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’s Secret Foreign Aid Program

He’s giving away billions to overseas investors.

Donald Trump often complains that the media don’t give him credit for his achievements. And I can think of at least one case where that’s true. As far I can tell, almost nobody is reporting that he has presided over a huge — but hidden — increase in foreign aid, the money America gives to foreigners. In fact, the hidden Trump program, currently running at around $40 billion a year, is probably the biggest giveaway to other nations since the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the aid isn’t going either to poor countries or to America’s allies. Instead, it’s going to wealthy foreign investors.

Before I get there, let’s talk for a second about a claim Trump often makes about a highly visible part of his economic strategy, the tariffs he has imposed on imports from China and other countries. These tariffs, he has insisted again and again, are being paid by China and represent billions in gains to the United States.

This claim is, however, demonstrably false. Tariffs are normally paid by consumers in the importing country, not exporters. And we can confirm that this is what’s happening with the Trump tariffs: Prices of goods subject to those tariffs have risen sharply, roughly in line with the tariff increases, while prices of goods not subject to the new tariffs haven’t gone up.

David Cay Johnston: The GOP just made a really huge mistake

House Republicans made a huge mistake during the Mueller hearings Wednesday. Unintentionally, for sure, they created the opportunity for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to overcome the only reason to avoid impeaching Trump – the certainty that Mitch McConnell would never allow the Senate to convict.

The GOP mistake? Not raising one word of concern about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Not a word about the fact that the Kremlin wanted Trump to win, set out to make that happen. Not one word about the fact that Trump and his team eagerly embraced their help. Not one word asking about the sensitive campaign strategy materials that Trump’s campaign chairman, now a convicted felon, shared with a Russian oligarch. Not one question designed to pursue all the lying, denying and hiding the facts of Russian interference in our democracy. [..]

All of this screams one word: disloyalty.

Our elected officials all swore oaths to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Confronted with Mueller’s clear and unambiguous testimony about Kremlin interference how could the Republicans stay silent?

Ilhan Omar: It Is Not Enough to Condemn Trump’s Racism

The nation’s ideals are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.

Throughout history, demagogues have used state power to target minority communities and political enemies, often culminating in state violence. Today, we face that threat in our own country, where the president of the United States is using the influence of our highest office to mount racist attacks on communities across the land. In recent weeks, he has lashed out unprompted against four freshman Democrats in the House of Representatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and me, from Minnesota.

Last week, as President Trump watched the crowd at one of his rallies chant “Send her back,” aimed at me and my family, I was reminded of times when such fearmongering was allowed to flourish. I also couldn’t help but remember the horrors of civil war in Somalia that my family and I escaped, the America we expected to find and the one we actually experienced.

The president’s rally will be a defining moment in American history. It reminds us of the grave stakes of the coming presidential election: that this fight is not merely about policy ideas; it is a fight for the soul of our nation. The ideals at the heart of our founding — equal protection under the law, pluralism, religious liberty — are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s wrecking ball keeps swinging

Robert S. Mueller III testified before Congress on Wednesday. Meanwhile, out there in the real world:

● A federal judge in California was issuing an injunction blocking a new Trump administration policy that would have flatly denied most Central American migrants the right to lawfully seek asylum at the southern border.

● Attorney General William P. Barr was preparing an announcement, released Thursday, that the federal government will resume carrying out the death penalty after an effective 16-year moratorium. He promptly ordered prison officials to set execution dates for five federal death-row inmates.

● Europe was roasting in an unprecedented heat wave, with triple-digit- temperature records being set across the continent. Paris had, by far, its hottest day ever recorded on Thursday: an incredible 109 degrees. Scientists linked the phenomenon to human-induced climate change, which President Trump ridiculously has claimed is a hoax.

So yes, by all means, let’s parse Mueller’s day-long appearance at the witness table and argue about what it might mean for the likelihood of an impeachment inquiry that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has never wanted to launch. But amid all the spin and counterspin, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Trump administration, every single day, continues to wield a wrecking ball against federal law, sensible public policy and the nation’s moral standing.

Christopher Sabatini: Trump Doubles Down on Failed Cuba Policy

The Cuban autocracy remains a nagging reminder of United States impotence in rooting out Communism.

The Trump administration’s effort to bring about the end of Cuba’s repressive government by squeezing the island’s economy promises only more suffering for Cuban citizens, who are already struggling under Fidel Castro’s failed economic project.

The White House is hurting the very people — ordinary Cubans — it claims to support. Not only are their potential sources of independent income (and, with it, political independence) drying up, so is their access to food — and their hopes for the future.

For decades, the Cuban autocracy has been a nagging reminder of United States impotence in rooting out Communism. Washington’s embargo on Havana was tightened by Congress in 1992 and 1996 — with the unintentionally ironic titles of the Cuban Democracy Act and what’s known as the Cuban Liberty Act.

This pressure has always come with tough talk from Republicans, who like to claim that the Castro government’s time is up. John Bolton, the national security adviser, is the latest hawk to spew this empty rhetoric.