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: Trump Sends In the Economic Quacks
Now he’s prescribing hydroxychloroquine to fight recession.
As the U.S. economy careens toward disaster, congressional talks about what to do appear to have ground to a halt. So on Saturday President Trump — speaking at one of his golf courses, of course — announced four executive measures that, he claimed, would rescue the recovery.
Unfortunately, one of the measures was vacuous, one trivial and one unworkable. And the fourth may do substantial harm. [..]
No reputable economist I know considers a payroll tax cut a good idea. Even if the money went to workers, which it almost certainly wouldn’t, it would go to precisely the wrong ones — workers who haven’t lost their jobs in the pandemic, not those who have. It wouldn’t encourage hiring, because what’s holding employers back isn’t cost, it’s the shutdown of activities with a high risk of infection (like indoor dining).
Now, lots of bad economic ideas — like giant tax cuts for the rich — nonetheless have strong political support. But a payroll tax cut isn’t one of them. In fact, Senate Republicans have been dismissive, dropping the idea from their proposals.
Yet there it is, the apparent centerpiece of Trump’s new plan. What’s going on?
The answer is that a payroll tax cut is the hydroxychloroquine of economic policy. It’s a quack remedy that somehow caught Trump’s eye, which he won’t give up because sycophants keep telling him he’s infallible. There may be some ulterior motives — this move might end up undermining the finances of Social Security and Medicare — but that’s all secondary. Basically this is a tantrum from a president temperamentally incapable of owning up to his own mistakes.
Trump and the GOP want to do nothing while claiming to help — the press must not let them get away with it
Donald Trump has a dilemma. Along with the rest of the Republican Party, he abhors the idea of enacting the kind of federal relief program that would actually help people and keep the nation’s economy from collapsing completely in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. But that kind of substantive relief means giving ordinary working people money, which goes against the core organizing principle of the GOP, which is that government exists to line the pockets of the rich at the expense of everyone else. [..]
So Trump and his Republican allies appear to have settled on a scheme: Try to trick the public into thinking they’re taking bold action, while effectively doing nothing at all.
Unfortunately, this a strategy that all too often gets an assist from the mainstream media, which, despite recent improvements in coverage, still keeps getting caught in deeply ingrained bad habits, such as an insistence on false equivalence and a tendency to parrot false White House talking points in headlines. The result is a sea of misleading stories or news segments that portray Republicans as well-meaning, when the real story is about a degree of malice toward the public that’s so breathtaking it beggars belief.
“Lock her up!” thundered the crowds. The bumper stickers went: “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” with those adjectives, in order, over the Republican elephant symbol, the Democratic donkey symbol — and a picture of Hillary Clinton.
She’s sick, she’s a criminal, she’s — God forbid — unlikable. She’s shrill, she needs to smile more, she’s not someone you’d want to have a beer with.
In case anyone has forgotten just how cruelly biased the 2016 presidential campaign was, the coming weeks are about to remind us.
In fact, we’re in for a one-two punch of cultural prejudice — sexism and racism both — since chances are high that Joe Biden will name a woman of color as his running mate. Because the Trump campaign has found it difficult to attack another elderly White man, the vice presidential candidate offers a more promising target.
Reporters, news executives and others in the news media should be on red alert. It’s going to be a perilous tightrope walk to cover this inevitable ugliness without making it much, much worse. How do you examine without amplifying?
Already, the gender part of this equation is getting some thoughtful media examination — suggesting that perhaps something was learned since last time around. [..]
Granted, the candidate must be evaluated on her experience, her past decisions and her ability to step into the top job.
But not on whether she’s ambitious (she is, guaranteed), likable (that’s a trap), her body type or whether she’s sufficiently self-effacing. And certainly not on whether she really ought to smile more.
If by some miracle, she makes it successfully to Inauguration Day, she won’t have a problem smiling.
Heather Digby Parton: Art of the tantrum: Trump’s bewildering, doomed attempt to play savior
Trump’s executive orders are confusing and unconstitutional — and likely to hurt his own voters. He doesn’t care
As we went into the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had washed his hands of the negotiations over the vitally necessary COVID-19 relief package, leaving Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Tea Party zealot turned White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to try to hash out a deal. Word was that the Democrats had come down from their demand for $3 trillion in various relief programs to $2 trillion, while the White House stuck to its offer of $1 trillion and not a penny more. By Friday, the Senate was going home and the talks had irretrievably stalled.
Then along came an unmasked superhero to the rescue. President Trump announced he was personally taking charge and would sign several executive orders to save the unemployed and rescue the economy. If you didn’t know better, you might even think his henchmen Mnuchin and Meadows had blown up the talks just so the boss could sail in and save the day with his strong, powerful executive action.
You’d think he would have done this with a formal White House address, perhaps even a primetime speech. Instead, he held a Saturday afternoon “press conference” at his private New Jersey golf resort in front of an unruly, possibly buzzed crowd of paying customers clad in golf gear, as if it were one of his precious campaign rallies. As a TV event, it was a dud. As an economic rescue it was even worse.