Nicholas Kristof | The Biggest Threat to America Is America Itself – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

” “America is back” became President Biden’s refrain on his European trip this month, and in a narrow sense it is.

We no longer have a White House aide desperately searching for a fire alarm to interrupt a president as he humiliates our country at an international news conference, as happened in 2018. And a Pew Research Center survey found that 75 percent of those polled in a dozen countries expressed “confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing,” compared with 17 percent a year ago.

Yet in a larger sense, America is not back. In terms of our well-being at home and competitiveness abroad, the blunt truth is that America is lagging. In some respects, we are sliding toward mediocrity.

Greeks have higher high school graduation rates. Chileans live longer. Fifteen-year-olds in Russia, Poland, Latvia and many other countries are better at math than their American counterparts — perhaps a metric for where nations will stand in a generation or two.”

Nicholas Kristof | Covid-19’s Impact on America Has Just Begun – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“YAMHILL, Ore. — As more vaccinated Americans emerge, blinking, to survey our post-apocalyptic world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of our fellow citizens may never fully recover — even if they didn’t actually contract the coronavirus.

That’s because quite apart from the direct effects of the virus, the pandemic has aggravated mental illness, domestic violence, addiction and childhood trauma in ways that may reverberate for decades.

My friends who started out prosperous have ridden out the storm in vacation homes and seen their investments soar. Here in rural Oregon where I grew up, my friends who were already down and out are mostly struggling, homeless or even dead, and there is similar anguish across a broad swath of the United States.

That’s why President Biden’s proposals to invest in families and working-class Americans are so important. Just as we acted forcefully to address the virus, we should also move decisively to address America’s persistent pandemic of despair, addiction and educational failure.

Two of my friends overdosed on heroin during the pandemic, and the girlfriend of one is now self-medicating with meth and is wanted by the law. One of my homeless friends died; another, newly homeless, begs me for money; his mother pleads for me to refuse for fear he will use it to buy drugs and again overdose.  . . .”

David Lindsay

This is a pretty good arugment for Biden’s humongous, 6 trillion dollar spending and investiment plan.

Maureen Dowd | Liz Cheney and the Big Lies – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — I miss torturing Liz Cheney.

But it must be said that the petite blonde from Wyoming suddenly seems like a Valkyrie amid halflings.

She is willing to sacrifice her leadership post — and risk her political career — to continue calling out Donald Trump’s Big Lie. She has decided that, if the price of her job is being as unctuous to Trump as Kevin McCarthy is, it isn’t worth it, because McCarthy is totally disgracing himself.

It has been a dizzying fall for the scion of one of the most powerful political families in the land, a conservative chip off the old block who was once talked about as a comer, someone who could be the first woman president.

How naïve I was to think that Republicans would be eager to change the channel after Trump cost them the Senate and the White House and unleashed a mob on them.  . . . “

Chuck Schumer Looks to Bring Biden’s Vision to Life – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — President Biden laid out his ambitious vision for a post-pandemic America on Wednesday night. Now it is up to Senator Chuck Schumer to make it a reality.

Mr. Schumer, a New York Democrat and the majority leader, insists that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans on the president’s second monumental piece of legislation, seeking a consensus that some of the moderate Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, are demanding.

But it is already clear that the odds of such a compromise are vanishingly slight, leaving Mr. Schumer with an exceedingly difficult path to delivering on Mr. Biden’s promises.

With Republicans suffering sticker shock from more than $4 trillion in new spending proposals outlined by Mr. Biden, and offering their own infrastructure package that is a tiny fraction of the cost, the gulf between the two parties could not be larger. Yet a handful of Democrats who could be crucial swing votes believe it is misguided and politically dangerous to pass legislation this big without buy-in from the other party.  . . . “

Stephanie Kelton | Biden Can Go Bigger and Not ‘Pay for It’ the Old Way – The New York Times

” . . .  That’s why to avoid short-run constraints like supply bottlenecks, the U.S. government can look elsewhere for capacity. American businesses can make use of depressed conditions abroad, buying from countries with economies that might be struggling to fully recover from the economic downturn and that will be more than happy to mutually benefit from our boom. There will be no lack of eager foreign producers if we need to relieve some demand pressure on the domestic front.

So it was unfortunate that in his long-awaited infrastructure speech, President Biden promised “not a contract will go out, that I control” that isn’t for “a company that is an American company with American products, all the way down the line, and American workers.”

This “buy American” philosophy is well intentioned but could lead to counterproductive trouble, particularly since the president has promised that “no one making under $400,000 will see their federal taxes go up” — a pledge that takes raising taxes on the middle class, which has a higher marginal propensity to spend, off the table as a potential inflation offset.” . . . . . .

” . . . Modern Monetary Theory is not alone here. For a historical outlook, we can revisit what John Maynard Keynes proposed in “How to Pay for the War: A Radical Plan for the Chancellor of the Exchequer,” a lesser-known work of his. To the contemporary ear, the title suggests that Keynes was trying to figure out how to come up with the money to finance World War II spending. He wasn’t.

Keynes understood that the British government, which controlled its national currency, could create all the money needed. The purpose of the book was to show the government how to scale up and sustain higher levels of spending while containing inflationary pressures along the way. It noted the soldiers, bombers, tanks, combat gear and more that would be needed to prosecute the war and how the entire economy would need to be reoriented, quickly, to supply those things.

We’ve all grown accustomed to thinking about taxes as an important source of revenue for the federal government. That’s in part because it’s easy to think of the federal government as being like state and local governments, which without sufficient revenue — from income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and more — could not finance their operations. Yet these entities don’t have the federal government’s currency-issuing powers, which greatly changes the spending capacity of government.

In 1945, a man named Beardsley Ruml delivered a fiery speech before the American Bar Association titled “Taxes for Revenue Are Obsolete.” He wasn’t a crank. He was the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. As Mr. Ruml explained in that speech, taxes first and foremost help to avoid a situation where too much money chases after too few goods: “The dollars the government spends become purchasing power in the hands of the people who have received them,” he said, while “the dollars the government takes by taxes cannot be spent by the people.”

More recently, economists like L. Randall Wray and Yeva Nersisyan have begun to think about how to pay for a Green New Deal using Keynes’s earlier “radical” framework. And even if one were to accept the terms of the old deficit-oriented budgeting currently favored in Washington, going even bigger on infrastructure, if executed carefully, is still doable: Larry Summers, the former Obama White House senior economist, admitted in 2014 that “public infrastructure investments can pay for themselves” and that “by increasing the economy’s capacity, infrastructure investment increases the ability to handle any given level of debt.”

We face enormous intersecting crises: a climate crisis, jobs crisis, health crisis and housing crisis, among others. It is going to require a lot of money to do what is necessary. As Kate Aronoff recently wrote in The New Republic, “To meet the emissions targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, experts estimate the United States government will need to spend at least $1 trillion annually.” And the White House’s infrastructure proposal, while historically ambitious, still falls far short of the scale of the problem.” . . .

Biden Endorses Filibuster Rule Changes – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The fight over the Senate filibuster escalated sharply on Tuesday, as President Biden for the first time threw his weight behind changing the rules even as Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, threatened harsh reprisals if Democrats moved to weaken the procedural tactic.

In an interview with ABC News, Mr. Biden gave his most direct endorsement yet of overhauling the filibuster, saying that he favored a return to what is called the talking filibuster: the requirement that opponents of legislation occupy the floor and make their case against it.

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster; you have to do it, what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” the president said. “You had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking.” The comments were a significant departure for Mr. Biden, a 36-year veteran of the Senate who has been frequently described by aides as reluctant to alter Senate procedure.

“It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning,” he added.”

Great reporting by Carl Hulse, followed by great comments. Enough with the namby pamby.

Where on earth did I get namby pamby, probably from my famously outspoken mother.

And it is real expression, says Wikipedia: ”

Namby-pamby is a term for affected, weak, and maudlin speech/verse. It originates from Namby Pamby (1725) by Henry Carey.

Carey wrote his poem as a satire of Ambrose Philips and published it in his Poems on Several Occasions. Its first publication was Namby Pamby: or, a panegyrick on the new versification address’d to A—– P—-, where the A– P– implicated Ambrose Philips. Philips had written a series of odes in a new prosody of seven-syllable lines and dedicated it to “all ages and characters, from Walpole steerer of the realm, to Miss Pulteney in the nursery.” This 3.5′ line became a matter of consternation for more conservative poets, and a matter of mirth for Carey. Carey adopts Philips’s choppy line-form for his parody and latches onto the dedication to nurseries to create an apparent nursery rhyme that is, in fact, a grand bit of nonsense and satire mixed.

Philips was a figure who had become politically active and was a darling of the Whig party. He was also a target of the Tory satirists. Alexander Pope had criticized Philips repeatedly (in The Guardian and in his Peri Bathos, among other places), and praising or condemning Philips was a political as much as poetic matter in the 1720s, with the nickname also employed by John Gay and Jonathan Swift.

The poem begins with a mock-epic opening (as had Pope’s Rape of the Lock and as had Dryden’s MacFlecknoe), calling all the muses to witness the glory of Philips’s prosodic reform:

“All ye Poets of the Age!
All ye Witlings of the Stage!
Learn your Jingles to reform!
Crop your Numbers and Conform:
Let your little Verses flow
Gently, Sweetly, Row by Row:
Let the Verse the Subject fit;
Little Subject, Little Wit.
Namby-Pamby is your Guide;
Albion’s Joy, Hibernia’s Pride.”

Paul Krugman | Ending the End of Welfare as We Knew It – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“The era of “the era of big government is over” is over.

The relief bill President Biden just signed is breathtaking in its scope. Yet conservative opposition was remarkably limp. While not a single Republican voted for the legislation, the rhetorical onslaught from right-wing politicians and media was notably low energy, perhaps because the Biden plan is incredibly popular. Even as Democrats moved to disburse $1.9 trillion in government aid, their opponents mainly seemed to be talking about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

What makes this lack of energy especially striking is that the American Rescue Plan doesn’t just spend a lot of money. It also embodies some big changes in the philosophy of public policy, a turn away from the conservative ideology that has dominated U.S. politics for four decades.

In particular, there is a sense — a strictly limited sense, as I’ll explain, but real nonetheless — in which the legislation, in addition to reviving the notion of government as the solution, not the problem, also ends the “end of welfare as we know it.”

Once upon a time there was a program called Aid to Families With Dependent Children — the program people usually had in mind when they talked about “welfare.” It was originally intended to support white widows while they raised their children, and it was effectively denied to both Black and unwed mothers. Over time, however, these restrictions were eroded, and the program rapidly expanded from the early 1960s to the early 1970s.” . . .

Excellent column and comments.

Jamelle Bouie | Joe Biden Knew He Was Onto Something Long Before We Did – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

“Last year, as he steamrolled his way to victory in the Democratic presidential primaries, Joe Biden told CNN that the pandemic was “probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly.”

“I think it may not dwarf but eclipse what F.D.R. faced,” he added.

Biden referred to Franklin Roosevelt again in an interview with Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. “I’m kind of in the position F.D.R. was,” he said.

And a week before the election, Biden gave a speech at Roosevelt’s winter White House in Warm Springs, Ga., where he promised to “overcome a devastating virus” and “heal a suffering world.”

In other words, Biden telegraphed his F.D.R.-size ambition throughout the year. And the first major bill of his administration is in fact an F.D.R.-size piece of legislation.”

Good article and great comments.

Opinion | Amazon and the Breaking of Baltimore – The New York Times

” . . . At its peak in 1958, the Beth Steel plant on the Point employed some 30,000; in its final years at the turn of this century — even as imports, domestic “mini-mills” and feckless management threatened its existence — veteran workers were still making at least $35 per hour, with excellent union benefits. The work was strenuous and frequently dangerous, but also purposeful and well-paid enough that many people spent their whole career there.

Since the plant closed in 2012, the Point has been wiped clear of virtually all traces of it. Starting in 2017, a new sort of work filled the void: logistics. The Point’s new owners leased land to first one and then a second Amazon fulfillment center, as well as warehouses for Under Armour, FedEx, Home Depot and Floor & Décor.

The work at Amazon was physically taxing in its own right, and was far more socially isolating than the foxhole camaraderie that had characterized Beth Steel, which helped explain why turnover was so much higher at the warehouse than during the steel years.

“It was a family thing — they looked out for one another,” said Bill Bodani Jr. of his time at Beth Steel, where he lasted three decades despite several workplace accidents. By the time he left in 2003 he, too, was drawing $35 an hour.

Over a decade later he went back to work at the Point, driving a forklift at Amazon. His pay was around $15 an hour. He lasted only three years with the company, after clashing with a supervisor over his bathroom breaks and his encouragement of labor organizing among the younger workers.” . . .

Opinion | Stacey Abrams and Lauren Groh-Wargo: How to Turn Your Red State Blue – The New York Times

Stacey Abrams and 

Ms. Abrams was the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia in 2018. Ms. Groh-Wargo was her campaign manager. They opened Fair Fight Action in late 2018.

“We met and became political partners a decade ago, uniting in a bid to stave off Democratic obsolescence and rebuild a party that would increase the clout of regular, struggling Georgians. Our mission was clear: organize people, help realize gains in their lives, win local races to build statewide competitiveness and hold power accountable.

But the challenge was how to do that in a state where many allies had retreated into glum predictions of defeat, where our opponents reveled in shellacking Democrats at the polls and in the Statehouse.

That’s not all we had to contend with. There was also a 2010 census undercount of people of color, a looming Republican gerrymander of legislative maps and a new Democratic president midway into his first term confronting a holdover crisis from the previous Republican administration. Though little in modern American history compares with the malice and ineptitude of the botched pandemic response or the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, the dynamic of a potentially inaccurate census and imminent partisan redistricting is the same story facing Democrats in 2021 as it was in 2011. State leaders and activists we know across the country who face total or partial Republican control are wondering which path they should take in their own states now — and deep into the next decade.

Georgians deserved better, so we devised and began executing a 10-year plan to transform Georgia into a battleground state. As the world knows, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November, and the January runoff elections for two Senate seats secured full congressional control for the Democratic Party. Yet the result wasn’t a miracle or truly a surprise, at least not to us. Years of planning, testing, innovating, sustained investment and organizing yielded the record-breaking results we knew they could and should. The lessons we learned can help other states looking to chart a more competitive future for Democrats and progressives, particularly those in the Sun Belt, where demographic change will precede electoral opportunity.” . . . .