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: What Do Used Car Prices Say About Biden’s Agenda?

What did we learn from April’s inflation report? Not much.

So, should President Biden scrap his economic agenda because Americans are rushing to buy used cars?

OK, I’m being a bit snarky here, but only a bit. That’s pretty much what economists trying to draw big conclusions based on Wednesday’s inflation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics are saying.

It’s true that while almost everyone was expecting a spike in consumer prices, the actual spike was bigger than expected. The one-year inflation rate went above 4 percent, surpassing its previous recent peak, in 2011.

It’s not silly to ask whether unexpectedly high inflation means that the economy has less room to run than both the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve have been assuming; that could be true, and if it were, Biden’s spending plans might be excessive and the Fed might need to consider raising interest rates sooner rather than later.

But neither the details of that report nor recent history support those concerns; they suggest, on the contrary, that policymakers should keep their cool. This doesn’t look at all like 1970s stagflation redux; it looks like a temporary blip, reflecting transitory disruptions as the economy struggles to recover from pandemic disruptions. And history tells us that it’s a very bad idea for policymakers to panic in the face of such a blip.

To see why, let’s revisit what happened in 2011, the last time we saw this kind of inflation blip.

Michelle Goldberg: How Republicans Could Steal the 2024 Election

Liz Cheney’s ouster showed that the G.O.P. is still at war with democracy.

Erica Newland serves as counsel for Protect Democracy, a nonprofit organization founded in 2017 to fight democratic breakdown in America. Before Joe Biden’s victory was officially confirmed in January, she researched some of the ways that Donald Trump’s allies in Congress might sabotage the process. She came to a harrowing conclusion.

“It occurred to me,” she told her colleagues then, “as I dug into the rules and watched what happened, that if the current Republican Party controls both Houses of Congress on Jan. 6, 2025, there’s no way if a Democrat is legitimately elected they will get certified as the president-elect.” [..]

If that happens, the election would be tossed to the House, with each state delegation getting one vote. Even now, with the House as a whole controlled by Democrats, there are more states whose representatives are predominantly Republican. With enough procedural mischief, politicians representing a minority of the country could hand the presidency to a candidate who got a minority of both the popular and Electoral College votes. If this has never been an evident danger in the past, it’s because both parties were at least outwardly committed to liberal democracy, and probably thought their voters were, too.

That is no longer true. The Republican electorate, believing that Democratic victories are by their nature illegitimate, demands that everything possible be done to subvert them. For rejecting the anti-democratic turn in her party, Cheney — a right-wing extremist in many other regards — has been cast out. Republicans are showing us exactly what they expect of their officials. They’ve made it clear that while American democracy was given a reprieve in 2020, the work of repairing it has barely begun.

Jessica Valenti: The Anti-Abortion Movement Can’t Use This Myth Anymore

Covid-19 may end up inadvertently speeding up abortion progress in America — and exposing conservative hypocrisy along the way.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that people seeking abortion pills during the Covid-19 pandemic will no longer have to visit a doctor’s office to get a prescription. Under the Trump administration, patients were required to receive the first of the medication’s two doses in person, a mandate upheld by the Supreme Court in January. The new policy instead allows for telemedicine consultations and pills sent by mail. [..]

The F.D.A.’s new rule on telemedicine consultations and abortion by mail will soon arm pro-choice organizations with more studies reiterating the safety of medication abortion and show how shipping pills poses no risk to patients. It will also make it that much more difficult for opponents to make specious arguments about unsafe practices.

Exposing this hypocrisy doesn’t come without a risk. If current trends continue, people ending their pregnancies will increasingly do so at home — circumventing the restrictive policies focused on clinics. Without the ability to use science, reason or even scare tactics in their messaging and legislation, Republicans will, as they have in the past, resort to punitive measures. Already, multiple women who have used medication abortion without going through a doctor have been arrested — and in some cases charged.

For women who live far from clinics or who can’t take extended time off work to travel, access to this medication could be the difference between being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy and making safe choices about their own lives and futures.

That’s why it’s so important that those who care about abortion rights redouble their efforts to make medication abortion permanently legally available by mail.

Charles M. Blow:: Fatigue Is a Luxury You Can’t Afford

The Republican Party has abandoned democracy and is posing a bigger threat.

As columnists, we often test the boundaries.

We want to write in provocative ways that inspire readers to think and discuss. But we don’t want to descend into hyperbole or, worse yet, hysteria.

As many of our critics are quick to remind us, we often slide right into that abyss. Sometimes they are right. There is no real science or formal methodology to this form of commentary. We write it not only as we see it, but also as we feel it, and our feelings fluctuate.

The danger, of course, is the Chicken Little problem: If you inflate everything into a sky-is-falling panic, what does one write when the sky really does begin to fall? What credibility does one have left among the watchful when the country truly nears the possibility of a political apocalypse?

Well, I’m not sure how to answer that. It seems to me that the possibility of destruction came in waves during the Trump administration, with more near-misses than the heart could handle.

Defcon 1 became our political default, and they wore down our anxieties about the danger. We are human beings; our panic can’t be permanent. Our minds and bodies simply aren’t meant to sustain it.

But here we are again facing another very real threat to our democracy, and it would be a shame if we were so weary of Donald Trump and his supporters’ attacks on the pillars of this country that we dismissed warnings about what it all means, as with all others that preceded it.

Amanda Marcotte: Liz Cheney’s ouster is no isolated incident — Republicans are already back to defending Trump’s coup

During a House hearing on the Capitol riot, Republicans defended the people who attempted to overthrow the election

After Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., was ousted from her role as third highest-ranking member of the GOP in the House on Wednesday, Republican leaders tried very hard to convince mainstream reporters it was for some other reason than what it obviously was: Cheney remains unwilling to go along with Donald Trump’s Big Lie.

“I don’t think anyone is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., blatantly lying about Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him and that the Capitol insurrection was a good thing, told reporters Wednesday. Trump — who is clearly still the de facto leader of the GOP — also spoke out on Wednesday, raving on his blog: “If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned.”

McCarthy’s little tapdance is meant to hoodwink mainstream political reporters into believing that Republicans aren’t actually an anti-democratic party lining up behind a fascist who literally tried to overthrow a democratic election. But it’s a lie so hamfisted that it’s not even getting by the notoriously credulous D.C. press corps. After all, everyone knows Cheney was a fierce ally of Trump’s until he incited a mob to storm the Capitol, threatening the lives of her and her colleagues. Remember, it was a bridge so far that even McCarthy was angry at the time, until his ambition caused him to slither back on his belly to the man who sent a violent mob to the Capitol.

But regardless of who McCarthy thinks he’s fooling, the reality of where the GOP is headed was made all too clear elsewhere on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.