Opinion |  – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

“After 2016, nobody will or should take anything for granted, but at this point Joe Biden is strongly favored to beat Donald Trump, quite possibly by a landslide. However, Trump’s party may still be in a position to inflict enormous damage on America and the world over the next few years.

For one thing, while Democrats are also favored to take control of the Senate, the odds aren’t nearly as high as they are in the presidential race. Why? Because the Senate, which gives the average voter in Wyoming 70 times as much weight as the average voter in California, is a deeply unrepresentative body.

And it looks as if a president who is probably about to become a lame duck — and who lost the popular vote even in 2016 — together with a Senate that represents a minority of the American people are about to install a right-wing supermajority on the Supreme Court.

If you want a preview of how badly this can go, look at what’s happening in Wisconsin.

In 2018, Wisconsin voters elected a Democratic governor. A strong majority — 53 percent — also voted for Democratic legislators. But given the way the state’s districts are drawn, Democrats ended up with only 36 out of 99 seats in the State Assembly. And Wisconsin’s elected judiciary is also dominated by Republicans.”

“. . .  But I’d argue that the biggest threat this court will pose is to environmental policy.

Put it this way: Charles Koch is reportedly investing millions trying to get Barrett confirmed. That’s not because he’s passionately opposed to abortion rights, or, probably, even because he wants the A.C.A. overturned. What he’s looking for, surely, is a court that will block government regulation of business — and above all a court that will hamstring a Biden administration’s efforts to take action against climate change.

Sure enough, during her hearing, Barrett, asked about climate change, uttered the dreaded words, “I’m certainly not a scientist.” At this point everyone knows what that means. It’s not an expression of humility; it’s a signal that the speaker intends to ignore the science and to oppose any attempt to avert the biggest threat facing humanity.

It’s hard to overstate just how dangerous it will be if the power of the Supreme Court ends up being used to undermine environmental protection. Biden has made it clear that climate action will be at the core of his economic agenda. And this action would come not a moment too soon. We’re already starting to see the effects of global warming in the form of fires and floods, and if we waste the next few years it will probably be too late to avoid catastrophe.

In other words, if a G.O.P.-stacked Supreme Court blocks effective climate policy, it won’t just be an outrage, it will be a disaster, for America and the world. So that can’t be allowed to happen. Never mind all the talk about norms (which only seem to apply to Democrats, anyway.) What’s at stake here could be the future of civilization.”

Opinion | Bidencare Would Be a Big Deal – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

“On Monday morning America’s most prominent beneficiary of socialized medicine, in the process of receiving expensive, taxpayer-financed care at a government-run hospital, was tweeting furiously. One of President Trump’s manic missives particularly caught the eyes of health care experts: his exhortation to “PROTECT PREEXISTING CONDITIONS. VOTE!”

As always, it’s not clear whether Trump is merely being cynical or whether he is also genuinely ignorant.

He’s definitely lying when he claims to have a plan that’s better and cheaper than Obamacare. No such plan exists, and he has to know that.

But does he know that Americans with pre-existing medical conditions are already protected by the Affordable Care Act, which his administration is asking the Supreme Court to overturn? Does he realize that the reason his party has never offered an acceptable alternative to the A.C.A., in particular an alternative that would protect pre-existing conditions, is that no such alternative is possible? That’s less clear.

In any case, how the nation votes will indeed make a huge difference to the future of health care — and not just because Trump, if he holds on to power, will almost surely find a way to destroy Obamacare, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance. Joe Biden, if he wins (and gets a Democratic Senate), will make a big difference in the other direction, substantially expanding coverage and reducing premiums for middle-class families.”

Opinion | Voting G.O.P. Means Voting Against Health Care – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Joseph Prezioso/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“If you or someone you care about are among the more than 50 million Americans suffering from pre-existing medical conditions, you should be aware that the stakes in this year’s election go beyond abstract things like, say, the survival of American democracy. They’re also personal. If Donald Trump is re-elected, you will lose the protection you’ve had since the Affordable Care Act went into effect almost seven years ago.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made this even more obvious. In fact, it’s now possible that coverage of pre-existing conditions will be stripped away even if Trump loses to Joe Biden, unless Democrats also take the Senate and are prepared to play serious hardball. But health care was always on the line.

Now, Trump denies this; like almost every other politician in his party, he keeps insisting that he has a plan to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. But he and they are lying. And no, that’s not too strong a term.

On Trump: In early August he promised that he would soon release a great health care plan to replace Obamacare, probably by the end of the month. We’ve heard nothing since, which isn’t surprising, since he has made and broken similar promises many times.”

Opinion | Trump’s Coronavirus Response Was Beyond Incompetent – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Pictures of Detroit residents who died from Covid-19 lined the street for a drive-by memorial on Sept. 1.
Credit…Rebecca Cook/Reuters

“Most cases in which cars kill pedestrians surely reflect negligence: drivers who were too busy talking on their cellphones or thinking about their golf games to notice the senior citizen crossing the street in front of them. A handful are acts of murder, like when a man killed a woman by plowing his car into counterprotesters at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.

But sometimes drivers end up killing other people because they were engaging in clearly dangerous behavior, like driving well above the speed limit and running multiple red lights. The resulting deaths aren’t considered murder. But they might be considered manslaughter, which is when you didn’t specifically intend to kill someone but your irresponsible actions killed them all the same.

Until this week I thought that Donald Trump’s disastrous mishandling of Covid-19 was basically negligence, even if that negligence was willful — that is, that he failed to understand the gravity of the threat because he didn’t want to hear about it and refused to take actions that could have saved thousands of American lives because actually doing effective policy isn’t his kind of thing.

But I was wrong. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” Trump wasn’t oblivious; he knew by early February that Covid-19 was both deadly and airborne. And this isn’t a case of conflicting recollections: Woodward has Trump on tape. Yet Trump continued to hold large indoor rallies, disparage precautionary measures and pressure states to reopen business despite the risk of infection.

And he’s still doing the same things, even now.

In other words, a large fraction of the more than 200,000 Americans who will surely die of Covid-19 by Election Day will have been victims of something much worse than mere negligence.

Let’s be clear: A private citizen who did what we now know Trump did would definitely be in big legal trouble. For example, think of the lawsuits likely brought against a corporate C.E.O. who knew that his company’s workplace was dangerous, but lied about it, refused to take any precautions and threatened workers with dismissal if they failed to come in.

Now, Trump won’t face comparable accountability, partly because of the office he holds, partly because the party he leads is totally supine and won’t hold him accountable for anything. But let’s hold off on the savviness for a moment, OK? The enormity of Trump’s malfeasance should be the main story here, not speculation about whether he’ll face any consequences.

Are there any excuses for Trump’s actions? One argument you sometimes hear is that once you adjust for population you find that some European countries have lost around as many people to Covid-19 as Trump’s America — although our recent rate of new deaths is much higher, so we’ll soon be pulling away from the pack.

But when an ordinary citizen’s actions lead to someone else’s death, both circumstances and motivation matter.

Of the other high-death countries, Italy was the first Western nation to have a large outbreak, suffering many deaths before even the experts fully grasped what needed to be done.

Sweden and Britain suffered badly because they initially relied on the doctrine of “herd immunity” to resolve the pandemic. This was terrible policy, which Britain eventually abandoned. Sweden never officially changed its policy, although in practice it has ended up practicing a lot of social distancing.

But there’s a big difference between mistakes, however deadly, and deliberate deception. Only in America did the head of state know that he was reassuring people about a disease he knew was both deadly and easily spread.

Trump justified his concealment of Covid-19’s dangers as a desire to avoid “panic.” That’s pretty rich coming from the guy who began his presidency with warnings about “American carnage” and who’s currently trying to terrify suburbanites with visions of rampaging Antifa hordes. But what exactly were the dangers of panic that worried him?

After all, telling the truth about the coronavirus wouldn’t have been like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. The only things the truth might have scared people into doing would have been staying home where possible, avoiding crowds, washing their hands and so on. And these were all things people should have been doing — in fact, once people started “panicking” in places like New York, infection rates came way down.

Of course, we all have a pretty good idea what Trump was actually talking about: All through this crisis credible sources have reported that he wanted to downplay the crisis out of fear that bad news might hurt his beloved stock market. That is, he felt that he needed to sacrifice thousands of American lives to prop up the Dow.

As it happens, he was wrong: Stocks have stayed high despite an ever-rising death toll. But the fact that he was wrong about the trade-off doesn’t alter the fact that his willingness to make that trade-off was utterly immoral.

The bottom line is that it’s wrong to say that Trump mishandled Covid-19, that his response was incompetent. No, it wasn’t; it was immoral, bordering on criminal.” -30-

Opinion | Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Bryan Woolston/Reuters

“Are you better off now than you were in July?

On the face of it, that shouldn’t even be a question. After all, stocks are up; the economy added more than a million jobs in “August” (I’ll explain the scare quotes in a minute); preliminary estimates suggest that G.D.P. is growing rapidly in the third quarter, which ends this month.

But the stock market isn’t the economy: more than half of all stocks are owned by only 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom half of the population owns only 0.7 percent of the market.

Jobs and G.D.P., by contrast, sort of are the economy. But they aren’t the economy’s point. What some economists and many politicians often forget is that economics isn’t fundamentally about data, it’s about people. I like data as much as, or probably more than, the next guy. But an economy’s success should be judged not by impersonal statistics, but by whether people’s lives are getting better.

And the simple fact is that over the past few weeks the lives of many Americans have gotten much worse.”

Opinion | Trump’s Racist, Statist Suburban Dream – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Joseph Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

“Conservatives do love their phony wars. Remember the war on Christmas? Remember the “war on coal”? (Donald Trump promised to end that war, but in the third year of his presidency coal production fell to its lowest level since 1978, and the Department of Energy expects it to keep falling.)

Now, as the Trump campaign desperately searches for political avenues of attack, we’re hearing a lot about the “war on the suburbs.”

It’s probably not a line that will play well outside the G.O.P.’s hard-core base; Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t exactly come across as rabble-rousers who will lead raging antifa hordes as they pillage America’s subdivisions.

Yet it is true that a Biden-Harris administration would resume and probably expand on Obama-era efforts to finally make the Fair Housing Act of 1968 effective, seeking in particular to redress some of the injustices created by America’s ugly history of using political power to create and reinforce racial inequality.”

Opinion | Trump Sends In the Economic Quacks – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“As the U.S. economy careens toward disaster, congressional talks about what to do appear to have ground to a halt. So on Saturday President Trump — speaking at one of his golf courses, of course — announced four executive measures that, he claimed, would rescue the recovery.

Unfortunately, one of the measures was vacuous, one trivial and one unworkable. And the fourth may do substantial harm.

The vacuous measure simply calls on government agencies to “consider” helping renters facing eviction. The trivial measure waives interest and defers principal repayment on student loans.

The unworkable measure supposedly provides new aid to the unemployed, who have lost pandemic benefits because Senate Republicans don’t want to provide them; but the announced program would be an administrative nightmare that might take a long time to put into effect and would require partial matching funds that strapped states don’t have. Remember, states had a very hard time implementing the first round of aid to the unemployed, leaving millions in the cold for many weeks. This would be worse.”

Opinion | Why Can’t Trump’s America Be Like Italy? – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Another wonderful week. I cope with the joys and sorrows of this Covid/Recession/BlackLivesMatter era by reading and writing about it, focused on the New York Times. Often what speaks to my heart, has helped unmuddle my brain.

Just going back to last Friday, Paul Krugman wrote, Why Can’t Trumps America Be Like Italy.

It is so rude it is delicious. It ends,

“. . . In particular, tens of millions of workers are about to lose crucial unemployment benefits, and Republicans haven’t even settled on a bad response. On Wednesday Senate Republicans floated the idea of reducing supplemental benefits from $600 a week to just $100, which would spell disaster for many families.

For someone like Trump, all this must be humiliating — or would be if anyone dared tell him about it. After three and a half years of Making America Great Again, we’ve become a pathetic figure on the world stage, a cautionary tale about pride going before a fall.

These days Americans can only envy Italy’s success in weathering the coronavirus, its rapid return to a kind of normalcy that is a distant dream in a nation that used to congratulate itself for its can-do culture. Italy is often referred to as “the sick man of Europe”; what does that make us?”

Opinion | America Drank Away Its Children’s Future – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

“A brief history of the past four months in America:

Experts: Don’t rush to reopen, this isn’t over.

Donald Trump: LIBERATE!

Covid-19: Wheee!

Trump officials: Here’s our opposition research on Anthony Fauci.

And we’re now faced with an agonizing choice: Do we reopen schools, creating risks of a further viral explosion, or do we keep children home, with severe negative effects on their learning?

None of this had to happen. Other countries stuck with their lockdowns long enough to reduce infections to rates much lower than those prevailing here; Covid-19 death rates per capita in the European Union are only a 10th those in the United States — and falling — while ours are rising fast. As a result, they’re in a position to reopen schools fairly safely.

And the experience of the Northeast, the first major epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, shows that we could have achieved something similar here. Death rates are way down, although still higher than in Europe; on Saturday, for the first time since March, New York City reported zero Covid-19 deaths.

Would a longer lockdown have been economically sustainable? Yes.

It’s true that strong social distancing requirements led to high unemployment and hurt many businesses. But even America, with its ramshackle social safety net, was able to provide enough disaster relief — don’t call it stimulus! — to protect most of its citizens from severe hardship.

Thanks largely to expanded unemployment benefits, poverty didn’t soar during the lockdown. By some measures it may even have gone down.

True, there were holes in that safety net, and many people did suffer. But we could have patched those holes. Yes, emergency relief costs a lot of money, but we can afford it: The federal government has been borrowing huge sums, but interest rates have remained near historical lows.

Put it this way: At its most severe, the lockdown seems to have reduced G.D.P. by a little over 10 percent. During World War II, America spent more than 30 percent of G.D.P. on defense, for more than three years. Why couldn’t we absorb a much smaller cost for a few months?

So doing what was necessary to bring the coronavirus under control would have been annoying, but entirely feasible.

But that was the road not taken. Instead, many states not only rushed to reopen, they reopened stupidly. Instead of being treated as a cheap, effective way to fight contagion, face masks became a front in the culture war. Activities that posed an obvious risk of feeding the pandemic went unchecked: Large gatherings were permitted, bars reopened.

And the cost of those parties and open bars extends beyond the thousands of Americans who will be killed or suffer permanent health damage as a result of Covid-19’s resurgence. The botched reopening has also endangered something that, unlike drinking in groups, can’t be suspended without doing long-run damage: in-person education.

Some activities hold up fairly well when moved online. I suspect that there will be a lot fewer people flying cross-country to stare at PowerPoints than there were pre-Covid, even once we finally beat this virus.

Education isn’t one of those activities. We now have overwhelming confirmation of something we already suspected: For many, perhaps most students there is no substitute for actually being in a classroom.

But rooms full of students are potential Petri dishes, even if the young are less likely to die from Covid-19 than the old. Other countries have managed to reopen schools relatively safely — but they did so with much lower infection rates than currently prevail in America, and with adequate testing, which we still don’t have in many hot spots.

So we’re now facing a terrible, unnecessary dilemma. If we reopen in-person education, we risk feeding an out-of-control pandemic. If we don’t, we impair the development of millions of American students, inflicting long-term damage on their lives and careers.

And the reason we’re in this position is that states, cheered on by the Trump administration, rushed to allow large parties and reopen bars. In a real sense America drank away its children’s future.    . . . .   “

Opinion | How America Lost the War on Covid-19 – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“. . .  But what strikes me, when looking at America’s extraordinary pandemic failure, is how top-down it all was.

Those anti-lockdown demonstrations weren’t spontaneous, grass-roots affairs. Many were organized and coordinated by conservative political activists, some with close ties to the Trump campaign, and financed in part by right-wing billionaires.

And the rush to reopen in Sunbelt states was less a response to popular demand than a case of Republican governors following Trump’s lead.

The main driving force behind reopening, as far as I can tell, was the administration’s desire to have big job gains leading into November, so that it could do what it knew how to do — boast about economic success. Actually dealing with the pandemic just wasn’t Trump’s kind of thing.

In that case, however, why has Trump refused to wear a face mask or encourage others to do so? After all, wider use of masks would be one way to limit infections without shutting down the economy.

Well, Trump’s vanity — his belief that wearing a mask would make him look silly, or mess up his makeup, or something — has surely played a role. But it’s also true that masks remind people that we haven’t controlled the coronavirus — and Trump wants people to forget that awkward fact.

The irony is that Trump’s willingness to trade deaths for jobs and political gain has backfired.

Reopening did lead to large job increases in May and June, as around a third of the workers laid off as a result of the pandemic were rehired. But Trump’s job approval and electoral prospects just kept sliding.

And even in purely economic terms the rush to reopen is probably failing. The last official employment number was a snapshot from the second week of June; a variety of shortterm indicators suggest that growth slowed or even went into reverse soon afterward, especially in states where Covid-19 cases are spiking.

In any case, the point is that America’s defeat at the hands of the coronavirus didn’t happen because victory was impossible. Nor was it because we as a nation were incapable of responding. No, we lost because Trump and those around him decided that it was in their political interests to let the virus run wild.”   -30-  (end of article)