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: The Republican War on Democracy


If you can’t win playing by the rules, you change them.

The demographic changes coming over the next few decades — the continuing rise of a more diverse electorate, with more liberal views than previous generations — won’t destroy the Republican Party or make it electorally insolvent. But it may make right-wing conservatism a rump ideology, backed primarily

by a declining minority of older rural and exurban white voters. You can already see this taking shape. Among the youngest Republicans, 52 percent say the government should be “doing more” to solve problems, as opposed to 23 percent of Republican baby boomers.

In this environment, the only way to preserve right-wing conservatism in American government is to rig the system against this new electorate. You tilt the field in favor of constituencies that still back traditional Republican conservatism in order to build a foundation for durable minority rule by those groups. In just the last week, we’ve gotten a glimpse of what this rigging looks like in practice. [..]

It’s clear, then, that from the White House and its allies on the Supreme Court down to individual state lawmakers, conservative Republicans have decided that their agenda cannot survive fair competition on equal ground. They reject efforts at electoral expansion — early voting, automatic registration and mail-in balloting — and embrace strategies that put the burden on voters themselves.

Americans have long struggled over the scope of voting and representation. Democracy is — and always will be — a fight. And the lines of this particular conflict are clear. Rather than try to expand our democracy or even preserve it as it stands, Republicans are fighting for a smaller, narrower one that favors their voters over all others so that their power and the interests they serve become untouchable.

Steve Rattner: Don’t Let Trump Mess With the Fed

Steady leadership at the Federal Reserve is keeping the economy on track.

Once again, the Federal Reserve has regrettably become a favorite whipping boy.

President Trump has been lobbying it to lower interest rates, even though the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent. Progressives are still complaining that the central bank didn’t do enough to stimulate the economy in the wake of the 2008 recession.

More worrisome, Mr. Trump has been attacking the Fed’s actions with more vitriol than any previous president in memory while proposing two highly partisan and unqualified nominees to join a distinguished board that has historically been free of any political agenda.

The policy critics on both sides are about as wrong as imaginable. And above all, we need to guard the independence of the central bank, the most important government institution that has not been divided by the deep partisanship so evident elsewhere.

In an era when even the Supreme Court divides routinely along ideological lines, the Fed still maintains an analytical and, as the former chairman Janet Yellen liked to say, data dependent approach to policymaking.


Matt Brueneg: Universal Health Care Might Cost You Less Than You Think


We don’t think of the premiums we already pay as taxes, but maybe we should.

As the national debate about health care kicks off ahead of the 2020 presidential election, we’re going to be hearing a lot about the costs of increasingly popular progressive proposals to provide universal health care, like Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan.

One common refrain on the right and the center-left alike: Since the rich can’t foot the bill alone, are middle- and working-class supporters of a more socialized health care system really ready to pay as much for it as people do in some of the high-tax nations that have one?

The problem is, we already do, and we often pay more.

It’s true that by conventional measures, taxes on workers’ wages in the United States are comparatively very low and even very progressive, affecting the lowest-earning workers the least and taxing those who can afford it more.

But these measures obscure an important fact of American life: Unlike workers in many other countries, the vast majority of American employees have private health insurance premiums deducted from their paychecks.

If we reimagine these premiums as taxes, we’d realize that Americans pay some of the highest and least progressive labor taxes in the developed world.

Richard Wolffe: Whoa there Democrats – Joe Biden isn’t as electable as you think


The idea that the presidential candidate has a lock on white rust-belt voters is wrong in so many ways.

Joe Biden has many strengths as a presidential candidate: experience, policy smarts, respect for the rule of law, an ability to do something more than watch cable news. Even a Sleepy Joe is a significant upgrade on a Dumbass Donald.

But what Biden doesn’t possess, no matter how many times lazy reporters and pundits say it, is a steel-like grip on the rust belt states that could decide the general election. No matter what you think of his politics or personality, the electability debate is – as the candidate might say himself – a bunch of malarkey. [..]

Make no mistake: Biden is a formidable candidate in the Democratic primaries. His insights into how to appeal to traditional working voters – of all classes and colors – will fuel a heated debate with Sanders. They just won’t give him a lock on the rust belt.

Trump may or may not be so vulnerable that he has convinced every sentient, sane Democrat that they can beat him handily. The Trump of 2020 is not the same Trump of 2016 who promised rust belt voters that he would bring back manufacturing jobs and drain the swamp in Washington.

Biden himself likes to say – among many other pithy aphorisms – that we shouldn’t compare him to the almighty; that we should compare him to the alternative.

That is also true of every other Democratic candidate. Compared to the alternative, Joe from Scranton has no more advantage than Kamala from Oakland or Cory from Newark.

Jay Michaelson: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong


By detaching anti-Semitism from its nationalist ideology, the right dodges responsibility over and over again for its fellow travelers.

What motivates someone to burst into a Southern California synagogue and shoot unarmed worshipers, there to recite the memorial prayer for the dead?

Depends who you ask: progressives say nationalist, racist ideology, while conservatives say hate. The difference may seem slight, but in fact, it’s why right and left talk past one another—and seem to be moving farther apart.

Progressives, and most scholars, regard the kind of anti-Semitism that motivated the Poway shooting as part of the xenophobic, ultra-nationalistic constellations of hatreds and “otherings” that also, in our day, include Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant animus. Jews are the “enemy within,” facilitating the evils of immigration and multiculturalism to destroy the motherland.

This is borne out by what Poway, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and other white terrorists all said in their manifestos and other online comments. Like thousands of others of ultra-nationalists in Europe and America, they see their white, European cultures being overrun by foreigners. And they believe that Jews are making it happen.

In the words of the Charlottesville white supremacists, “you will not replace us,” a taunt aimed at non-whites, is easily changed to “Jews will not replace us.” That is a political statement—filled with ignorance and hate, of course, but also ideology.

On the right, however, anti-Semitism is regarded as hate, not ideology.