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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Harold Varmus and Rajiv Shah: It Has Come to This: Ignore the C.D.C.

Harold Varmus is a former director of the National Institutes of Health. Rajiv Shah is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

The agency’s new guidelines are wrong, so states have to step up on their own to suppress the coronavirus.

We were startled and dismayed last week to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a perplexing series of statements, had altered its testing guidelines to reduce the testing of asymptomatic people for the coronavirus.

These changes by the C.D.C. will undermine efforts to end the pandemic, slow the return to normal economic, educational and social activities, and increase the loss of lives.

Like other scientists and public health experts, we have argued that more asymptomatic people, not fewer, need to be tested to bring the pandemic under control. Now, in the face of a dysfunctional C.D.C., it’s up to states, other institutions and individuals to act.

Understanding what needs to be done requires understanding the different purposes of testing. Much of the current testing is diagnostic. People should get tested if they have symptoms — respiratory distress, loss of smell, fever. There is no argument about this testing, and the altered C.D.C. guidelines do not affect it.

But under its revised guidelines, the C.D.C. seeks to dissuade people who are asymptomatic from being tested. Yet this group poses both the greatest threat to pandemic control and the greatest opportunity to bring the pandemic to an end. It is with this group that our country has failed most miserably.

Amanda Marcotte: How anti-choice propaganda trained Republicans to accept Trump’s coronavirus denialism

Trump’s new medical adviser peddles a familiar model of deceit: Wrap lies and right-wing ideology in a lab coat

Donald Trump didn’t like what the experts were telling him about the coronavirus pandemic, so he found a guy with “Dr.” in front of his name who will tell the president the bedtime stories he wants to hear. Dr. Scott Atlas isn’t an expert in infectious disease or epidemiology, as are coronavirus task force advisers Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, whom he has pretty much usurped. Atlas is a radiologist and, more importantly, a senior fellow at the far-right bad-idea incubator known as the Hoover Institution (previously home to the infamous prediction that the U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic would be around 5,000). [..]

Atlas has questioned whether wearing face masks slows viral spread (it does) and pushed for the CDC to change its recommendation on coronavirus testing to cover only people with symptoms, even though the science clearly shows that asymptomatic people are spreading the disease — and may indeed be a principal vector for spread.

Perhaps most distressingly, Atlas is reportedly behind Trump’s new enthusiasm for “herd immunity,” which is the latest euphemism for a non-policy letting the coronavirus run rampant, like a nationwide chicken pox party. Actual scientific experts in disease are uniformly against this idea, because it would dramatically raise the death rate and likely wouldn’t restore the economy anytime soon, as huge percentages of the population would continue to stay home rather than be part of President Bleach-Injector’s deadly science experiment.

Charles M. Blow: Age and Health on the Ballot

Trump and Biden are both elderly men. Voters should focus on policy and character.

Listen, the truth is that Trump and Biden are two elderly men. Their age will manifest in their appearance and comportment, and because we are human beings, our health has a natural cognitive decline as we grow older. Those are just facts.

We as voters have to decide to what degree those things should matter in the selection of a president. Being healthy enough to do the job sounds like a simple standard, but that metric can easily tip over into ageism.

Is the slurring of words, the searching for words, or a feeble comportment not to be expected, even if occasionally, of septuagenarians? I search for words now more than I used to and I’m 50.

Still, to some degree, front-of-mind or not, age and health will be on the ballot in November. But it seems to me that the concern over the health of these two candidates cancels each other out. If so, what remains are policy and character, and on those measures the choice is clear.

Kitty Richards and Doesn’t Feel Like a Recession? You Should Be Paying More in Taxes

Ms. Richards is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where Mr. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is the chief economist.

It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good economics.

As the coronavirus pandemic — and Congress’s undersize response — wreaks havoc throughout the economy, tax receipts are cratering. This means that state and local governments are facing enormous revenue shortfalls at the exact time they are dealing with large additional demands. So far, states and localities have responded by slashing spending and jobs, with 1.5 million public-sector workers laid off by the end of June.

The federal government, which unlike most states does not have to balance its budget every year, could solve the problem tomorrow by providing fiscal relief to states and localities, like the $1 trillion provided by the HEROES Act that passed the House in May.

But regardless of whether Congress acts, states and localities can bolster their local economies and support their residents by raising taxes on those who have not been hard hit by the recession. This is not only the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint, it is sound economics. [..]

The economic impact of the pandemic is daunting, and it would be better for the federal government to step in. But Americans are living through a catastrophe. They cannot afford for their state and local leaders to abdicate responsibility. States, cities and school districts must require their wealthiest residents to pay higher taxes right now.

The alternative is unacceptable: cutbacks in basic services that will weaken our social fabric and harm our potential for years to come, and a grinding recession that may last for years after the pandemic is brought under control.

Richard Wolffe: Trump is trying to pin Kenosha on Biden – but he created the chaos and violence

Make no mistake: this is Trump’s America, where protesters are shot by vigilantes as police look on

Donald Trump took a trip to a place called Biden’s America on Tuesday. It is a strange land where the president of the United States is a helpless guest, a doomed corner of his own country that is somehow ruled by a former vice president.

It is a topsy-turvy place, this Biden’s America. Occasionally, the president can regain his magical ruling powers by summoning assorted minions in uniforms and incanting a spell with his thumbs to tweet the words LAW AND ORDER.

But mostly our president is lawless and disorderly, wandering through a country that has been laid low by a virus from China, a candidate from Delaware, and a bunch of friendly questions from Fox News.

He is as befuddled as anyone on Facebook about what the hell is going on around him. But rather than trying to fix this dysfunctional version of the land of the free, he prefers to scare the bejesus out of white voters so they might forget this historic pandemic and recession. [..]

The last Republican president to promise to keep us safe was George W Bush, running for re-election after 9/11. But every few days in Trump’s America, we lose more Americans to the rampant pandemic than to the terrorist attacks that traumatized this nation 19 years ago.

That’s not just weird. It’s the symptom of a political sickness inflicted by three and a half years of a lawless and lying president. This is Trump’s America, and we just vote in it.