Opinion | Trump’s Plot Against Health Care Continues – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Erik S Lesser/E.P.A., via Shutterstock

“Make no mistake: Health care will be on the ballot this November. But not in the way ardent progressives imagine.

Democrats running for president have spent a lot of time debating so-called Medicare for all, with some supporters of Bernie Sanders claiming that any politician who doesn’t demand immediate implementation of single-payer health care is a corporate tool, or something. But the reality is that whatever its merits, universal, government-provided health insurance isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I say this because even if Democrats take the Senate in addition to the White House, the votes for eliminating private health insurance won’t be there; nor will the kind of overwhelming public support that might change that calculus. In practice, any of the Democratic candidates — even Sanders — will, if victorious, end up building on and improving Obamacare.

On the other hand, if Donald Trump wins, he will probably find a way to kill Obamacare, and tens of millions of Americans will lose health coverage.”

Opinion | Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell – By Paul Krugman- The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“In a rational world, the burning of Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a 2008 report commissioned by the Australian government predicted that global warming would cause the nation’s fire seasons to begin earlier, end later, and be more intense — starting around 2020.

Furthermore, though it may seem callous to say it, this disaster is unusually photogenic. You don’t need to pore over charts and statistical tables; this is a horror story told by walls of fire and terrified refugees huddled on beaches.

So this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

These political reactions are more terrifying than the fires themselves.”

“. . . . .  The answer, pretty clearly, is that scientific persuasion is running into sharply diminishing returns. Very few of the people still denying the reality of climate change or at least opposing doing anything about it will be moved by further accumulation of evidence, or even by a proliferation of new disasters. Any action that does take place will have to do so in the face of intractable right-wing opposition.

This means, in turn, that climate action will have to offer immediate benefits to large numbers of voters, because policies that seem to require widespread sacrifice — such as policies that rely mainly on carbon taxes — would be viable only with the kind of political consensus we clearly aren’t going to get.

What might an effective political strategy look like? I’ve been rereading a 2014 speech by the eminent political scientist Robert Keohane, who suggested that one way to get past the political impasse on climate might be via “an emphasis on huge infrastructural projects that created jobs” — in other words, a Green New Deal. Such a strategy could give birth to a “large climate-industrial complex,” which would actually be a good thing in terms of political sustainability.”

Opinion | Apocalypse Becomes the New Normal – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

“The past week’s images from Australia have been nightmarish: walls of flame, blood-red skies, residents huddled on beaches as they try to escape the inferno. The bush fires have been so intense that they have generated “fire tornadoes” powerful enough to flip over heavy trucks.

The thing is, Australia’s summer of fire is only the latest in a string of catastrophic weather events over the past year: unprecedented flooding in the Midwest, a heat wave in India that sent temperatures to 123 degrees, another heat wave that brought unheard-of temperatures to much of Europe.

And all of these catastrophes were related to climate change.

Notice that I said “related to” rather than “caused by” climate change. This is a distinction that has flummoxed many people over the years. Any individual weather event has multiple causes, which was one reason news reports used to avoid mentioning the possible role of climate change in natural disasters.

In recent years, however, climate scientists have tried to cut through this confusion by engaging in “extreme event attribution,” which focuses on probabilities: You can’t necessarily say that climate change caused a particular heat wave, but you can ask how much difference global warming made to the probability of that heat wave happening. And the answer, typically, is a lot: Climate change makes the kinds of extreme weather events we’ve been seeing much more likely.”

Opinion | The Party That Ruined the Planet – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“But why have Republicans become the party of climate doom? Money is an important part of the answer: In the current cycle Republicans have received 97 percent of political contributions from the coal industry, 88 percent from oil and gas. And this doesn’t even count the wing nut welfare offered by institutions supported by the Koch brothers and other fossil-fuel moguls.

However, I don’t believe that it’s just about the money. My sense is that right-wingers believe, probably correctly, that there’s a sort of halo effect surrounding any form of public action. Once you accept that we need policies to protect the environment, you’re more likely to accept the idea that we should have policies to ensure access to health care, child care, and more. So the government must be prevented from doing anything good, lest it legitimize a broader progressive agenda.

Still, whatever the short-term political incentives, it takes a special kind of depravity to respond to those incentives by denying facts, embracing insane conspiracy theories and putting the very future of civilization at risk.”

David Lindsay: Bravo Paul Krugman.  I’ve been worried about the cascading effects of the permafrost probably for about four years, and I’m pleased to see you get more concerned. Those of us who have become climate hawks need to bring round the public, who will then bring round the GOP.  I loved your piece, and I hope everyone reads all of it.

I did quibble with your assertion that the GOP “are the world’s only major climate-denialist party.”  The Bolsonara government in Brazil is now allowing the burning and cutting of the Amazon rain forest. 27% of the Amazon rain forest is now gone. In Australia, the green government was overthrown by climate change deniers, who are taking the island continent and hemishere backwards. There are regular reports of governments around the world paying lip service to the Paris accords, while ignoring their paltry pledges. A few Eastern European countries were mentioned. But welcome to the club of science, gloom and hope. I look forward to more from your mighty platform on this most urgent of all issues.

Opinion | Why Is Trump a Tariff Man? – by Paul Kruman – The New York Times

“One answer is that Trump has long had a fixation on the idea that tariffs are the answer to America’s problems, and he’s not the kind of man who reconsiders his prejudices in the light of evidence. But there’s also something else: U.S. trade law offers Trump more freedom of action — more ability to do whatever he wants — than any other policy area.

The basic story is that long ago — in fact, in the aftermath of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 — Congress deliberately limited its own role in trade policy. Instead, it gave the president the power to negotiate trade deals with other countries, which would then face up-or-down votes without amendments.

It was always clear, however, that this system needed some flexibility to respond to events. So the executive branch was given the power to impose temporary tariffs under certain conditions: import surges, threats to national security, unfair practices by foreign governments. The idea was that nonpartisan experts would determine whether and when these conditions existed, and the president would then decide whether to act.

This system worked well for many years. It turned out, however, to be extremely vulnerable to someone like Trump, for whom everything is partisan and expertise is a four-letter word. Trump’s tariff justifications have often been self-evidently absurd — seriously, who imagines that imports of Canadian steel threaten U.S. national security? But there’s no obvious way to stop him from imposing tariffs whenever he feels like it.

And there’s also no obvious way to stop his officials from granting individual businesses tariff exemptions, supposedly based on economic criteria but in fact as a reward for political support. Tariff policy isn’t the only arena in which Trump can practice crony capitalism — federal contracting is looking increasingly scandalous — but tariffs are especially ripe for exploitation.

So that’s why Trump is a Tariff Man: Tariffs let him exercise unconstrained power, rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. Anyone imagining that he’s going to change his ways and start behaving responsibly is living in a fantasy world.”

Opinion | America’s Red State Death Trip – The New York Times

““E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — is one of America’s traditional mottos. And you might think it would be reflected in reality. We aren’t, after all, just united politically. We share a common language; the unrestricted movement of goods, services and people is guaranteed by the Constitution. Shouldn’t this lead to convergence in the way we live and think?

In fact, however, the past few decades have been marked by growing divergence among regions along several dimensions, all closely correlated. In particular, the political divide is also, increasingly, an economic divide. As The Times’s Tom Edsall put it in a recent article, “red and blue voters live in different economies.”

What Edsall didn’t point out is that red and blue voters don’t just live differently, they also die differently.”

Opinion | Democrats, Avoid the Robot Rabbit Hole – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

“One of the less discussed parts of Tuesday’s Democratic debate was the exchange that took place over automation and how to deal with it. But it’s worth focusing on that exchange, because it was interesting — by which I mean depressing. CNN’s Erin Burnett, one of the moderators, asked a bad question, and the debaters by and large — with the perhaps surprising exception of Bernie Sanders — gave pretty bad answers.

So let me make a plea to the Democrats: Please don’t go down the robot rabbit hole.

Burnett declared that a recent study shows that “about a quarter of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in just the next 10 years.” What the study actually says is less alarming: It finds that a quarter of U.S. jobs will face “high exposure to automation over the next several decades.”

But if you think even that sounds bad, ask yourself the following question: When, in modern history, has something like that statement not been true?”

Opinion | God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditGetty Images

“Listening to the speech William Barr, the attorney general, gave last week at the University of Notre Dame Law School, I found myself thinking of the title of an old movie: “God Is My Co-Pilot.” What I realized is that Donald Trump’s minions have now gone that title one better: If Barr’s speech is any indication, their strategy is to make God their boss’s co-conspirator.

Given where we are right now, you might have expected Barr to respond in some way to the events of the past few weeks — the revelation that the president has been calling on foreign regimes to produce dirt on his domestic opponents, the airport arrest of associates of the president’s lawyer as they tried to leave the country on one-way tickets, credible reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is under criminal investigation.

Alternatively, Barr could have delivered himself of some innocuous pablum, which is something government officials often do in difficult times.

But no. Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by “militant secularists,” whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order,” blaming them for rising mental illness, drug dependency and violence.”

David Lindsay: Amen.

I am reading Eager to Love, by Richard Rohr, and it is opening my eyes to a form of Christianity, following St. Francis of Asisis, that is open, big tent, humble, focused on good works, and more Unitarian than expected.

I agree with Paul Krugman, and here is one of the many good comments, I heartily recommended.

Tim Doran
Evanston, IL
Times Pick

Speaking as a very religious Christian, I hope and pray that the influence of American evangelicalism disappears as soon as possible. I much prefer that the influence of atheistic secularism increases because generally atheistic secularists do a far better job of following Jesus than does the typical American evangelical. Jesus explicitly condemned those who make a show of praying in public and those who oppress the poor. Trump’s evangelical supporters love to pray loud and long as they push for policies that oppress the poor and immigrants. Secular atheists obviously never pray in public and typically support policies that assist immigrants and the poor. This country would likely more closely follow the teachings of Jesus under the influence of secular atheism than under American evangelicalism.

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Opinion | Warren Versus the Petty Plutocrats – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditTravis Dove for The New York Times

“Remember when pundits used to argue that Elizabeth Warren wasn’t likable enough to be president? It was always a lazy take, with a strong element of sexism. And it looks ridiculous now, watching Warren on the campaign trail. Never mind whether she’s someone you’d like to have a beer with, she’s definitely someone thousands of people want to take selfies with.

But there are some people who really, really dislike Warren: the ultrawealthy, especially on Wall Street. They dislike her so much that some longtime Democratic donors are reportedly considering throwing their backing behind Donald Trump, corruption, collusion and all, if Warren is the Democratic presidential nominee.

And Warren’s success is a serious possibility, because Warren’s steady rise has made her a real contender, maybe even the front-runner: While she still trails Joe Biden a bit in the polls, betting markets currently give her a roughly 50 percent chance of securing the nomination.

But why does Warren inspire a level of hatred and fear among the very wealthy that I don’t think we’ve seen directed at a presidential candidate since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?”

DL: Read the rest, it gets better. Elizabeth Warren is amazing. I still support Joe Biden, because I expect he will be better at winning the electoral college than any of his exellent rivals. I must confess, that the comments after the Krugman praises, got me recommending statements about supporting her presidency, which I do, but not yet, in 2020, unless the polls show that she is the stonger candidate in the deep red states and the purple swing states. The electoral college will be won, unfortunately, in the red states.

Opinion | Republicans Only Pretend to Be Patriots – By Paul Krugman – New York Times

Paul Krugman

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“Republicans have spent the past half-century portraying themselves as more patriotic, more committed to national security than Democrats. Richard Nixon’s victory in 1972, Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 and George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 (the only presidential election out of the past seven in which the Republican won the popular vote) all depended in part on posing as the candidate more prepared to confront menacing foreigners.

And Barack Obama faced constant, scurrilous accusations of being too deferential to foreign rulers. Remember the “apology tour,” or the assertions that he had bowed to overseas leaders?

But now we have a president who really is unpatriotic to the point of betraying American values and interests. We don’t know the full extent of Donald Trump’s malfeasance — we don’t know, for example, how much his policies have been shaped by the money foreign governments have been lavishing on his businesses. But even what we do know — his admitted solicitation of foreign help in digging up dirt on political rivals, his praise for brutal autocrats — would have had Republicans howling about treason if a Democrat had done it.

Yet almost all G.O.P. politicians seem perfectly fine with Trump’s behavior. Which means that it’s time to call Republican superpatriotism what it was long before Trump appeared on the scene: a fraud.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment
Beware Democrats. Read Ross Douthat today. Trump does want impeachment, to change the discussion every night from the terrible job he is doing, the failure of his tax cuts, and the wonderful ideas of the challenging Democrats, to Witchhunt, and sore losers and fake news.
There is one commenter I admire, who said today there might be a way to thread the needle. They recommended that Nanct Pelosi wait till after January to start the impeachment process, and make sure it does not complete until after the election in November. Trump will not be able to say he won. But the Democrats would have to be very careful not to overreach, or shout, or appear partisan.
There is a terrible danger that the Republicans on the impeachment committess would turn the process into another Trumpian circus. Do the Democrats, do the independents, know how to conrol for that?
My gut says don’t impeach. Or, don’t let the impeachment process stop us from broacasting our political arguments for a blue wave for the enviroment and progressive values.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.