Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
The Associated Press
Mar. 02, 2016
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina on the cease-fire in Syria:
President Obama's critics will not embrace the Syrian cease-fire now in effect, a move on which the United States and Russia cooperated. As far as the shoot-first crowd in Congress is concerned, the president is wrong on all counts foreign and domestic.
But not shooting is better than shooting, and while a cease-fire in that country does not include, for obvious reasons, the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, it is better than a state of chaos. Both the U.S. and Russia want to get the Syrian government and its opponents back to the negotiating table for peace talks.
The cease-fire also shouldn't be viewed as an immediate cure-all to a civil war that has killed at least 250,000 people. In any such situation, there will be outbreaks of violence that seek to undermine it. But the parties should hold the line as much as they can, because the bloodshed must end. The lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders are in the balance, and members of Congress, all of them, should be pulling for success.
And while there remain suspicions about Russia's role in airstrikes against civilians, the United Nations has endorsed the cease-fire, indicating the hopes of the world's nations that peace will come soon enough and long enough to bring calm to this region. The alternative is the violent status quo. And that alternative is unthinkable.
The Wall Street Journal on new Argentine President Mauricio Macri:
U.S. presidential candidates are busy boasting about the wonders to come in their hypothetical first 100 days in office. Perhaps they should look south and consider the real-world example of new Argentine President Mauricio Macri.
This week he settled a dispute with a number of the country's creditors that had dragged on for more than a decade as it tarnished Argentina's reputation. Mr. Macri now has the country poised for a return to international capital markets and perhaps an economic revival that was impossible under his Peronist predecessor Cristina Kirchner.
The Macri administration agreed Sunday night to pay more than $4.6 billion to Elliott Management and other U.S. hedge funds holding Argentine bonds that had been issued prior to the country's 2001 default. While many of the country's bondholders had accepted government offers of roughly 30 cents on the dollar after the default, Elliott and the other holdouts maintained that under the law and their bond contracts they were entitled to be paid in full.
Ms. Kirchner's refusal to negotiate with what she called "vulture" investors punished her own country far more than it did the investors. Mr. Macri understands this and has aimed to resolve the issue.
By agreeing to pay roughly 75% of what Elliott and other funds say they were owed, the new President has resolved the claims on about 85% of the bonds owned by holdout creditors. Assuming his negotiators are able to resolve the remaining claims, Mr. Macri seems well on his way to persuading a U.S. federal judge to lift injunctions that have effectively prevented Argentina from borrowing in U.S. bond markets. Now President Macri must persuade Argentine legislators to approve the deal as well.
In December we noted that Mr. Macri spent his first week in office ending capital controls and moving toward a stable peso. This week's action suggests that the rule of law is returning to Argentina.
The New York Times on the next Supreme Court Justice:
More than two weeks after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama has not named a nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Instead, he appears to be succumbing once again to his persistent belief that congressional Republicans can be reasoned with if only he tries hard enough.
One would have thought the years of disrespect and obstruction from Capitol Hill would have cured him of this notion. But on Tuesday morning, Mr. Obama met with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the two Republicans who are leading the charge to prevent him from selecting a replacement. Of course, nothing came of the brief meeting.
Mr. Grassley issued another insulting comment Monday, in response to a demand by Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader, that Republicans do their duty: "It doesn't matter how much he jumps up and down and stomps his feet, we aren't going to let the far left get away with denying the American people the opportunity to be heard."
What does Mr. Obama think he will accomplish by talking to a brick wall?
Almost from the moment Justice Scalia died, top Senate Republicans have not only vowed that they will refuse to vote on any nominee Mr. Obama sends them, but also said they won't even meet with that person.
Mr. McConnell has said that the nomination "will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the polls," and that as long as he is in power "there will not be action taken." Mr. Grassley initially said he would at least wait to see who the nominee is, but he soon fell back in line and said he would not allow any hearings.
Instead of wasting his time pretending to have conversations with these people, Mr. Obama should name a replacement for the vacancy — now. As President Ronald Reagan said in 1987, "every day that passes with the Supreme Court below full strength impairs the people's business in that crucially important body."
Luckily, Mr. Obama has many highly qualified candidates to choose from. Several have already been vetted and approved by Congress, like Sri Srinivasan, a federal appeals court judge for the District of Columbia Circuit whom the Senate confirmed in 2013 by a vote of 97 to 0. And Jane Kelly, another federal appeals court judge confirmed the same year by a vote of 96 to 0. During confirmation hearings for Judge Kelly, Mr. Grassley praised her "reputation for compassion and fairness."
It is unclear what the president is waiting for. Surely the White House had a short list of candidates in hand long before Justice Scalia died.
Mr. McConnell has said repeatedly that the American people should have a voice in this nomination. Well, the people have spoken: They elected Mr. Obama twice. And in the past few weeks, multiple polls have found that more Americans want Mr. Obama to make the pick than want him to leave it to the next president. In a poll by Fox News, the split was 62 to 34 in favor of Mr. Obama. Republicans who like to point out that the American people rebuked the president in the 2014 midterm elections should remember that Mr. Obama's job-approval rating in December was 46 percent, 35 points higher than the Senate's.
By naming his pick now, Mr. Obama would force the Republicans to explain to Americans why they refuse to do their job and take a vote on a highly qualified nominee.
The Orange County Register on American economic freedom:
A "solid C," they call it in school. Not flunking, certainly, but also not excelling. That grade characterizes the score of 75.4 that the United States earned on the Heritage Foundation's 2016 "Index of Economic Freedom," which grades countries on such factors as property rights, government spending, business freedom, monetary freedom and fiscal freedom (taxation).
The rankings closely correlate with economic growth. The higher the score — the more economic freedom — the faster people produce more wealth for everyone, from rich to poor.
Any score above 80 is considered "free." At the head of the class, as usual, was Hong Kong (88.6). Scores from 70 to 79.9 are "mostly free." So America's 75.4 score ranked it 11th, just behind the United Kingdom (76.4) and Estonia (77.2). We're also below sixth-place Canada (78).
A score from 0 to 49.9 is considered "repressed." At the bottom were the two remaining communist countries. In 177th place was Castroite Cuba (29.8), and rock bottom, 178th place, was erratic dictator Kim Jong Un's North Korea (2.3).
Our country has scored much higher; in 2007, the U.S. stood in fourth place, with a score of 82. Barack Obama became president in 2009, and his policies largely are to blame for this decline, according to Heritage. But we would add that President George W. Bush was in the White House when the Great Recession hit in 2007-08. And Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for more than five years since the 2010 Tea Party rebellion against too much government. That's significant because all tax bills originate in the House.
"Americans continue to lose economic freedom," the Heritage Index explained. "Following declines in seven of the past eight years, the United States this year has equaled its worst score ever in the Index of Economic Freedom. Ratings for labor freedom, business freedom and fiscal freedom have flagged notably, and the regulatory burden is increasingly costly." Also to blame are "damaging monetary policies."
The Republican presidential candidates generally favor more economic freedom, and the Democratic candidates want more controls. But the dismal economic performance of both parties while in power propels this political season of discontent.
The Los Angeles Times on a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, California:
When the Ku Klux Klan showed up in Anaheim on Saturday for a rally that turned violent even before it got started, a question on many lips might have been: The KKK still exists?
Yes it does, such as it is — a ragtag bunch of misfits so woefully out of tune with the times that its only hope of gaining any attention is by provoking conflict. That's what happened after a small clutch of Klan members announced last week that they were coming to Anaheim for an anti-immigration rally in Pearson Park on Saturday and giving a heads-up to the police department that there might be a counter-protest to greet them.
And — surprise! — there was. The Klansmen had barely exited the SUV in which they arrived when they were reportedly attacked by the protesters, three of whom were stabbed by Klan members who said they were acting in self-defense. (Klan members of yore might be embarrassed to see their movement reduced to such a degree that it has to wind up on the receiving end of some 2x4s to get any notoriety.)
It's unfortunate that the counter-protesters, who outnumbered the Klansmen many times, only served to legitimize the group by physically attacking it. One can imagine that if everyone had ignored this "rally," the Klansmen (and women) would have exercised their 1st Amendment right to spout hate, gotten bored with the lack of outraged response, then left with nothing to show for their deliberate attempt to stir up trouble.
But then, the Klan provokes people just by venturing out in public. Though the KKK today may seem more of a joke than a source of fear, not too long ago it terrorized African Americans with impunity. The very name, not to mention the iconic robes and peaked hoods, conjures up lynchings and burning crosses. Klansmen got away with their crimes then because the group was politically powerful in America, including in Anaheim. The scars feel fresh still as the nation struggles with its legacies of discrimination and segregation.
Anaheim police were criticized for not showing a strong presence before the melee erupted in the park. And police officials will certainly need to answer questions about why they didn't step in sooner, before the brawl turned bloody. They knew that the KKK attracts violence like honey draws bears. Like it or not, Klan members have a right to assemble and to speak their minds like any other American. They have the right, as well, to police protection, much as it may gall taxpayers.
Meanwhile, we all have the right to ignore the antics of a fringe hate group. The next time the Klan comes to town, hopefully the rest of us will use that right. Nothing dampens a movement quite like disinterest.
The Newark Star-Ledger on Republican presidential candidates' tax proposals:
While we are all amused by the vulgar pie fight that is the Republican presidential field, it's easy to overlook the taxonomy of pain their candidates would impose on the American electorate.
The three leading candidates from the party of fiscal responsibility have all proposed tax plans with the same components: enormous tax breaks for those who need them least, elimination of the estate tax, massive reductions in corporate taxes, and unspecified reductions in domestic spending.
And every reputable tax analyst from across the political spectrum asserts that these plans devised by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio would all wreck the economy and add trillions to the national debt.
Yet it rarely comes up during debates, presumably because the moderators believe the Jerry Springer stagecraft is just better TV.
The math from the non-partisan Tax Policy Center is typical: It found that Trump would add $11.9 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. That would increase the debt by nearly 40 percent. Cruz ($10.2 trillion) and Rubio ($8.2 trillion) would also cut taxes, increasing the debt by 36 and 29 percent, respectively.
Cruz and Rubio also support increases in military spending and — wait for it — a Balanced Budget Amendment.
How big are these tax cuts? George W. Bush's historic cuts was "only" $1.82 trillion in today's money, and he did it when the country was running a surplus.
Most of the cuts would go to the richest Americans, on the theory that it would spur economic growth - even though evidence since the Hoover Administration disproves that theory — yet they never explain how they will overcome the revenue losses.
Instead, they cling to the canard that "it worked for Reagan." They never mention how most of that money that was supposed to trickle down instead evaporated in the dry heat of the Cayman Islands. Or that Reagan had to raise taxes 18 times to plug his budget.
Former OMB director David Stockman, the godfather of the sainted Gipper's tax cuts who now tells the truth about the bogus Reagan Revolution, calls the longstanding Republican pattern of "money printing and deficit finance" a form of "vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes."
Still, you almost have to admire the GOP comic trio for pretending that the middle class is ready to absorb further punishment.
They try to distract voters with bumper sticker politics: Mention that hedge fund managers pay the same tax rate as a truck driver, they call it class warfare. It's a form of national brainwashing, intended to make voters believe that the issues which matter — tax fairness, affordable health care, income inequality, or the prosecution of thieves who destroyed the global economy — are phantoms that have no relationship to the realities of governance.
Indeed, the current administration could not close the carried interest loophole that allows Warren Buffett to pay a lower rate than his secretary. Nor did President Obama find a way around an obstinate Congress to do what he campaigned on, such as raising the minimum wage (more than once), immediately repealing the Bush tax cuts, or punishing corporations that moved jobs overseas.
So stepping into the tax talk vacuum is the Republican party — which hears the frustration of the zeitgeist, but is unrealistic in its aim, deceitful in its method, and oblivious to the damage it will cause.
Yes, the tax code needs an overhaul. Everyone knows that.
But it should shift the burden up the income ladder, now down. And with Baby Boomers flooding into retirement, tax reform that adds trillions to the national debt is a dystopian solution. These are not serious proposals, and they're hoping voters are too distracted by their engaging personalities to notice.
China Daily on global economic recovery:
Against the backdrop of global capital and currency market turbulences, it was crucial the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors, who met in Shanghai over the weekend, agree to take concerted actions, including monetary, fiscal and structural measures, to combat downside risks and restore investor confidence.
Their stance will help restore the confidence of global investors and lay a solid foundation for effective and coordinated actions in the future.
They also agreed to "refrain from competitive devaluations" and not target each other's exchange rates for "competitive purposes", a stance that serves as a clear answer to recent market uncertainties.
Since the start of the year, global capital markets have nosedived due to investor concerns that global growth may be faltering and some major economies are resorting to beggar-thy-neighbor quick fixes, such as negative interest rate policies, instead of the time-consuming but more fundamental structural reforms necessary to restore growth momentum.
The G20 communiqué, which was released on Sunday, shows that the world's major players are willing to act and their stances are close to each other.
In the past, a lack of coordination in announcing the major monetary policy of one country, for instance, has often resulted in competitive actions by others, which has damaged global economic stability and sparked investor panic.
This time, the participants agreed to clearly communicate their macroeconomic and structural policy actions "to reduce policy uncertainty, minimize negative spillovers and promote transparency", which represents clear progress in global policy coordination.
The world economy has been plodding along a bumpy road in its efforts to recover. Major economies have adopted various innovative monetary and fiscal stimulus measures to boost output, but the effects have been barely satisfactory.
This shows that monetary or fiscal stimulation to restore global balances is not enough. And it is even more absurd to attribute all the woes to the monetary policy of one single country.
China has announced that it will not resort to competitive currency depreciation to benefit its exports. The recent changes in the exchange rate of its currency have so far been quite mild if we consider the vast appreciation of the yuan in the past decade. The market should not over-interpret it since a stable yuan is in the interest of China itself, its neighbors and the regional and world economy as a whole.
The Telegraph, United Kingdom, on Britain's European Union referendum:
The story almost seems too absurd to be true. But it is. The European Commission had intended to launch a crackdown on appliances that use a lot of energy, including some kettles — but decided to shelve the plans for fear that it might drive Britain towards leaving the European Union. The story suggests that Brussels is paying closer attention to the UK's mood than usual. The EU referendum polls are quite balanced in a country where tea-drinking is widely regarded as a near-religious ritual and a human right. Collectively, we get through 62 billion cups of tea a year.
The war on the fast-boiling kettle symbolises everything Britons dislike about the EU: its meddling, its obsession with rules and its determination to enforce conformity. Of course, there are far more serious issues that need to be discussed. The public wants to understand, among other things, the role that the EU plays in shaping our laws and trade, as well as its impact on the cost of living. Because there is so much to dissect, and so much that is controversial, the Telegraph has pledged to its readers that it will seek to provide a forensic, detailed scrutiny of both campaigns. We have invited readers to write to us with questions, and we will be launching our biggest ever reader survey to give you a chance to express your opinion on the future of this country.
The search for the truth will be long and, possibly, acrimonious. In an article for this newspaper, the Prime Minister lays out some very good questions for the Leave campaigners. What trading relationship would Britain have with Europe after leaving? And how secure would Britain be outside the EU? Mr Cameron asserts that those who want Brexit are advocating a "leap in the dark" — and indeed many voters will find the lack of answers to the question "what would happen next?" rather troubling. However, we also carry in these pages an interview with Iain Duncan Smith, a backer of Brexit, in which he asks some pertinent questions of his own. At a time when net migration to the UK is 323,000 per year, how does the Remain campaign intend to reassert control of Britain's borders? What will happen to the ailing eurozone in the coming months? And how will the UK be affected by European economic turmoil?
With all these questions flying around, it is understandable that pro-Brexit ministers should be concerned that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the Civil Service, ordered civil servants to deny them access to government statistics and research. Mr Duncan Smith says that he will defy the ban. Next week the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs select committee will cross-examine Sir Jeremy. It could be argued that Whitehall is duty-bound to support the Government, and given that the official line of the Government is to back Remain, the decision is a not unreasonable one. Also, the rules will change again when the Whitehall purdah begins in May.
Nevertheless, civil servants will not want to be seen to be blocking access to information that could inform open debate. For instance, when Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, questioned whether the Prime Minister's deal would have full force in law, Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, replied that it surely would and urged Mr Gove to consult his departmental lawyers on the subject — perhaps underscoring the importance of access to good advice. This newspaper has urged the Government simply to publish its legal advice on the matter in full. Otherwise, voters will be forced to choose between one hypothesis and another.
When all is said and done, the public faces a choice between different sets of risks and opportunities. Nothing can be exactly known for sure: no one can claim to have clairvoyance. But the verdict that the public is being asked to reach should be informed by as much data as possible. Let all the facts be known. Let both sides make arguments rooted in accurate analysis. Then trust the people to make the right decision.