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 Covid-19 Slump Has Arrived
But we’re already botching the response.
Over a normal two-week period we’d expect around half a million U.S. workers to file claims for unemployment insurance. Over the past two weeks we’ve seen almost 10 million filings. We’re facing an incredible economic catastrophe.
The question is whether we’re ready to deal with this catastrophe. Alas, early indications are that we may be handling fast-moving economic disaster as badly as we handled the fast-moving pandemic that’s causing it.
The key thing to realize is that we aren’t facing a conventional recession, at least so far. For now, most job losses are inevitable, indeed necessary: They’re a result of social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus. That is, we’re going into the economic equivalent of a medically induced coma, in which some brain functions are temporarily shut down to give the patient a chance to heal.
This means that the principal job of economic policy right now isn’t to provide stimulus, that is, to sustain employment and G.D.P. It is, instead, to provide life support — to limit the hardship of Americans who have temporarily lost their incomes.
There is, to be sure, a strong risk that we’ll have a conventional recession on top of the induced coma; more on that in subsequent columns. But for now, the focus should be on helping those in need.
James E. Baker: Why Is Trump So Timid With the Defense Production Act?
The administration has all the authority it needs to produce medical supplies and prepare for a potential vaccine.
Every Marine knows better than to pull a knife in a gunfight. But so far, that appears to be the federal government’s approach to battling Covid-19. The president has “invoked” the Defense Production Act, but the government has not used the full authority of the act. There is a difference between invoking a law and using it, just as there is a difference between talk and action.
Governors and health officials tell us that there is a profound gap between the protective equipment, hospital equipment and testing resources that are needed (and will be needed) and what is available (or in the pipeline). Bill Gates reminds us that we will need to produce millions, perhaps billions, of doses of vaccine in 12 to 18 months. This isn’t a passing crisis; we will need more of everything in two months, six months and maybe years.
Don’t let debate over the details of General Motors’ and Ventec’s honorable effort to build more ventilators hide the bottom line: The federal government has all the authority it needs to close the supply gap, allocate resources among states, and prepare for the production and distribution of the vaccine to come. Until the federal government demonstrates — with statistics, contracts and timelines — that the gap is closed and the vaccine pipeline is ready, we should ask: Why isn’t the government bringing its full arsenal to the fight?
Michelle Goldberg: Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness
Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the coronavirus response.
Reporting on the White House’s herky-jerky coronavirus response, Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has a quotation from Jared Kushner that should make all Americans, and particularly all New Yorkers, dizzy with terror.
According to Sherman, when New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said that the state would need 30,000 ventilators at the apex of the coronavirus outbreak, Kushner decided that Cuomo was being alarmist. “I have all this data about I.C.U. capacity,” Kushner reportedly said. “I’m doing my own projections, and I’ve gotten a lot smarter about this. New York doesn’t need all the ventilators.” (Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top expert on infectious diseases, has said he trusts Cuomo’s estimate.)
Even now, it’s hard to believe that someone with as little expertise as Kushner could be so arrogant, but he said something similar on Thursday, when he made his debut at the White House’s daily coronavirus briefing: “People who have requests for different products and supplies, a lot of them are doing it based on projections which are not the realistic projections.”
Kushner has succeeded at exactly three things in his life. He was born to the right parents, married well and learned how to influence his father-in-law. Most of his other endeavors — his biggest real estate deal, his foray into newspaper ownership, his attempt to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — have been failures.
Catherine Rampell:The next threat: Hunger in America
At one food pantry in Central Texas, the queue of cars waiting to pick up boxes of food stretches a quarter-mile. In Dayton, Ohio, the line extends about a mile.
In Pittsburgh, it’s miles, plural, as families wait hours so they won’t go hungry.
Across the country, one of the less visible parts of the social safety net — tens of thousands of food pantries and food banks — is starting to fray. The federal government must do more before it unravels.
Unsurprisingly, demand for food assistance is surging.
Nearly 10 million Americans lost their jobs in just the latter half of March, according to initial unemployment benefits claims, and many of those workers are struggling to pay their bills. Children are stuck home from school, which means parents who had relied on free or reduced-price school lunches are scrambling to assemble or pick up additional meals during the week. Grocery stores cannot stock products as quickly as people want to purchase them, and many households with vulnerable family members fear cramming into crowded supermarkets.
Jamelle Bouie: The Coronavirus Test Is Too Hard for Trump
The president joins Herbert Hoover and James Buchanan as a leader who failed when it mattered most.
The list of presidential failures is long and varied. But when it comes to failure in the face of an external force — a natural disaster or an economic meltdown — it is difficult to find anything as catastrophic as President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, even at this early stage of the crisis. [..]
Trump hasn’t just failed to anticipate the way Buchanan did or failed to respond like Hoover or failed to prepare like Bush — he’s done all three. He inherited everything he needed to respond to a pandemic: explicit guidance from the previous administration and a team of experienced experts and intelligence agencies attuned to the threat posed by the quick spread of deadly disease. He even had some sensible advisers who, far from ignoring or making light of the virus, urged him to take it seriously.
The federal government may not have been able to stop coronavirus from reaching the United States — that was impossible to avoid in a globalized, highly-mobile world — but it was well equipped to deal with the problem once it reached our shores.
But as the world knows, Trump ignored, downplayed and dismissed the problem until it became one of the worst crises in our nation’s history.