Jan 22 2021

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.

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Paul Krugman: The Corrupt, the Clueless and Joe Biden

Unity is a fine goal, but don’t expect much cooperation.

The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was an astonishingly emotional moment. I know I wasn’t alone in suddenly, unexpectedly finding myself tearing up. For a little while it felt as if we were living in a dream — a dream about the nation we should be, a land of decency, honesty, justice and unity in diversity. (E pluribus unum, to coin a phrase.)

But now the work begins, and it won’t be easy. Biden spoke movingly about unity, but let’s face it: He won’t sway many people in the other party.

Some, perhaps most, of the opposition he’ll face will come from people who are deeply corrupt. And even among Republicans acting in good faith he’ll have to contend with deep-seated cluelessness, the result of the intellectual bubble the right has lived in for many years.

Let’s start with the face of corruption: Ted Cruz. OK, there are other prominent Republicans just as bad or worse — hello, Josh Hawley. But Cruz epitomizes the bad faith Biden will have to contend with.

Jamelle Bouie: We Have to Make the Republican Party Less Dangerous

The crisis Trump set in motion is far from over.

In his Inaugural Address on Wednesday, Joe Biden said that after four years of Trumpian chaos — including two months of thrashing against the results of the election, culminating in an attack on the Capitol itself — “democracy” had “prevailed.” But it might have been better, if inappropriate to the moment, for the new president to have said that democracy had “survived.”

In so many ways, Donald Trump was a stress test for our democracy. And as we begin to assess the damage from his time in office, it’s clear we did not do especially well. [..]

Yes, we held an election, and yes, Trump actually left the White House — the Secret Service did not have to drag him out. But the difference between our reality and one where Trump overturned a narrow result in Biden’s favor is just a few tens of thousands of votes across a handful of states. If it were Pennsylvania or Arizona alone that meant the difference between victory and defeat, are we so sure that Republican election officials would have resisted the overwhelming pressure of the president and his allies? Are we absolutely confident the Supreme Court would not have intervened? Do we think the Republican Party wouldn’t have done everything it could to keep Trump in the White House?

We don’t have to speculate too much. At points before the election, key actors signaled some willingness to stand with Trump should the results come close enough to seriously contest. And recent reporting from Axios shows that the plan, from the start, was to try to use any ambiguity in the results to claim victory, even if Trump lacked the votes.

We were saved, in short, by the point spread. This does not reflect well on American democracy. But it does make clear the source of our dysfunction: the Republican Party.

Catherine Rampell: Right on schedule, Republicans pretend to care about deficits again

It never fails: As soon as a Democrat enters the White House, the fiscal hawks return.

It’s almost like clockwork. As soon as a Democrat enters the White House, Republicans pretend to care about deficits again.

“The one thing that concerns me that nobody seems to be talking about anymore is the massive amount of debt that we continue to rack up as a nation,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) complained during a confirmation hearing this week for Treasury Secretary-nominee Janet Yellen. “For me,” he continued, “that is a huge warning sign on the horizon, the fact that we have an ever-growing deficit, an ever-growing debt and no apparent interest in taking the steps that are necessary to address it.” [..]

The nation does indeed face long-term structural budgetary problems. (Exactly when those problems will become painful remains a matter of ongoing debate.) But the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining, as budget-watchers and economists repeatedly reminded developed countries in the years between the last recession and the current one.

The United States, unlike some other advanced economies, refused to listen. Instead of getting our fiscal house in order, we let the roof rot further.

Now the U.S. economy actually needs more federal spending, and President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion plan to provide it. Biden has asked Congress for more money for vaccines; child-care facilities; state and local aid; unemployment benefit extensions; food stamps; and other aid for the needy, hungry and near-homeless.

The proposal is not perfect, to be sure. Some elements could be better targeted (e.g., the proposed phaseout of expanded stimulus checks should be more tailored to assist those who actually need the money). But the greater risk now, as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and others have warned in recent months, is that policymakers will do too little, rather than too much, to prevent permanent damage to the country’s productive capacity.

And in any event, Republicans objecting to Biden’s proposal are not making narrow critiques about technical design. They seem to be writing off the need for more relief entirely, at least now that a Democrat is president.

Jennifer Rubin: Biden’s approach to covid-19: Flood the zone

The new administration is not holding back from the public and media.

If the prior administration’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic consisted of doing as little as possible, letting the president subsume experts and trying to get by on “happy talk,” the Biden administration’s plan seems to be to do as much as possible, let the experts talk and lower expectations for a fast turnaround. That was certainly in evidence on Thursday.

The administration released another flurry of executive orders in addition to a nearly 200-page plan for addressing the pandemic. The Post reports: “The replacement plan synthesizes many of the goals and strategies for fighting the coronavirus that [President Biden] has mapped out in the weeks and days leading to his inauguration, including in a $1.9 trillion request to Congress for these efforts and to hasten the nation’s economic recovery.” While Biden described a variety of steps his administration will take — from reimbursement to states for their use of the National Guard to coordination with pharmacies to mandating worker safety for front-line workers — he warned, “Let me be very clear, things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” He also stressed that public health officials will “work free from political interference and that they make decisions strictly based on science and health care alone, science and health alone, not what the political consequences are.” [..]

The bottom line is that for all the activity and information, the administration ultimately will be judged on what it does. The most the members of Biden team can do at this point is establish trust, give a sense of urgency to covid-19 vaccinations and testing, and apply pressure on Congress to get cracking on funding. So far, they seem to be hitting their marks.

Robert Reich: Biden cannot govern from the center – ending Trumpism means radical action

This Republican party traffics in conspiracy and thuggery – the new president must be bold on healthcare, equality and more

I keep hearing that Joe Biden will govern from the “center”. He has no choice, they say, because he will have razor-thin majorities in Congress and the Republican party has moved to the right.

Rubbish. I’ve served several Democratic presidents who have needed Republican votes. But the Republicans now in Congress are nothing like those I’ve dealt with. Most of today’s GOP live in a parallel universe. There’s no “center” between the reality-based world and theirs. [..]

his is the culmination of the growing insanity of the GOP over the last four years. Trump has remade the Republican party into a white supremacist cult living within a counter-factual wonderland of lies and conspiracies.

More than half of Republican voters – almost 40 million people – believe Trump won the 2020 race; 45% support the storming of the Capitol; 57% say he should be the Republican candidate in 2024.

In this hermetically sealed cosmos, most Republicans believe Black Lives Matter protesters are violent, immigrants are dangerous and the climate crisis doesn’t pose a threat. A growing fringe openly talks of redressing grievances through violence, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, of whom two are newly elected to Congress, who think Democrats are running a global child sex-trafficking operation.

How can Biden possibly be a “centrist” in this new political world?

There is no middle ground between lies and facts. There is no halfway point between civil discourse and violence. There is no midrange between democracy and fascism.