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: Trump, Trade and the Advantage of Autocrats

There’s been some good news on global trade lately: A full-scale U.S.-China trade war appears to be on hold, and may be avoided altogether.

The bad news is that if we do make a trade deal with China, it will basically be because the Chinese are offering Donald Trump a personal political payoff. At the same time, a much more dangerous trade conflict with Europe is looming. And the Europeans, who still have this peculiar thing called rule of law, can’t bribe their way to trade peace. [..]

What was the motivation for these tariffs? Remarkably, there doesn’t seem to be any strong constituency demanding protectionism; if anything, major industries have been lobbying against Trump’s trade moves, and the stock market clearly dislikes trade conflict, going down when tensions rise and recovering when they ease.

So trade conflict is essentially Trump’s personal vendetta — one that he is able to pursue because U.S. international trade law gives the president enormous discretion to impose tariffs on a variety of grounds. Predicting trade policy is therefore about figuring out what’s going on in one man’s mind.

Michelle Goldberg: The Republicans of Gilead

In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret Atwood’s ever-resonant tale of misogynist dystopia, Christian fascism has a sordid, perverse underbelly. On the surface, the Republic of Gilead, Atwood’s imaginary successor to America, is a place of totalitarian religious austerity. But as the book’s enslaved narrator discovers, the society’s leaders also maintain a brothel, Jezebel’s, full of women who couldn’t fit into the new order. It’s the inevitable flip side of a regime that dehumanizes women, reducing them to their reproductive organs. “Nature demands variety, for men,” says a character called the Commander.

Donald Trump’s administration turns the Gilead model upside down. Its public image is louche and decadent, with tabloid scandal swirling around the president and many of his associates. This can make it hard to focus on the unprecedented lengths the administration is going to curtail American women’s reproductive rights and enrich the anti-abortion movement.

On Friday, the Trump administration escalated its war on Planned Parenthood and the women who use it. It released a rule prohibiting Title X, a federal family-planning program that serves around four million low-income women, from funding organizations that also provide abortions. Further, the administration instituted an American version of the global gag rule, barring doctors and nurses receiving Title X funds from making abortion referrals to their patients except in certain emergency situations.

Jamelle Bouie: The Administration You Save May Be Your Own

Almost none of the Democratic senators running for president want to abolish the filibuster. [..]

It’s easy to understand their reticence. Without the legislative filibuster to constrain them, Republicans would have repealed the Affordable Care Act. And with the judicial filibuster, Democrats might have kept President Trump’s most objectionable nominees off the federal bench, Supreme Court included.

To take these victories as reason to keep the filibuster is to mistake the consolation prize for the first place trophy. Progressives have occasionally used the filibuster for their own ends, but for most of its modern history it has been a tool of reactionary obstruction. Whatever protection it provides — supermajority votes may give a conservative Supreme Court pause before striking down progressive legislation — is outweighed by the incredible burden it places on governance and the ways in which it damages democratic accountability from the public’s point of view. Ending the filibuster comes with risks, but those pale in comparison to the damage it will do to a future Democratic presidency, should the party win the White House and the Senate in 2020.

Eugene Robinson: Trump wants to Make America White Again. The Oscars show why he’ll fail.

“Let’s all be on the right side of history,” a jubilant Spike Lee said Sunday night as he accepted his Oscar. He needn’t have worried. Hollywood seems to have gotten the message.

For the most part, at least.

I’d have preferred seeing the biggest award, best picture, go to Lee’s razor-sharp “BlacKkKlansman” (because of its excellence) or even the comic-book extravaganza “Black Panther” (because of its massive impact on the movie business) rather than the actual winner, “Green Book.” But think about it: Of the eight best-picture nominees, three black-themed films? Plus Alfonso Cuarón’s lyrical “Roma,” about a dark-skinned indigenous maid working in Mexico City?

Hollywood finally managed to produce an awards show that might legitimately be called Oscars Not-So-White. The broadcast, blessedly lacking a host, featured such a diverse group of presenters and winners that at times it almost looked like the NAACP Image Awards, or perhaps the Hispanic Heritage Awards. Actor Samuel L. Jackson handed the gold statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay to his friend Lee, who leaped into Jackson’s arms. Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro opened the Best Director envelope and was delighted to see “a name I can pronounce,” that of Cuarón.

Only the best-picture award to “Green Book” reminded us that the motion picture industry’s wokeness is a work in progress.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Let’s fight for universal child care

A few weeks ago, Nation columnist Katha Pollitt wrote a compelling New York Times piece endorsing “day care for all.” Noting that child care is “one of the biggest costs a family faces,” often surpassing even college tuition, Pollitt argued that a lack of affordable child care is a problem on par with challenges that receive far more attention from leading progressives. “So why isn’t it on the front burner of the revitalized left?” she asked.

The question turned out to be prescient. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled her proposal for universal child care in the United States. While other candidates have discussed the need for affordable child care — and it was one of Hillary Clinton’s priorities in 2016 — Warren’s plan is clearly the most ambitious proposal to date. It would establish a network of federally funded, locally run child-care centers across the nation. Enrollment would be completely free for millions of children and affordable for all, with the total cost per family capped at 7 percent of a family’s income, no matter the number of kids. The centers would be staffed by qualified care providers, who would be paid similarly to teachers. Access would be guaranteed, but families with the means to choose other options would be free to do so. And it would be fully paid for with revenue from the wealth tax Warren has called for on households with a net worth greater than $50 million.