Paul Krugman | Behind Kentucky’s Tornado Recovery Plan – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“On Friday, a devastating swarm of tornadoes swept through Kentucky. The state’s leading figures appealed for federal aid, which was promptly granted — and rightly so. Helping people and communities in need is what nations are supposed to do.

Observers couldn’t help noticing, however, that some of the Kentucky politicians asking for aid — notably Senator Rand Paul — had in the past not only opposed aid for other disaster-struck states but sneered at their pleas. What should we make of this hypocrisy?

The truth is that it runs deeper than “aid for me but not for thee.” Remarkably, if you look at how the federal budget affects U.S. regions, there’s a consistent pattern in which conservative states that preach the importance of self-reliance are in fact heavily subsidized by liberal states, especially in the Northeast.”

“. . . Topping the list of net beneficiaries was, yes, Kentucky, where residents received an average of $14,000 more from Washington than they paid in taxes. To put this in perspective, Kentucky’s 2019 net inflow of federal funds — $63 billion — was roughly 30 percent of the state’s G.D.P. that year.””

Paul Krugman| The Republican Senate Spending Bill Vote Was Sabotage – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Yesterday every single Republican senator voted to shut down the U.S. government and provoke a global financial crisis.

Of course, they claimed otherwise; Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, portrayed the vote against raising the debt limit as a test of Democrats’ ability to govern, and some of his colleagues claimed to be taking a stand for fiscal responsibility. But everyone involved understood that this was an act of political sabotage. And the terrible thing is that it might work.

The U.S. debt limit is a very peculiar institution, because when combined with the filibuster it gives a minority party the ability to undermine basic governance. You might think that once Congress has passed fiscal legislation — once it has passed bills that set spending levels and tax rates — that would be the end of the story. But if this duly enacted legislation leads to a budget deficit, which requires that the U.S. government issue debt, as few as 40 senators can then block the needed borrowing, creating a crisis.”

Jamelle Bouie | We Underestimated Trump Before. It Didn’t Go Well. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Sometimes, and much to our detriment, we find real events are simply too outlandish to take seriously.

Many professional Republicans, for example, initially dismissed the movement to “Stop the Steal” as a ridiculous stunt.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” an anonymous senior Republican official told The Washington Post a few days after Joe Biden claimed victory:

He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.

Republicans went ahead and humored the president, who then urged his followers to assault the Capitol and try to void the election results in his favor.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Jamelle Bouie, for an extraordinary essay– a prize winner. Let me explore. You pointed out that the northern Republicans completely underestimated the willingness of the new confederacy to fight. They thought it was a bluff, and the civil war ensued. What if Lincoln and the GOP just allowed the succession? How would history have changed? Might make a good mini series. In my own study of history, I have read several writers claim that slavery was dying out relatively quickly, without civil wars, because it didn’t have the right economic model for the new industrial societies that were developing in the western world. If the United States was allowed to break in two, would the Nazi party of Germany and the Japanese militarists be in power over most of the world today? One can easily make the dots go in that direction.
Could the Northern and the Southern States come together and fight fascism in the WW II, and if they did, would they be ready to become the industrial engine of the Allies in a relative short period of time? This thought makes me even more grateful for Lincoln and the soldiers who sacrificed for the Union. Now, who will stop this new menace, and would be dictator Donald Trump, who threatens us from within. In reading, “Inside the Third Reich,” by Albert Speer, one can see many similarities. They both designed their platforms, by what enraged their audiences. Neither had scruples.
Author of The Tayson Rebellion, and blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Paul Krugman | The Snake Oil Theory of the Modern Right – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“You don’t hear much these days about “economic anxiety.” Most observers acknowledge that the rise of the Trumpist right was driven by racial and social antagonism, not economic populism.

Yet there is an economic element to political extremism, just not what you’d think. Right-wing extremists, and to some extent even more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme. Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Paul Krugman | Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I’m a huge believer in the usefulness of social science, especially studies that use comparisons across time and space to shed light on our current situation. So when the political scientist Henry Farrell suggested that I look at his field’s literature on cults of personality, I followed his advice. He recommended one paper in particular, by the New Zealand-based researcher Xavier Márquez; I found it revelatory.

The Mechanisms of Cult Production” compares the behavior of political elites across a wide range of dictatorial regimes, from Caligula’s Rome to the Kim family’s North Korea, and finds striking similarities. Despite vast differences in culture and material circumstances, elites in all such regimes engage in pretty much the same behavior, especially what the paper dubs “loyalty signaling” and “flattery inflation.”

Signaling is a concept originally drawn from economics; it says that people sometimes engage in costly, seemingly pointless behavior as a way to prove that they have attributes others value. For example, new hires at investment banks may work insanely long hours, not because the extra hours are actually productive, but to demonstrate their commitment to feeding the money machine.”

In the context of dictatorial regimes, signaling typically involves making absurd claims on behalf of the Leader and his agenda, often including “nauseating displays of loyalty.” If the claims are obvious nonsense and destructive in their effects, if making those claims humiliates the person who makes them, these are features, not bugs. I mean, how does the Leader know if you’re truly loyal unless you’re willing to demonstrate your loyalty by inflicting harm both on others and on your own reputation?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Paul Krugman for another superlative essay. This writer worries greatly about the prospects of the future. Regarding the new covid 19 pandemic, I harbor dark thoughts of using sticks, not carrots. Deny anyone who refused a vaccine, the right to hospital care if they get covid. I think Bret Stephens is the only writer I’ve read who has dared say this before I said it in public now. One or two other commenters are bringing us similar ideas. To continue my line of dark thinking, Protect our front line medial personnel. Let the new covid patients who refused vaccination go to a quarantine ward in a prison in the hospital to die as quickly as possible. Require proof of vaccination for everything under the sun or society has to offer. The only exemption, would be a medical one, in writing from a medical doctor, corroborated by a government agency, such as the CDC.
David is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews

Paul Krugman | The Decline of Republican Demonization – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/opinion/republicans-biden-stimulus.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

“. . . And looking forward, why should we expect the G.O.P. to do any better in opposing Biden’s longer-term initiatives?

Bear in mind that both infrastructure spending and raising taxes on the rich are very popular. Democrats seem united on at least the principle of an invest-and-tax plan — and these days they seem pretty good at turning agreement in principle into actual legislation.

To block this push, Republicans will have to come up with something beyond boilerplate denunciations of socialists killing jobs. Will they? Probably not.

In short, the prospects for a big spend-and-tax bill are quite good, because Democrats know what they want to achieve and are willing to put in the work to make it happen — while Republicans don’t and aren’t.”   -30-

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.

Farhad Manjoo | In California, Berkeley Beat Back NIMBYs – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Andrew Burton for The New York Times

“A century ago, the civic leaders of Berkeley, Calif., pioneered what would become one of America’s most enduring systems of racial inequity — a soft apartheid of zoning.

In 1916, the city that is now a byword for progressivism became one of the first in the country to set aside large tracts of its land for single-family homes. Berkeley’s purpose was openly racist; as a real estate magazine of the era explained, excluding apartments and other densely populated residences was part of an effort to protect the wealthy white residents of Berkeley from an “invasion of Negroes and Asiatics.”

In the decades that followed, Berkeley’s restrictive zoning would be adopted by cities across California and the nation. Combined with other forms of discrimination in real estate — including “redlining,” which restricted access to loans for homes in nonwhite areas, another practice that shaped Berkeley’s growth — zoning limits cemented racism into America’s urban landscape.

Last week, Berkeley finally took a step in a new direction. The City Council adopted a measure that acknowledges the racist history of single-family zoning and begins a process to eliminate the restriction by 2022. It is a very baby step: Berkeley’s measure is mainly symbolic, putting off for the future the tough business of actually rezoning the city.” . . .

Paul Krugman | Et Tu, Ted? Why Deregulation Failed – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“Nobody is ever fully prepared for natural disaster. When hurricanes, blizzards or tsunamis strike they always reveal weaknesses — failure to plan, failure to invest in precautions.

The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes.

Texas isn’t the only state with a largely deregulated electricity market. It has, however, pushed deregulation further than anyone else. There is an upper limit on wholesale electricity prices, but it’s stratospherically high. And there is essentially no prudential regulation — no requirements that utilities maintain reserve capacity or invest in things like insulation to limit the effects of extreme weather.

The theory was that no such regulation was necessary, because the magic of the market would take care of everything. After all, a surge in demand or a disruption of supply — both of which happened in the deep freeze — will lead to high prices, and hence to big profits for any power supplier that manages to keep operating. So there should be incentives to invest in robust systems, precisely to take advantage of events like those Texas just experienced.” . . .

” . . . The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes.

Texas isn’t the only state with a largely deregulated electricity market. It has, however, pushed deregulation further than anyone else. There is an upper limit on wholesale electricity prices, but it’s stratospherically high. And there is essentially no prudential regulation — no requirements that utilities maintain reserve capacity or invest in things like insulation to limit the effects of extreme weather.” . . .

Opinion | How to Foil Trump’s Election Night Strategy – By Jamelle Bouie – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

“There’s no mystery about what President Trump intends to do if he holds a lead on election night in November. He’s practically broadcasting it.

First, he’ll claim victory. Then, having spent most of the year denouncing vote-by-mail as corrupt, fraudulent and prone to abuse, he’ll demand that authorities stop counting mail-in and absentee ballots. He’ll have teams of lawyers challenging counts and ballots across the country.

He also seems to be counting on having the advantage of mail slowdowns, engineered by the recently installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Fewer pickups and deliveries could mean more late-arriving ballots and a better shot at dismissing votes before they’re even opened, especially if the campaign has successfully sued to block states from extending deadlines. We might even see a Brooks Brothers riot or two, where well-heeled Republican operatives stage angry and voluble protests against ballot counts and recounts.

If Trump is leading on election night, in other words, there’s a good chance he’ll try to disrupt and delegitimize the counting process. That way, if Joe Biden pulls ahead in the days (or weeks) after voting ends — if we experience a “blue shift” like the one in 2018, in which the Democratic majority in the House grew as votes came in — the president will have given himself grounds to reject the outcome as “fake news.” “