Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal on immigration reform:
The election results aren't likely to bring Democrats and Republicans closer together on all the grave issues facing our country, but it may have narrowed the gap on one of them — the undeniable need for sweeping immigration reform.
If true, a break in the impasse can't happen fast enough. President Barack Obama promised to deliver on comprehensive immigration legislation in his first term in office. He didn't do that during his first two years when an amenable Congress was controlled by the Democrats. He was mostly stymied by a majority of Republicans after the 2010 midterm elections.
Nevertheless, Obama did laudably take executive action this year, announcing that the administration would be helping young illegal immigrants get a chance to stay in the country rather than deporting them. He also has pledged to work hard for broader reforms; the election results may help him achieve that goal. That's because some Republican leaders — seeing that their party's support among Latinos has eroded greatly from the days when former Texas Gov. George W. Bush was in the Oval Office — are now talking about reform. To his credit, Bush pushed for big changes in the country's immigration policies, but the GOP leadership in Congress would not budge.
Now, in a bipartisan effort, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., are pitching changes that would bolster security at the borders but also provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
If this sounds familiar, it should. The two senators made the same suggestion in 2010, but the idea went nowhere. ...
Immigration reform has been kicked around long enough. Realistic solutions are needed, not more hollow rhetoric. Congress and the president have plenty of motivation to get this done and should seize on the opportunity.
The Telegraph, Macon, Ga., on jobless benefits:
Washington's focus on the "fiscal cliff" — a potentially disastrous combination of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1 — has shifted attention away from the biggest problem in the economy, which is the more than 12 million Americans still unemployed. More than 5 million of them have been sidelined for more than half a year, which means they're no longer receiving unemployment insurance benefits from their state. Instead, many are receiving extended unemployment benefits paid for by the federal government. Unless Congress agrees to renew the program, however, that support will end as well, even before the country reaches the fiscal cliff.
It would be tragic if Congress abandoned the unemployed in order to clip a relative smidgen off the deficit — about $30 billion of a deficit of $1 trillion. According to the most recent federal survey of job vacancies, there were about seven applicants for every two openings. That's an improvement over the worst days of the recession, when the ratio of applicants to openings was more than 10 to 2. But it still means that there aren't nearly enough jobs available to put everyone back to work, especially when you consider the more than 9 million Americans who are either stuck in part-time jobs when they want full-time work, or who've become so discouraged they've dropped out of the workforce.
Nevertheless, Republicans and Democrats have battled for more than two years over how to offset the cost of the benefits, and more recently whether to continue funding them at all. There's a legitimate debate to be had over whether the country should continue borrowing money to pay for unemployment benefits. But the usual argument for cutting off benefits is risible when there aren't enough jobs to take.
The Cullman (Ala.) Times on wasted time in Washington:
While the United States teeters on the financial cliff, more attention is being given to the lurid extramarital affairs of military and government leaders than the more pressing problems facing the nation.
Sure, there is concern that David Petraeus, as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, may have dropped a few secrets during his affair with the woman who penned his biography. And Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair's wife, Rebecca, has appeared on a television show to bemoan the Army life that leads husbands and wives to have affairs.
There's also the case of Gen. John Allen, who some officials accuse of sending suggestive emails to a Florida woman.
OK, we get it. The scum rises regularly in society. Men and women cheat, but other than those who are involved in these tangled affairs does anyone really care to know the details or care to listen to the shameless characters blabber about their shortcomings?
The American obsession with pitiful personal details is becoming absurd. Let's move a little closer to the fiscal cliff and focus on what economists warn could be an economic catastrophe at the turn of the year. ...
Vast amounts of time are wasted in Washington and by the media on learning the details of personal failures of high-profile characters. Once the garbage is spilled, not much of it has any real consequence concerning national security, and certainly no bearing on the state of the economy.
Congressional leaders have enjoyed plenty of recreation with the presidential election and all the trimmings that go with a year of campaigning. It's time now to turn away from the trappings of sensational stories and focus on the future of the country.
The Seattle Times on FCC media-ownership rules:
The Federal Communications Commission appears intent on weakening media-ownership rules and compounding the mistake by ignoring its own troubling findings.
The commission's first-ever review, released Nov. 14, found the ownership of broadcast radio and television stations by women and minorities to be at single-digit percentages.
The FCC wants to aggravate this extraordinary lack of diversity by allowing the consolidation of newspapers and television stations or radio stations in the 20 largest markets.
The FCC found white ownership increased while minority ownership eroded. Blacks owned 1 percent of all commercial-television stations in 2007, and 0.7 percent in 2011. Asian ownership was at a half percent in 2011. Latino ownership increased a fraction to 2.9 percent. Female ownership of TV stations went from 5.6 percent to 6.8 percent.
These statistics shape news gathering and journalism, access to the airwaves and the mix of views available and presented.
Efforts by the FCC to weaken media-ownership rules have been knocked down by public opinion, Congress and the courts in the past. In 2011 the commission was directed by a federal appeals court to conduct a survey.
For the FCC's narrow purposes that box has been checked, because it wants to proceed without holding public hearings or formal reviews of the findings.
Craig Aaron, president of media watchdog Free Press, raised a pointed question: "Why is the FCC contemplating a giveaway to the nation's largest media conglomerates when the rest of the industry has turned away from the failed consolidation model?"
For a plan with no public support or purpose, Aaron notes, "... the main beneficiaries of this change would be News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch and Tribune Co.'s Sam Zell."
America is enriched by the diversity represented in its politics, media and culture. The FCC is moving in the opposite direction.
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch on the federal debt ceiling:
It would be wrenching for the country to be faced with another showdown over the federal debt ceiling. But the solution should not be, as Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently suggested, to dispense with the debt ceiling because it is an inconvenient impediment to ratcheting up the national debt.
Geithner said on Nov. 16 that the debt ceiling — the cap on federal indebtedness that requires congressional approval to raise — should be eliminated.
The idea is preposterous. The debt ceiling is the only thing that forces Congress and the president to confront the results of their out-of-control spending....
Doing away with the ceiling would stoke problems down the road in exchange for short-term expediency. President Barack Obama cannot stand for re-election, and Geithner already is on his way out the door, so long-term solutions to the nation's burgeoning debt will not top their agendas and there will be no penalty for their irresponsibility....
Voters retained the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Democrat edge in the Senate despite very low approval ratings for congressional incumbents overall. This virtually guarantees a replay of some of the gamesmanship over the debt, taxes and spending cuts that accompanied last year's failed attempts at a "grand bargain."
The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee on U.S. Senate filibuster reform:
Popular notions of the U.S. Senate filibuster, the practice of talking bills to death or delaying their passage, tend to come from film, such as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," or from legendary past examples. ...
In the past, senators actually had to stand on the floor and talk all day and all night to keep debate going. That naturally limited filibusters.
In the last decade, however, filibusters haven't worked that way. The Senate allows "silent" filibusters — the mere threat of a filibuster — to force the majority to assemble 60 votes to cut off debate and move legislation. These "pseudo-filibusters," or "obstructionism on the cheap," have turned the filibuster from a tool of last resort to a regular part of Senate procedure. ...
No longer do senators attempt to put together a majority coalition to carry the day. They threaten filibusters and the business of the Senate grinds to a halt.
This is not a hallowed tradition, but a clear abuse. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used to oppose changes, but now supports reform.
"I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them," Reid said recently. "We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the Senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done."
That's the right stance. ...
In our constitutional republic, the majority is supposed to rule, with checks and balances to prevent rash decisions. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 22, "the fundamental maxim of republican government . requires that the sense of the majority should prevail."
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