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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Paul Krugman: Democrats, Debt and Double Standards

Much of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was devoted to describing the menaces he claims face America — mainly the menace of scary brown people, but also the menace of socialism. And there has been a lot of discussion in the news media of what he said on those topics.

There has, however, been little coverage of one of the most revealing aspects of the SOTU: what Trump said about the menace of America’s historically large government debt.

But wait, you may object — he didn’t say anything about debt. Indeed he didn’t — not one word. But that’s what was so revealing.

After all, Republicans spent the entire Obama administration inveighing constantly about the dangers of debt, warning that America faced a looming crisis unless deficits were drastically reduced. Now that they’re in power, however — and with the deficit surging thanks to a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich — they’ve totally dropped the subject.

According to ABC News, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, explained to G.O.P. members of Congress why debt wouldn’t get a single mention in the SOTU: “Nobody cares.”

And you know, he’s kind of right. It’s not just Republicans who suddenly seemed to stop caring about debt. For years deficit scolds dominated discourse inside the Beltway; much of the news media treated the urgency of fiscal austerity as an unquestioned fact, abandoning the usual rules of reportorial neutrality and plunging into outright advocacy. Yet since Trump’s election those voices have become oddly muted.

What we’ve just seen confirmed, then, is what some of us were trying to tell you from the beginning: All that wailing about debt was hypocritical.

Jamelle Bouie: Trump’s Trail of Fears

The president, channeling his hero Andrew Jackson, continues to champion a particularly virulent form of reactionary white majoritarianism.

On Saturday, after Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts formally announced her campaign to oust President Trump from the White House, he took aim at her on Twitter.

“Today, Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” he said, making a strange, meta-textual reference to his previous tweets before launching into his usual mockery of Ms. Warren’s claims to Native heritage. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz.”

Most observers took “trail” as a deliberate reference to the “Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation throughout the 1830s of several southeastern Native American tribes from their ancestral lands to what would become northeastern Oklahoma. The strongest evidence for this reading is the reaction from supporters. One pro-Trump tweeter directly mentioned the “Native American genocide.” Trump’s oldest son shared similar comments, calling the jab “savage.” [..]

We don’t need further evidence of Trump’s cruelty or racism. But there are moments in his rhetorical flourishes when those qualities come into clear view. At those times it’s worth focusing on his comments, not as fodder for self-satisfied moral condemnation, but to have a better understanding of the ideas and pathologies he channels and brings to the surface of the national conversation. To that end, his expressions of anti-Native racism are worth a closer look.

Eugene Dionne: Virginia’s leaders are hunkering down. Investigate them all.

The decision by Virginia’s top three elected officials, all Democrats, to hunker down and cling to their jobs is bad for both the state and the party. If they won’t go, the only thing to do is investigate them all.

Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark R. Herring have all forfeited the public’s trust and should resign. That would create an unprecedented political mess — but it’s useless to speculate what might happen next, since all three are staying put. They seem to have decided there is safety in numbers.

I don’t see any way, realistically, that anyone can force them to leave, at least not yet. Under the state constitution, elected leaders can be impeached for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor.” But the officials are in trouble for things that transpired — or, in Fairfax’s case, allegedly did — long before taking office. And no one has any idea what the burden of proof would be in a trial before the state Senate.

Robert Reich: Trump offers socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else

“America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump declared in his State of the Union address. Someone should alert Trump that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it is socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. That pretty much describes the $21bn saved by the nation’s largest banks last year thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, some of which went into massive bonuses for bank executives. On the other hand, more than 4,000 lower-level bank employees got a big dose of harsh capitalism. They lost their jobs. [..]

Trump and his appointees at the Federal Reserve are easing bank requirements put in place after the bailout. They’ll make sure the biggest banks remain too big to fail.

Trump is promoting socialism for the rich and harsh capitalism for everyone else in other ways. GM has got more than $600m in federal contracts, plus $500m in tax breaks. Some of this has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22m in total compensation in 2017 alone.

But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

Amanda Marcotte: Virginia’s garbage fire: This is why the decline of local journalism is a national disaster

here’s much that’s astonishing about the enormous scandal consuming Virginia politics right now, in which the Democratic governor and both of the Democrats behind him in line of succession are embroiled in what may be career-ending scandals. Blackface photos, sexual assault allegations, the threat that Gov. Ralph Northam might moonwalk in public: It’s by turns terrifying and ridiculous. But perhaps the most astonishing part, for most people involved or watching from afar, is this: How it can possibly be that all three of these Democratic elected officials — the top three in a middle-sized state right next to the nation’s capital — are confronting these scandals all at once?

Well, experts in journalism say, buckle up, because things are likely to get worse. The Virginia scandal is a reflection of a larger trend where politics will be driven more and more by revelations, gotcha moments and resulting scandals. The decline in robust, in-depth journalism, particularly on the local level — coupled with the rise of social media and well-funded partisan opposition research — is creating an atmosphere where political scandals, legitimate or not, will increasingly dominate politics and media.