What they're saying…

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

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

Jan. 20

The News-Gazette, Champaign, Ill. on the economic stimulus bill:

Given the general nervousness about the economy, it's pretty clear that the Democratic-controlled Congress and Republican President George Bush will pass an economic-stimulus package designed to prevent a feared recession.

But there's a danger, in this election year, of a political bidding war aimed more at stimulating the loyalty of voters than the economy.

President Bush announced a general tax-stimulus package Friday, suggesting tax rebates to individuals and families and tax cuts intended to spur business spending and hiring. ...

But there are all different directions this program can go, and that could be a problem if legislators don't exercise some restraint.

... U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said the package must ''start and end with America's working families'' while New York Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said legislation must not only include tax rebates but ''spending stimuli that jump start the economy.'' Congressional aides say greater food-stamp allotments are up for discussion. ...

The die, however, has been cast, and it's likely that most people will get a check from the government. But Congress needs to be careful not to exacerbate a problem it's trying to solve.

Jan. 19

San Antonio Express-News, on wiretap failures:

Politicians can talk all they want about national security, but what the FBI really needs is a good office manager.

If that sounds facetious, consider a recent development that is as disturbing as it is embarrassing: A telephone company recently cut off an international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a government audit released this month.

The audit, conducted by the Justice Department, criticized the FBI for the poor handling of funds used for undercover investigations, Reuters reported.

And while the incompetence led to the disruption of a wiretap case, it has repercussions beyond a single incident, making the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices, according to the audit.

Politicians engage in lofty debates about whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in intelligence cases, makes it too cumbersome for agents pursuing leads on terrorism.

That debate, however crucial to the war on terrorism, is reduced to absurd irrelevance when the FBI cannot do what hard-working Americans are expected to do every month pay their bills on time. ...

Jan. 19

The Lima News, Ohio, on state governments and balancing budgets.

The requirement that state government have a balanced budget gives those in charge only two options when money isn't there for everything. They either have to make cuts or they need to raise more money. Unfortunately, Ohio's recent past has seen government go for more money -- by way of increased taxes and fees.

Gov. Ted Strickland again this month broke with recent government practice. Concerned about the economy, the first-term Democratic governor's Office of Budget and Management has ordered state agencies to offer voluntary buyouts for at least 5 percent of their eligible employees...

No one wants to see Ohio or the nation slip into recession, if we aren't already there. However, in such times, government should respond the same way businesses and families do: by prioritizing expenses and cutting extras.

Jan. 21

Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota, on border security:

... Currently, most motorists use a driver's license to get across the Canadian border. A few weeks ago, Congress delayed until mid-2009 a rule to require passports at the border, too. That law also left open the possibility that new high-security driver's licenses ultimately could substitute for passports, delivering convenience and cost-effectiveness to travelers as well as security to the government.

But last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he'd insist on an interim change starting Jan. 31: a rule to demand birth certificates as proof of citizenship as well as driver's licenses.

Reaction along the border was swift. ''Now, the requirement that all must produce identification will worsen the already long lines and slow travel into the U.S. at a time when we should be encouraging Canadians to come to the U.S. and spend their Loonies,'' said Sarah Hubbard, vice president for government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., agreed: Homeland Security ''still doesn't understand the practical effects of DHS policies on the everyday lives of border community residents,'' he said.

In the face of this, Chertoff's insistence on the interim birth-certificate rule seems like pure contrariness or a raw exercise of power or both. The marginal boost it'll give to national security isn't worth anything close to the disruptions and inconvenience it'll cause.

Jan. 23

The Jackson Sun, Tennessee, on Fred Thompson:

Former Republican Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee ended his bid for president on Tuesday. But just because Thompson's presidential dream has ended doesn't mean his public service should. There are still plenty of ways for him to use his newly heightened profile, and he should explore them all.

Already, there is plenty of speculation as to why Thompson's bid failed. Some say he got into the race too late and could never catch up with other Republican candidates in terms of campaign funds. Then, there are those who decried Thompson's work ethic and campaign schedule, commonly seen as lax in comparison with other candidates. Whatever the reason, it would be a shame if Thompson failed to capitalize on the publicity that his campaign generated and use it to do some good on a larger scale.

Thompson brings a lot to the table. He is laid back and approachable. He is quietly charismatic. ...

There are plenty of ways Thompson can use his varied experiences to help others. There's even the possibility that he could still end up on the ticket as a vice presidential nominee. Whatever happens, he shouldn't just retreat from the limelight. He should use his experiences and his well-earned notoriety to help others.

Jan. 23

Iowa City Press-Citizen, on coal plants:

... Right now coal produces more than half of the electricity in the United States, but that number likely is to go down dramatically as concerns about climate change, construction costs and transportation problems are making coal less attractive and less cost-effective source for producing electricity.

Last year, more than 50 proposed coal-fired power plants in 20 states were canceled or delayed because of such concerns.

Eventually, governments will be regulating coal plants out of existence. The process no doubt will be long and costly, but there's no need for Iowa to prolong this transition by allowing the construction of any new coal plants.

Advocates for the coal industry say the best way to ensure successful technology is to allow them to build their plants with large open areas in which a carbon-capturing system can be added when it becomes economically feasible. But a recent study by the industry-funded Electric Power Research Institute projects that coal power will cost more than nuclear power or natural gas by 2030 if coal's carbon dioxide problem is solved the way most experts envision -- separating the carbon dioxide from the other emissions, moving it through a series of pipelines to an underground storage facility. It's unclear if the technology will ever be feasible. ...

If the coal industry needs an additional incentive to perfect carbon-capturing technology, it should be that the industry can't begin building plants until it develops a workable system.