Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Middletown Times Herald-Record on New York’s climate change goals
What’s in a name? When it comes to the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” the legislation approved toward the end of the recent session in Albany, pretty much everything.
By committing the state to ambitious goals of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, it links New York with others leading an effort that used to be, and may one day again be, the responsibility of the federal government.
As with any such ambitious effort, the bill is a start toward a goal, not an end with the many challenges that will come along the way. One of those challenges will be fighting the lies that already are playing a prominent part, lies that are sure to be repeated endlessly and used in the campaigns for re-election that are now a year and a half away.
All of that time gives such lies a chance to spread, and as we have seen on the national level lies are very hard to fight, especially when they get repeated so often. So it is not too early to highlight them and debunk them. Nobody is in favor of pollution, but many don’t mind a bit more. We see that in the conflict between those who want to resurrect the Danskammer plant on the Hudson using natural gas and those who oppose any more fossil fuel plants. If you want to stop pollution, you oppose it. If you don’t mind a little more pollution, you favor it, especially if you get tax revenue and jobs and a nice donation for beautification.
When it comes to the new state law, those who dare not come out in favor of pollution say they are all for moving in this direction but are not sure we should be moving this far or this fast. And just to show how much they care, they raise the specter of California where they say similar visionary legislation is bringing large-scale importation of energy and rolling blackouts.
Do we want them? Of course not. Are they the likely result of our new law?
Let’s examine the facts and see.
California is bracing for rolling blackouts this year but the many and varied sources of its energy have nothing to do with the warning. Last year’s deadly and destructive fires were caused by problems with transmission lines so the major utilities in the state are warning people to be prepared for reductions in power when fire danger increases.
What about the charge that California has legislated itself into a corner where it needs to import a lot of energy? It already is a large importer and the California Energy Commission, hearing those criticisms, released relevant figures showing that the most abundant source of such imports was wind and that the mix of electricity flowing through the wires in the state remains very clean.
If you look at the facts, California is going where it wants to go and where we want to go when it comes to providing clean energy. If the only way to defeat those factual arguments is with lies, then we can expect more lies to come in the coming year.
The New York Times on the national economy
Raise a glass to the longest economic expansion in modern American history.
A full decade has passed since the end of the last recession, in June 2009, and the economy continues to grow. As of Monday, the current expansion surpassed the previous record for uninterrupted growth, set between 1991 and 2001.
But this time around, no one is accusing Americans of irrational exuberance: These good times don’t feel particularly good. Economic growth over the past decade has been slow and fragile, and most of the benefits have been claimed by a small minority of the population.
The sense of disappointment is more than a feeling. Through the first quarter of 2019, the nation’s gross domestic product had increased by 25 percent during the current expansion. Between 1991 and 2001, economic output expanded by 42 percent. Between 1982 and 1990, output increased 38 percent. And between 1961 and 1969, output grew by 52 percent.
The distribution of the gains is even less satisfying.
Truck drivers still earned, on average, slightly less in 2018 than in 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Executive compensation, by contrast, went up, up and away. Chief executives of companies in the S&P 500 stock index — a list that includes most of the nation’s largest corporations — made an average of $14.5 million in 2018, increasing by $5.2 million in the past decade, according to data compiled by the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
The wealthy have also reaped most of the gains from rising stock prices. The least affluent 70 percent of American households had less wealth at the end of 2018 than at the beginning of 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The top 30 percent of households saw at least some increase, but the big gains were heavily concentrated at the very top, in the hands of a small proportion of extraordinarily wealthy families.
This inequality of prosperity has become a defining issue in the nation’s politics. President Trump ran on the promise that he would restructure the economy to revive employment in mining and manufacturing. Democrats vying to run against the president in 2020 are offering their own prescriptions for economic revival — and speaking of the plight of American workers in language usually reserved for recessions.
That rhetoric contrasts with the slow but steady improvement in economic conditions over the past decade. The unemployment rate is bumping along at the lowest levels since the 1960s; wages have started to rise more quickly, particularly for low-wage workers.
But the fact that it took so long to get here is a big problem for many American families. While unemployment is low, the slow pace of the recovery means that the average rate of unemployment in a given month during the past decade was a full percentage point higher than during the 1991-2001 expansion and almost two points higher than between 1961 and 1969.
There is also reason to worry that America has squandered the opportunity for a more prosperous future. During periods of economic growth, governments can take advantage of swelling tax revenues to improve infrastructure, invest in education and fund research. Companies can plow profits into new products and markets. But over the past decade, both public and private sectors have largely refrained from investing. The government has handed out tax cuts while companies have handed out dividends and repurchased shares. In effect, they’ve chosen to distribute profits among already wealthy Americans rather than develop the intellectual capital and equipment that could increase growth in the decades ahead, as investments in public universities, highways, fundamental scientific research and satellite networks did in the past.
Another result of the Trump administration’s tax cut is that federal deficits, which usually shrink during periods of economic growth, are on the rise. That leaves less room for the government to respond to a downturn by cutting taxes or by increasing spending. And the Fed cannot easily ride to the rescue: It has kept rates low to extend this fragile expansion, leaving little room to cut rates.
The end of an expansion, like the death of a star, is visible only after it happens. It is possible the economy will continue to grow for years, giving policymakers a chance to do better; long-lived expansions have become increasingly common across the developed world. It’s also possible that the analysts predicting a recession next year — there are always analysts predicting a recession next year — will turn out to be right.
So enjoy this lackluster expansion while it lasts. What comes next may well be worse.
The Leader Herald on low-income housing for students
One popular housing program for low-income Americans has a provision that, at first glance, makes a lot of sense. It stipulates that people living in certain housing units meant for low-income tenants cannot be full-time students. If they switch to part-time status to keep their low-cost housing, they risk loss of student financial aid.
Taxpayers should not subsidize housing for most people who, because they chose to be full-time students, do not have income-producing jobs.
But U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have a concern about the rule. They have proposed it be changed so it does not apply to full-time students who are homeless or have been during recent years.
Why discourage those who, by their very homelessness or previous experience with it, are trying to improve their educations to get jobs, the two senators wonder. They think such people should be able to get both low-cost housing and student aid.
Providing their bill has safeguards to keep unscrupulous students from gaming the system, it is worth a look. They are right that those who have experienced homelessness may need more help, not less.
The New York Post on the national economy
President Trump has now gotten the US economic expansion to outlast any other in modern history.
As of Monday, growth has rolled along for 121 months straight, starting in June 2009. The now-second-longest expansion ran from March 1991 to March 2001. The new record is also over twice the 58 months of the average expansion since 1980.
All of which means that, even with the weakness of the growth for most of the Obama era, the economy was overdue for a dip when Trump took office. Yet it has instead remained pretty strong, expanding 2.9% in 2018 and at an annual 3.1% for the first quarter of 2019.
Unemployment has fallen steadily, too, to its lowest level in 50 years: In May, the seasonally adjusted rate was 3.4%, down from 5.1% in January 2017. Job openings in April topped the number of unemployed by the widest margin ever, and the tight labor market has fueled wage hikes.
Trump’s deregulation and tax cuts, each a stark reverse of Obama policies, changed the course. As Bankrate senior economist Mark Hamrick told The Post, the president unleashed America’s “animal spirits,” boosting the stock market and consumer confidence. (The S&P 500 and the Dow hit record highs Monday, on news of a truce in the US-China trade war.)
And growth has “lifted all boats,” notes Hamrick. Despite the Democratic line, the “1%” are far from the only ones to gain. Federal Reserve data show that pay hikes these past three years surged faster for the poorest quarter of workers (4.4 than for the richest (3.2%).
Blue-collar employment is also up big since January 2017: 657,000 new construction jobs and 484,000 more in manufacturing. And joblessness among blacks fell from 7.7% in January 2017 to 6.2% in May.
Nothing lasts forever, but when the economy does finally turn south, it’s well worth remembering which policies delivered the record results.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on Major League Baseball in Montreal
Have you heard the rumors aswirl that major-league baseball might be returning to Montreal?
It’s exciting, and a number of circumstances actually make it believable. But don’t start saving up for your half-season ticket just yet.
The two Florida teams in Major League Baseball are enduring hard times, in terms of attendance and finances. The Tampa Bay Rays, currently in second place in the American League East - behind only the Yankees but ahead of the Red Sox - are said to be considering playing part of their season in Montreal.
The Rays, in spite of their on-field success, draw only 14,546 fans per game. MLB has established protocols that don’t require high attendance to ensure financial prosperity, but, even so, that figure is embarrassingly low. Only the Miami Marlins are more anemic in that department in all of baseball.
Montreal remembers what that is like. After rising to the top echelon of baseball performance in the mid 1990s in its first MLB incarnation as the Expos, poor management drained fan interest.
Created in 1969, the Expos fell from their pinnacle to their nadir by 2001, drawing only about 8,000 per game at a creaky Olympic Stadium before escaping to become the Washington Nationals in 2005.
But Montreal has remained a relocation or expansion option for Major League Baseball, even though it’s widely regarded as a hockey city. More than 50,000 spectators fill the Big O every spring to watch a late-spring-training game.
A new stadium would be required, as the old home is dilapidated and poorly situated.
But Montreal has burgeoned in the past two decades, economically and in other ways. Once thought of as a somewhat bleak metropolis - second biggest in Canada behind only Toronto - it is now brimming with wealth and prospects as bright as the renovated streetscapes indicate.
It wants baseball back and can now probably support it, in spite of hockey’s Canadians.
And Tampa Bay needs help. The Rays, christened in 1998, have drawn only 62.9 percent of the average major-league attendance in their time. (The Expos, in theirs, drew 76.2 percent.)
The Rays have drawn 75 percent of major-league average attendance only three times. The Expos did in 17 of their 36 years.
So Montreal is almost certain to improve the Rays’ outlook for a devoted fan base, if the owners and league power brokers can devise and negotiate some way for Tampa Bay and Montreal to share a team.
But can the Rays thrive as a two-city team? Can Tampa Bay abide such an arrangement? Can Florida fans remain wed to a team that will move out partway through the season and celebrate any achievements way up north?
Major League Baseball is going to have to answer a lot of these questions, and it might turn out that this is not the best idea ever.
But at least it could be a chance for Montreal to get its foot back in the Major League Baseball door.
Through Allegiant, Plattsburgh International Airport offers direct inexpensive flights to the Tampa area and back that are extremely popular with Montrealers.
A smart airline marketing play could be to offer special “baseball package” deals on flights.
So who knows, a shared team could turn out to be a perfect fit for fans of both cities.