Opinion | This Land of Denial and Death – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Death comes at you fast. Just three weeks ago the official line at the White House and Fox News was that the coronavirus was no big deal, that claims to the contrary were a politically motivated hoax perpetrated by people out to get Donald Trump. Now we have a full-blown health crisis in New York, and all indications are that many other cities will soon find themselves in the same situation.

And it will almost certainly get much worse. The United States is on the worst trajectory of any advanced country — yes, worse than Italy at the same stage of the pandemic — with confirmed cases doubling every three days.

I’m not sure that people understand, even now, what that kind of exponential growth implies. But if cases kept growing at their current rate for a month, they would increase by a factor of a thousand, and almost half of Americans would be infected.

We hope that won’t happen. Many although not all states have gone into lockdown, and both epidemiological models and some early evidence suggest that this will “flatten the curve,” that is, substantially slow the virus’s spread. But as we wait to see just how bad our national nightmare will get, it’s worth stepping back for a few minutes to ask why America has handled this crisis so badly.

Incredibly bad leadership at the top is clearly an important factor. Thousands of Americans are dying, and the president is boasting about his TV ratings.

But this isn’t just about one man. Neither the scientific denial that crippled the initial response to this pandemic, nor the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths that now seem likely, are unique to Covid-19. Among advanced countries, the United States has long stood out as the land of denial and death. It’s just that we’re now seeing these national character flaws play out at a vastly accelerated rate.

About denial: Epidemiologists trying to get a handle on the coronavirus threat appear to have been caught off guard by the immediate politicization of their work, the claims that they were perpetrating a hoax designed to hurt Trump, or promote socialism, or something. But they should have expected that reaction, since climate scientists have faced the same accusations for years.”

Opinion | On Coronavirus, We’re #1 – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

“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.”

Opinion | 3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“So Donald Trump is now calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” Of course he is: Racism and blaming other people for his own failures are the defining features of his presidency. But if we’re going to give it a nickname, much better to refer to it as the “Trump pandemic.”

True, the virus didn’t originate here. But the U.S. response to the threat has been catastrophically slow and inadequate, and the buck stops with Trump, who minimized the threat and discouraged action until just a few days ago.

Compare, for example, America’s handling of the coronavirus with that of South Korea. Both countries reported their first case on Jan. 20. But Korea moved quickly to implement widespread testing; it has used the data from that testing to guide social distancing and other containment measures; and the disease appears to be on the wane there.

In the U.S., by contrast, testing has barely begun — we’ve tested only 60,000 people compared with South Korea’s 290,000, even though we have six times its population, and the number of cases here appears to be skyrocketing.”

Opinion | Step Aside for Powell and Pelosi – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

“America’s catastrophically inadequate response to the coronavirus can be attributed largely to bad short-term decisions by one man. And I do mean short-term: At every stage, Donald Trump minimized the threat and blocked helpful action because he wanted to look good for the next news cycle or two, ignoring and intimidating anyone who tried to give him good advice.

But here’s the thing: Even if he weren’t so irresponsibly self-centered, he has denuded the government of people who could be giving good advice in the first place.

Trump disbanded the National Security Council’s pandemic response team in 2018, although he now, with his characteristic refusal to accept responsibility for anything, says that he knew nothing about it. And he has in general staffed his administration with obsequious toadies who never tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear.

What’s now becoming clear is that when it comes to dealing with the economic fallout from Covid-19, the situation may be even worse. There are still some competent professionals holding senior positions at federal health agencies, who could give Trump good advice if he were willing to listen. But serious economic thinking has effectively been banned from this administration, if not the whole Republican Party. As far as I can tell, the Trump team is utterly incapable of formulating a coherent response to the gathering economic crisis.”

Opinion | It’s a MAGA Microbe Meltdown – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Bryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“For three years Donald Trump led a charmed life. He faced only one major crisis that he didn’t generate himself — Hurricane Maria — and although his botched response contributed to a tragedy that killed thousands of U.S. citizens, the deaths took place off camera, allowing him to deny that anything bad had happened.

Now, however, we face a much bigger crisis with the coronavirus. And Trump’s response has been worse than even his harshest critics could have imagined. He has treated a dire threat as a public relations problem, combining denial with frantic blame-shifting.

His administration has failed to deliver the most basic prerequisite of pandemic response, widespread testing to track the disease’s spread. He has failed to implement recommendations of public health experts, instead imposing pointless travel bans on foreigners when all indications are that the disease is already well established in the United States.

And his response to the economic fallout has veered between complacency and hysteria, with a strong admixture of cronyism.

Thomas Piketty Turns Marx on His Head – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY
By Thomas Piketty

Seven years ago the French economist Thomas Piketty released “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” a magnum opus on income inequality. Economists already knew and admired Piketty’s scholarly work, and many — myself included — offered the book high praise. Remarkably, the book also became a huge international best seller.

In retrospect, however, what professionals saw in “Capital” wasn’t the same thing the broader audience saw. Economists already knew about rising income inequality. What excited them was Piketty’s novel hypothesis about the growing importance of disparities in wealth, especially inherited wealth, as opposed to earnings. We are, Piketty suggested, returning to the kind of dynastic, “patrimonial” capitalism that prevailed in the late 19th century.

But for the book-buying public, the big revelation of “Capital” was simply the fact of soaring inequality. This perceived revelation made it a book that people who wanted to be well informed felt they had to have.

To have, but maybe not to read. Like Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” seems to have been an “event” book that many buyers didn’t stick with; an analysis of Kindle highlights suggested that the typical reader got through only around 26 of its 700 pages. Still, Piketty was undaunted.

 

His new book, “Capital and Ideology,” weighs in at more than 1,000 pages. There is, of course, nothing necessarily wrong with writing a large book to propound important ideas: Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was a pretty big book too (although only half as long as Piketty’s latest). The problem is that the length of “Capital and Ideology” seems, at least to me, to reflect in part a lack of focus.

Opinion | Trump Can’t Handle the Truth – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

“Over the weekend Donald Trump once again declared that the coronavirus is perfectly under control, that any impressions to the contrary are due to the “Fake News Media” out to get him. Question: Does anyone have a count of how many times he’s done this, comparable to the running tallies fact checkers are keeping of his lies?

In any case, we’ve pretty clearly reached the point where Trump’s assurances that everything is fine actually worsen the panic, because they demonstrate the depths of his delusions. Even as he was tweeting out praise for himself, global markets were in free-fall.

Never mind cratering stock prices. The best indicator of collapsing confidence is what is happening to interest rates, which have plunged almost as far and as fast as they did during the 2008 financial crisis. Markets are implicitly predicting not just a recession, but multiple years of economic weakness.

And at first I was tempted to say that our current situation is even worse than it was in 2008, because at least then we had leadership that recognized the seriousness of the crisis rather than dismissing it all as a liberal conspiracy.”

Opinion | With Coronavirus, Paranoid Politics Goes Viral – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

“We still don’t know how much damage Covid-19 — the coronavirus disease — will do, but it’s reasonable to be very concerned. After all, it appears to be highly transmissible, and it is probably a lot more lethal than ordinary flu.

But not to worry, say right-wing pundits and news organizations: It’s all a hoax, a conspiracy by the liberal media to make Donald Trump look bad. Administration officials and Trump himself have echoed their claims.

These claims are, of course, crazy. Among other things, Covid-19 is a global phenomenon, with major outbreaks ranging from South Korea to Italy. Are the South Korean and Italian media also part of a conspiracy to get Trump?

This craziness was, however, entirely predictable to anyone who has been following right-wing politics. It’s just the latest battle in a long-running war on truth, on the very idea that there exists an inconvenient objective reality.”

Opinion | Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Republican Cynicism May Win Trump Re-election

Fiscal hypocrisy is his biggest advantage.

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“It may have slipped by you, but last week Donald Trump suggested that he may be about to give U.S. farmers — who have yet to see any benefits from his much-touted trade deal with China — another round of government aid. This would be on top of the billions in farm aid that Trump has already delivered, costing taxpayers several times as much as Barack Obama’s auto bailout — a bailout Republicans fiercely denounced as “welfare” and “crony capitalism” at the time.

If this sounds to you like a double standard — Democratic bailouts bad, Republican bailouts good — that’s because it is. But it should be seen as part of a broader pattern of breathtaking fiscal hypocrisy, in which the G.O.P. went from insisting that federal debt posed an existential threat under Obama to complete indifference to budget deficits under Trump. This 180-degree turn is, as far as I can tell, the most cynical policy reversal of modern times.

And this cynicism may win Trump the election.

If Trump does win, there will be many recriminations among Democrats, especially about the vanity candidates who continue to fragment the field despite having no realistic chance of becoming the nominee. But while these recriminations will have much truth to them, the biggest factor working in Trump’s favor is a strong economy — not as strong as he claims, but good enough to provide a significant political lift (unless growth is derailed by the coronavirus).”

Opinion | Warren, Bloomberg and What Really Matters – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Dems should be talking about financialization and fraud.

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

“Wednesday’s Democratic debate was far more informative than previous debates. What we learned, in particular, was that as a presidential candidate, Michael Bloomberg is a great businessman — and that Elizabeth Warren remains a force to be reckoned with.

Both lessons ran very much counter to the narrative that the news media has been telling in recent weeks. On one side, there has been a palpable eagerness on the part of some news organizations and many pundits to elevate Bloomberg; on the other side, complaints by Warren supporters about her “erasure” from news coverage and polling aren’t wrong.

What does all this mean for the nomination? I have no idea. But maybe the Warren-Bloomberg confrontation will help refocus discussion away from so-called Medicare for all — which isn’t going to be enacted, no matter who wins — to an issue where it matters a lot which Democrat prevails. Namely, are we going to do anything to rein in the financialization of the U.S. economy?

During the U.S. economy’s greatest generation — the era of rapid, broadly shared growth that followed World War II — Wall Street was a fairly peripheral part of the picture. When people thought about business leaders, they thought about people running companies that actually made things, not people who got rich through wheeling and dealing.”