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: On Coronavirus, We’re #1
But we’re doing some things right despite Trump.
It’s hard to believe, but just a month ago Donald Trump and his henchmen were dismissing the coronavirus as a nonevent. On Feb. 26 Trump declared that “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be close to zero.” His remark came a day after Larry Kudlow, his administration’s chief economist, declared that the virus was almost completely contained, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”
There are now more than 82,000 cases in the U.S. — we don’t know how many more, because we’re still lagging far behind on testing. But that makes us the world’s coronavirus epicenter, and the U.S. trajectory is worse than that of any other country.
As for the economy: Last week more than three million workers filed for unemployment insurance, a number that is completely off the scale even as many others who are suddenly out of work aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. We’re clearly losing jobs even faster than at the worst moments of the 2008-9 financial crisis, when we were losing “only” 800,000 per month.
Trump’s dismissal and denial played a large role in getting us to this point. And he should be held accountable. But the crucial question now is whether we’re doing enough to cope with the catastrophe.
And the answer is no. We’re doing some of what we should be doing, mainly thanks to the efforts of Democratic governors and Democratic members of Congress — a statement that may sound partisan, but is the simple truth. But we’re still falling down on crucial fronts, mainly because even now Trump and his party aren’t taking the threat seriously.
Katrina vanden Heuvel: The coronavirus’s threat to democracy itself
The coronavirus pandemic poses a terrifying threat to life and a staggering test to our leaders. The unseemly spectacle of lawmakers scrambling to craft a response in the midst of a corporate lobbying feeding frenzy reveals that neither the president nor the legislators yet comprehend the scope of the action needed. The focus, naturally, has been on how to mobilize to meet health-care needs, help Americans survive an economic calamity that is no fault of their own and revive the economy without letting Wall Street and corporate lobbies steal us blind. But we must not forget this virus’s threat to democracy itself: Any reform package must include dramatic steps to guarantee that Americans can vote this fall. It is time for Congress to pass universal vote-at-home (better known as vote-by-mail) legislation.
The virus’s toll on our election system is already plain to see. Several states have postponed their primaries. In states that went ahead, voters increasingly were wary of going to the polls. Many states shut down polling places, moving them out of nursing homes and other places at risk. Many scrambled to find polling workers, as elderly volunteers chose not to risk their lives.
This problem isn’t going away. Nearly one-fourth of all voters in 2020 will be 65 or older — the very people who are most vulnerable to the virus and should be the most wary of going to crowded polling stations to cast their ballots. A majority of polling workers are over 60 years old. With the White House already warning against gatherings of 10 or more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending keeping a distance of six feet from others, and other states and cities considering joining California and New York in mandatory lockdowns, no one should pretend that we can run the remaining 2020 primaries and the general election as if it were business as usual.
Catherine Rampell: The sleeper issue of the current economic crisis
States are facing huge shortages — and not just of ventilators, masks and health-care personnel.
They’re about to confront enormous budget shortages, too. This is the sleeper issue of the current economic crisis, and aiding states now could well be the difference between a brief recession and a prolonged depression.
Particularly in ailing regions of the United States that still haven’t recovered from the last recession.
The bill the Senate passed Wednesday would give state and local governments $150 billion to help plug budget holes. It also includes $31 billion for local schools and colleges. That money is definitely welcome.
But it will be nowhere near sufficient to prevent cascading state and local government layoffs and cuts to critical public services that otherwise lie ahead. For context: States suffered a cumulative $600 billion revenue shortfall in the first five years after the Great Recession hit.
And there are ample reasons to believe the fiscal crunch could be worse this time around. Many states entered this dual public health and economic emergency in poor budgetary shape, with too little in their “rainy day” funds to handle this Noah-style deluge. As of late last year, only about half the states had the funds they need to weather even a moderate recession, according to Moody’s Analytics.
Seemingly every state will take a huge hit, for different reasons.
Only a once-in-a-century leader has the guts to say out loud what the worst among us are really thinking: everyone other than me is expendable
Donald Trump isn’t much of a doctor or scientist. He isn’t much of a diplomat or general. His leadership skills match his business skills. There’s a reason his companies went bankrupt so many times.
But he might just be a pioneer with this idea of letting people die for the sake of the country. Only a once-in-a-century leader has the guts to say out loud what the worst among us are really thinking: everyone other than me is expendable.
Anyone older is past it, for sure. The younger ones we can easily afford to lose: they don’t actually pay for anything. The smarter ones? Totally annoying. The dumber ones: what’s even the point?
The sick are a real drain on us, financially and emotionally. The poor won’t really do much in the long run, no matter how hard we try. The wealthy just keep shoving it in your face. Foreigners aren’t like us at all. And our neighbors are frankly a bit too close for comfort.
So when you add it all up, it’s only sensible that we ask everyone else to sacrifice themselves for us. For the sake of the nation and all that’s good, please just go, so that the rest of us – not counting the undesirables – can get back to our old lives.
The Christian right has long been hostile to science. Now that attitude will make the pandemic much worse
Scientists and health experts largely agree on the steps needed to fight COVID-19, the rapidly spreading new coronavirus: Widespread testing, if possible. Widespread and often stringent social distancing protocols in communities where it’s taken root, to slow the spread. Hygienic practices like frequent hand-washing and sterilizing commonly touched surfaces. Protective gear, like masks in medical settings, to keep health care professionals from catching it and spreading it.
But when it comes to conservative evangelical Christians, who are already hostile to science on many levels, advice from health experts is all too often being treated as something that can be dismissed out of hand, if it threatens the political or theological goals of their movement.
To be clear, Christian right leaders aren’t denying that coronavirus is a real problem (at least not anymore). If anything, the bevy of snake oil salesman who call themselves ministers sees the panic around the virus as a marketing opportunity to make money from selling dangerous supplements, to declare the virus can be beaten with the power of prayer and to declare that the pandemic is a divine punishment inflicted on sinners.
But Christian right leaders are also not about to let medical science supersede their authority, much less get in the way of their quest for power and cold, hard cash. Because of this, the Christian right has become a vector of bad advice, misinformation and dreadful business decisions that are directly threatening the health not just of their followers, but the public at large.