Opinion | Trump Tries to Destroy, and Justice Roberts Tries to Save- What Makes America Great – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

“For me, the most disturbing thing about the Trump presidency is the way each week, like a steady drip of acid, Donald Trump tries to erode the thing that truly makes us great as a country and the envy of so many around the world — the independence and nonpartisan character of our courts, our military, our F.B.I., our Border Patrol and our whole federal bureaucracy.

No modern president has been more willing to use U.S. service members or border police as props for his politics, to blithely declare without evidence that most of the 800,000 federal workers going unpaid during the government shutdown are Democrats, to refer to the Pentagon leadership as “my generals” and “my military,” and to denounce different federal judges who have ruled against him as a “so-called judge,” an “Obama judge” and a “Mexican” judge (even though he was born in Indiana).

Why is this so important? Because America’s core governing institutions were not built to be “conservative” or “liberal.” They were built to take our deepest values and our highest ideals and animate them, promote them and protect them — to bring them to life and to scale them. They are the continuity that binds one generation of Americans to the next and the beacon for how we work together to build an ever more perfect union.

At their best, these institutions have created the regulatory foundations and legal and security frameworks that have made America great — that have enabled innovation to be sparked, commerce to flourish and ideas to freely blossom. Rather than serving any party or person’s whims, these institutions have promoted and protected enduring American values, laws, norms and ideals.”

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Opinion | Donald Trump and His Team of Morons – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman,  Opinion ColumnistJan. 14, 201. 855 c
President Trump greeting a member of his team, Sean Hannity, at a political rally in , November.
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Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“There have been many policy disasters over the course of U.S. history. It’s hard, however, to think of a calamity as gratuitous, an error as unforced, as the current federal shutdown.

Nor can I think of another disaster as thoroughly personal, as completely owned by one man. When Donald Trump told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, “I will be the one to shut it down,” he was being completely accurate — although he went on to promise that “I’m not going to blame you for it,” which was a lie.

Still, no man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.

If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration. Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.

First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, who was asked about the plight of federal workers who aren’t being paid. You don’t have to be a public relations expert to know that you’re supposed to express some sympathy, whether you feel it or not. After all, there are multiple news reports about transportation security workers turning to food banks, the Coast Guard suggesting its employees hold garage sales, and so on.

So the right response involves expressing concern about those workers but placing the blame on Democrats who don’t want to stop brown-skinned rapists, or something like that. But no: Hassett declared that it’s all good, that the workers are actually “better off,” because they’re getting time off without having to use any of their vacation days.”

Opinion | Trump’s Shutdown Is a Sucker Punch for Struggling Farmers – By Robert Leonard – The New York Times

The president’s tariffs were the jab. Closing off his aid payments could be a knockout for many family farms.By Robert Leonard
Mr. Leonard is the news director for the Iowa radio stations KNIA and KRLS.
Jan. 14, 2019
Winter at a corn and soybean farm in Maple Park in northern Illinois.CreditWhitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesImageWinter at a corn and soybean farm in Maple Park in northern Illinois. CreditCreditWhitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

“KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Today President Trump will address the American Farm Bureau’s 100th annual convention in New Orleans. But any promises of help will be too late for many farmers.Had he set out to ruin America’s small farmers, he could hardly have come up with a more effective, potentially ruinous one-two combination punch than tariffs and the shutdown.The trade wars collapsed farmers’ markets. Now, with farmers down, he’s kicking them with a partial shutdown that has effectively slammed the door on farm payments, loans and more. It’s hurting rural Americans — those who formed a big part of the base of Mr. Trump’s support in 2016.Normally, January is a special and often joyous month for farmers, as they recover from the hard work of harvest and look to spring and a new planting season. They have sold much of their crops and are paying bills, taking out new operating loans for the coming year and buying seed, fertilizer and more.”

Opinion | Run  Joe  Run – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt
By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 13, 2019, 959 c

Credit
Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

In the summer of 2016, it was becoming clear that Hillary Clinton was a weaker presidential candidate than many Democrats had expected. Some problems were of her own making (the Wall Street speeches), and some were overhyped by the media (emails!). But the bottom line was that she didn’t look like the ideal candidate for the political moment. She was an establishment insider in a populist time.

By that summer, however, it was too late for Democrats to do anything about it.

The candidates best positioned to beat Clinton, or at least sharpen her, had passed on the race, like Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders ran a strong outsider campaign. But when a socialist from Vermont wins 43 percent of the primary vote, it tells you something about the front-runner.

The lesson here is that trying to identify the perfect nominee far in advance is a fool’s game. At the start of a presidential campaign, it’s hard to know who will shine and who will struggle. It is also hard to know what the national mood will be the following year — election year.”

Opinion | Nancy Pelosi Spanks the First Brat – By Maureen Dowd – The New York Times

Maureen Dowd
By Maureen Dowd
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 12, 2019, 1497 c
Big Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. talked with President John Kennedy in the White House in 1961 after being sworn in to serve on a federal board. In the background are his wife and their daughter, Nancy.
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William Allen/Associated Press

“WASHINGTON — Two men, sons of immigrants, rising to be the head of their own empires, powerful forces in their ethnic communities. Both dapper and mustachioed with commanding personalities. And both wielding a potent influence on the children who learned at their knees and followed them into the family businesses.

But here’s the difference: Big Tommy D’Alesandro Jr. taught little Nancy how to count. Fred Trump taught Donald, from the time he was a baby, that he didn’t have to count — or be accountable; Daddy’s money made him and buoyed him.

Fred, a dictatorial builder in Brooklyn and Queens from German stock, and Big Tommy, a charming Maryland congressman and mayor of Baltimore from Italian stock, are long gone. But their roles in shaping Donald and Nancy remain vivid, bleeding into our punishing, pressing national debate over immigration, a government shutdown and that inescapable and vexing Wall.”

Opinion | Trump’s Five Craziest Arguments About the Shutdown – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“I’d like to apologize to all the “banana republics” I’ve offended over the decades with snarky references to their dysfunction. This is karma: I now live in a nation where a petulant president has shut down much of the most powerful government in the world — so the White House isn’t even paying its water bills.

The government has shut down before, under presidents of both parties. But this shutdown is particularly childish and unnecessary; to revise Churchill, rarely have so many suffered so much at the hands of so few.

It’s difficult to pick the craziest of the arguments that President Trump is making about the shutdown — there’s a vast buffet of imbecility to choose from — but here’s my good-faith effort.

1. This is a crisis! Terrorists are crossing the border! Rapists!

This is more like a lull than a crisis. The number of people apprehended at the border remains near a 45-year low. From 1972 on, there were more apprehensions every single year than there were in 2017.”

Opinion |  – By Thomas B. EdThe Lobbyists Blocking Nancy Pelosi and Her New Majoritysall – The New York Times

By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Jan. 10, 2019

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a group photo with House democratic women in front of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2018.
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Erin Schaff for The New York Times

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the idealistic class of 64 Democratic House freshmen are armed with a reform agenda.

This includes H.R. 1, a 571-page bill that addresses voting rights, corruption, gerrymandering and campaign finance reform as well as the creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — a first step toward a “Green New Deal.”

Proponents of this ambitious project face a determined adversary, however — the top ranks of the interest group establishment, skilled in co-opting liberal members of Congress and converting initiatives to square with the interests of corporate America.

The upper stratum of the Washington lobbying community often exercises de facto veto power over the legislative process, dominating congressional policymaking, funneling campaign money to both parties and offering lucrative employment to retiring and defeated members of the House and Senate.

Lobbyists exercise this power across the course of a member’s career. “Whoever is elected is immediately met with a growing lobbying onslaught by the same big players,” write Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America, Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State and Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, who have contributed a chapter to “Can America Govern Itself?” a book edited by Francis Lee and Nolan McCarty that is coming out in June.

Within the federal lobbying community — a $3.37 billion industry in 2017 — Drutman, Grossmann and LaPira write

a limited number of organizations at the very top of the resource distribution have escalated their political investments in ways that increasingly distinguish them from the rest of the pack.

This population of groups at the top of the distribution is becoming increasingly stable over the last two decades. This group of top organizations — which we call the top tier — is positioning itself as a distinct class.

The authors argue that the first tier lobbying organizations

are analogous to the current generation of very wealthy families who now pay for every conceivable tutor so that their children can be advantaged in applying to elite prep schools and colleges, which are now more and more essential to getting ahead in our increasingly economically stratified society. In both circumstances, financial resources and social connections build up over time, reinforcing stratification. Money does not guarantee outcomes. But it helps reinforce inequalities by widening the gap between the very top and everyone else.

The ability of this elite constituency to meet politicians’ demands for campaign contributions and other resources, the authors argue, has allowed Congress to ignore traditional “populist concerns regarding dominant economic interests” as members of the House and Senate “continue their high-dollar fund-raisers and constant meetings with lobbyists.””

Opinion | Borderline Insanity – By The Editorial – BoardThe New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Jan. 7, 2019, 1955 c
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CreditCreditGiulia Sagramola

“As the government shutdown over President Trump’s demand for border-wall funding moves through week three, the administration is looking to cut a deal with Democrats by emphasizing the deepening humanitarian crisis at the border — a crisis caused in large part by this administration’s inhumane policies, political grandstanding and managerial incompetence.

In a letter Sunday to lawmakers, the White House laid out its latest proposal for addressing the border tumult. The administration called for more immigration and Border Patrol agents, more detention beds and, of course, $5.7 billion to build 234 new miles of border wall. The White House also demanded an additional $800 million for “urgent humanitarian needs,” such as medical support, transportation and temporary facilities for processing and housing detainees.

Translation: Mr. Trump’s mass incarceration of migrant families is overwhelming an already burdened system that, without a giant injection of taxpayer dollars, will continue to collapse, leading to ever more human suffering.

The situation is an especially rich example of the Trump Doctrine: Break something, then demand credit — and in this case a lot of money — for promising to fix it.”

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren and Her Party of Ideas – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“You don’t have to agree with any of the various Medicare for All plans, or proposals for a Green New Deal, to recognize that these are important ideas receiving serious discussion.

The question is whether our media environment can handle a real party of ideas. Can news organizations tell the difference between genuine policy wonks and poseurs like Ryan? Are they even willing to discuss policy rather than snark about candidates’ supposed personality flaws?

Which brings me to the case of Elizabeth Warren, who is probably today’s closest equivalent to Moynihan in his prime.

Like Moynihan, she’s a serious intellectual turned influential politician. Her scholarly work on bankruptcy and its relationship to rising inequality made her a major player in policy debate long before she entered politics herself. Like many others, I found one of her key insights — that rising bankruptcy rates weren’t caused by profligate consumerism, that they largely reflected the desperate attempts of middle-class families to buy homes in good school districts — revelatory.”

Opinion | The Economics of Soaking the Rich – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

What does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know about tax policy? A lot.

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist, Jan. 5, 2019, 2666 c

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Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut on the House floor in Washington on Thursday.CreditCreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press

“I have no idea how well Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will perform as a member of Congress. But her election is already serving a valuable purpose. You see, the mere thought of having a young, articulate, telegenic nonwhite woman serve is driving many on the right mad — and in their madness they’re inadvertently revealing their true selves.

Some of the revelations are cultural: The hysteria over a video of AOC dancing in college says volumes, not about her, but about the hysterics. But in some ways the more important revelations are intellectual: The right’s denunciation of AOC’s “insane” policy ideas serves as a very good reminder of who is actually insane.

The controversy of the moment involves AOC’s advocacy of a tax rate of 70-80 percent on very high incomes, which is obviously crazy, right? I mean, who thinks that makes sense? Only ignorant people like … um, Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified. Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from … the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most successful period of economic growth in our history.

To be more specific, Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.”