Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium 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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David Leonhardt: New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon
Imagine that a bunch of children are sitting around a table when a seemingly beneficent adult walks into the room carrying a plate of cupcakes. The kids burst out in excitement — until they notice a problem: There are fewer cupcakes than children.
At this point, the adult announces some ground rules. To receive a cupcake, the children will have to compete with one another. The adult will accept cash or other objects of value. Praise for the adult’s kindness would also be welcome.
The kids immediately start saying nice things and digging into their pockets. But then one child has second thoughts. She quiets the room and tells the adult he’s being a bully. He is bigger, stronger and richer than the kids, she says. He shouldn’t make them grovel for cupcakes. The adult replies: “Fine. No cupcake for you.”
If she were your child, how would you feel: proud that she took a stand, or disappointed that she didn’t act in her own best interests? Cupcakes, after all, are pretty tasty.
Last week, New York became that disobedient child. The city damaged its own interests, or at least its short-term interests, for the sake of principle. Enough New Yorkers raised enough of a ruckus about the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks that the city and state were bestowing on Amazon that Amazon finally had enough. On Thursday, it announced that it would no longer be bringing 25,000 jobs to Queens. No cupcake for New York.
Yes, I know: Jobs are not cupcakes. Jobs help people build middle-class lives, which are in too short supply these days. So pretend that the adult in my story offered a Kindle instead of a cupcake. Or a college scholarship. It shouldn’t change your view of the girl’s rebellion.
Robert Reich: Dictator Trump
A president who claims he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency and spend government funds that Congress has explicitly refused to appropriate for the ends he seeks, is assuming the role of a dictator.
A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, and offers to reopen it as a concession when and if his opponents give in, is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. This, too, is the behavior of a dictator.
As is spouting lies over what Trump terms an “undeniable crisis” at the southern U.S. border, which is in fact no crisis at all.
Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. He is negating our system of government based on the rule of law. He is violating a president’s core responsibility to protect American democracy.
But the threat to American democracy is not just from Trump’s dictatorial moves. And real threat to American sovereignty is not coming from Trump’s fantasized hordes seeking to cross the Mexican border.
It is coming from a foreign government intent on undermining our democracy by propagating lies, turning Americans against each other, and electing a puppet president.
Catherine Rampell: Paid family leave isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s an economic one.
To borrow a famous construct from the then-first lady : Women’s issues are economic issues, and economic issues are women’s issues.
That’s how we should be thinking about many of the “softer” policy areas that will be debated in the 2020 election — and that have already found their way into legislative proposals, including the paid family leave bill reintroduced this week by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.).
I’m hardly the first to point out the connection between “women’s issues” and the economy. Slate’s Jordan Weissmann, for instance, recently wrote an excellent piece emphasizing the economic benefits of affordable child care. But still, policies that affect mothers’ ability to work are too often framed as being mainly about fairness, feminism, personal fulfillment and family bonding.
They are indeed all these things. But they also address a pressing macroeconomic concern. In the long run, if we want to boost economic output and productivity, we need our policymakers to focus less on trickle-down tax cuts and more on why so many American women who want to work aren’t.
Cindy McCain and Mark Udall: Congress must reach across the aisle and protect the Grand Canyon
Every year, Americans of all political persuasions make pilgrimages to Grand Canyon National Park, which will mark its 100th anniversary on Feb. 26. They stand in awe at the rim of this natural wonder, grateful for the forebears who preserved it for generations — and, for the most part, unaware that the Grand Canyon isn’t nearly as protected as people think it is.
The clock is ticking on a 20-year ban on new mining claims on about 1 million acres of public land surrounding the national park. Thousands of uranium claims were put on hold in 2012 because of mounting evidence that uranium mining in the headwaters of Grand Canyon creeks can contaminate life-giving seeps and springs in the desert basins below.
After examining evidence of harmful effects, five federal agencies recommended the temporary halt to new uranium claims. Ken Salazar, then the interior secretary, said his precautionary decision would allow more time to assess the impacts of active and abandoned mines, adding, “We have chosen a responsible path that makes sense for this and future generations.”
Though the bill doesn’t benefit the canyon, this burst of bipartisanship bodes well for Grand Canyon National Park as it approaches its 100th birthday. It’s time for the new Congress to reach across the aisle and carry on our long bipartisan tradition of stewardship for this crown jewel of our national park system.
E. J. Dionne, Jr.: The real national emergency is the triviality of our politics
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) learned that President Trump would declare a national emergency to shift around money to finance his border wall, her denunciation was predictable. But her way of expressing outrage was not. The issue she used to make her point was important on many levels.
Observing the “unease,” even among many Republicans, over Trump’s abuse of his power, she noted that “if the president can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency — an illusion that he wants to convey — just think of what a president with different values can present to the American people.”
And then she recalled the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, 2018, when 14 students and three staff members were gunned down. “You want to talk about a national emergency?” Pelosi asked. “Let’s talk about today, the one-year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America. That’s a national emergency. Why don’t you declare that emergency, Mr. President? I wish you would.”
Our nation’s deadly permissiveness toward firearms was very much on Pelosi’s mind — even before Friday’s shooting at an Aurora, Ill., warehouse that killed five people — because on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee had voted 21 to 14 to send a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales to the House floor.
It was the first serious vote on a gun-reform measure since 2013, when the Senate fell six votes short of the 60 needed to advance a background-checks bill proposed by Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.). It was also the most significant gun-sanity measure to move through the House Judiciary Committee since 1993.