing immediate relief to families, workers, hospitals and small businesses, but with more than 12,000 dead and 10 million out of work, the scale of this tragedy demands we do much more — much faster.

Communities across the country are entering a critical stage. Illnesses are mounting and our health system is stretched to the brink. Early data shows people of color are infected and dying at disproportionately high rates. Unemployment is approaching Depression-era levels. No clear end is in sight for social distancing. The next round of policymaking must squarely address these hard realities — not with a few new nibbles, but with the kind of broad, direct action needed to save lives and save our economy.

Mara Gay: New York’s Paramedics, on the Front Lines and Forgotten

Give these critical emergency workers the equipment they need and the pay they deserve.

Christell Cadet, a New York Fire Department paramedic, loves her job.

I know because she told me. When I asked her what it was like to be on the ambulance last year, she spoke of the thrill of saving a life, of racing toward danger to help when others were running away.

Christell has been on a ventilator for the better part of a month, sick with the coronavirus and fighting for her life. She is 34 years old. [..]

Much attention in this terrible pandemic is being focused on the country’s hospitals, and rightly so. But the battle is also being fought by the nation’s front-line emergency medical workers, paramedics and E.M.T.s. These skilled professionals are responding to a deluge of calls, risking their lives to aid millions of sick Americans.

In New York City, where the roughly 4,400 emergency medical workers who work for the Fire Department are already underpaid and overworked, the pandemic is taking an enormous toll.

The city’s E.M.S. workers are responding to between 6,000 and 7,000 calls a day; the previous average was about 4,000 a day.

Nearly a quarter of the city’s E.M.S. workers are on sick leave, according to Fire Department officials. At least three are in critical condition.

One question amid the shortage is how many face masks in the city’s stockpile are actually making it to the E.M.T.s, paramedics and other city workers who are most at risk. De Blasio administration officials declined to respond to repeated inquiries about how the masks and other critical medical supplies were being distributed across city agencies.

Walter Scheidel: Why the Wealthy Fear Pandemics

The coronavirus, like other plagues before it, could shift the balance between rich and poor.

In the fall of 1347, rat fleas carrying bubonic plague entered Italy on a few ships from the Black Sea. Over the next four years, a pandemic tore through Europe and the Middle East. Panic spread, as the lymph nodes in victims’ armpits and groins swelled into buboes, black blisters covered their bodies, fevers soared and organs failed. Perhaps a third of Europe’s people perished. [..]

The wealthy found some of these changes alarming. In the words of an anonymous English chronicler, “Such a shortage of laborers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages.” Influential employers, such as large landowners, lobbied the English crown to pass the Ordinance of Laborers, which informed workers that they were “obliged to accept the employment offered” for the same measly wages as before.

But as successive waves of plague shrunk the work force, hired hands and tenants “took no notice of the king’s command,” as the Augustinian clergyman Henry Knighton complained. “If anyone wanted to hire them he had to submit to their demands, for either his fruit and standing corn would be lost or he had to pander to the arrogance and greed of the workers.” [..]

In looking for illumination from the past on our current pandemic, we must be wary of superficial analogies. Even in the worst-case scenario, Covid-19 will kill a far smaller share of the world’s population than any of these earlier disasters did, and it will touch the active work force and the next generation even more lightly. Labor won’t become scarce enough to drive up wages, nor will the value of real estate plummet. And our economies no longer rely on farmland and manual labor.

Yet the most important lesson of history endures. The impact of any pandemic goes well beyond lives lost and commerce curtailed. Today, America faces a fundamental choice between defending the status quo and embracing progressive change. The current crisis could prompt redistributive reforms akin to those triggered by the Great Depression and World War II, unless entrenched interests prove too powerful to overcome.

Linda Greenhouse: The Supreme Court Fails Us

The five conservative justices refused to extend the deadline for absentee ballots in Wisconsin in the middle of the pandemic.

The Supreme Court just met its first test of the coronavirus era. It failed, spectacularly.

I was hoping not to have to write those sentences. All day Monday, I kept refreshing my computer’s link to the court’s website.

I was anxious to see how the justices would respond to the urgent request from the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature to stop the state from counting absentee ballots postmarked not by Tuesday’s election but during the following few days. [..]

In early evening, the answer landed with a thud. No, they would not.

In more than four decades of studying and writing about the Supreme Court, I’ve seen a lot (and yes, I’m thinking of Bush v. Gore). But I’ve rarely seen a development as disheartening as this one: a squirrelly, intellectually dishonest lecture in the form of an unsigned majority opinion, addressed to the four dissenting justices (Need I name them? Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), about how “this court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter the election rules on the eve of an election.”

Let’s think about that. “Ordinarily not alter”?

Charles M. Blow: Focus the Covid-19 Fight in Black Cities

Let’s concentrate on where the need has been shown to be greatest.

This is less of a newspaper column for general readers than an open letter to public health officials in America — a missive, really: Figure out if majority-black cities are suffering more than others, and if so focus a significant part of your fight against the coronavirus, both resources and research, there.

The reason: Of the limited race-specific data we have so far, some of the greatest death disparities we’ve seen, where black people are dying at much higher rates than their percentage of the population, are in majority-black cities.

This week, New York City finally got around to releasing race-specific data. This revealed a disproportionate impact on both black and Hispanic people, but the disparities were not as great as in some other cities.

Black people make up 22 percent of the population of New York City, but represent 28 percent of the deaths from the virus. Hispanics make up 29 percent of the city, but represent 34 percent of the deaths. (Even without large disparities, the numbers are big because there are millions of black and Hispanic people in the city.)

Now compare that to the breathtaking numbers we are seeing from cities with a black majority or plurality — New Orleans, Milwaukee, Chicago — where black people represent 70 to 80 percent of the deaths, though their percentages of the population don’t come close to that.