Apr 15 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: Economists Aren’t the Ones Pushing to Reopen the Economy

On cronies, cranks and the coronavirus.

Trying to predict Trump administration actions really is like Kremlinology, updated for the age of social media. There’s clearly no formal policy process; Donald Trump acts on impulse and intuition, often shaped either by whomever he last met or what he last saw on Fox News, making no use of the vast expertise he could call on if he were willing to listen. Those of us on the outside, and from all accounts, even many people within the administration try to infer what’s coming next from tweets and statements by people presumed to be in favor at the moment. [..]

No, this push to reopen is coming not from economists but from cranks and cronies. That is, it’s coming on one side from people who may describe themselves as economists but whom the professionals consider cranks — people like Navarro or Stephen Moore, who Trump tried unsuccessfully to appoint to the Federal Reserve Board. And on the other, it’s coming from business types with close ties to Trump who suffer from billionaire’s disease — the tendency to assume that just because you’re rich you’re also smarter than anyone else, even in areas like epidemiology (or, dare I say it, macroeconomics) that require a great deal of technical expertise.

And Trump, of course, who was planning to run on the strength of the economy, desperately wants to wish the coronavirus away.

Nicholas Kristof: Trump’s Deadly Search for a Scapegoat

If the president had listened to the World Health Organization, American lives would have been saved.

Thousands of Americans would be alive today if President Trump had spent more time listening to the World Health Organization instead of trying to destroy it.

Trump’s announcement that he will halt American funding for the W.H.O. just as the world is facing a raging pandemic is a dangerous attempt to find a scapegoat for his own failings. It is like taking away a fire department’s trucks in the middle of a blaze. [..]

If I seem angry, it’s because I’ve seen too many women dying in childbirth in poor countries, too many children dying of diarrhea, too much leprosy. Gutting the W.H.O. will mean more kids dying of malnutrition, more moms dying of cervical cancer, and the coronavirus infecting more people in more countries — impairing the pandemic response, which may well cost even more American lives. And all because an American president is seeking a scapegoat for his own ineptitude.

Yes, Americans have died unnecessarily from Covid-19, and I’ve been seared by my own reporting in “hot zones” of New York hospitals. But if Trump insists on holding people accountable, he needn’t denounce the W.H.O. He can gaze in the mirror.

George Conway: Trump simply doesn’t understand his job

Among Donald Trump’s many flaws as president is one that’s as fundamental as any: He simply doesn’t understand his job. When he ran a private company, one he owned, Trump could command all its constituent parts to do his bidding and make the rules himself. You’d think by his fourth year in the White House, he would have learned that the presidency doesn’t work that way. But obviously he hasn’t. [..]

Trump would do well to learn these basic tenets of American constitutional law, if only because it’s his job to follow them, and because doing so would make him a more effective president. But Trump still thinks that he, alone, has ultimate authority to call all the shots — much as he did on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. And it’ll never be otherwise. Because the one thing Trump will never be able to accept about the exalted office he holds is that, unlike his company, it doesn’t belong to him.

Richard Cordray: Three reasons consumers can’t bring the economy back from covid-19

Public officials trying to balance health and safety with economic well-being are working on plans to “reopen” the U.S. economy. Beyond the questions of when and how reopening could safely occur is the critical issue of what shape it might take. Will we have a sharp, V-shaped recovery, as some are hopefully predicting, or will the new normal be more sluggish and discouraging? Consumers, who have always been critical to the economy, are unlikely to be able to propel it forward from this crisis even after the covid-19 threat has receded.


A big clue to what may happen lies in the economic expansion the United States enjoyed for the past 11 years, coming out of the Great Recession. The economy’s positive trajectory was largely due to U.S. consumers, whose spending levels fueled a steady rise in gross domestic product. Consumer spending and consumer confidence held up admirably through dips in the world economy, large swings in energy prices, an ebbing of business investment and the uncertainty of tariff wars, thus enabling the U.S. economy to weather these storms.

But there are three major reasons that U.S. consumers — the backbone of the economy at all times, with consumer spending amounting to two-thirds of GDP — are likely to come out of the covid-19 crisis no longer able, or willing, to bear the same load as before. That means that Wall Street investors counting on ordinary families to continue propping up the business cycle are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Michael McFaul: We need to start preparing for the November election — now

The presidential election on Nov. 3 will be one the most consequential votes in the history of American democracy. Make no mistake: this is not just an election about differing policies. Nor is it only about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. The very legitimacy of our system is at stake — with profound consequences for the future of global democracy and the United States’ place in the world.

To meet the most minimal definition of democracy, a country must conduct elections that meet several fundamental conditions. The elections must be competitive, free and fair. Everyone must accept the rules of the election beforehand, including the timing of the vote. And losers must accept the results.

Though American democracy has fallen short of the higher standards of liberal democracy in the past and today — especially regarding disenfranchisement — the U.S. system has met this minimalist definition of democracy for a long time. The exceptional conditions of the current moment, though, mean that we are at risk of failing to meet this minimal threshold of a democratic system of government.