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: The Triumph of Fiscal Hypocrisy
What we can learn from Trump’s deficitpalooza.
Donald Trump’s re-election campaign will be centered around claims that he has done great things for the economy. And let’s be honest: The U.S. economy is running pretty hot these days. Growth in G.D.P. and employment has been good, though not spectacular; the unemployment rate is near a historic low.
There are some shadows in the picture. Economic gains have been lopsided, with a large increase in corporate profits that mainly reflects giant tax breaks, while workers haven’t seen comparable gains (and gains for lower-wage workers have been driven in part by minimum-wage increases in blue states). The huge gains in health insurance coverage under President Barack Obama have stalled or gone into reverse, and there has been a sharp increase in the number of Americans who report delaying medical treatment because of costs.
Still, it is indeed a strong economy. But if we ask what lies behind that strength, the main answer is an explosion in the federal budget deficit, which exceeded $1 trillion last year. And the story of how that happened has deeply disturbing implications for the future of U.S. politics.
Michelle Goldberg: The Harrowing Chaos of the Democratic Primary
Is it really going to be Bernie or bust for American democracy?
Although I’m a pessimist by nature, deep down I think I always believed that the Republic would survive Donald Trump.
The majority of Americans have never accepted him, and his ascendancy fueled a nationwide civic awakening, starting with the Women’s March and proceeding through airport protests, health care town halls and finally the midterms. It’s been devastating to see how quickly so many American institutions have been corrupted — the Department of Justice turned into an engine of Trump’s paranoid vendettas, the State Department purged of nonpartisan professionals, evidence of Trump’s Ukraine extortion scheme buried by his Senate lackeys. It’s outrageous that the country’s being forced to endure four full years of lawless kakistocracy, but surely, I thought, the majority would put an end to it in the next election.
But now that election is approaching, and the debacle of the Iowa caucuses only highlights how the Democratic Party is threatening to fracture. In its aftermath, we’re left with a national race led by two very old and extraordinarily risky general election candidates whose weaknesses were underscored by Iowa’s results, muddled as they were.
Paul Waldman: The end of accountability
As he rambled his way through yet another whiny, resentful, vindictive public address on Thursday — a “celebration,” as he put it, of his acquittal in his impeachment trial — President Trump might as well have been celebrating the death of accountability in American politics.
That he feels personally unaccountable is nothing new. In fact, it’s the story of his entire life — that of a man secure in the belief that wealth and power mean you can break any law, victimize any innocent person or skip out on any debt and never have to pay a price.
But if you step back and look at the whole picture of the Trump administration, both in the president’s own actions and in the policies being pursued on his behalf, you might reasonably conclude that the very idea of accountability is losing all meaning.
The big danger emerging from President Trump’s acquittal isn’t just that he has learned his whole party is unprepared to constrain any future abuse of power he undertakes. It’s that he has learned his party will, with a few stray exceptions, wholeheartedly support and even actively participate in it.
So what will this look like going forward?
In the immediate future, even if we don’t see a single, monstrous new scandal emerge, we might instead witness a slow accumulation and acceleration of insidiously incremental abuses of power that, taken together, continue to erode the rule of law.
Here’s a case in point, one that will take on increasing salience as the 2020 election churns forward: Trump’s abuse of the classification process.
This may sound dry and wonky. But it could be enormously consequential.This may sound dry and wonky. But it could be enormously consequential.
As of Thursday morning, we still can’t say for certain who won the Iowa caucuses. The New York Times reported that even now that nearly all the results are in, they are “riddled with inconsistencies and errors”. The tallies don’t add up, the delegate numbers are wrong, and there are mismatches between the numbers reported by the state and those reported by local precincts. Results were released that showed implausible windfalls for Deval Patrick and Tom Steyer, and had to quickly be retracted. Now, DNC head Tom Perez has called for all of the results to be reexamined, which will further delay the final total. [..]
Whoever pulls ahead in the final count, it was a serious defeat for democracy. The caucuses occur in public, so at the end of the day we’ll probably get a count we can trust, but the Iowa Democratic party seems to have done everything possible to make people lose confidence in the results’ reliability. First, by deploying an untested app with no transparency, they opened up suspicion about manipulation. Second, by keeping the results they had under wraps, without giving any explanation or timeline, they made themselves look like they were sitting on results because they didn’t like the outcome. Third, by releasing results that contained obvious errors (which tended to go against Sanders), and delaying a bunch of results that pulled Sanders closer to Buttigieg, they looked conspiratorial. The arcane delegate math didn’t help: as cable news election experts tried to explain how more votes for Sanders turns into more delegates for Buttigieg, they made American elections look absurd.