Jul 21 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: To Fight the Pandemic, Here’s My Must-Do List

The Senate needs to act now. There is no time to waste.

Americans stayed at home and sacrificed for months to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. That gave us time to take the steps needed to address the pandemic — but President Trump squandered it, refusing to issue national stay-at-home guidelines, failing to set up a national testing operation and fumbling production of personal protective equipment. Now, Congress must again act as this continues to spiral out of control.

Those who frame the debate as one of health versus economics are missing the point. It is not possible to fix the economy without first containing the virus. We need a bold, ambitious legislative response that does four things: brings the virus under control; gets our schools, child care centers, businesses, and state and local governments the resources they need; addresses the burdens on communities of color; and supports struggling families who don’t know when the next paycheck will come. [..]

Our constituents are counting on us to deliver the relief they desperately need. The House passed a relief bill over two months ago. Now the Senate must act to contain the virus and to provide the funding so that our economy, our schools and our families can begin to recover. This is about saving lives and livelihoods — and we don’t have time to waste.

Paul Krugman: What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt Trump

“Slow the testing down,” he said, and it’s happening.

We’re now at the stage of the Covid-19 pandemic where Donald Trump and his allies are trying to suppress information about the coronavirus’s spread — because, of course, they are. True to form, however, they’re far behind the curve. From a political point of view (which is all they care about), their disinformation efforts are too little, too late.

Where we are: In just a few days millions of Americans are going to see a drastic fall in their incomes, as enhanced unemployment benefits expire. This calls for urgent action; but avoiding economic calamity was always going to be hard, because Republicans in general have balked at providing the aid workers idled by the pandemic need.

But now it turns out that there’s another obstacle to action: An intra-G.O.P. dispute over funding for testing and tracing of infected individuals. Even Senate Republicans support increased testing, which is desperately needed given our current situation: Surging cases have created a testing backlog, and test results are taking so long to come back that they’re effectively useless.

But Trump officials are opposed to any new money for testing. They’re barely even trying to offer excuses for their opposition, since Trump himself explained the strategy a month ago at his Tulsa rally: When you expand testing, he declared, “you’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’”

In other words, what you don’t know can’t hurt Trump.

Jamelle Bouie: The Border War in Portland


How can this be a job for Homeland Security?


omething dangerous is taking shape within the Department of Homeland Security.

We got our first glimpse of it last week in Oregon, when unidentified federal agents clad in camouflage and tactical gear descended on Portland, beat and tear-gassed protesters and pulled others into unmarked vehicles for arrest and questioning. [..]

A secretive, nationwide police force — created without congressional input or authorization, formed from highly politicized agencies, tasked with rooting out vague threats and answerable only to the president — is a nightmare out of the fever dreams of the founding generation, federalists and antifederalists alike. It’s something Americans continue to fear and for good reason. It is a power that cannot and should not exist in a democracy, lest it undermine and destroy the entire project.

Democrats, thankfully, seem to recognize this. “We live in a democracy, not a banana republic. We will not tolerate the use of Oregonians, Washingtonians — or any other Americans — as props in President Trump’s political games,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday, in a joint statement with Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. “The House is committed to moving swiftly to curb these egregious abuses of power immediately.”

But rhetoric isn’t enough. The House must act and act now. In addition to holding hearings and investigations — including eliciting testimony from Wolf and other officials — Democrats should condition final passage of its Homeland Security appropriations bill on a complete halt to operations in Portland and other cities and the dissolution of the response force. Should Democrats find themselves in control of both legislative branches and the White House next year, they should also use the opportunity to amend the relatively obscure Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which Trump has used to install loyalists in high-level positions without Senate confirmation.

Amanda Marcotte: Desperate to hide the numbers, Trump declares all-out war on testing

Trump has long believed he can make the pandemic go away by rigging the numbers — now he’s trying to end testing

In her tell-all book about being Donald Trump’s niece, “Too Much and Never Enough“, psychologist Mary Trump tells a story of how her grandfather and the president’s father, Fred Trump, would handle it when his tenants wanted the basic landlord services they were entitled to.

When one tenant repeatedly called the office to report a lack of heat, Fred paid him a visit. After knocking on the door, he removed his suit jacket, something he usually did only right before getting into bed. Once inside the apartment, which was indeed cold, he rolled up his shirtsleeves (again, something he rarely did) and told his tenant that he didn’t know what they were complaining about. “It’s like the tropics in here,” he told them.

Donald Trump clearly learned the art of gaslighting from his dear ol’ dad, a man so mean-spirited and racist that Woody Guthrie wrote a diss track about him. This belief, that any inconvenient or unflattering fact should be dealt with by pretending it doesn’t exist, is the closest thing Trump has to a guiding philosophy. So it’s no surprise that as coronavirus cases are rising around the country, due primarily to Trump’s own incompetence and malice, his strategy is to simply deny that the virus is a serious threat and do whatever he can to hide the evidence contradicting his lies.

his weekend, what was long suspected became undeniable: Trump believes he can make this coronavirus problem go away by hiding the evidence.

Catherine Rampell: Don’t pull the plug on pandemic unemployment aid

A federal program providing financial aid to 30 million jobless Americans is set to expire this week. The money has helped struggling families pay their bills and put food on the table — and kept many retailers and landlords afloat.

Unless Congress acts fast, America’s fragile economic recovery is poised to nosedive off a cliff.

Traditional state unemployment insurance benefits replace, on average, only about 40 percent of a worker’s lost wages. As concerns about the pandemic’s impact grew in March, Congress created a federal “top-up” payment to supplement state-level unemployment benefits. Congress wanted to give workers enough money to replace 100 percent of their lost wages, but embarrassingly ancient government IT systems made it virtually impossible to link benefits to a specific share of workers’ lost pay. Lawmakers instead settled on a flat $600 extra per week, for every worker, an amount chosen because it was roughly enough to make the average jobless worker whole.

Inevitably, some idled workers have been receiving more in unemployment benefits than they did in their pre-pandemic paychecks. Now, economic advisers to President Trump argue that these benefits are too generous — and are the real reason unemployment remains so high: Workers are allegedly being treated to a collective, government-sponsored vacation and refuse to return to their jobs.

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