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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Brice Covert: The Debate Over What ‘Infrastructure’ Is Is Ridiculous

Both snarled traffic and a morning without a home health aide can make you late for work.

Ask any of the parents who have spent the last year at home with their children, while trying to participate in Zoom meetings, whether child care enables them to show up to work and perform at their best. The direct conflict between children’s need to be cared for during the day and working parents’ need to devote their attention to their jobs exploded into full view during the pandemic, not just for families but for their employers and co-workers. Suddenly it was everyone’s problem. [..]

We’re in the middle of a loud debate over what, exactly, counts as “infrastructure.” The word has come to be associated with the country’s physical assets: our national highway system, the pipes that bring us water and the cables that bring us electricity, the tarmac in our airports and the tracks on our train routes. These things are infrastructure because they are underlying systems that facilitate other critical functions — moving people and goods, connecting communities, delivering necessities. They are important for what they make possible.

But they are not the only systems that undergird critical needs. President Biden’s next legislative priority is fixing the country’s decrepit infrastructure as a way to help the economy rebound from the pandemic, and he’s taking a more expansive view of what falls into that category. The first half of his package expands home- and community-based care for seniors and the disabled, and he has promised to include more so-called soft infrastructure in his follow-up American Family Plan, including investments in child care and paid leave.

Jennifer Rubin: Yes, it’s possible the GOP is worse post-Trump

Republicans repeatedly show they stand outside decent society.

The Republican Party seems to be getting worse. In some cases, it has exceeded the level of dishonesty, bigotry and anti-democratic fervor that it displayed when its MAGA cult leader was in office.

Last week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) had the gall to question the effort to vaccinate people despite their hesitancy. As he told a conservative radio host: “If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” This he said a time when combating vaccine aversion is most difficult among recalcitrant Republicans. Even the former president wants people to get vaccinated.

Elected Republicans are certainly more disconnected from reality than they were in that fleeting moment after the Jan. 6 attack when they took exception to the disgraced former president’s role in fueling the insurrection. Now, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is flat-out lying about the former president’s responsibility for inciting violence, arguing that Donald Trump was unaware of events at the Capitol during a phone conversation that day and acted promptly to diffuse it. This is contrary to McCarthy’s own previous account of the phone call, as well as accounts from others, making his latest spasm of political opportunism at the expense of democracy, truth and decency all the worse.

Joseph E. Stiglitz and Lori Wallach: Preserving intellectual property barriers to covid-19 vaccines is morally wrong and foolish

Joseph E. Stiglitz, co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Sciences, teaches at Columbia University. Lori Wallach is the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

New covid-19 variants are spreading quickly. An outbreak anywhere could lead to a more deadly or infectious strain hopping around the globe.

So why, after three months of making great progress on domestic vaccination, has President Biden not ended a self-defeating policy from the Trump administration that hinders a global initiative to increase access to covid-19 vaccines and treatments? More than 100 countries support a temporary waiver of some World Trade Organization rules that guarantee pharmaceutical firms monopoly control over how much medicine is produced, yet the United States remains opposed.

Had WTO members agreed to waive aspects of its agreement on trade-related intellectual property for covid-related medicines when some countries proposed it last October, poor nations might not wait until 2024 for vaccines, as projected.

Waiving intellectual property rights so developing countries could produce more vaccines would make a big difference in reaching global herd immunity. Otherwise, the pandemic will rage largely unmitigated among a significant share of the world’s population, resulting in increased deaths and a greater risk that a vaccine-resistant variant puts the world back on lockdown.

Amanda Marcotte: The Charlottesville model: Trump’s “fine people” praise of white nationalists is now GOP mainstream

Racist voting laws, love for killer cops, and encouraging violence against protesters: This is the post-Trump GOP

Former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean had some choice words for the modern Republican Party during a recent interview with Molly Jong-Fast of The Daily Beast. He called the GOP “racist” and “neo-fascist” and, hilariously, compared the Republican congressional caucus specifically to a “sentient YouTube comment section.” I expected there to be some outrage, but so far not so much. Apparently, even Republicans are running out of energy to deny what is obviously true about their party. Donald Trump’s only been out of office for a little over three months and his once-shocking levels of racism have now become just normal Republican politics.

In August 2017, Trump incited one of the larger of his nearly infinite controversies by insisting that a crowd of neo-Nazis and other white nationalists who gathered for a race riot in Charlottesville contained “very fine people” in it. Over the next few days, Trump did his usual thing of backing off the racist comments and then backing off the back-off. Ultimately, everyone walked away with the same general understanding: Trump’s heart was with the white nationalists and any half-hearted gestures otherwise were political theater no one actually took seriously. Efforts by conservative pundits to clean up Trump’s comments over the next few years were merely meant to get liberals to stop bugging them about it, not a genuine sign of confusion over where he stood on the matter.

Trump was constantly in the news for saying racist things, but this one stuck out because that crowd of “very fine people” that Trump had so much love for produced a murderer that day. James Fields Jr. rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racists that were counter-protesting, killing a woman named Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, five critically. Fields went to prison for the attack, but Republican politicians, following Trump’s “very fine people” lead, have since moved to legalize what Fields did that day.

Paul Waldman: Republicans decide that for them to win, everything has to be a crisis

President Biden says we can solve our problems. Republicans say we’re spiraling toward chaos and collapse.

As President Biden reaches his 100th day in the White House, this is the shape of American political conflict: He wants to reassure the country that everything is under control, our problems are significant but solvable and things are getting better. The Republican Party, on the other hand, wants the country to believe that we are in a spiraling crisis, a nightmare of chaos and oppression that threatens to drag us to hell — if we aren’t already there.

There are hamburgers involved (seriously), but for his part, the president has so far implemented a strategy that seems almost designed to stay out of the news. Biden isn’t just refusing to be drawn into silly media controversies; he’s almost acting as though the national conversation is of minimal concern to him.

The contrast with the Donald Trump years couldn’t be stronger. Trump believed not only that he had to monopolize our attention for every waking moment, but also that conflict that had him at its center was inevitably good for him. Where Biden tries to tamp down disagreement and create the perception of stability — even if it means you can go for days without thinking about him — Trump wanted chaos, believing that he could ride it to success.