Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media 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: Peacocks and Vultures Are Circling the Deficit

The only fiscal thing to fear is deficit fear itself.

Almost a decade has passed since I published a column, “Myths of Austerity,” warning that deficit alarmism would delay recovery from the Great Recession — which it did. Unfortunately, that kind of alarmism seems to be making a comeback.

You can see that comeback in the gradually increasing number of news analyses emphasizing how much debt we’ll run up dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. You can also see it in the rhetoric of politicians like Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who is blocking aid to beleaguered state and local governments because, he says, it would cost too much.

So this seems like a good time to emphasize two key facts. One is economic: While we will run very big budget deficits over the next couple of years, they will do little if any harm. The other is that whatever they may say, very few prominent figures in politics or the media are genuine deficit hawks, who are actually worried about the consequences of rising government debt. What we mainly have, instead, are deficit peacocks and deficit vultures.

António Guterres: A Time to Save the Sick and Rescue the Planet

With closer cooperation among nations, the head of the United Nations argues, we could stop a pandemic faster and slow climate change.

World War II. There is a natural tendency in the face of crisis to take care of one’s own first. But true leadership understands that there are times to think big and more generously. Such thinking was behind the Marshall Plan and the formation of the United Nations after World War II. This is also such a moment. We must work together as societies and as an international community to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequences of Covid-19.

The impact of the coronavirus is immediate and dreadful. We must act now and we must act together. Just as we must act together to address another urgent global emergency that we must not lose sight of — climate change. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization released data showing that temperatures have already increased 1.1 degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels. The world is on track for devastating climate disruption from which no one can self isolate.

Now, on every continent and in every sea, climate disruption is becoming the new normal. Human conduct is also leading to severe biodiversity loss, changing animal-human interaction and distorting ecosystem processes that regulate our planetary health and control many services that humans depend on. Science is screaming to us that we are close to running out of time — approaching a point of no return for human health, which depends on planetary health.

Charles M. Blow: For Trump, Lying Is a Super Power

He will use deception to keep his bungled response to Covid-19 from ruining his re-election chances.

After Donald Trump’s ridiculous and dangerous suggestion last week that household disinfectants injected into people’s bodies might be a treatment for Covid-19, Republicans intensified their hand-wringing over whether his daily briefings were doing more harm — to his political fortunes and theirs — than good.

The coronavirus has completely reshaped the coming election. The economy is in dire straits. Trump’s polls have taken a dip. People are anxious and afraid. The outlook isn’t good … at the moment.

As The New York Times reported last week, some in the Republican Party see similarities to 2006:

“In 2006, anger at President George W. Bush and unease with the Iraq war propelled Democrats to reclaim Congress; two years later they captured the presidency thanks to the same anti-incumbent themes and an unexpected crisis that accelerated their advantage, the economic collapse of 2008. The two elections were effectively a single continuous rejection of Republican rule, as some in the G.O.P. fear 2018 and 2020 could become in a worst-case scenario.”

But I would caution all those who take this fear as encouragement that Trump is weakened and vulnerable: Trump is not George W. Bush. This is not the Republican Party of 2006. This is not a cultural environment in which social media is in its infancy.

Trump, as a person and politician, is riddled with flaws. But he also has an ignominious super power: He is completely unencumbered by the truth, the need to tell it or accept it. He will do and say anything that he believes will help him. He has no greater guiding principles. He is not bound by ethics or morals. His only alliances are to those who would support and further his devotion to self-promotion.

I don’t look back to the 2008 campaign for parallels, but to the 2016 one.

Amanda Marcotte: Gaslighting on Lysol-gate: Now Trump is denying he said what we heard him say

Gaslighting isn’t just a fancy word for lying — it’s an assault on truth, evidence and our perception of reality

It’s gone mainstream in recent years, but the word “gaslighting” used to be an esoteric term from the world of psychology and domestic abuse counseling. The word refers to the 1944 film “Gaslight,” in which Ingrid Bergman plays a woman whose husband tries to drive her insane by hiding her belongings and otherwise manipulating her environment, and telling her that the changes she perceives are all in her head. Experts in domestic violence developed the term to describe the way that abusers in real life try to manipulate victims. The gaslighter works by denying reality, often when the facts are plain as day, with such conviction and repetition that the victim starts to question themselves and the evidence of their own senses.

For instance, this might take the form of the abuser denying that he hit his victim or falsely claiming that she provoked it, and then browbeating her until she accepts the lie and even starts to wonder whether she imagined the whole thing.

Under Donald Trump’s administration, however, the term has ventured into politics. It’s become a way to talk about how Trump and his defenders won’t merely tell lies, but will stand by even the dumbest and most obvious lies, holding their ground until the defenders of reality simply give up fighting. This started from the very beginning of the administration, when Trump and his administration claimed his inauguration crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s, and insisted on repeating that lie and intimidating government agencies into backing it up. Needless to say, this has continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic, dialed up to an extreme.

One might wonder why we need a term with such a complicated back story, when the word “lying” is right there for the taking. The reason is that Trump lies so frequently and in such varying ways that it’s useful to have a taxonomy of Trump lies to understand the various ways his lies work and how best, perhaps, to resist them.

Eugene Robinson: We should be worried about Trump’s rants

It is time to ask once again, in all seriousness, whether the president of the United States is of sound mind.

Even by his own standards, President Trump’s weekend ranting and raving on Twitter was bizarre and disturbing. I know there are commentators who see his eruptions as some kind of genius-level communications strategy, a way of bonding himself to his loyal base by sending messages at dog-whistle frequencies others cannot hear. Others justify these tantrums as a way for an embattled president to blow off steam. But there is a simpler and more disturbing interpretation: What you see is what you get.

And what we got Sunday was a whole lot of crazy. It’s not good for the country, and it doesn’t seem very good for the president, either. [..]

I’m not making a diagnosis, but rather just stating the obvious. If a loved one were raging in such a manner, you’d worry about his or her well-being. You’d hope it was just a bad spell. You might attempt to investigate, if only with a text reading: “R u ok?” We can only hope someone in Trump’s life is doing the same for him.

I can understand why Trump would be frustrated, seeing his plan to run for reelection on the strength of the economy ruined. I understand why he might be impatient for things to get back to normal. I’m impatient, too.

But it is objectively worrisome how much time the president spends venting his frustration and impatience. It is worrisome that he seems to engage in magical thinking about a miracle cure that will suddenly make everything better. It is alarming that a man with so little apparent self-control has so much power.

And there’s nothing we can do about it until November.