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: Covid-19 Reality Has a Liberal Bias

Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t care about political spin.

On Tuesday, the U.S. government’s top experts warned that Covid-19 was by no means under control, and that premature easing of social distancing could have disastrous consequences. As far as I can tell, their view is shared by almost all epidemiologists.

But they were shouting into the wind. Clearly, the Trump administration and its allies have already decided that we’re going to reopen the economy, never mind what the experts say. And if the experts are right and this leads to a new surge in deaths, the response won’t be to reconsider the policy, it will be to deny the facts.

Indeed, virus trutherism — insisting that Covid-19 deaths are greatly exaggerated and may reflect a vast medical conspiracy — is already widespread on the right. We can expect to see much more of it in the months ahead.

At one level, this turn of events shouldn’t surprise us. The U.S. right long ago rejected evidence-based policy in favor of policy-based evidence — denying facts that might get in the way of a predetermined agenda. Fourteen years have passed since Stephen Colbert famously quipped that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

At another level, however, the right’s determination to ignore the epidemiologists is politically reckless in a way previous denials of reality weren’t.

Charles M. Blow: States Keep Failing Black People

The great racial imbalance in Covid-19’s effect and the violent killings of black people are related.

The racially disproportionate effect of the Covid-19 crisis in this country and a recent rash of high-profile senseless killings of black people by the police and vigilantes may seem on their face unrelated.

But, in fact, they are related. The two phenomena have collided as a tragic reminder of how consistently and continuously states have failed black people in this country.

It is state policy — both criminal and health — that leaves black people exposed and vulnerable and with little recourse for safety or justice.

To be sure, the federal government has played a premier role in black oppression and discrimination from the beginning. The Constitution as originally written is a thoroughly racist document, with its three-fifths rule and the effective establishment of the Electoral College, a move to placate slave owners.

It was the federal government that allowed the Freedman’s Bank to fail and allowed Reconstruction to fail.

But during the civil rights movement, the federal government also became black people’s greatest guard against their greatest oppressors: the states. [..]

As John C. Austin recently wrote for the Brookings Institution:

“The pandemic is blowing away the illusion that racism in the North — manifested in practices such as redlining, deeded covenants and shifting public school boundaries when black children began to mingle with white children — was at least not as violent as the lynchings, fire hoses and fire bombings that characterized Southern racism. Almost overnight, the Covid-19 pandemic has turned historically institutionalized racism in the Midwest’s industrial cities into a murder weapon.”

Even when local mayors want to be more cautious to protect black populations, they are often overridden like the mayor of Atlanta was by the governor of Georgia.

People like to talk about “the system” at times like these, as if it is one unit with equal power to inflict pain. But it isn’t. Some levels have far more impact than others. The states in these United States are now the primary instruments of black pain and oppression.

Eugene Robinson: The United States is a country to be pitied

Only a handful of nations on Earth have arguably done a worse job of handling the coronavirus pandemic than the United States. What has happened to us? How did we become so dysfunctional? When did we become so incompetent?

The shocking and deadly failures by President Trump and his administration have been well documented — we didn’t isolate, we didn’t test, we didn’t contact trace, we waited too long to lock down. But Trump’s gross unfitness is only part of the problem. The phrase “American exceptionalism” has always meant different things to different people — that this nation should be admired, or perhaps that it should be feared. Not until now, at least in my lifetime, has it suggested that the United States should be pitied.

No amount of patriotism or pride can change the appalling facts. The pandemic is acting as a stress test for societies around the world, and ours is in danger of failing. [.]

The European Union is working with the World Health Organization and other wealthy nations such as Japan and Saudi Arabia in a crash program to develop a covid-19 vaccine, with initial funding of $8 billion. The United States has decided to go it alone with its own vaccine program, “Operation Warp Speed.” In the past, one might have bet on U.S. ingenuity and drive to win the race. But given our failure in testing, would you still make that bet now? And why is there a race at all, rather than a U.S.-led global effort?

The covid-19 pandemic has exposed the depth of America’s fall from greatness. Ridding ourselves of Trump and his cronies in November will be just the beginning of our work to restore it.

Helaine Olen: Retirement in America is already uncertain. Republicans want to make it worse.

To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To a Republican, every crisis is an opportunity to cut benefits.

Not that they would put it that way, of course.

This past weekend, The Post reported on a proposal from a conservative think tank, floated to the White House as a way to limit the impact of novel coronavirus stimulus spending on the national debt. Americans made financially desperate by the pandemic could receive a $5,000 federal payment. The catch? The recipients would need to delay their future Social Security filing to pay it back.

The plan received a hearing from the Trump administration, where it has been dismissed because it doesn’t seem, in the words of The Post, “likely to advance given the political stakes,” and faced “skepticism” from the president himself. But it should have never gotten that far.

It’s worth taking a moment to remind readers that, from the very beginning, the Trump administration has played a disingenuous game when it comes to Social Security. Trump campaigned for president as a champion of the program, someone who would ensure that retirement benefits would never suffer a single cut. But even before he became president, his aides assured anyone who would listen that he didn’t really mean it. Trump himself gave the game away this past winter, admitting in a CNBC interview that he was “going to look” at entitlement reform — that’s Washington insider code for cutting Social Security and Medicare — at the end of the year, after the presidential election.

Amanda Marcotte: The pandemic exposes the truth: Right-wing “individualism” is just selfish garbage

“Every man is an island” was an alluring right-wing philosophy — until folks were marooned indefinitely at home

During Donald Trump’s daily press conference (and, wait — wasn’t he going to quit those?) on Wednesday, the president was unable to hide his irritation at coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci, and pooh-poohed the latter’s concerns about re-opening schools and universities. [..]

The coronavirus has exposed this delusion of individualism for what it is. For one thing, the virus doesn’t care if you pop on a tricorner hat and declare yourself a rugged individual. It’ll infect you just as easily as it infects a person who stays home, wears a mask and pays their taxes without complaint. Individualism can’t stop the virus — only collective action can.

But on a deeper level, the virus has exposed the incoherence of the individualist ideology. Right now, the same people who fueled the Tea Party protests, including Trump himself, are out there insisting that the lockdowns end. Why? Well … because they miss the benefits of living in an interconnected society. They want their kids in school. They want to go to the mall or the gym or the hair salon. They want to use public spaces that are either directly funded by taxpayers or only possible because taxpayers pay for roads, utilities and other public infrastructure that make it possible to open stores, gyms and restaurants.

More to the point, the idiocy of this individualistic rhetoric is exactly the reason we can’t just return to normal life. The “every man for himself” philosophy is why Republicans resisted building up the public health infrastructure that could have responded to this crisis with the kind of mass testing and tracing needed to stop the spread. Even when it was clear the virus was spreading, Trump — due to laziness, but also due to his refusal to treat public health as a serious issue — didn’t do what was necessary to ramp up an emergency response.

Obama’s words about how “you didn’t build that” now feel less like an admonishment and more like a warning. Conservatives have rejected the idea that we’re all in this together. Because of the extreme social and political negligence that provoked, they’re now losing the benefits of living a society that they pretended they didn’t want and didn’t even notice. “Every man is an island” sounds like a romantic notion until you actually have to live that way, locked up in your house and unable to interact meaningfully with other people in public spaces. Too bad they had to ruin it for the rest of us, but that, of course, is just more proof that we’re all in this together.