Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials in Newspapers in the US and Abroad

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Editorial Roundup: Excerpts From Recent Editorials

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:

Sept. 13

Loveland (Colo.) News Reporter-Herald on U.S. Postal Service business strategy:

For millions of Americans, the U.S. Postal Service is a lifesaver.

It provides a convenient and relatively inexpensive means to receive the medications they need. For some, it is the link that allows them to live independently, outside of an assisted living or even nursing home style of care.

So when the Postal Service announced earlier this year that it is considering dropping its Saturday delivery service, it also sent a message that those users will feel a little less secure.

It also sent the message that those Americans living in rural areas — the people for whom the Postal Service was created at the founding of the country — are going to have one more option removed from them.

There is no doubt that the Postal Service is facing the same economic hardships as almost every sector of the economy. It lost $3.5 billion in its fiscal quarter that ended June 30. However, some technological changes in society are also at work: The rise of e-mails and social networking has decimated the private first-class mail business, while the economic slowdown has resulted in far fewer parcels being delivered across the nation and internationally.

A reduction in service is not the way to convince the public that it is essential, however; in fact, it will likely push more people away. And as the Postal Service pushes away customers, it will also push away or drive out of business those companies that depend on the mail delivery system for everyday functions. The spiral will continue.

Postal Service products and services are now available in more places than ever before — banks, grocery stores and others. As these trends continue, the agency should look for savings as it partners with industry, not turns its back on it.



Sept. 15

New Haven (Conn.) Register on too much stimulus spending:

Credit is due government stimulus spending for keeping the recession from being even worse. How much it has helped is open to debate.

Unemployment has gone far higher than the Obama administration predicted in pushing its main stimulus bill. If you add up all the president’s stimulus plans — homebuyer tax credits, Cash for Clunkers, cash for caulkers, cash for electric cars, mortgage help, extended unemployment, extra aid to states for teachers and Medicaid — the total is $1 trillion.

The February 2009 stimulus bill appropriated $787 billion for “shovel-ready” projects. About $570 billion of that money has been spent, creating 1.4 million to 3.3 million jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The impact, however, has been lost on the public, which has focused on the unemployment rate’s rise to 9.6 percent.

Giving the White House the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the maximum estimate of 3.3 million jobs were created, this amounts to each job costing more than $172,000. This costly inefficiency suggests that Washington is better at running up the national debt than creating jobs.

As this realization sinks in, the chances seem less and less likely that Congress will approve Obama’s latest stimulus proposal — spending $50 billion for transportation construction.



Sept. 12

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on career politicians:

To borrow a line from comedian Bill Murray, we’re in a weird area here.

Americans are fed up with career politicians, and rightly so. The ruling class has ramped up both spending and regulations on ordinary Americans, while living the high life themselves and acting as if our seats in Congress are their birthrights.

In the process, they’ve nearly run this country into the ground. Both parties.

Yet, as ordinary Americans rise up to replace some of these squatters at every level of government, perhaps running for office for the first time, the media and opponents try to squash them immediately for being inexperienced or inartful, looking for any misstep or hint of a skeleton.

Note to self: Don’t look for fresh blood and then blame it for being fresh.

They’re doing the same thing to the tea party — expecting slick, polished party operatives instead of ordinary, everyday Americans who are exercising their right and obligation to become involved in the political process, in many cases as never before.

When you trade out careerists for the kind of citizen-legislators the country’s founders envisioned, at all levels of government, you’re going to have to do without some amount of polish.

Americans want their candidates to be different than ever. We need to give them the room to be.

As coverage of the fall elections increases post-Labor Day, keep in mind that we’ve tried slick already.

May be time to try real.



Sept. 13

The Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer on increasing taxes:

To begin to reduce the federal government’s staggering debt, should we cut spending or raise taxes?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It’s going to take both; choosing only one or the other won’t get the job done.

What with funding a couple of wars and trying to spur the economy to grow again, government spending is at virtually an all-time high. At the same time, taxes are virtually at an all-time low. No wonder we have a problem.

Congress, however, has shown little interest in working toward a solution. Its members are too busy running for re-election and scoring points against the opposing party.

That gives tea party activists good reason to want to throw the whole bunch out. But most of those same activists are dead-set against any tax increase. They’re as much in denial as the members of Congress. …

Americans traditionally have relied on Congress to fix fiscal messes by adjusting the federal budget. Just don’t ask us taxpayers to help out.

But we’re all in this together. It will take great courage for Congress to get any real control over the debt, and any political candidate knows that advocating higher taxes is the kiss of death.

That’s why it will also take great courage by American citizens to realize that we, too, are part of the solution.

Ask not what your country can do for you …



Sept. 11

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio, on the Iraqi political logjam:

Although Iraq held elections six months ago, its politicians still haven’t agreed on a government with a prime minister. Its parliament is not meeting.

As a result, Iraqi citizens are not getting the public services they have a right to expect. The absence of a government also means that the alleged leaders of the country are prepared to ignore the choices voters made at the polls in March, showing them supreme contempt. …

American officials have jumped into the Iraqi political logjam and proposed a reasonable compromise. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has refused to acknowledge his coalition’s loss in the elections, would remain in power but have his authority diminished. He would be obliged to share power with a coalition that would include representatives from Iraqi groups other than his Shiite followers.

The problem with this solution to the no-government issue is that it is an American solution, not an Iraqi product. That probably means that many Iraqis will oppose it.

The United States could impose its idea. It still has 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, following a seven-year occupation. But if it tries to do so, the compromise will truly be doomed.

Iraqis leaders still need to work this one out for themselves. Washington should keep out.



Sept. 13

The Daily Freeman, Kingston, N.Y., on Obama’s judicial nominations.

The gridlock that is our nation’s capital can be tracked in any number of ways, including how Senate Republicans have blocked President Barack Obama’s nominations for judgeships.

The Associated Press recently reported that less than half of Obama’s nominees have been confirmed, leaving 102 out of 854 judgeships vacant, 47 of which are considered emergencies, given their heavy caseloads.

Indeed, Obama has had less success in getting his judicial nominees confirmed “than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago,” AP reported.

Democrats, of course, (for now) hold a majority in the Senate. But the White House says Republicans are blocking “confirmations across the board, even forcing non-controversial nominees who passed committee with overwhelming bipartisan support to wait months for a floor vote.”

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., concedes he’s getting back at Democrats for blocking the nominees of Republican President George W. Bush. McConnell contends, however, that Obama only made 33 nominations in his first year in office and that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sets the Senate’s agenda. “We can’t confirm what’s not there,” McConnell’s spokesman said.

Yes, but, according to AP, “Republican senators have forced postponements of hearings and votes in the Judiciary Committee and used their power under the chamber’s rules to block any easy route to full Senate votes.” …

And so it goes in a federal government that knows how to get out of its own way, but refuses to do so. It leaves none of the players looking good and the public again getting shortchanged.



Sept. 15

San Francisco Chronicle on Iran’s release of U.S. hiker:

After 410 long days in an Iranian prison, Sarah Shourd is heading home. Shourd, a 32-year-old University of California-Berkeley graduate, is one of three Americans who were taken into Iranian custody while hiking in a border area of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Their case — the Iranian government claims that the three were spying, though the charge seems highly implausible — has become yet another source of tension between Tehran and Washington.

Tehran must enjoy the attention, because it’s still holding onto Shourd’s fellow hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 28. Both Fattal and Bauer need to be released immediately.

And they should be released without having to pay exorbitant fines. Iran demanded $500,000 in bail money for Shourd, though her family said that they couldn’t pay it. (The details of Shourd’s release are still unclear.) This, too, is in keeping with Iranian “policy”: Iran demanded $300,000 in bail money for Canadian Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari and about $300,000 for French academic Clotilde Reiss (who was also dubiously labeled a spy). This is nothing but a shakedown, and Tehran should be ashamed of itself.

Sadly, Iran’s leaders don’t have shame — instead they have arrogance and erratic behavior. That’s why, while we celebrate Shourd’s release, we continue to demand that Washington keep up the pressure for her fellow hikers.



Sept. 14

Chicago Tribune on federal taxes:

What came over Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio? The House minority leader suggested a compromise with Democrats on taxes. Within a matter of seconds, it seemed, the knives were out. His own party ripped him, and the White House fell back on that tired political cliche about “the failed policies that got us into this mess.” For a scary moment, it sounded like a rerun from the 2008 campaign.

We’re back where we started, Democrats and Republicans unwilling to budge.

Nobody in this impasse can claim the high road on fiscal responsibility. Over the last decade, Republicans and Democrats alike have gleefully spent trillions of dollars they never had. When the first George W. Bush-era tax cuts passed in 2001 the Congressional Budget Office was projecting a $5.6 trillion surplus for the following 10 years. Now it’s forecasting a $1.3 trillion-plus deficit in 2010 alone.

Best course for now: Extend the tax cuts by one year — all the tax cuts. Then, strike a grand bargain based on the recommendations of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission, due out shortly after the Nov. 2 election. With any luck, a wake-up call at the ballot box will bring financial discipline back into style on Capitol Hill. It’s about time.

If Obama’s finding his “tax the rich” rhetoric going nowhere, it’s because nobody, rich or poor, trusts Washington taxaholics to find a responsible use for any additional revenues they might obtain. Example: The president is still talking about more stimulus spending. He should know by now that taxpayers are sick of being treated like ATMs. …

Fiddling with tax policy right now risks further disruptions for employers already buffeted by Washington. After Nov. 2, and after the commission speaks, fixes to taxation and spending could give Americans a long-range solution.



Sept. 15

The Toronto Star on new Basel III world banking rules:

Fireproofing the world’s banks against another fit of Wall Street folly isn’t going to come cheaply. Bankers in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia will have to set aside “hundreds of billions” of dollars in reserves, to remain solvent in future crises.

At least, that’s what Nout Wellink, the Dutch banker who heads the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, predicted recently as regulators from 27 countries announced new capital cushion rules to bolster the system’s ability to cope with shocks of the sort that brought down Lehman Brothers and triggered a global meltdown.

“It’s a lot of money,” Wellink acknowledges, but it will make another crisis “much less likely.” That will save trillions in the long run.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said that the new policy, dubbed Basel III, “strikes exactly the right balance” and promises to save the G20 economies some $13 trillion in gross domestic product by averting cyclical financial crises. Banks will be required to more than triple their reserves, to a minimum 7 percent of assets from 2 percent now, if they want to pay out dividends to shareholders. They will also have to hold better quality capital in those reserves. And they may be required, in boom times, to set aside more of their assets as a hedge against credit bubbles.

While the new rules are welcome, they will be phased in only gradually and will not be fully implemented until 2019.

For Canada’s solidly capitalized banks, compliance will be relatively easy. Others will find it more difficult. …

The G20 leaders are expected to approve the new rules at their Nov. 11-12 summit in Seoul, South Korea. They should also encourage banks to embrace the new standards soon, before another crisis can build, and order their regulators to show some urgency in addressing the other problems that the meltdown exposed.



Sept. 14

Arab News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on a pending U.S.-Saudi arms deal:

The Kingdom’s plans to purchase $60 billion of U.S. defense equipment are an important and necessary step in its defense. It can, of course, be expected that the Zionist lobby in Washington will seek to block the deal in Congress, claiming it threatens Israel. But legislators will probably be in little mood to listen, not least because this deal, which is one of the largest-ever arms orders, is likely to guarantee up to 75,000 jobs in recession-hit U.S. factories.

Besides which, Israel simply cannot make a convincing case that by seeing to its own defenses, Saudi Arabia is in some way menacing the Israelis.

At its most fundamental, the Saudi government has a duty to defend the Kingdom and its oil reserves from regional threats, by upgrading its weaponry with the most up-to-date and effective equipment. That is precisely what the new F-15 fighters and advanced helicopters, which make up the bulk of this new armaments purchase, will enable the Saudi armed forces to do.

Given the continuing regional instability, it is a highly prudent and responsible reaction. Not least among the causes of concern to all regional states is the deplorable reality that, to the shame of its politicians and the fury of its electorate, Iraq still lacks a government.

It is Saudi Arabia’s good fortune that even with the substantial investments in the extraordinary new infrastructure development taking place throughout the Kingdom, the government is able to fund this huge order for U.S. weapons over the coming five years. …

So barring a Zionist-inspired upset in Congress, this important deal is going to go through. The reality is that the upgraded weaponry the Kingdom has ordered will give it awesome firepower in defense of its interests.



Sept. 15

China Daily, Beijing, on some positive signs that may lead to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks:

There are positive signs of a thaw in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which will be instrumental for gathering international momentum to restart the long-stalled Six-Party Talks.

On Sept. 13, South Korea announced it would offer 5,000 tons of rice and 250,000 bags of cement for flood victims in North Korea.

Seoul’s Red Cross, a main channel for humanitarian cooperation between the two sides, also accepted the Sept. 10 proposal of the North Korea Red Cross to hold talks over reunions for separated families around the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This is the first time the two sides resumed exchanges since a South Korea-led international probe in May claimed that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of a South Korean warship. North Korea has repeatedly denied its role in the sinking.

The aid and the upcoming talks on the reunions of separated families are clearly conciliatory gestures that show the two sides’ willingness to resume contacts.

An easing of tensions on the peninsula is one of the preconditions for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, a China-initiated mechanism launched in 2003 for the denuclearization of the peninsula. …

China will continue its diplomatic efforts until conditions for restarting the Six-Party Talks ripen.



Sept. 9

London Evening Standard on BP’s Gulf oil spill report:

Deep-sea oil drilling is an inherently dangerous business but a necessary one. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April is proof of its hazards. BP’s internal report into the spill draws attention to the errors and omissions which led to the tragedy, though the investigation on which it was based could not be conclusive. It also highlights the problems for the entire industry in maintaining a culture of safety for its workers, especially now that oil companies devolve so much of their construction work to outside contractors.

BP has got its report in first, before the U.S. government’s own investigation is published. It appears comprehensive insofar as it can be, without being able to test some of the defective parts of the structure. Its catalog of fatal flaws lays some of the blame at its own door, without actually identifying its well design as a source of the problem. Naturally, that conclusion is vigorously disputed by the contractors on whom a share of the blame does fall in the report, including Transocean and Halliburton. Yet the point remains that BP was ultimately responsible for its contractors as well as its own operations. And there is also the question of whether cost-cutting at BP, not just under the hapless Tony Hayward, but under his predecessor, compromised safety. That needs more soul-searching.

This is not the last word, let alone the last report, on this terrible accident but it sets the scene for those that follow. Meanwhile, the whole oil industry should be taking its lessons to heart.



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