Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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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Jamelle Bouie: Trump’s Wall of Shame

The wall of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency has always operated both as a discrete proposal — an actual structure to be built under his leadership — and as a symbol with a clear meaning. Whether praised by its supporters or condemned by its opponents, the wall is a stand-in for the larger promise of broad racial (and religious) exclusion and domination.

It’s no surprise, then, that some Americans use “Build the wall” as a racist chant, much like the way they invoke the president’s name. And it’s also why, despite the pain and distress of the extended government shutdown, Democrats are right to resist any deal with the White House that includes funding for its construction. [..]

But the paramount reason for resisting this deal, and any other, is what it would mean symbolically to erect the wall or any portion of it. Like Trump himself, it would represent a repudiation of the pluralism and inclusivity that characterizes America at its best. It would stand as a lasting reminder of the white racial hostility surging through this moment in American history, a monument to this particular drive to preserve the United States as a white man’s country.

In fact, you can almost think of the wall as a modern-day Confederate monument, akin to those erected during a similar but far more virulent period of racist aggression in the first decades of the 20th century.

Paul Krugman: The Sum of Some Global Fears

The last global economic crisis, for all its complex detail, had one big, simple cause: A huge housing and debt bubble had emerged in both the United States and Europe, and it took the world economy down when it deflated.

The previous, milder recession, in 2001, also had a single cause: the bursting of a bubble in technology stocks and investment (remember Pets.com?).

But the slump before that, in 1990-91, was a messier story. It was a smorgasbord recession — a downturn with multiple causes, ranging from the troubles of savings and loan institutions, to a glut of office buildings, to falling military spending at the end of the Cold War.

The best guess is that the next downturn will similarly involve a mix of troubles, rather than one big thing. And over the past few months we’ve started to see how it could happen. It’s by no means certain that a recession is looming, but some of our fears are beginning to come true.

Right now, I see four distinct threats to the world economy. (I may be missing others.)

Eugene Robinson: Pelosi is schooling Trump. He’s a slow learner.

Contrary to legend, Marie Antoinette probably never actually said “let them eat cake.” The Trump administration is saying it loud and clear, though, to government workers who have now gone more than a month without a paycheck.

“I don’t really quite understand why” unpaid employees are resorting to food pantries and other forms of charity, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday. They should just take out loans from banks or credit unions to pay for necessities, he advised. Of course they’d have to pay some interest, but “there’s no reason why some institution wouldn’t be willing to lend.”

Ross, who is a billionaire, should try supporting a family on less than $45,000 a year, like most Transportation Security Administration airport agents do. He would be shocked to learn that banks do not treat every prospective borrower the same. Where is the red carpet? Why are rose petals not being strewn in my path? What do you mean by “no”?

At least Ross didn’t advise unpaid employees to do what President Trump did whenever his real estate schemes threatened to collapse in ruin: borrow millions of dollars from Dad.[..]

This is the heartless, clueless worldview with which Republicans in Congress have aligned themselves. They demonstrate no sympathy whatsoever for the 800,000 government employees — plus the likely thousands of contract workers — who are being made to suffer because Trump does not understand how the Constitution works.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is teaching the president, but he’s a slow learner.

Michelle Goldberg: Who Needs a Paycheck Anyway?

The shutdown reveals the administration’s callous elitism.

On Thursday morning, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — a man whose extraordinarily shady financial history doesn’t get the attention it deserves — appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” to talk about the government shutdown. He expressed bafflement at the idea of unpaid federal workers suffering financial hardship, wondering why they don’t just take out loans. [..]

A few hours later, Larry Kudlow, director of Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, told reporters that federal employees forced to work without pay were “volunteering.” He added, as he stumbled to clarify, that they’re doing it out of their love of country “and presumably their allegiance to President Trump.” (If they don’t work they can be fired.) [..]

As people miss payments on their bills, the financial aftershocks could stay with them long after the government reopens, assuming it eventually does. Diane Standaert of the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending says there’s a risk of “long-term devastation to people’s financial security.” A missed rent payment or bill can damage someone’s credit report for years, which in turn can make it harder to get a mortgage or rent an apartment. Some employers even check applicants’ credit history when making hiring decisions.

Ordinarily, one might expect a presidential administration’s leading economic figures to understand something of these financial realities. But if they cared about people who aren’t rich, they wouldn’t be working for Trump in the first place. The shocking thing isn’t their indifference to the misery they’re causing. It’s that they can barely be bothered to hide it.

Jill Richardson: The Transgender Ban Is About Bigotry and Distraction

The Supreme Court just paved the way for Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to move ahead, at least pending other court challenges. The ban will harm the military and help no one, while doing nothing to address the nation’s real problems.

I’m neither transgender nor in the military, but I count several trans people, including trans vets, among my closest friends. I can’t speak for them. I can, however, speak as their friend — and as a sociologist who teaches about gender at the college level.

Trump cites the cost of medical care for transgender people undergoing transition as the reason for his ban. Yet many transgender people never have surgery, and those who do may wait until after they’re finished serving in the military to do it.

Hormone treatments and gender confirmation surgeries for transgender service members together are estimated to cost $8.4 million annually at most — that’s five times less than the military spends on Viagra. And it’s nearly 200 times less than the Department of Defense spends on health care and lost days of work due to smoking.

And yet service personnel are allowed to smoke. In fact, service members at many commands often have an entire culture built around enabling tobacco use, despite all of the costs. If this were actually about the cost of military health care, perhaps a smoking cessation program would be a better option than a transgender ban.