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: Texas, Land of Wind and Lies
When post-truth politics meets energy policy.
Politicians are neither gods nor saints. Because they aren’t gods, they often make bad policy decisions. Because they aren’t saints, they often try to evade responsibility for their failures, asserting either that they did as well as anyone could have or that someone else deserves the blame.
For a while, then, the politics surrounding the power outages that have spread across Texas looked fairly normal. True, the state’s leaders pursued reckless policies that set the stage for catastrophe, then tried to evade responsibility. But while their behavior was reprehensible, it was reprehensible in ways we’ve seen many times over the years.
However, that changed around a day after the severity of the disaster became apparent. Republican politicians and right-wing media, not content with run-of-the-mill blame-shifting, have coalesced around a malicious falsehood instead — the claim that wind and solar power caused the collapse of the Texas power grid, and that radical environmentalists are somehow responsible for the fact that millions of people are freezing in the dark, even though conservative Republicans have run the state for a generation.
This isn’t normal political malfeasance. It’s the energy-policy equivalent of claiming that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a false-flag Antifa operation — raw denial of reality, not just to escape accountability, but to demonize one’s opponents. And it’s another indicator of the moral and intellectual collapse of American conservatism.
The new president is avoiding negotiating against himself.
The Biden administration’s blueprint for immigration reform is already facing criticism as being far too ambitious to have a prayer of getting through Congress. But the bold plan has one big thing in its favor: It actually tries to deal with reality.
President Biden proposes a pathway to citizenship for all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country who follow the rules and stay out of trouble. Rather than nibble at the edges of the problem, Biden calls for a global solution — analogous to the sweeping amnesty President Ronald Reagan engineered in 1986. Whatever you think about the new president and his team, no one can accuse them of thinking small.
Republicans are going to ridicule the idea and will likely declare it dead on arrival. But they would subject a more modest proposal to the exact same treatment. Biden is right to start by demanding the reforms the country actually needs, rather than make some sort of tentative opening bid that leaves the situation of most resident noncitizens unaddressed.
The fact is that the undocumented are not going away. They are not going to “self-deport,” as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) famously suggested when he was running for president in 2012. They perform necessary jobs, they pay all kinds of taxes, they are at least as law-abiding as full-fledged citizens, and they are woven into the fabric of communities from coast to coast. In all but the formal sense, they are Americans. If they were all to somehow disappear tomorrow, the nation would suffer from their absence.
To combat pandemic-driven learning losses, students across the United States need classes more than the usual vacation.
School’s in for summer. At least, it should be.
In an aside at his town hall on Tuesday, President Biden mentioned that school districts might consider staying open all summer. It’s a phenomenal idea. We should be moving mountains — and there will be a few — to make this happen for every child in the United States who has fallen behind this past year.
The pandemic has been disastrous for children (and their parents, and their teachers). Children are missing academic, social and developmental milestones because remote-learning programs are poor substitutes for in-person classes. School absences have doubled. Many low-income, rural and homeless kids without reliable Internet access have stopped attending classes; one report last fall estimated that 3 million children might have received no formal education, virtual or otherwise, since March.
But even if we vaccinated every teacher and made every other adaptation necessary to get schools reopened tomorrow (and recent developments unfortunately suggest that ain’t happening), kids have already fallen behind. Resuming regular classes alone won’t be sufficient to recover this lost ground.
Republicans have mastered the art of breaking government and telling voters it’s because government can’t work
By any reasonable standard, the disaster in Texas, as winter storms break the backbone of basic utility services and leave millions to suffer, should be the death knell for conservative ideology. It’s evidence of how wrong Republicans are on two of their most important beliefs: That climate change is a hoax best ignored and that government disinvestment and deregulation will magically lead to better services as the private sector fills in the gaps. And as many progressive analysts, energy experts, climate scientists, and Democratic politicians have been pointing out, the catastrophe in Texas proves that the U.S. government needs to move swiftly on two fronts that Republicans hate, climate change mitigation and public sector investment in infrastructure.
To add to the political humiliation of Republicans this week, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas made a spectacle of himself by abandoning his frozen state to fly to Cancun, Mexico for a vacation. Aided by Cruz’s own unique loathsomeness as a human being, the story spiraled as a crystalline illustration of Republican neglect and even malice towards the people they’re elected to represent. The gleeful dunking on Cruz got to the point where even the dog his family left behind, aptly named Snowflake, became a meme for balefully gazing out a window at a New York magazine photographer.
But I would not be writing the eulogies for Cruz’s political career just yet.
Have Republicans thought about what happens if Democrats succeed on covid-19?
In recent days, Republicans have tried to project confidence that they’ve found a killer attack line on President Biden: They can use the increasing anger of parents over the failure of schools to reopen to win back the suburban voters they’ve lost.
As Republicans describe this, it’s a twofer: They can channel the genuine hardships this has imposed on countless Americans to their advantage while also tarring Democrats as in the pocket of teachers unions, casting them as tools of their special interests.
But both Democrats and Republicans (ones who are less beholden to the party, anyway) alike have spied a problem with this line of attack: Its shelf life might not last all that long.
Even more to the point, if and when its shelf life ends — when covid-19 is tamed sufficiently, and when normal life resumes, including kids returning to school — it will be in no small part because of solutions implemented on Democrats’ watch, which Republicans are already resisting.