Blow and Krugman

In “Trump’s Incredible Shrinking America” Mr. Blow says pulling out of the Paris climate accord is hazardous and shortsighted.  Prof. Krugman, in “Making Ignorance Great Again,” says climate is a casualty in the war on truth.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

My whole life I have taken for granted America’s leadership in the world. America’s might and majesty were cornerstones of international relations, cooperation and diplomacy. We were a beacon and balance to the world. America has been imperfect — sometimes disastrously so — but it always seemed to me bent toward the belief that America and the world could be made more perfect.

Well, that time has come to a close. America is exiting the world stage. Donald Trump is drawing the curtains.

On Trump’s first full weekday in office, he, and thus America, abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As The New York Times reported it:

“President Trump upended America’s traditional, bipartisan trade policy on Monday as he formally abandoned the ambitious, 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership brokered by his predecessor and declared an end to the era of multinational trade agreements that defined global economics for decades.”

Trump has had, and continues to have, an unhealthy and inexplicable admiration for the world’s strongmen, dictators and authoritarian regimes — Russia and Vladimir Putin stand out among the rest — while simultaneously chiding and chastising America’s traditional allies and those countries’ leaders.

From the way Trump has treated America’s neighbors — Mexico about immigrants and the financing of his ridiculous wall, Canada over trade practices on energy, lumber and dairy (he called policies surrounding dairy trade “a disgrace”) — to the way he has treated our friends in Europe, Trump is singlehandedly ushering in a new era of American decline.

Last month in Europe, Trump was as boorish and belligerent as it was possible to be, lashing out at our NATO allies about their defense spending just after having been gracious and magnanimous to leaders in the Middle East.

Then last week Trump thumbed his nose at the world and the planet by announcing that he would pull America out of the Paris climate accord, even though a Yale survey found the agreement was popular and a majority of Americans in every state — including those that Trump won — wanted the United States to stay in the agreement.

But even beyond whether or not it was popular, staying in was right. More than 190 countries — most of the countries on the planet — are signatories to the agreement. We have one planet. It is in trouble. The world must band together to save it. How does it look for the world’s last remaining superpower to simply walk away?

This is not putting America first, this is putting America on a path of regression and isolationism. This is putting our future and the future of the planet in peril. This is dumb, hazardous and shortsighted.

Trump justified his move using faulty information, citing issues that are not even in the agreement and flat-out lying. What else is new? Perhaps his most memorable line from his speech about the withdrawal was:

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. I promised I would exit or renegotiate any deal which fails to serve America’s interests.”

The problem is that, as PolitiFact pointed out:

“Clinton won almost 60 percent of the vote in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. The percentage was even higher in many precincts within the city of Pittsburgh itself. (Allegheny County includes a range of suburbs in addition to the city.)”

Indeed, the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, told CNN after the speech: “The city of Pittsburgh voted for Hillary Clinton with nearly 80 percent of the vote.” Later on CNN, Peduto was asked if he had a message for Trump. Peduto responded: “What you did was not only bad for the economy of this country, but also weakened America in this world.”

In fact, mayors, governors and business leaders across the country were quick to rebuke Trump’s horrendous decision and to dedicate themselves to the spirit of the agreement.

Then, for me, the icing on the cake was Trump’s absolute lack of grace and tact in his response to the London terror attacks over the weekend. His first response was not to express his horror and extend America’s condolences and offer American assistance. No, that would have required that he possess a shred of empathy and common decency.

Instead, his first instinct was to use the attacks as political fodder to advance his own failed domestic agenda to impose a “travel ban.”

Shortly after the attacks, while people were still trying to get their minds around what exactly had happened in London, Trump tweeted:

“We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!”

(Note that Trump again calls it a “ban,” although White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who retweeted this message, scolded the media in January for calling Trump’s ban a ban, saying: “This is not a Muslim ban, it’s not a travel ban, it’s a vetting system to keep America safe.” Trump is killing himself in the courts with his own words.)

Trump is pulling America back and pulling America down. We are now witnessing the incredible shrinking America, and it’s a sad sight to behold.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason. I don’t mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn’t offer any substantive justification for that decision. Oh, he threw around a few numbers about supposed job losses, but nobody believes that he knows or cares where those numbers came from. It was just what he felt like doing.

And here’s the thing: What just happened on climate isn’t an unusual case — and Trump isn’t especially unusual for a modern Republican. For today’s G.O.P. doesn’t do substance; it doesn’t assemble evidence, or do analysis to formulate or even to justify its policy positions. Facts and hard thinking aren’t wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.

Consider another huge policy area, health care. How was Trumpcare put together? Did the administration and its allies consult with experts, study previous experience with health reform, and try to devise a plan that made sense? Of course not. In fact, House leaders made a point of ramming a bill through before the Congressional Budget Office, or for that matter anyone else, could assess its likely impact.

When the budget office did weigh in, its conclusions were what you might expect: If you make huge cuts in Medicaid and reduce subsidies for private insurance — all so you can cut taxes on the wealthy — a lot of people are going to lose coverage. Is 23 million a good estimate of those losses? Yes — it might be 18 million, or it might be 28 million, but surely it would be in that range.

So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O., declaring that it did a “miserable” job of forecasting the effects of Obamacare. (It got some things wrong, but overall did pretty well.) He also accused the office — headed by a former Bush administration economist chosen by Republicans — of political bias, and smeared its top health expert in particular.

So, Mr. Mulvaney, where’s your assessment of Trumpcare? You had plenty of resources to do your own study before trying to pass a bill. What did you find? (Actually, the White House did do an internal analysis of an earlier version of Trumpcare, which was leaked to Politico. Its predictions were even more dire than those from the C.B.O.)

But Mulvaney and his party don’t study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions.

Which brings us back to climate policy.

On climate change, influential conservatives have for years clung to what is basically a crazy conspiracy theory — that the overwhelming scientific consensus that the earth is warming due to greenhouse-gas emissions is a hoax, somehow coordinated by thousands of researchers around the world. And at this point this is effectively the mainstream Republican position.

Do G.O.P. leaders really think this conspiracy theory is true? The answer, surely, is that they don’t care. Truth, as something that exists apart from and in possible opposition to political convenience, is no longer part of their philosophical universe.

The same goes for claims that trying to rein in emissions will do terrible economic damage and destroy millions of jobs. Such claims are, if you think about it, completely inconsistent with everything Republicans supposedly believe about economics.

After all, they insist that the private sector is infinitely flexible and innovative; the magic of the marketplace can solve all problems. But then they claim that these magical markets would roll over and die if we put a modest price on carbon emissions, which is basically what climate policy would do. This doesn’t make any sense — but it’s not supposed to. Republicans want to keep burning coal, and they’ll say whatever helps produce that outcome.

And as health care and climate go, so goes everything else. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn’t gone post-truth? Take budgeting, where leaders like Paul Ryan have always justified tax cuts for the rich by claiming the ability to conjure up trillions in extra revenue and savings in some unspecified way. The Trump-Mulvaney budget, which not only pulls $2 trillion out of thin air but counts it twice, takes the game to a new level, but it’s not that much of a departure.

But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?

Well, bear in mind that so far Trump hasn’t faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted many years ago in his essay “In Front of Your Nose,” people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” Now there’s a happy thought.

Advertisements

Tags:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: