Times Editorial | Joe Biden Should Build on Common Ground – The New York Times

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Promises to pursue national healing and unity helped put Joe Biden in the White House. Americans embraced that vision. But the overall election results, with Republicans gaining seats in the House and possibly retaining control of the Senate, both exposed and increased the magnitude of the incoming president’s challenge.

In a nation so politically divided, making even modest progress on critical issues can be a slog. Mr. Biden will need to rally the public behind a Decency Agenda with broad-based appeal. That means first turning down the temperature of the culture wars, backing a policy agenda with broad public support and returning to constitutional norms that served the nation well for so long.

Common ground on policy is not terra incognita. The question is what to do with the common ground that’s already been scouted and surveyed. This effort can target the usual bipartisan suspects, like shoring up infrastructure and lowering the price of prescription drugs, but can also reach further afield, guided in part by the imperatives of the pandemic.”

Times Editorial | Republicans and Democrats Need to Work Together. Earmarks Can Help. – The New York Times

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The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Getty Images

“As the Trump presidency fades to black, it is time for Washington to get to work. In embracing Joe Biden, the American people cast a vote for civility, pragmatism and competence. Lawmakers now have a duty to hunker down and find ways to make progress on critical issues. But with both chambers of Congress narrowly divided and ideologically polarized, coming together on even the most modest deals could prove daunting.

One promising move under consideration: bringing back congressional earmarks.

Loosely speaking, earmarks are spending requests — or, depending on your definition, also limited tax or tariff benefits — inserted into bills at the behest of individual lawmakers for the benefit of specific entities in specific locations. Think: funding for a domestic violence crisis center in Alaska or for STEM programs in a rural school district in Colorado.

In the big picture, earmarks add up to little more than a rounding error, generally constituting not more than 1 percent of the federal budget. They are used to determine spending priorities, not spending levels, meaning they determine how the pie gets divided rather than how big it is.

As conceived, earmarks allow the people who presumably best understand a state or district — its elected officials — to direct federal dollars to where they are most needed. In practice, they also gets used for all kinds of daffy or ill-conceived projects. Remember the infamous Bridge to Nowhere? Classic earmarking. At its most vile, the process veers into organized bribery, as special interests pursue ethically questionable, and occasionally illegal, means to get lawmakers to champion their pet issues. In the mid-2000s, a handful of earmark-related scandals landed some prominent political players in prison. Earmarks became a tidy symbol of government waste and corruption.

Editorial | A Debate That Can’t Be Ignored – The New York Times

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The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

“All Americans, whatever their political inclinations, should make time to watch Tuesday night’s presidential debate, and every minute of the two forthcoming debates.

President Trump’s performance on the debate stage was a national disgrace. His refusal to condemn white supremacists, or to pledge that he will accept the results of the election, betrayed the people who entrusted him with the highest office in the land. Every American has a responsibility to look and listen and take the full measure of the man. Ignorance can no longer be a tenable excuse. Conservatives in pursuit of long-cherished policy goals can no longer avoid the reality that Mr. Trump is vandalizing the principles and integrity of our democracy.

It’s a tired frame, but consider how Americans would judge a foreign election where the incumbent president scorned the democratic process as a fraud and called on an armed, violent, white supremacist group to “stand by” to engage with his political rivals.

The debate was excruciating to watch for anyone who loves this country, because of the mirror it held up to the United States in 2020: a nation unmoored from whatever was left of its civil political traditions, awash in conspiratorial disinformation, incapable of agreeing on what is true and what are lies, paralyzed by the horror of a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and beholden to a political system that doesn’t reflect the majority of the country.

After five years of conditioning, the president’s ceaseless lies, insults and abuse were no less breathtaking to behold. Mr. Trump doesn’t care if you think he’s corrupt, incompetent and self-centered. He just wants you to think everyone else is just as bad, and that he’s the only one brave enough to tell it to you straight. It is an effort to dull Americans’ sense of right and wrong, making them question reality itself and, eventually, driving them to tune out.

Yet there was a new sense of desperation in Mr. Trump’s performance. He knows, as most observers do, that he is on track to lose the election. His solution to that predicament is not to reach out to more voters, like a normal president would.

Instead he spent the debate as he has spent the past several months: claiming the election will not be legitimate unless he wins. This threat to the democratic process is no less real because it is a threat made in public.

At one point the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, asked Mr. Trump if he was willing to condemn the white supremacists and right-wing militants who have grown emboldened under his administration — specifically, a group called the Proud Boys who have been involved in numerous street fights in the past few years. (“We will kill you. That’s the Proud Boys in a nutshell,” their founder said.)

It was the slowest, fattest softball a president could be tossed. Once again, Mr. Trump whiffed. “Proud Boys?” Mr. Trump said. “Stand back and stand by,” before pivoting to accuse left-wing agitators of being the true threat. (False, according to the F.B.I.)

The campaign tried to walk back the “stand by” comment on Wednesday, but a different message had already been received: “This makes me so happy,” one Proud Boy wrote in an online forum. “Well sir! We’re ready!!”

Mr. Wallace later asked both candidates to commit to respect the outcome of the election. The fact that such a promise needed to be extracted in the first place is alarming. More ominous was that only one candidate, Joe Biden, agreed to it. Mr. Trump used the opportunity to warn of a “fraudulent election,” falsely claiming that mail-in ballots would be corrupted — again, despite his own F.B.I. saying there is no evidence of any fraud in mail ballots. Undeterred, Mr. Trump called on his supporters to “go into the poll and watch very carefully” — in other words, to intimidate voters in areas where Mr. Biden is likely to draw more support.

Should all else fail, Mr. Trump said that the election will be decided by the Supreme Court — which will most likely have a full complement of nine members by Election Day. The court will “look at the ballots,” Mr. Trump said. It bears repeating that it is not the court’s job to decide the election.

No one handled himself perfectly on Tuesday night. But that acknowledgment is by no means an equivalence. Mr. Biden exhibited remarkable restraint given Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to actually debate.

As the dust settled, there were calls for Mr. Biden to skip the rest of the debates. That is an understandable reaction; Mr. Trump’s behavior makes it essentially impossible to have a civil, substantive conversation.

But that is the exact opposite of what needs to happen. Mr. Biden will show up for all of the remaining debates, and Americans should too. Donald Trump is their president. They need to face him, and the reckoning he has brought on the Republic.

Most of all, they need to vote. In person, by mail — however they can, and as soon as they can. Mr. Trump wants Americans to be either too disgusted or too afraid to cast their ballots. Throughout the nation’s history, tens of millions of Americans have been made to feel this way. They never gave up the fight for a fairer and freer democracy. Neither should Americans today. The best response to a would-be autocrat like Donald Trump, and the only way to begin to extricate the country from this long nightmare, is to show up and be counted.”

Editorial | Income and Wealth Inequality Has Devastated American Workers – The New York Times

“Over the past four decades, American workers have suffered a devastating loss of economic power, manifest in their wages, benefits and working conditions. The annual economic output of the United States has almost tripled, but, with the help of policymakers from both political parties, the wealthy hoarded the fruits.

In the nation’s slaughterhouses, the average worker in 1982 made $24 an hour in inflation-adjusted dollars, or $50,000 a year. Today the average meatpacker processes significantly more meat — and makes less than $14 an hour.

The hundreds of thousands of home health care aides, often female, often minorities, who care for a nation of aging baby boomers rarely receive paid time to care for their own families.

Even in the high-flying technology sector, companies have found ways to leave their workers behind. More than half of the people who work for Google do not actually work for Google. They are classified as contractors, which means they do not need to be treated as employees.

Picture the nation as a pirate crew: In recent decades, the owners of the ship have gradually claimed a larger share of booty at the expense of the crew. The annual sum that has shifted from workers to owners now tops $1 trillion.

Or consider the power shift from the perspective of an individual worker. If income had kept pace with overall economic growth since 1970, Americans in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be making an extra $12,000 per year, on average. In effect, every American worker in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution is sending an annual check for $12,000 to a richer person in the top 10 percent.”

Editorial | Why the Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is the Only Option – The New York Times

“HE AMERICAN PEOPLE HAVE LEARNED over the past week that Mr. Trump, during a July phone call, pressed the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Joe Biden, one of his leading political rivals, according to a written summary of the conversation released by the White House. What’s more, Mr. Trump offered the assistance of the Justice Department in that investigation. These facts are not in dispute, which is why some of the president’s die-hard defenders are trying to dismiss the conversation as an inconsequential instance of the president’s bad judgment.

But it was so much more dangerous than that. A president’s use of his power for his own political gain, at the expense of the public interest, is the quintessence of an impeachable offense. It was, in fact, one of the examples the Constitution’s framers deployed to explain what would constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the standard for impeachment.”