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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Robert Reich: America’s corporate elite must stop treating coronavirus as an obstacle to profit

It’s up to CEOs to rise above their arrogance and place the health of their workers before revenues

As America reopens for business, you might expect Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, and his Amazon corporation, the most profitable corporation in America, to set the standard for how to protect the health of American workers.

Think again.

Amazon’s warehouses have become Covid-19 hot spots, yet Amazon has repeatedly fired workers who sound the alarm – including, just recently, a warehouse worker in Minnesota who spoke out against unsafe conditions, and, earlier in the pandemic, a worker who led a walkout at Amazon’s huge JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island after several employees tested positive for the virus. [..]

At Amazon’s AVP1 fulfillment center near Hazleton, Pennsylvania – under federal investigation because of an early surge in cases – workers say Amazon stopped sharing information about Covid-19 cases, so they started their own unofficial tally, which at last count was 64 and rising. [..]

Amazon doesn’t even provide hourly workers paid sick leave. It had allowed warehouse workers with pre-existing conditions to take leave without pay if they feared infection, but that policy expired last Thursday.

The company now says anyone who doesn’t return to work will be fired, and it’s about to eliminate an extra $2 per hour hazard pay it had given warehouse workers.

Why have Bezos and Amazon set the bar so low for the rest of corporate America? It can’t be the cost. Amazon can afford the highest safety standards in the world. Last quarter, its revenue surged 26% and its profits soared to $75.5bn. Since March, Jeff Bezos’ net worth has jumped $24bn.

So, what is it? Perhaps it’s the arrogance and indifference that comes with extraordinary power.

Jamelle Bouie: Trump Is Following in Herbert Hoover’s Footsteps

And we know how that worked out.

Additional economic assistance is the only thing that can keep the U.S. economy from falling into a second Great Depression, and with interest rates near zero, the government has all the fiscal capacity it needs to borrow the trillions necessary to relieve the pain. But Congress, or rather congressional Republicans, won’t budge. After backing the $2 trillion CARES Act in March, they believe they’ve done enough for now. [..]

And President Trump appears unmoved by the prospect of economic devastation, except insofar as it affects his chances for re-election. The White House halted talks with Congress over any further stimulus.

All of this — the passivity, the indifference, the refusal to embrace the tools at hand for ideological reasons — is reminiscent of Herbert Hoover, who also presided over a catastrophic economic downturn, the mismanagement of which plunged the United States into a crisis that tore at the seams of American society. [..]

It would be nearly four years after the stock market crash in 1929 before the federal government, under Roosevelt’s administration, began to do anything to meaningfully alleviate the pain of the Great Depression. By then, nearly a quarter of working Americans were unemployed and tens of millions of people struggled to find food and shelter.

Not only are we not that far gone, but we have a chance to remove our modern-day Hoovers before they can lead the country to further disaster. With luck, we’ll make good on that opportunity in November.

Michelle Goldberg: Obamagate Is a Fake Scandal. Rick Bright Described a Real One.

“The darkest winter in modern history” may soon be upon us, while Trumpists are obsessed with a new conspiracy theory.

Recently people on the right have started pushing a ludicrous pseudo-scandal they’re calling Obamagate. It holds that investigations by Barack Obama’s administration into Russia’s attack on the 2016 U.S. presidential election were a form of illicit sabotage of Donald Trump and his team. The story doesn’t really make sense, which is why, when asked about Obamagate, President Trump couldn’t describe it. But at the heart of the conspiracy theory is “unmasking,” the routine practice by which national security officials find out the names of Americans who appear on intelligence intercepts of foreign actors. Trumpists have tried to turn this into a sinister and portentous term.

Obamagate exists to rewrite the history of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference to make Trump the victim, rather than someone who actively sought Russia’s help and then took steps to reward the nation’s president, Vladimir Putin, for providing it. Trump often accuses others of misdeeds that he is guilty of; recall his sputtering response to Hillary Clinton calling him a Putin puppet in a 2016 debate: “No puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet!” In Obamagate, he is accusing his opponents of politicizing intelligence because of a political vendetta, which is what his administration is currently doing. [..]

This sub-Benghazi conspiracy theory could be cropping up now because the right hopes to use it against Joe Biden, who as vice president requested one of the unmaskings that turned up Flynn’s name. It’s even possible that Trump’s lawless attorney general, Bill Barr, might use Obamagate as a pretext to open an investigation into Biden. But Obamagate is also a way to distract at least some segment of the country from a very real and very grave scandal: Trump’s calamitous mishandling of the coronavirus crisis, exemplified by suspected political retaliation against Dr. Rick Bright, one of the government’s foremost vaccine experts.

Paul Waldman: Michael Flynn isn’t a martyr. He’s a crook and a crackpot.

For anyone with a memory that stretches all the way back to 2016, it is positively bizarre to see Republicans suddenly claiming that Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, is a martyr. It’s obvious why and how they’re doing it: In an effort to distract from Trump’s spectacular failure on the coronavirus pandemic, they are attempting to create a new fake “scandal” that will send us all down an endless rabbit hole chasing absurd lies and conspiracy theories.

But Michael Flynn? He’s the one they want to portray as a victim? What’s next — Jeffrey Epstein was framed? Bernie Madoff was a humanitarian? Al Capone was misunderstood?

Here’s the truth: Flynn should never have been allowed within 10 miles of the White House. He was a dangerous, dishonest and shady operator who was also kind of a loon. For a moment, it appeared that everyone in the Trump administration realized it, which was why he was booted from his position as national security adviser after only 24 days on the job.

Yet now they’re treating him like a hero. [..]

Trump has always gathered around him the most morally repugnant people he could find, an endless collection of grifters, liars and thieves. Flynn fit right in, even if he was discarded when he became an embarrassment.

But the real problem is that he was ever given a position of responsibility in the first place. As you watch Republicans make the ludicrous claim that he’s the victim of an anti-Trump conspiracy, keep that in mind.

Gretchen Whitmer: States have taken the lead in fighting the coronavirus. Now we need aid.

Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is the governor of Michigan.

Since the first positive cases of covid-19, Michigan has been aggressive to slow the spread of the virus. Governors in other states such as Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Wisconsin, New York and many others have also taken the lead, and our actions are starting to pay off. But this crisis will damage states’ budgets for years to come, threatening everything from education to public safety to health care. Neither the virus nor the economic distress stops at state or party lines. The nation’s governors, Democratic and Republican, have worked tirelessly to protect our people. Right now, we need our partners on both sides of the aisle in Washington to come together and pass a plan to aid states in our recovery. [..]

Recent estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that state budget shortfalls alone could total $650 billion over the next three years. Right now, we need our federal partners to provide sufficient and flexible aid to mitigate the economic crisis that every state is going through. None of us can afford for this to devolve into a partisan issue. President Trump called this a war, and it is exactly that. So we must act like it. In World War II, Americans dropped everything they were doing to build planes and tanks. They rationed food and took care of one another. They worked together and sacrificed until we had beaten the enemy.

Now, we are called again to act, put aside political differences, protect our families and loved ones, and beat this virus.

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