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: America Needs to Empower Workers Again

Unions aren’t obsolete, and we need to get them back.

Labor activists hoped that the unionization vote at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse would be a turning point, a reversal in the decades-long trend of union decline. What the vote showed, instead, was the continuing effectiveness of the tactics employers have repeatedly used to defeat organizing efforts.

But union advocates shouldn’t give up. The political environment that gave anti-union employers a free hand may be changing — the decline of unionization was, above all, political, not a necessary consequence of a changing economy. And America needs a union revival if we’re to have any hope of reversing spiraling inequality. [..]

Organized labor used to provide a counterweight to corporate influence. Unions were never in a position to match corporate dollar power, but they could offer people power — the ability to mobilize their members and their members’ friends and neighbors in a way corporations couldn’t. And we need that kind of countervailing power more than ever.

So let’s hope that labor activists treat Bessemer as a learning experience, not cause for despair. We still need to get strong unions back.

Eugene Robinson: I want to believe justice is possible in Derek Chauvin’s trial. But a part of me holds back.

After decades of heartbreaking trials, it feels risky to assume the outcome will be different.

After hearing in such clinical, heartbreaking, infuriating detail about George Floyd’s final agonies, I want to believe justice is possible in the Derek Chauvin trial. I want to believe the jurors heard what I heard and felt what I feel. I want to allow myself to hope for it. But a part of me holds back.

The police officers who beat Rodney King to a pulp were acquitted. The self-appointed vigilante who shot Trayvon Martin to death was acquitted. The police officer who killed Philando Castile after a routine traffic stop — just miles from the Minneapolis intersection where Floyd died — was acquitted.

It feels risky to have any confidence that this time the outcome will be different, even though it feels as though it should be. It’s not just that the prosecutors seeking to convict Chauvin of murder have presented what seems to me an overwhelming case. This trial and the context in which it’s taking place are different from the other proceedings that led to such shattering disappointments.

Amanda Marcotte: Trump’s lasting legacy: Scandals don’t hurt politicians like Matt Gaetz and Andrew Cuomo

Politicians in the post-Trump era bet they can weather scandals by playing chicken with a press that’s easily bored

Donald Trump is a bored old man whose main entertainment these days is making a fool out of Republican fundraisers with his unhinged rants, but, sadly for the rest of us, his impact will be long-lingering, from the mainstreaming of white nationalist rhetoric to the size of the lies Republican politicians feel emboldened to tell. One of the oddest, most annoying legacies Trump leaves behind has the potential to impact not just Republican politicians, but Democratic ones as well: that all they need to do when faced with a scandal, no matter how serious, is to dig in their heels and refuse to resign. Eventually, as Trump’s time in office demonstrated, the press will get bored and move on.

The two current examples of this phenomenon come from different sides of the aisle but have a surprising amount in common with both each other and Trump: New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and Congress’ most “Florida man” member, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. {..}

Blame Trump.

In his four years in office, Trump was a non-stop hurricane of scandals, many that were far more serious than what Gaetz and Cuomo are accused of doing. Trump weathered a sex scandal that was also a campaign finance scandal, a rape scandal, and various accusations of sexual assault. He was impeached twice, both times for efforts to cheat in or steal the election that could be understood as seditious. He settled out of court for committing fraud. He shamelessly used his businesses as go-throughs to collect bribes, both foreign and domestic. And that’s just a taste of all the criminality and corruption Trump indulged in as president.

None of it mattered, at least while Trump was in office. (There’s still hope he may feel the cold metal of handcuffs, like so many of his associates have in the past.)

Robert Reich: Republican ‘attacks’ on corporations over voting rights bills are a hypocritical sham

The deal between big business and government – donations in return for low taxes or none – remains absolutely unchanged

For four decades, the basic deal between big American corporations and politicians has been simple. Corporations provide campaign funds. Politicians reciprocate by lowering corporate taxes and doing whatever else corporations need to boost profits.

The deal has proven beneficial to both sides, although not to the American public. Campaign spending has soared while corporate taxes have shriveled. [..]

The basic deal between American corporations and American politicians has been a terrible deal for America. Which is why a piece of legislation entitled the For the People Act, passed by the House and co-sponsored in the Senate by every Democratic senator except Manchin, is so important. It would both stop states from suppressing votes and also move the country toward public financing of elections, thereby reducing politicians’ dependence on corporate cash.

Corporations can and should bankroll much of what America needs. But they won’t, as long as corporations keep bankrolling American politicians.

Michelle Goldberg: The Biden Boom Is Already Wild

When lots of money is sloshing around, culture changes.

It was amazing how quickly it happened. For almost five years — from Donald Trump’s rise in the 2016 Republican primaries to the Jan. 6 insurrection following his defeat — the lurid spectacle of our national politics sucked up most of the country’s cultural energy. Almost every conversation I had during that time began with mutual expressions of outrage and incredulity about whatever was happening in the hourly news cycle.

And then it was over. Trump’s cultural power evanesced as quickly as his political power did. Now everyone except those running in Republican primaries can ignore him. National politics didn’t exactly become boring — Joe Biden’s administration is proving transformative — but it no longer demanded most people’s minute-by-minute attention. That left room for a new national obsession, especially once the vaccine rollout picked up and the end of America’s pandemic nightmare appeared in sight.

Increasingly, as the economy gets hotter, I wonder if that obsession might be markets.