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: How Many Will Die for the Dow?

In a pandemic, Trump is reverting to type.

In mid-March, after weeks in denial, Donald Trump finally admitted that Covid-19 was a serious threat and called on Americans to practice social distancing.

The delayed acknowledgment of reality — reportedly driven by concerns that admitting that the coronavirus posed a threat would hurt the stock market — had deadly consequences. Epidemiological modelers believe that tens of thousands of deaths might have been avoided if America had started lockdowns even a week earlier.

Still, better late than never. And for a little while it seemed as if we were finally settling on a strategy for containing the virus while also limiting the economic hardship caused by the lockdown.

But Trump and the Republican Party as a whole have now given up on that strategy. They won’t say this explicitly, and they’re throwing up various disingenuous explanations for what they’re doing, but their basic position is that thousands of Americans must die for the Dow. [..]

But Trump can’t get beyond boosterism, insisting that everything is great on his watch. And he’s clearly still obsessed with the stock market as the measure of his presidency.

So Trump and his party want to go full speed ahead with reopening no matter how many people it kills. As I said, their de facto position is that Americans must die for the Dow.

Eugene Robinson: Senate Republicans are staking their political future on lies and conspiracy theories

Senate Republicans have made their choice: They’re putting on their tinfoil hats and staking their political future on transparent lies and wild conspiracy theories. The onetime “Party of Lincoln” threatens to become the “Party of Q.”

Every incumbent GOP senator ought to be asked if he or she supports the party’s Senate nominee in Oregon, Jo Rae Perkins, who avidly promotes the absurd and wholly fictitious QAnon story line. Adherents see President Trump as a heroic warrior fighting to save America and the world from an evil cabal of “globalist,” sex-trafficking “elites” who include moles within the government known as the “deep state.” The supposed proof? Enigmatic posts on anonymous message boards from a “Q Clearance Patriot” who claims to have the inside dope on a coming “Storm” that will wash away this faction and purify the country.

“As people put together more and more pieces of the puzzle,” Perkins told the New York Times, “they can see, yeah, this is real.”

Reality check: No, it’s not. It’s crazy talk, on the level of the paranoid speculation in Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” that Russians were using fluoride to taint Americans’ “precious bodily fluids.”

I’m not sure I could find a sitting GOP senator who, if given truth serum, would admit to actually believing such paranoid nonsense. But plenty are willing to play footsie with QAnon followers by speaking of the imaginary deep state as if it were real.

Catherine Rampell: The state budget crisis is not just a blue-state crisis. It’s an every-state crisis.

The state budget crisis is not just a blue-state crisis. It is an every-state crisis.

For weeks, governors and mayors of all political persuasions have pleaded for help from the federal government. Their tax revenues are way down; demand for services such as health care and food aid is way up; and unlike the feds, most states and localities are legally required to balance their budgets.

The Democratic-led House passed another coronavirus-relief bill last week that would provide greater assistance to states and municipalities, and a handful of Republican lawmakers have called for more aid as well. GOP leaders, however, have resisted providing a lifeline. [..]

Absent more help from Washington, states and municipalities will sharply cut spending — just as they did after the Great Recession. This stunted the recovery then and is likely to do the same today. Public-spending cuts have knock-on effects throughout the private sector as governments eliminate jobs (teachers, police, firefighters), cut services and cancel contracts with private companies.

Given these expected “multiplier” effects, Bartik estimates that this level of state and local budget cuts would depress the overall U.S. economy by about 4 percent of gross domestic product.

In short: These budget crises will make it awfully hard for Trump and Republicans to fulfill their promises of gangbusters growth.

Whatever Trump’s claims, states — blue, red or purple — didn’t get themselves into this hole. But by withholding aid, Trump and his fellow Republicans can definitely make it harder for them to climb out.

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent: Joe Biden is stuck in his basement. It’s exactly where he needs to be.

President Trump, everyone seems to agree, enjoys some extraordinary advantages over Joe Biden right now.

Trump can’t hold rallies, but he is able to stage campaign events thinly disguised as presidential travel. By contrast, Biden is stuck broadcasting out of his basement.

What’s more, Trump’s campaign has a massive digital advantage. He churns out videos and Facebook ads and campaign programming at an unrelenting pace. By contrast, we’re constantly told, Biden is languishing in the digital equivalent of the Stone Age.

It’s true that Biden’s social media follower counts are modest — he has 5.5 million Twitter followers, compared to Trump’s 80 million. And as The Post’s David Weigel illustrated, Trump’s email-list efforts seem designed to keep followers far more energized and angry than Biden’s do.

But, while Biden will have to close these gaps, there are hidden ways in which all this does not necessarily play to Trump’s advantage, and may actually play to his disadvantage. [..]

Biden may be stuck in his basement, but the contrast here may be very compelling: Biden is personally acting out what countless of Americans are going through and sticking to what the scientists are recommending — for the good of others, for the good of the country — even if it inconveniences him.

Meanwhile, Trump is jetting around without a mask, demonstrating his privileged enjoyment of safety and protections that ordinary Americans lack, and failing to set the example that large majorities want to see.

A Biden adviser tells us they like this contrast. It helps feed the sense that Biden is serving as “the model for how a real leader behaves during a crisis, providing a voice of support and empathy while giving clear guidance on how to be safe and how we can overcome this crisis together,” this adviser says.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump moves openly to steal the election: Democrats should impeach him again

Trump always intended to rig the 2020 election. Now he’s exploiting the pandemic to commit serious crimes

Despite his off-the-charts narcissism, Donald Trump knows on some level that the majority of Americans don’t want him to be president and he cannot win in a fair election. He didn’t beat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote in 2016 — she got nearly 3 million more votes — and only won because of the outsize influence of smaller, rural states in the Electoral College. He has only grown less popular since then and is now well behind former Vice President Joe Biden in most national polls, usually by a margin of 5 to 8 points.

But Trump has had a plan to win in 2020, ever since his re-election campaign kicked off the second he was inaugurated: Cheat like crazy. [..]

As difficult and disheartening as another round of impeachment might be, it could be the only way to keep Trump from using the coronavirus to cheat in the 2020 election. If Democrats can impeach him for blackmailing Ukraine in this way, surely they can impeach him for blackmailing the governors of Michigan and Nevada in exactly the same way.

More important still, Trump has made no secret of his desire to cheat. He does it right out in the open, on Twitter, and will only continue to escalate these threats if there are no real consequences. A second impeachment, ugly as it will be, may be the only way to ensure a free and fair election during this pandemic.