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: How Goes the Trade War?
Consumers, not foreigners, are paying the Trump tariffs.
Say this for Donald Trump: He’s provided us with many iconic quotations, which will surely be repeated in histories and textbooks for decades if not generations to come. Unfortunately, they’ll be repeated because they are extremely clear examples of bad ideas.
In economics, the line you hear most is Trump’s declaration that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Coming in second is his assertion that “I am a Tariff Man,” coupled with the claim that foreigners pay the tariffs he has been imposing.
Now, that last claim is something you can test. Over the course of 2018 Trump imposed tariffs on about 12 percent of total U.S. imports, and many of those tariffs have been in effect long enough that we can get a first read on their consequences.
On Saturday economists from Columbia, Princeton, and the New York Federal Reserve released a paper, “The impact of the 2018 trade war on U.S. prices and welfare,” that used detailed import data to assess the tariffs’ impact. (The paper, by the way, is a beautiful piece of work.) The conclusion: to a first approximation, foreigners paid none of the bill, U.S. companies and consumers paid all of it. And the losses to U.S. consumers exceeded the revenue from the new tariffs, so the tariffs made America poorer overall.
How did they get this result? The U.S. government collects data on the prices and quantities of many categories of imports. Many of these categories faced new tariffs, but many others didn’t. So you can compare what happened to the tariffed imports to the de facto control group of untouched imports; this tells you the impact of the tariffs.
The United States is now headed by someone pathologically incapable of admitting defeat. This doesn’t bode well for the 2020 presidential election
Among the most chilling words uttered this week by Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, were “given my experience working for Mr Trump I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power, and this is why I agreed to appear before you today”.
Cohen should know better than anyone, but we already had reason to worry. In 2016, when polls showed Hillary Clinton with a wide lead, Trump claimed the election was rigged against him.
He refused to commit to honoring the election results if he lost, warning that he’d “reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.” He added that he’d accept the results of the election “if I win”. [..]
We should take seriously Michael Cohen’s admonition that if Trump is defeated in 2020, he will not leave office peacefully.
Republican leaders as well as supreme court justices and civic and religious leaders across the land must be prepared to assert the primacy of our system of government over the will of the man who refuses to lose.
Cynthia Nixon: Mike Pence isn’t ‘decent.’ He’s insidious.
Speaking at a forum in Omaha on Thursday, Joe Biden called Vice President Pence “a decent guy.”
When a chorus of progressives and LGBTQ activists, including myself, pointed out that a man who has built his career on homophobia and misogyny cannot possibly be considered “decent,” some dismissed it as just outrage Twitter. While Biden later walked back his comments and acknowledged that “there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights,” I think it’s important to explain why calling Pence “a decent guy” is an affront to the real meaning of the word.
While I like and admire much about Biden personally and politically, especially his championing of the Violence Against Women Act, when he talks about Pence being “a decent guy,” he is putting politeness over policy. In effect, he is saying that Pence’s record doesn’t matter. So let’s talk about that record. [..]
There is a sense among genteel Washington that partisanship is rude and boorish. But when you’re fighting for the rights of marginalized communities who are under attack, it’s okay to stop being polite. This is not a time for hollow civility. This is a time to fight. If Democrats are too wedded to the collegiality of the Senate dining room to call out the Republicans who espouse homophobia, how are we ever going to stop them?
Harold Meyerson: Why the Republicans’ New “Red Scare” Tactics Ring False
The annual Conservative Political Action Conference—a reliable index of far-right apprehensions—rolled into Washington last week, proclaiming long and loud the new Republican mantra: If we don’t reelect Donald Trump, neo-Stalinism will befall us!
Speaker after speaker told the assembled faithful what President Trump had intimated in his State of the Union address: Republicans in 2020 plan to run against Democrats as though they were Stalin or (the pre-Trump) Kim Jong Un. White House economist Larry Kudlow urged Republicans to “put socialism on trial.” And Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel advocated an education campaign: “We can’t think that the American people understand what socialism is. We have to go out and educate people. We need to talk about Venezuela.”
Wherein lies the Republicans’ problem: The Soviet Union, and its brand of communism—which virtually all Americans had both heard of and disliked—is long gone (replaced, in Russia, by kleptocratic authoritarianism and in China by Leninist capitalism). Moreover, American business (Wall Street in particular) has been soft on China for the last 30 years, and just last week, President Trump even recommended to his North Korean BFF that he’d do well to model his country on Vietnam, which is still under strict Communist control.
It’s not surprising that the GOP would rely on a playbook that has worked well for them in the past, especially when they don’t need to sway a majority of Americans—only a large enough group to swing a couple of key states. But it’s a far riskier strategy now than it was in the past.
Steve Singer: Betsy DeVos’ Right-Wing School Indoctrination Program
The billionaire heiress who bought her position as Donald Trump’s Education Secretary plans to spend $5 billion of your tax dollars on private, religious, and parochial schools
What do you do when thinking people reject your political ideology?
You get rid of thinking people.
That’s Betsy DeVos’ plan to rejuvenate and renew the Republican Party.
The billionaire heiress who bought her position as Donald Trump’s Education Secretary plans to spend $5 billion of your tax dollars on private, religious, and parochial schools.
This would be federal tax credits to fund scholarships to private and religious institutions—school vouchers in all but name.
It’s a federal child indoctrination program to ensure that the next generation has an increasing number of voters who think science is a lie, white supremacy is heritage and the Bible is history—you know, people just gullible enough to believe a reality show TV star who regularly cheats on his many wives with porn stars is God’s chosen representative on Earth. A measure to make child kidnapping, imprisonment, and wrongful death seem like a measured response to backward immigration policy. A measure to make collusion and fraternization with the world’s worst dictators and strongmen seem like global pragmatism.
To make matters even more galling, consider the timing of DeVos’ proposal.