Editorials from around New England
Editorials from around New England:
The Hartford Courant
A recent report by the United Way that examines the real cost of living in Connecticut is a sobering look at the economic realities of millions of residents, and policymakers would do well to take heed.
The takeaway: About 40 percent of all households in Connecticut aren’t making enough money to pay the bills. In a state that has one of the highest median incomes and highest tax burdens, that’s worth remembering.
It doesn’t seem too long ago that an annual salary of $77,832 would be more than enough to keep a family of four happy and safe in the loveliest house in the leafiest suburb. But today, it’s only enough to survive.
That’s the conclusion of the latest annual report from the United Way that measures “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” households under the acronym ALICE. ALICE households earn more than the official federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living.
That’s about 30 percent of all households in Connecticut, up from an estimated 26 percent in 2010. Another 10 percent are below the federal poverty level ($24,300 for a family).
One of the most disturbing changes from 2010 is the number of so-called Generation X households that have moved into the ALICE category. For homes where the head of household was between 45 and 64 years old, the number of households that fell below the ALICE threshold increased by 21 percent, to more than 200,000 households. Those are supposed to be the peak earning years.
The differences were most pronounced in non-white households. Of residences with black or Hispanic heads of household, the percentage of households that fell below the ALICE threshold increased in every age group from 2010 to 2016.
One reason, according to the report, is that job growth has been concentrated in low-income industries. Retail sales, for example, employed more than 50,000 residents in 2016, a 4 percent increase from 2010. But the median hourly wage was only $11.58, despite an 8 percent increase — leaving those employees far below the threshold needed to simply pay the bills.
Systemic and institutional discrimination against people of color are rightly cited by the United Way as key contributors to the problem, but there are households in every town in Connecticut with incomes below the threshold necessary to simply put away a few dollars a month.
Policymakers must keep the findings of the ALICE study in mind when weighing the need for a wide array of social services against heavy tax burdens, and politicians should remember that even in wealthy Connecticut, many are struggling just to get by.
The Boston Globe
The lowly Boston City Council, long the butt of jokes, doesn’t look so shabby today, does it?
From her perch as one of four Boston at-large city councilors, Ayanna Pressley built a political resume and name recognition, then used them to topple incumbent congressman Michael E. Capuano in Tuesday’s stunning Democratic Party primary.
Not bad, for a body that Secretary of State Bill Galvin, who faced down a challenge from another city councilor, Josh Zakim, snarkily derided in a debate.
Pressley revived a tradition of city councilors using the office as a launchpad for higher office. Think Joe Moakley, who went from the council to Congress in 1973, or Ray Flynn and Tom Menino, city councilors before they became mayor.
So aspiring politicos take note: There’s another council election next year. For anyone who wants to follow in Pressley’s footsteps — or just help their city — now’s the time to start laying the groundwork.
In the spirit of the great mentioner, here’s some folks who might consider looking at the at-large race. These aren’t endorsements, by the way — just some encouragement:
Monica Cannon, a Roxbury activist who ran for state representative in 2016.
Katie Forde, who ran twice for register of deeds, in 2016 and 2018.
Julia Mejia, founder of CPLAN parent advocacy group.
Deeqo Jibril, who ran for city council in 2017.
Boston Celtics community engagement manager John Matthew Borders IV.
Natalia Uturbey, executive director of Imagine Boston 2030 at City Hall.
You. Why not?
The Providence Journal
Ike, your work is finally, nearly done. Rest easy now.
One of the most important legacies of Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, our 34th president, is within weeks of completion. The last unfinished segment of Route 95, the highway that connects Miami to the Canadian border in Maine, is due to be completed later this month. It is the country’s most-used highway in terms of vehicle miles traveled, according to the federal Department of Transportation.
The final gap is a stubborn stretch in New Jersey on the Pennsylvania border, where local residents for decades resisted appeals to let the highway go through. But when that segment is completed, by tying the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the north-south interstate highway, a driver could drive 1,900 miles without stopping from the northeastern tip of the country to the Gulf of Mexico.
This won’t make a noticeable difference to most Rhode Island drivers, who have long been able to drive north to Portland and southwest to New York, but it is a significant historical moment nonetheless. This $420 million interchange project will be the last one to be funded with Interstate Completion Funds.
While other presidents before Mr. Eisenhower imagined a system of highways connecting all sections of the country, it was Ike who championed the project. From his experience as commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, he recognized the German system of interconnected highways as an important element of a country’s national defenses. He saw the potential need to hurry military forces and equipment around the United States and that was one of the reasons Congress overwhelmingly passed the 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act.
President Eisenhower also saw an interstate highway system as a way to reduce traffic deaths while connecting Americans from all regions. During a public safety conference in 1954, he marveled at predictions that there would be 80 million cars on the roads in America by 1975.
All those cars, he said, “mean progress for our country. They mean greater convenience for greater numbers of people, greater happiness, and greater standards of living. But we have got to learn to control the things that we must use ourselves, and not let them be a threat to our lives and to our loved ones.”
Now there are about 270 million cars registered in America.
In the early days, the highways were 90 percent funded by the federal government and 10 percent by local authorities — a proportion that was nearly reversed under the infrastructure plan touted earlier this year by President Trump. The missing Route 95 link in New Jersey is half paid for by the federal government, with the rest coming from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Today, the greatest obstacle to major transportation projects is the ability of local governments to pay their shares.
At any rate, with the Route 95 link project near its end, America’s 62-year-old vision of a national system of interstate highways is being fulfilled. President Eisenhower said “good roads will save lives” and will be “of great economic value.” He was right on both counts.
Apparently there’s a book coming out next week, by legendary journalist Bob Woodward, about the Trump Presidency.
In a shocking twist, it reportedly portrays the President in an unflattering light.
Our thin-skinned President again lashed out on Twitter:
“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?,” Trump tweeted.
As it happens, Trump would be all set under the existing defamation framework if Woodward, in fact, has totally fabricated his stories. The litmus for libel, involving public figures, is that the writer acts with malice, in wanton and reckless disregard of the truth.
The real problem for Trump is not our nation’s body of libel law. It’s his own wanton and reckless disregard of the truth.
The Nashua Telegraph
Anyone who doubts how deeply divided our country is on cultural issues, particularly the right to an abortion, must have missed the Tuesday U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
More than two dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points before being removed by police.
“This is a mockery and a travesty of justice,” shouted one woman. “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!”
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, raised objections from the moment Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, gaveled the committee to order.
“We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made several motions to adjourn, adding if the confirmation continued, “this process will be tainted and stained forever.”
These actions led Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to denounce what he called the “mob rule” by liberals.
Why so much uproar?
For several years, now retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was thought of as the “swing” vote on divisive cultural issues, particularly abortion. He was considered someone who was in favor of the Roe v. Wade ruling from 1973, which found a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
The eight remaining justices on the court now generally fall into the liberal camp (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan) and the conservative group (Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Neil Gorsuch).
This means Kavanaugh, if ultimately confirmed, likely would become the decisive vote on a challenge to Roe v. Wade. Democrats believe he may vote to overturn the ruling.
Among Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the only two senators who seem open to voting against Kavanaugh, though neither has said she would do so.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both D-N.H., have made it clear they oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Still, we wholeheartedly urge them to avoid engaging in the type of hysteria their fellow liberals displayed on Tuesday.
The Bangor Daily News
On Wednesday, The New York Times took the unusual step of publishing an anonymous OpEd, from a senior Trump administration official, which both painted a horrifying portrait of an impulsive, amoral president who “continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” and sought to reassure Americans that “adults in the room” were checking President Donald Trump’s worst impulses.
The column was a shocking revelation of how dysfunctional the White House has become. It echoed revelations made just days earlier by famed Watergate journalist Bob Woodward, who has written a new book about the Trump White House.
These revelations must jumpstart an overdue discussion of how to bring this sad saga to an end. The big question is what comes next. To be sure, there are no easy answers. The column, as its author wrote, it is a call to action, of some sort.
“There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans,” the author wrote.
There is much speculation about who wrote the piece. Some point to Vice President Mike Pence because of the column’s use of the uncommon word “lodestar,” which Pence has used in several speeches. Although the vice president has the most to gain from Trump’s demise, it is highly unlikely that he is the anonymous author.
It is also worth noting that although the column starts with the use of the word “I,” it quickly switches to “we.” It also has the feeling of a group effort, with different people contributing different examples and highlighted different problematic interactions with the president. The most concrete examples of Trump’s imperious behavior involve foreign policy, suggesting it was written by someone with this focus and expertise.
Beyond who, the big question is why? Why an anonymous column, especially in The New York Times, which has, predictably, already further infuriated Trump?
It is completely self-serving for the author to portray himself or herself, along with fellow resistors, as heros. “It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room,” the column says. “We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.”
It is cold comfort. Don’t worry, the anonymous author says, we’re stopping Trump from doing really bad stuff. But if the president is as unfit for the country’s highest office, as the column portrays, being adults in the room isn’t enough. If the president is as reckless and amoral as the author says, the Trump presidency must end.
There are no simple ways to do this. Impeachment would turn into a political circus. Invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows for removal of the president if “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” is also a difficult and uncertain path. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is ongoing and could provide additional fodder for Trump’s removal.
What is clear is that Republicans must take Trump’s failings much more seriously than they have. Saying he is crude and criticizing a handful of policy decisions does not match the urgency of the crisis that is unfolding before our eyes.
Even the OpEd author falls into the trap of saying many of Trump’s policies are positive, citing a healthy economy and tax reform. But is lowering taxes and shredding regulations really a good payoff for a White House that is dysfunctional and threatens the very core of our democratic values?
We understand that the column’s author and like-minded administration officials have limited options and none of them are simple or straightforward. This column, despite its many faults, must be a wake-up call to all Americans, but especially to Republicans in Congress who have refused to stand up to Trump’s worst impulses.