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Editorials from around New York

August 21, 2019

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

Trump, Jews and America: The president’s disgusting divisiveness is beyond the pale

New York Daily News

Aug. 21

Because two members of the opposing party in the U.S. House of Representatives are vocal critics of Israel whose foreign policy views are out of step with the 233 other members of their caucus, not to mention the 47 Democrats in the Senate, Donald Trump has let it be known that any Jewish American who votes for a Democrat is either ignorant or disloyal. Disloyal, he clarified Wednesday, “to Israel.”

These are the words of a disgusting divider whose posturing, supposedly intended to counter the base smear that Jewish Americans hold dual loyalty to the United States and to the world’s sole Jewish state, instead advances it. Who, in pretending to speak up against bigotry, wantonly inflames it.

Let us state a few facts that New York City’s 1.1 million Jews and all who care to understand them know well, but that a president born and raised here willfully ignores.

Some Jews are ultra-Orthodox. Some are Orthodox, some Conservative, some Reform. Some are secular. Where they land on the political spectrum ranges just as widely. Some vote for Bernie Sanders; others like Donald Trump. Though the vast majority, as a matter of fact, happen to hold more liberal beliefs and vote Democratic.

For good reason, Jews traditionally have a special affinity for Israel, as that sliver of land has served for thousands of years as a refuge for a minority oppressed, cast out and killed in many other parts of the world. Today, Israel serves as a shelter from anti-Semitic hate in a hostile region.

It is also a state whose leaders make political choices. Jewish Americans, as Americans, have a right to come to whatever conclusions they wish about the wisdom of those choices. Some tend to defend Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza, as this Editorial Board does. Others, because of their conscience or their politics or their faith or some combination thereof, see those policies as a mistake or moral stain.

It is disloyal to core American ideals to call those whose politics guide them to pull the lever for Democrats disloyal to their people and to Israel.

Coming from Trump, such poison is unsurprising. He has said to an audience of American Jews, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.” To another audience of American Jews, he referred to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister.” He has fed the anti-Semitic canard that George Soros, a Jew, fueled caravans of immigrants. He defended some of those who gathered in Charlottesville, Va., chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

This time, he has outdone himself. The assertion by the president of the United States that some 8 million American Jews betray themselves and a nation 5,700 miles away by voting for the party of Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman, Ed Koch, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Elizabeth Holtzman, Max Rose, Nita Lowey and countless others should make all Americans’ flesh crawl.

Alas, flesh crawls almost daily during the Trump presidency.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Njq35H

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The Right’s Left Turn on Drug Prices

Wall Street Journal

Aug. 18

Republicans are worried about their re-election prospects in 2020, and one result is a frenzy to “do something” on high drug prices. Yet two of the latest ideas are standbys of the left: foreign importation and pricing penalties, which are more about politics than results for patients.

The Trump Administration says it intends to explore ways “to allow safe importation of certain prescription drugs to lower prices and reduce out of pocket costs for American patients,” as Health and Human Services said in a press release.

This idea polls well because Americans are annoyed that drugs are cheaper in Canada, which controls prices. Bernie Sanders recently joined a caravan of Americans crossing the northern border to buy insulin. Florida has proposed importing prescription drugs from Canada, which requires federal signoff, and HHS says it may approve such projects.

One problem: Canada. The country is disinclined to siphon off its drug supply to American patients. By one analysis, if merely 20% of U.S. prescriptions were filled in Canada, the country’s drug supply would be exhausted in less than 200 days. Reuters last month obtained documents showing the Canadian government discussing how to stop U.S. importation that could create shortages.

Savings would be illusory in any case. HHS excludes from importation: controlled substances, biological products, infused drugs, intravenously injected drugs, drugs inhaled during surgery and certain others. As the American Action Forum puts it: “In other words, everything except the expensive treatments can be imported.” Generics are already cheaper in America.

The Trump Administration thinks it can find ways to import drugs at no risk to the safety of the drug supply, but maybe not. It isn’t obvious how drugs labeled for sale in other countries could conform with a 2013 “track and trace” law, which is still being implemented. The purpose was to prevent counterfeits and diversion by tracking a packaged drug at every step of the supply chain.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley ’s Finance Committee has passed bipartisan drug-pricing legislation with provisions that include capping out-of-pocket costs for seniors in Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit. The point is to reorganize the benefit’s structure in more rational ways, and much of it is worthwhile.

Yet there are a couple ideas that deserve a scrub before the bill reaches the floor. Nine Republicans voted no in committee, which probably means the draft needs a rewrite to pass with a majority of Republicans. The White House appears amenable to the current iteration but shouldn’t be.

One problem involves Medicaid. Drug manufacturers by law owe Medicaid steep rebates_for most patented drugs, 23.1% of the average manufactured price or one prescribed by a formula, whichever is higher. Drug makers pay an additional rebate if the drug’s price increases faster than inflation. Total rebates are capped at 100% of the average manufactured price.

Drugs for diabetes, oncology and other maladies have hit this rebate maximum. Congress is now proposing to increase rebate limits to 125% of the average manufactured price. In other words, for Medicaid to cover a drug, some companies would have to pay the government. These losses would be recouped by higher prices in commercial markets. A bigger rebate won’t help Medicaid beneficiaries, whose out-of-pocket drug costs are capped at a few dollars for a prescription.

The Senate bill would also apply bad principles to Medicare. A provision championed by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon proposes adding a penalty in Medicare for drugs whose prices increase faster than inflation. That will cause companies to launch drugs at higher prices. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has pointed out that companies could react by treating inflation as the floor and ceiling of politically acceptable price increases. In other words, companies might increase prices every year up to the point of inflation, regardless of market realities.

These arguments haven’t stopped Congress for two reasons: One is that the penalties raise revenue that Congress can spend elsewhere. The second is that both parties want drug companies as a punching bag. Drug companies deserve criticism for abetting ObamaCare and some pricing excesses, but much of the recent assault is demagoguery.

Neither importation nor penalties will have a discernible effect on drug markets before politicians face voters in 2020. The importation announcement is an “action plan,” meaning the Administration hasn’t started making a rule. The penalties in the Senate bill aren’t paid until 2021 and 2022.

The question is why Republicans are so afraid to run on their good record on generic drug approvals and drug-price increases, which the White House rightly notes have fallen below the pre-inauguration trend. The party should promote more intense industry competition and other initiatives as a down payment on more progress. Instead Republicans risk abetting more government control over health care.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/31O67fa

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State revitalization funds welcomed

Niagara Gazette

Aug. 15

The cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport finally have something good in common.

Both communities recently received $10 million in state funding apiece to support various revitalization efforts.

For the Falls, Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds will be focused on spurring sound development on and near the Main Street corridor, with an emphasis on ways to better capitalize on the ongoing removal of the northern section of the Robert Moses Parkway and the recreational benefits offered by the natural wonder that is the Niagara Gorge.

In Lockport, state dollars from the same initiative have been earmarked for a series of projects aimed at better utilizing significant properties, including the former Spalding Mill, the Historic Post Office building and the F&M building, just to name a few.

There are arguments to be made that communities like Niagara Falls and Lockport would be better served by the state government staying out of their business and creating a more welcoming private-sector investment environment by cutting costs and lowering taxes.

While the position has merit, under the current Democratic administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo the state has chosen a different path, one that involves various communities and regions competing for available state dollars by putting forth ideas that offer the “best bang for the buck” in terms of economic redevelopment potential.

For the first time in what seems like a very long time, both the Falls and Lockport have been able to not only demonstrate their need but also their ability to put forth projects that are worthy of state support.

Whenever big announcements about “game-changing” efforts are made, there’s an unfortunate tendency locally to look forward to the next big disappointment, not the next big success story.

Given the unfortunate history of local failures, in the Falls in particular, the depressed mood is understandable.

Still, in light of the recent announcements about the renewed state support in both communities, there’s clearly reason for more optimism moving forward.

During a visit to the Falls on Wednesday, Cuomo made a point to suggest that his administration has provided more support for improvement efforts in Western New York in recent years than any other administration has in decades.

While these are the words of a self-promoting politician, there’s no arguing the potential benefits a total of $20 million in state investment can have on both the Falls and Lockport.

Now is the time to capitalize, to put the funding to proper use and to turn all the talk and all the plans into tangible, completed projects that can restore confidence in both communities.

Another opportunity like this may not come anytime soon, if at all.

Leaders in the Falls and Lockport must make the most of it.

The City of Buffalo has demonstrated, through the wise of use of public resources and sound “community first” decision-making, that places where failure and disappointment were the norm for decades are capable of change.

Residents in the Falls and in Lockport, while unfortunately accustomed to having things fail to turn out as promised, should look upon Gov. Cuomo’s recent announcements about Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds with gratitude and hope for a brighter future.

Online: https://bit.ly/31U8htC

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Board of Regents should take its time on this decision

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Aug. 17

The discussion over whether or not New York state should continue requiring its students to pass five Regents examinations before graduating from high school misses a larger point.

For too many students, the work they do from kindergarten through 12th grade isn’t preparing them for life after high school, regardless of whether they pass five Regents tests or use one of the state’s many alternate pathways to graduation. We know this is true from what we hear from the business community and from colleges.

Businesses have lamented for years the declining number of people entering the workforce with simple soft skills like the ability to show up on time, to show up consistently for more than a couple of weeks at a time, to pass a drug test and to deal appropriately with customers. Colleges, meanwhile, are spending more and more time teaching remedial skills because the students they’re admitting often times can’t handle college-level work. That means the state Board of Regents’ one-year timeline to come up with a plan to decide how to determine a student’s readiness to graduate from high school is achievable only because it predetermines that everything that happens before graduation is working properly. We know that isn’t true.

We also already know that a Regents diploma hasn’t been necessary to make a good life for oneself. Many people who graduated from high school before 1996 will tell you that taking a Regents Competency Test didn’t doom them to a life of poverty. In fact, they shuttled out of classes for which they had neither the skill nor the inclination to take, and took classes that prepared them for life outside of high school: accounting, homes and careers, career and technical education, shop classes and the like. For some students, higher-level sciences or math are just not as necessary as other classes.

Rather than try to shoehorn this process into a year and declare victory while actually achieving nothing, the Board of Regents should take its time and make sure that a high school diploma actually means a student has the skills to enter college or the job market and have a chance of succeeding. The Regents decision to focus on whether students need to take Regents tests or complete a capstone project is like a homebuilder focusing on the color of the living room drapes and choosing not to address an 8-foot-wide hole in the floor.

Online: https://bit.ly/2ZjJA8r

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Young people will prevail globally

Plattsburgh Press-Republican

Aug. 17

Some recent developments in Saudi Arabia have pointed out why trying to engage all of the world’s countries toward certain important goals is so difficult. In the short term, at least, maybe impossible.

We want all of the world’s nations to make international peace everyone’s top priority. We’d like openness, equality and justice to guide all of our deliberations and policies.

Individual health and prosperity and global sturdiness and stability must be on everyone’s mind.

Of course, we have dissenters in certain of these enterprises. America has long had enemies, such as North Korea, China and Russia, whom we’re reluctant to trust and who haven’t demonstrated an eagerness to embrace all of our values.

For that matter, not everyone in America has accepted the gravity expressed by scientists who warn of the onerous effects of climate change.

A daunting challenge in the path of world unity can be seen in news stories out of Saudi Arabia.

First, remember that Saudi Arabia is the country whose Istanbul, Turkey, consulate was the site of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder last year, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been fingered internationally as the main instigator.

Nevertheless, the crown prince is being credited with promoting changes in his nation that could deliver it into the 20th Century, at least, if not quite the 21st.

Among them is a law that will allow women to travel abroad without a man’s consent. That takes effect Sept. 1. Previously - or currently - women were regarded as minors and could not leave the country without the permission of the man in charge of her life. That man could actually be her son, in some cases.

Women now may take on the role of her children’s official guardian. They will also be allowed to register a marriage, divorce or the birth of her child, enabling the issuance of an identity card for her and enrolling children in school.

The crown prince has publicly pushed for seismic changes in how his country views women, finally according them privileges of adulthood most of the rest of the world has taken for granted for generations.

Most thoughtful and progressive people in so-called free countries wondered how any nation could thrive when it was utilizing the assets of only half the population, half the brains. When women are home tending only to their families, leaving political, economic and industrial decisions to only the other half, progress is stunted.

And how could the world come to important conclusions on crucial topics when certain of us continued to believe that half of its adults were no more functional than children?

It’s not that even bin Salman is entirely visionary. He is still cracking down on women’s rights advocates.

But Saudi Arabia has the youngest population in the world, with 50 percent of its 33.4 million people under age 25. International communication is enlightening us all, especially the young.

Youth will prevail.

Online: https://bit.ly/2MvASSl

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