Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
Dothan Eagle on a lawsuit filed against Alabama’s secretary of state for blocking people on Twitter:
John Merrill, Alabama’s Secretary of State, has done a good job of raising the profile of the office he leads, and enjoys a reputation as an ambitious and capable public servant. That goes a long way in our state, which has more than its fair share of politicians more intent on serving themselves and their buddies than the state’s residents.
Merrill’s elevation of the Secretary of State’s office is due in part to his willingness to make himself available to represent Alabama elections, and maintain transparency in the way the office operates. Recently, he has been vocal in expressing his disappointment in the state Ethics Commission’s failure to uphold the letter of the law with regard to campaigns that fail to meet fiscal reporting requirements. We agree wholeheartedly with his assessment, and have published his public statements urging the commission to follow the law. We applaud his stand.
Despite this, we think he’s wrong in a controversy over the operation of his official Twitter account. Merrill is an active Twitter user, and his official account is an excellent conduit between the Secretary and the people. He’s now being sued for having blocked several Twitter users who say they were locked out because they asked questions or voiced unpopular views.
It’s one thing when you have a personal account and get fed up with another user. Blocking aggravating people is useful. But when you are a public servant, and you use your social media as a vehicle to reach the public you serve, you cannot pick and choose which members of the public have access to you.
Earlier this year, this situation arose when several people complained about being blocked by another prolific Twittering politician, President Donald Trump. A suit was filed by seven plaintiffs who’d been blocked by Trump, and a federal judge ruled that the president’s actions were unconstitutional.
We expect a similar ruling in the case against Secretary Merrill. Public service means dealing with the public - good, bad, and ugly. Legality aside, blocking users from a social media account used to disseminate public information is just wrong.
The Gadsden Times says it’s time to start thinking about the flu shot:
It’s that time of year again.
No, not for football (the season starts in the summer now), fall festivals (even though there are a pile of them on the calendar) or beautiful fall scenery (the reds, yellows org).
It’s time to think about influenza.
Yes, we know those will be unpleasant thoughts — but they’re necessary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu season begins in October and can run as late as May, with cases peaking in December and February. It recommends that people get a flu vaccine no later than the end of October to ensure the highest level of immunity. (Flu shots need about two weeks to take effect.)
Most pharmacies have their “flu shots available” signs out. Most people visiting a physician right now will hear the question “Have you had your flu shot yet?”
The nasal spray vaccine also has returned, after being taken off the market for two years because it didn’t provide adequate protection.
So there are plenty of options for getting the shot — and few excuses other than an allergy to the vaccine for not doing so. (The CDC actually says that if you have no worse reaction than hives, it’s still in your best interest to deal with the itching and get the shot.)
No, the flu shot won’t give you the flu. Actual scientific research has debunked that claim.
No, the flu generally won’t kill you, although the risk is there for young children, elderly adults, pregnant women and people with chronic conditions or diseases.
It just makes you feel like you’re dying and can cause other unpleasant complications.
And no, the flu shot doesn’t guarantee metaphysically certain protection against the disease. Drug companies make their best guess as to what strains will be prevalent in a given year when formulating the vaccine. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose.
Still, as we’ve said before, it’s about the odds. Forty percent protection is preferable to zero percent.
Plus consider the recent outbreaks that got so bad entire schools and workplaces were shut down.
That kind of disruption helps no one. Do your part to prevent it.
Decatur Daily on bipartisan support for a federal spending bill:
To hear Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby tell it, all federal spending is critical spending.
“Shelby Announces Critical Funding for Alabama in Senate-Passed Defense Appropriations Bill,” read the headline on his press office’s release after the U.S. Senate passed an $854 billion spending bill.
Most of that money, $675 billion, goes to the Department of Defense, including for military pay raises of 2.6 percent and construction projects. The rest goes to spending increases at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor, as well as other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health.
Probably some of this spending is indeed “critical,” at least to someone, even if in some cases the someone is mostly a sitting senator facing a tough re-election. And few will argue with raising the pay of America’s men and women in uniform, especially given how the past several presidents have found so many new, never-ending missions for them.
Still, $675 billion is a lot of money, and a spending bill with that price tag must contain something for almost everyone, which is no doubt why the bill passed the Senate 93-7. Even in these supposedly contentious times, the spirit of bipartisanship seems to fare well when it comes to spending other people’s money, and Shelby won praise from all quarters for doing something the Senate hasn’t done in years: presenting a defense spending bill on time.
“We are making real progress here,” Shelby said. “We are going to make the appropriations trains run again,” which means getting spending bills done by the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.
All of the focus is on process, the fact Congress is actually passing bills in a bipartisan manner, which the late columnist David Broder, the “dean of the White House press corps,” used to advance as an end in itself. Broder’s spirit lives on: There is praise for the process, but little regard for the substance.
The $675 billion spending bill is a budget buster and will add to a deficit that is already taking off faster than President Donald Trump’s Space Force. Speaking of the Space Force, it’s estimated to cost $13 billion over its first five years, according to the Air Force, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Tuesday that is a conservative estimate. It will likely cost far more, and the $13 billion figure already exceeds the $8 billion the Trump administration requested for the new service branch.
On the other side of the ledger, whatever its short-term stimulative effects, the president’s tax cut is not paying for itself. The Congressional Budget Office projects the federal deficit will grow to $804 billion for fiscal 2018, up from $665 billion in fiscal 2017, and the national debt is on track to approach 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2028.
Where the president has raised taxes (that is, tariffs), it’s also been a money-loser. To make up for the negative impact of his tariffs on U.S. farmers, the president has proposed a $12 billion bailout, which doesn’t even make up for the $13 billion in business soybean farmers alone had lost by July.
In all of this, it’s striking how quiet politicians who used to be deficit hawks now are. No one, it seems, is even pretending to care about the federal government’s annual budget deficits and mounting federal debt, both of which candidate Trump decried.
It’s now pretty much conventional wisdom among the political class, as former Vice President Dick Cheney said, that “deficits don’t matter,” and complaints about deficits are merely an excuse to dismiss an expensive program — for example, so-called Medicaid for all — out of hand.
But deficits do matter. They reflect a shift of spending from the private sector to the public sector, and while the public sector has its place in providing for a common defense, public goods and a safety net, it’s the private sector that drives innovation and the overall economy in the long term, creating the surplus of wealth that makes all that government spending possible. The slow rate of growth coming out of the 2008 recession is probably, in part, a consequence of the mounting debt.