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: Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising

The recovery is bypassing those who need it most.

Are you better off now than you were in July?

On the face of it, that shouldn’t even be a question. After all, stocks are up; the economy added more than a million jobs in “August” (I’ll explain the scare quotes in a minute); preliminary estimates suggest that G.D.P. is growing rapidly in the third quarter, which ends this month.

But the stock market isn’t the economy: more than half of all stocks are owned by only 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom half of the population owns only 0.7 percent of the market.

Jobs and G.D.P., by contrast, sort of are the economy. But they aren’t the economy’s point. What some economists and many politicians often forget is that economics isn’t fundamentally about data, it’s about people. I like data as much as, or probably more than, the next guy. But an economy’s success should be judged not by impersonal statistics, but by whether people’s lives are getting better.

And the simple fact is that over the past few weeks the lives of many Americans have gotten much worse.

Eugene Robinson: Trump is shouting his racism. He must be stopped.

For more than five decades, the rule in U.S. politics has been that you’re supposed to whisper the racism, not shout it at the top of your lungs. But President Trump is running the most openly racist national campaign since that of George Wallace in 1968 — a repellent ploy that will do great damage to the nation even if Trump loses.

I hope — and believe — that the most unfit president in our long history will indeed be soundly beaten by Joe Biden. But Trump is intentionally aggravating our racial divisions rather than making even a halfhearted attempt to soothe them. And his Republican supporters and enablers, who see what he is doing but do not call him out, richly deserve to share history’s blame.

Since the killing of George Floyd in May, the country has been rocked by protests demanding a reckoning with centuries of structural racism. In response, Trump has gone beyond denying that systemic racism against African Americans exists. He has taken the position that it is White people who are somehow being persecuted and should feel aggrieved.

Greg Sargent: Trump just said the corrupt part out loud — with a bullhorn

For weeks now, scientists inside and outside the government have been warning that President Trump will corrupt the vaccine vetting process and make some sort of coronavirus vaccine-related announcement before Election Day, producing an “October surprise” to salvage his ailing campaign.

Now Trump himself just put it all out there, openly confirming these intentions as clearly as anyone could possibly ask for.

At Sunday’s press briefing, Trump blasted Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris for suggesting Trump would politicize the vaccine process. The former vice president and the senator from California each had said scientists should be trusted over Trump on any vaccine announcement made before the election.

“They’re going to make the vaccine into a negative,” Trump insisted, adding that Biden and Harris had decided to “disparage the vaccine.” Trump then said this:

We’re gonna have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about.

In so doing, Trump explicitly tied the vaccine to his reelection schedule. Yet, remarkably, the question of whether Trump is politicizing this process is still being treated as one that’s up for debate, even though he shouted the corrupt part out loud with a bullhorn.

Maggie Hassan and Sheldon Whitehouse: Why did the US justice department let Purdue off the hook for the opioid crisis?

Prosecutors believed Purdue was implicated in mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Yet the firm got a slap on the wrist


The opioid epidemic is not over. Even as Covid-19 rages, opioid-related deaths continue to devastate communities across our states. In New Hampshire, overdose deaths rose in April and May over last year’s levels. In the first four months of 2020, Rhode Island overdose deaths jumped 29% from the same period last year and 38% from the same period in 2018. Opioid addiction remains a persistent, lethal menace.

We just learned a big reason why the opioid crisis was allowed to get so bad. The Guardian recently unearthed new details in the origin story of the opioid crisis. In 2006, career prosecutors at the US Department of Justice drafted a memo summarizing alleged criminal behavior by the major opioid maker Purdue Pharma. The memo, the culmination of a four-year investigation of Purdue’s opioid marketing and other business practices, was based on a review of millions of internal documents. The memo concluded that Purdue and its executives participated in mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in pushing opioids, and recommended indictment.

But we still don’t know the whole story, and we need to in order to avoid a repeat of the deceptive marketing practices and corporate greed that’s cost the United States hundreds of thousands of lives.


Dahlia Lithwick: Who Decides Who Belongs in America?

From Charlottesville to Kenosha to Portland, the president’s supporters are acting on the racism he has encouraged since the beginning.

I have been thinking a great deal about what it means to be “from somewhere.” When I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, a very bless-your-heart older Southern woman told me, sotto voce, at a luncheon that nobody got to be “from Charlottesville” unless they had been born there, even if they had arrived there as a child. By the same token, when the Nazis marched there, in the summer of 2017, followed by the Proud Boys, then followed by the KKK, and followed by yet more Nazis, those of us who lived in Charlottesville were always quick to point out that the racists and white supremacists and anti-Semites who thronged the parks and streets and University of Virginia campus that summer were decidedly out-of-towners, a kind of marauding invading force that had flown and driven in from around the country. They were not a part of this little college town we all called home, we said to one another, again and again. And again, this was all somewhat ironic, in light of the fact that when the Nazis did march, their chants toggled between “you will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.” Apparently these bottom-dwellers who had parachuted in from Oregon, California, and South Carolina shared a conviction that we were the ones taking over their spaces and their places, and that no matter where they lived in America, they were somehow entitled to be domiciled wherever they saw fit, including places in which others actually were domiciled. We, the residents of Charlottesville, were thus the invading force, and our invasion required repulsion with weapons of war. We were attempting to replace them, the white guys in the flat front khakis. Even if they came from California, it was their city, not ours.

I am struck, once again, witnessing the events this week in Portland, Oregon, and in Kenosha, Wisconsin, by that same dynamic, as gaggles of largely white men in trucks organize to stake out racial justice protests and variously assist the police or protect local businesses or restore law and order. These self-appointed vigilantes and quasi-militias feel they are justified in carrying weaponry, deploying pepper spray, shooting paintballs at civilian protesters, and, at least in the case of one such individual, shooting and killing protesters refusing to accede to their authority. [..]

There is, in short, not just an asymmetry in morality at work here, but an asymmetry to the force of the property claims. Donald Trump has devoted his tenancy in the White House to the proposition that certain people belong in America, to all of it, to any of it, and that belonging is nine-tenths of the law. As such, they may do what they need to secure those claims (hence his pardons of the grifters and the looters). Any other people never belonged here; they perch here only at his sufferance. That’s why he performed ritual acts of welcoming new citizens and reformed criminals at the Republican National Convention—because he wants to emphasize that who belongs is up to him. It’s why anyone who is anywhere he wants to be (including Lafayette Square) is a “looter.” He is deciding who belongs and who doesn’t belong. And he is telling anyone who agrees with him to clear the streets and the parks as they deem fit. And because this has scrambled our ideas about who is an invader and who is a local, this is getting resolved, suddenly, on the streets. And as a consequence, we may not be able to look one another in the eye again for a long, long time.