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: Et Tu, Ted? Why Deregulation Failed

Even Senator Cruz realizes kilowatt-hours aren’t like avocados.

Nobody is ever fully prepared for natural disaster. When hurricanes, blizzards or tsunamis strike they always reveal weaknesses — failure to plan, failure to invest in precautions.

The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes. [..]

The theory was that no such regulation was necessary, because the magic of the market would take care of everything. After all, a surge in demand or a disruption of supply — both of which happened in the deep freeze — will lead to high prices, and hence to big profits for any power supplier that manages to keep operating. So there should be incentives to invest in robust systems, precisely to take advantage of events like those Texas just experienced.

Texas energy policy was based on the idea that you can treat electricity like avocados. Do people remember the great avocado shortage of 2019? Surging demand and a bad crop in California led to spiking prices; but nobody called for a special inquest and new regulations on avocado producers.

In fact, some people see nothing wrong with what happened in Texas in the past week. William Hogan, the Harvard professor widely considered the architect of the Texas system, asserted that drastic price increases, while “not convenient,” were how the system was supposed to work.

But kilowatt-hours aren’t avocados, and there are at least three big reasons pretending that they are is a recipe for disaster.

Eugene Robinson: We’ve lost 500,000 Americans to covid-19. We can prevent the loss of 500,000 more.

It’s hard to struggle on in the face of such loss, and when the end seems near. But we must.

This is a moment of terrible tension. We are reaching an unspeakable milestone: the deaths of half a million Americans from covid-19. At the same time, there is unambiguous good news in the fight against the virus. It is possible, finally, to imagine a day when this devastating pandemic is brought to an end. The progress we’ve made toward defeating covid-19 should sharpen our grief, making it clear how many lives we might have saved had we been unified in our response. But even as we mourn, we cannot despair: There are people who will live if we keep up the hard, lonely work still before us.

Since peaking in early January, the daily tally of new cases in this country has plummeted by more than two-thirds. Hospitalizations, an even more reliable measure of the pandemic since they reflect the number of people suffering from serious disease, are falling, too: Fewer than 60,000 people are hospitalized today with covid-19, as opposed to more than 130,000 for several days last month.

Deaths are a lagging indicator, but those, too, have fallen sharply. On Saturday, according to The Post’s tally, the seven-day daily average of deaths was 1,932 — the first time that figure had fallen below 2,000 since Dec. 4. [..]

But however exhausting it might be, we all have dreary, routine work left to do to combat the virus and to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. It helps that the federal government now sends a consistent message on the need for the simple measures that are known to prevent transmission of the coronavirus: mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

Amanda Marcotte: 500,000 dead Americans: One year of COVID exposes the rot of GOP ideology

Half a million dead and Texas in shambles — Democrats have a real chance to destroy “small government” arguments

The U.S. is expected to cross a grim milestone on Monday that was unimagined by even the worst projections from the beginning of the pandemic nearly one year ago: Half a million dead from COVID-19. And those are just the direct deaths from recorded instances of the disease. Excess mortality rates show that for every two official COVID-19 deaths, there’s another excess death, likely due to myriad related causes, from increased rates of poverty to strains on the health care system to undiagnosed cases. What is clear, however, is that the past year has exposed the rot of GOP ideology that led to such excess death and despair.

While Republicans love to quibble to muddy the waters around pandemic failure assessment, there is no denying that Donald Trump’s approach to the coronavirus — do as little as possible, push for premature re-openings, hide the evidence by discouraging testing — led to hundreds of thousands more dead Americans than we would have seen under a competent administration.

Yet, as tempting as it might be for some to attribute those failures to Trump’s unique combination of laziness and malice towards the public, the situation in Texas is a cold reminder of how well his failures fit with the larger GOP approach to policy. The state is in shambles, laid flat because the power and water systems — poorly managed due to the Republican mania for low regulation — were no match for the kinds of extreme winter storm events that climate change is making more common. Texas’s situation illustrates how Trump’s approach to the pandemic is just one aspect of the Republican approach to everything, which is to say, to neglect government duties in favor of pandering to wealthy interests and to deflect and deny when the consequences inevitably occur. Democrats must now do more to seize the moment.

Jamelle Bouie: How Not to Be at the Mercy of a Trumpified G.O.P.

Barack Obama asked Democrats to kill the filibuster and pass a voting rights bill because it was the right thing to do. There’s a stronger argument.

Obama asked Democrats to kill the filibuster and pass a voting rights bill because it was the right thing to do. But there’s a stronger argument: that if Democrats don’t do this, they’ll be at the mercy of a Trumpified Republican Party that has radicalized against democracy itself. [..]

Devoted to Trump, and committed to his fictions about the election, Republicans are doing everything they can to keep voters from holding them and their leaders accountable. They will restrict the vote. They will continue to gerrymander themselves into near-permanent majorities. A Republican in Arizona has even proposed a legislative veto over the popular vote in presidential elections, under the dubious theory that state legislatures have unconditional, unlimited and unrestricted power to allocate electoral votes.

The good news is that Democrats in Congress have it in their power to stop a lot of this nonsense, to pre-emptively weaken the rising tide of voter suppression. All it takes is a simple vote to make the Senate work according to majority rule, as the founding fathers intended.

The alternative is to allow the supermajority requirement to stand, to allow endless stagnation, to abdicate the authority of Congress to govern the country and tackle its problems, to deny the party of collective action the ability to act for the public good and to give the party of plutocrats and demagogues free rein to twist the institutions of the American republic against its values.

Jennifer Rubin: Can we have unity when Republicans thrive on alienation?

One party is checking out of the American experience.

President Biden issued a plea for national unity in his remarks on Monday commemorating the 500,000 deaths from covid-19. “It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans,” he said. “It’s our neighbors and our friends — our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America.” [..]

Biden, unlike most other presidents faced with tragedy, confronts a peculiar challenge: One party is fueled by alienation, resentment, paranoia and bigotry. The Republican Party — as evidenced by its response to Texas’s energy crisis, its implacable opposition to a substantial rescue plan, its disinterest in rooting out violent White supremacists and its celebration of the Confederacy (the embodiment of anti-union sentiment) — thrives when its base feels animosity toward “elites” (e.g., urbanites, experts, civil rights activists) and is convinced the rest of the country has contempt for them. If they come to believe that the federal government has not “stolen” something from them but rather wants to extend a helping hand the entire ethos of the GOP crumbles.