Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
Bull in China shop: Trump’s trade war is breaking things
The Daily News
It is a fact that China does not play fair in international trade; an orderly reckoning was overdue.
It is also a fact that President Trump’s herky-jerky, escalating showdown with the United States’ largest trading partner, a skirmish that has metastasized into an all-out war, risks doing lasting damage to American businesses and consumers, as they are forced to pay rising prices on the road to promised victory.
Trump ran for president howling about the United States’ trade deficit with China as though it was some gaping wound in our national flesh.
In fact, while U.S. manufacturing has of course experienced shrinking pains as we’ve opened the gates to unfettered trade with Mexico, China and other nations, Americans have long benefited from low-cost products. We get something for that trade deficit in goods — which, ahem, hit a record $891 billion in 2018, under Trump’s policies.
What isn’t growing under Trump: American exports. And, now perhaps, stock prices.
As he fires more salvos and the trade war now expands to a new battlefield of currency, the Chinese economy is slowing, leading Beijing to hunker down, and widening American casualties.
Trump can promise ever more billions in tax dollars to hard-hit U.S. farmers, but he cannot and will not take the edge off American consumers who will see products get more expensive. Nor can he control investors spooked at the prospects of a new economic cold war.
Trade wars, Trump infamously said, are good and easy to win. They hardly ever have winners, and are especially bad when neither army’s commander-in-chief has an exit strategy.
Flagging future killers
The Wall Street Journal
The Dayton and El Paso shootings have spurred familiar calls for more gun control, and by all means let’s have a debate. But the focus should be on denying weapons to the potential killers rather than on gun laws that may be politically satisfying but won’t make much difference.
Start with the calls for more “background checks,” which implies none now exist. Yet nearly all gun purchasers today have their backgrounds checked on the spot via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Most mass shooters obtained their guns through licensed dealers after checks, or from family members. The Dayton and El Paso killers, and the Gilroy, Calif., shooter of late July obtained their firearms legally.
Democrats want to expand background checks to person-to-person sales, though policing that would be a challenge as most such sales could be done off the books. They also want to extend to 10 days from three the amount of time dealers must wait to get a response from the background check system before proceeding with a sale. Senators Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) want background checks to cover unlicensed sales at gun shows and online, but exempt sales between friends and family.
Congress should have that debate, but no one should think they would reduce the number of mass shootings. Most mass shooters don’t have a criminal history that would pop up in the background system. There is also no evidence that longer waiting periods reduce suicides, homicides or mass shootings. Determined killers can always get a weapon.
A better path of deterrence would be to focus on identifying potential risks and separating them from the means of harm. The use of Big Data by law enforcement to identify patterns of dangerous activity would be helpful, as Holman Jenkins Jr. notes nearby.
Congress can also look to overhaul federal privacy laws that are a barrier to reporting potential threats. These include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (Hipaa) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Ferpa). Federal law and Justice Department regulations disqualify individuals who have been committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as mentally deficient from owning firearms and are noted in the NICS checks.
Yet state participation in NICS is voluntary, and many remain reluctant to submit health records for fear of violating Hipaa. A December 2018 report from the Federal Commission on School Safety noted that states and localities are also confused about when it is appropriate to share student records with officials or parents under Hipaa and Ferpa.
The George W. Bush and Obama Administrations tried to clarify these rules related to public safety, but without apparent success. Congress should update them to reflect the danger from mass killers, and it can drag the 1974 Ferpa into the digital age, making data more easily manageable.
Congress can also work with states and localities to pass emergency protection orders. Some 17 states and Washington, D.C., now have these “red flag” laws permitting police or family members to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham this week said he has bipartisan support for legislation for grants to states enacting red-flag laws. Congress could also do a service by advising on model legislation. A good law would provide adequate due process that lets flagged individuals challenge the order; requires judges to rule on the basis of clear and compelling evidence; and includes criminal penalties for anyone bringing false accusations.
Red-flag laws should also go beyond mere firearm confiscation. The mental-health lobby is a more formidable obstacle here than the gun lobby. Most states refuse to reform their involuntary commitment laws, making it impossible to provide help for the severely mentally ill. Yet if an individual is dangerous enough to strip of a constitutional right, the government should also insist on treatment, and in some cases temporary commitment to a psychiatric facility.
There is no single answer to mass shootings, but most of the quick solutions on offer would provide false comfort. That’s true of gun restrictions short of outright bans or confiscation that would run afoul of the Second Amendment. The immediate priority should be to reform laws and practices to deny firearms to those who are a danger to the public.
Stop blaming, start protecting
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican
When the founding fathers of our remarkable nation wrestled for an astoundingly brief period in 1787 to conceive and compose our Constitution as the outline of our government, they overcame mountainous disagreements to “invent” democracy as we now know it and even take it for granted.
It actually became an experiment in self-government by the people, and it has worked.
Various enemies and detractors over the past two and a half centuries have criticized it.
Adolph Hitler wrote in “Mein Kampf” that it’s preposterous to turn a government over to people who win popularity contests and know nothing about the issues on which they will vote. That work must be reserved only for experts, he argued — not for novices.
Yet the voting process continues to provide us the most effective form of government ever tried.
President Donald Trump has shown, to one degree of effectiveness or another, that government can be placed into the hands of those with no experience, and the system will prevail.
The only legitimate threat to our enduring freedom and prosperity is some sort of interference with the process that feeds us the presidents, members of Congress, governors, et.al., of our choice.
But that is apparently what happened in 2016 and continues to happen today.
Rep. Will Hurd is a Republican from Texas who was among the members of Congress questioning Robert Mueller during one of the two hearings before House committees held July 24 to probe Mueller’s findings during his election investigation.
Hurd very likely has extensive knowledge of the potential trouble facing America from Russian election meddling by virtue of his one-time service as a CIA agent.
This was one of the questions Hurd asked: “Did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election, or did you find evidence to suggest they’ll try to do this again?”
Mueller’s reply: “It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here.”
Meanwhile, though, about the only thing the American people are hearing about this egregious affront to our own welfare as a nation is from Republicans and Democrats lining up to blame the other party.
We’re hearing almost nothing about efforts now and into the future to join forces against it.
In ages past, we would hear political bickering and worse, but all that would be forsaken when we had to join hands against a common enemy.
When war broke out, we’d line up behind our president and our defenders to rally our combined strength for the protection of all of us. When we faced economic chaos, we’d find a solution and join hands to enact it.
But, now, all we seem to care about is proving one party is predominant over the other.
What a disappointment this chapter of our history has been. And, what is more important, what a threat to our security as a nation.
We must stop the blaming, accept the facts and solve the problem. Period.
Schools will need some guidance after rush to pass bill on religious exemptions
As is often the case, in its rush to deal with one week’s crisis du jour, New York state has implemented a law that doesn’t address the entirety of a problem.
Local school districts have begun planning for a new law that does not recognize religious exemptions for students who are not vaccinated. The state Senate and Assembly voted June 13 to eliminate the exemption. Previously, families were allowed to cite religious beliefs to void school-required vaccinations in order to enroll. Students have up to 30 days after entering school to show proof of the first dose of immunization.
While most schools don’t have many students try to enroll who don’t have their vaccinations, what happens for school districts who regularly transport unvaccinated children on a school bus filled with vaccinated children? Many school districts are obligated to transport students who live in the district but are not enrolled at any of its schools. This stipulation includes students who attend private school and home school including many Amish children in the county.
Will school districts have to make special accommodations for unvaccinated students on their school buses? Will they have to make special trips? Will parents be responsible for transporting the students from now on? Of course, the state’s hastily passed legislation doesn’t address that concern.
The start of the school year is about a month away, and busing plans are being developed now. The state needs to develop some guidance, quickly.
Dream Act provides real chance to cheer
Middletown Times Herald-Record
As the nation mourns those killed and wounded in yet another mass shooting fueled by the kind of hatred echoed far too often in far too many places, we in New York can take comfort in an accomplishment that shows what fairness and compassion look like when translated into public policy.
Last week the state reported that more than 4,000 undocumented college students had applied for financial aid, something they were unable to do before the state Legislature passed the Jose Peralta Dream Act in the recent session.
The act is simple, easy to understand, easy to demagogue. Young people brought here by their parents go through the public school system because the state does not discriminate. Those with a high school diploma who sought to attend college faced an immediate obstacle. Without money to pay the bills themselves, which is the case for most, they could not apply for financial aid. State law required that such aid go only to those who are citizens.
The Dream Act treats these accomplished youngsters the way most people believe all should be treated. If you have the grades, if you have a clean record, if you fill out the forms, you should be able to go on with your education.
Who could be against that? Far too many members of the Republican party including many in this area who saw in the Dream Act not a chance to reward young people for their hard work but a chance to use race and ethnicity to divide the community and get a few votes along the way.
These politicians never failed to stir up anger and resentment by saying that we should not be giving a free college education to illegal immigrants while hard-working New Yorkers struggled to come up with funds to pay for tuition and expenses.
That was a lie, one repeated early and often. The Dream Act lets everybody apply for financial aid. Those without documentation are getting the same treatment as others, not favorable treatment. It does not harm those who work hard to help their children go to college. It embraces everyone who works hard for that reason, immigrant, undocumented and all others.
It should be a symbol of hope and community, and now that is is being implemented it will have a chance to be that.
The state estimates that 7,500 students will apply for aid before the school year begins, a figure challenged no longer by politics or divisive rhetoric but by the usual bureaucratic snags in any large and new complex system, the need to coordinate deadlines and forms across several existing programs and match them with the goals of this new one.
That’s the story of this summer. A few years from now we will be hearing about the first graduates enabled by the Dream Act, those who once would not have been able to get a college degree but now can.
Perhaps by then the opposition will fade, as it should, in the face of a more inclusive reality and the evidence that when leaders say they want youngsters to have a better future, they should mean it.