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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Charles M. Blow: Is America a Racist Country?

The answer is “yes,” and that’s not a radical statement.

Last Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina added himself to the long list of Republicans who have denied the existence of systemic racism in this country. Graham said on “Fox News Sunday” that “our systems are not racist. America’s not a racist country.” [..]

Some will concede the historical point and insist on the progress point, arguing that was then and this is now, that racism simply doesn’t exist now as it did then. I would agree. American racism has evolved and become less blunt, but it has not become less effective. The knife has simply been sharpened. Now systems do the work that once required the overt actions of masses of individual racists.

So, what does it mean for a system to be racist? Does the appellation depend on the system in question being openly, explicitly racist from top to bottom, or simply that there is some degree of measurable bias embedded in those systems? I assert the latter.

America is not the same country it was, but neither is it the country it purports to be. On some level this is a tension between American idealism and American realism, between an aspiration and a current condition.

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans have no standing to give advice on tax policy

They live in their own economic universe.

The Republican Party’s fixation on tax cuts is not rooted in reason or experience. That makes it hard for a White House that generally makes arguments based on history and data to strike a deal on the American Jobs Plan.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appearing on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday explained the potential positive effects of the American Jobs Plan: ”[W]e can be competitive and have families and children succeed, invest in infrastructure, in R&D and the things that shore up middle class prosperity: education, child care and health care.” [..]

Republicans simply ignore the mountain of evidence disproving the benefits of supply-side tax cuts. The Post reported in December on five decades of tax research: The tax cuts “had no effect on economic growth or employment. Though those quantities fluctuated slightly after the major tax cuts that were studied, the effect was statistically indistinguishable from zero.” Despite political rhetoric, “The ‘rocket fuel’ so often promised by supporters of these tax cuts? It fizzles out time and time again.” They sure do not pay for themselves.

In this debate, I would side with the former Fed chair — one of the most respected economists in the country who has tons of data to back her up — over the party that falsely promised tax cuts would pay for themselves and permanently increase growth and jobs.

Greg Sargent: The mask slips, revealing the truth about the GOP voter suppression game

Republicans want to shrink the electorate, because they think it will advantage them.

Republicans are responding to their 2020 losses by doing everything they can to restrict the size of the electorate wherever possible, in ways they think will advantage them. To disguise this ugly game, they’ve rolled out all sorts of disingenuous talking points, claiming they want to restore “confidence” in our elections or, even more absurdly, to ensure “election integrity.”

But every now and then the mask slips, making the truth about these efforts even harder to deny. [..]

As it is, the new provisions would heavily target African American and newly registered voters, according to University of Florida political scientist Daniel A. Smith, whose calculations show that those demographics disproportionately relied on vote-by-mail in 2020.

However, Smith’s research shows Republican voters also relied to an unexpected degree on vote-by-mail — hence these new GOP fears. As Smith notes: “The GOP leadership has discounted any collateral damage, calculating that the benefit to the party outweighs any harm done to its party faithful.”

The truth here is plain to see: Florida Republicans are trying to make it harder for the opposition’s voters to participate, to the point where party operatives even floated the idea of exempting their own voters from provisions that would accomplish this.

Eugene Robinson: Banning menthol cigarettes could put Black smokers in a new kind of danger

Collaboration, not paternalism, is the key to get Black Americans to quit smoking.

Smoking is bad for you, and any measure that helps people quit is theoretically good. But the federal government’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes leaves a sour taste in my mouth — and not a nicotine-flavored one.

Making it illegal to make or sell Newports, Kools and other such brands will have a massively disparate impact on African American smokers, nearly 85 percent of whom smoke menthols. By contrast, only around 30 percent of White smokers and 35 percent of Hispanic smokers choose menthol-flavored varieties. Black smokers have every right to feel targeted by the planned prohibition.

Public health experts can reasonably argue that the pending rule targets African Americans in the best possible way. The real disparate impact, so this thinking goes, is in the way tobacco companies have aggressively marketed menthol cigarettes in Black communities over the decades. I understand all of that. But I can’t rush to cheer a new policy that puts a terribly unhealthy — but perfectly legal — practice enjoyed so disproportionately by African Americans on the wrong side of the law.

Amanda Marcotte: The U.S. never had a shot at herd immunity

Hostility to scientific expertise plus rejection of the concept of the common good led to anti-vaxx conservatism

Many folks have been saying it for a few months now, but it appears that the slower-moving medical experts in the federal government are finally admitting it. Despite half of Americans getting the shot, Apoorva Mandavilli of the New York Times writes, “vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.”

This article caused a lot of doom-saying from pandemic addicts on social media, but there’s actually good news in this. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top advisor on the pandemic, explained that federal leaders “stopped using herd immunity in the classic sense,” and instead the focus has shifted to “vaccinate enough people, the infections are going to go down.” In other words, it’s time to stop letting anti-vaccination people hold the rest of hostage, wind down the lockdowns, and shift gears to managing COVID-19 through other strategies.

As Mandavilli explains, there’s a lot of reasons that herd immunity is simply unachievable in the current situation, but there is no doubt that “[s]kepticism about the vaccines among many Americans” is playing a major role. She delicately avoids digging in deeper, but anyone who has been paying attention in recent months understands what this means: It’s Republicans.