Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
Congress shouldn't be distracted by the impeachment hearings
Are leaders in Congress unable to walk and chew gum at the same time? That is, are they capable of multitasking on major issues?
Some are speculating they are not. Recall that just a few weeks ago, in the wake of more mass murders, lawmakers vowed to debate steps to reduce the likelihood of such tragedies in the future. New limits on gun ownership, perhaps through "red flag" laws aimed at people deemed to be threats to public safety, were suggested. The White House weighed in, with President Trump suggesting such a discussion may be appropriate.
Then came Ukrainegate, or whatever we're calling the current move to impeach Trump.
Suddenly, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democratic leaders were focused, seemingly exclusively, on their impeachment inquiry. On Capitol Hill, virtually nothing has been said about gun control for some time.
The issue is a divisive one, of course. Americans worried about keeping the Second Amendment untarnished may be pleased that the focus of attention has shifted.
But millions of Americans on all sides of the gun control controversy are perfectly capable of thinking about it at the same time they worry about other issues (including, of course, making a living).
Candidates for president, understanding that voters have any number of priorities, have not been hesitant to keep talking about gun control. But in Congress, the debate seems to have been suspended.
With many members of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate up for re-election next year, one wonders how many of them were disappointed that they do not have to take stands on firearms legislation. They know that, regardless of where they come down on the issue, they will alienate some voters.
Surely members of Congress are capable of dealing with two controversies at once. They shouldn't let the impeachment hearings distract them from talking about what, if anything, Congress can do about mass murders.
Be wary of Lake Ontario lawsuit
The Auburn Citizen
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced that the state of New York will sue the International Joint Commission over its management of Lake Ontario water levels.
The legal challenge, being made via the state Department of Environmental Conservation, will attempt to seek compensation to cover recent flood damage to infrastructure and shoreline properties. That state estimates those costs could exceed $1 billion.
Cuomo effectively summarized the essence of the argument the state will make in comments he made last week: "The IJC's function is to manage the lake level. That is their job: to manage the lake level," he said. "They have failed to manage the lake level."
Of course, managing the level of a lake the size of Ontario is not as simple as flipping a few switches. And what the governor and the group of IJC critics don't mention is the role that extreme weather played in the flooding that affected lakeshore communities. Extremely wet springs in 2017 and 2019 can't be ignored when it comes to assessing how the IJC is handling its job.
One of the best things Cuomo has done in response to what transpired on the lake in the past two years is an initiative to identify resiliency projects that state and local governments can undertake to help prevent future damage. Inherent in that effort is recognition that extreme weather brought about by climate change is the new normal. Here's what Basil Seggos, DEC commissioner, said a few months ago: "The increase in intense and frequent storms and the ongoing issues created by a changing climate continue to challenge those of us who love the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence region and want to see it thrive."
With those facts, it's hard to follow the logic in the state devoting taxpayer funds that will go to lawyers hired to pursue a lawsuit. Moreover, it's a lawsuit that also will have to contend with significant jurisdictional issues related to the IJC's status as an international entity that has a strong argument about being exempt from such legal challenges.
With all of that said, we also agree that New York needs to continue to push the IJC on the issue of how its long-range management policy, called Plan 2014, needs to be reviewed and adjusted to deal with extreme weather. We're just not sure that the courtroom is the place to focus that effort.
LeBron James' outrageous China lecture
New York Post
Poor LeBron James: He, his Lakers and indeed the entire NBA had a "difficult week," the star says, because the Rockets GM irresponsibly tweeted out support for . freedom in Hong Kong. The things a multimillionaire athlete has to put up with.
And the "difficult week" whine was James' effort to walk back his remarks Monday night in Los Angeles, where he said of Daryl Morey's pro-freedom tweet, "I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke." The danger being: "So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually."
If James really thinks that he and other stars in China were at risk of physical harm simply because that country's rulers were so upset by a tweet, then the league never should have sent them over.
Heck, if Morey were more "educated" about the "situation," his tweet (which he later deleted under pressure) would've been even more outraged.
After all, Beijing isn't just intent on taking away the rights of Hong Kongers. It has a million Muslims in re-education camps; it's deep into a campaign to crush independent Christian churches; it's bent on instituting universal high-tech Big Brother surveillance; it harvests organs from thousands of prisoners of conscience .
It's an evil government — as its hysterical overreaction to Morey's tweet proves.
"Yes, we do all have freedom of speech," James said, while suggesting that Morey had used his without "thinking about others." But no one in China has that freedom — except in Hong Kong, for now.
James might also learn from fellow hoopster Enes Kanter, now a Celtic, who tweeted about the Turkish government's response to his criticism:
"-Haven't seen or talked to my family 5 years -Jailed my dad -My siblings can't find jobs -Revoked my passport -International arrest warrant -My family can't leave the country -Got Death Threats everyday -Got attacked, harassed -Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia FREEDOM IS NOT FREE."
The Tariff Redistribution Act
Wall Street Journal
President Trump's tariffs have cost American consumers billions of dollars, via higher prices on everything from washing machines to beer kegs. Mr. Trump tacitly admitted this in August when he said he delayed more border taxes on Chinese goods for the sake of "the Christmas shopping season."
Mr. Trump's trade policy may even be a bigger risk to his re-election than impeachment. The uncertainty from tariffs has contributed to the global manufacturing downturn and has slowed business investment. Most economists figure tariffs have cut U.S. GDP growth by a half to a full percentage point. States crucial to Mr. Trump's re-election_Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania_have been hit especially hard.
Now, however, the President's allies think they've found a new way to sell tariffs: Turn the border-tax revenue into a tool of income redistribution. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton recently unveiled the Tariff Rebate Act. "Tariffs are an effective way to apply pressure to China and other nations in trade negotiations," he said, "but there's no reason that tariff revenue can't help working Americans in the process."
His idea: Rebate to taxpayers tariff money collected under Section 201 (applied to washing machines and solar cells), Section 232 (steel and aluminum), and Section 301 (everything from apricots to yarn). A separate tariff refund plan is being drafted by Florida Senator Rick Scott, though how it differs isn't clear.
As of mid-September, Mr. Cotton says, these tariffs have brought in nearly $39 billion. This tax revenue came, at least in part, from American families and businesses that bought washers, steel parts or thousands of other products. The rebate is intended to offset this tax hit and make tariffs look like they're a net benefit.
One problem is that Mr. Cotton's bill wouldn't give rebates to everyone, only taxpayers in the bottom three brackets. A single man earning $85,000 is no Richie Rich, especially in a pricy city like New York. His tariff refund, though, would be redistributed elsewhere, and wait until Democrats get in on the fun. The rebate would soon become an income-based entitlement.
Many of the President's tariffs also have nothing to do with the strategic purpose of confronting China. The Section 201 levies on washing machines were justified as "fair trade" protectionism. They were aimed at brands from South Korea, an American ally in China's backyard. For a time Mr. Trump put Section 232 tariffs on steel from Canada and Mexico, and he has threatened European cars with Section 232 duties. Tariffs are more political opportunism than strategic necessity.
All of this means the tariff rebates would often serve only to launder money for political ends. Mr. Trump wants to aid a group of Rust Belt workers, so he taxes the products of their foreign competitors. As prices rise, Washington would then hand out money, but only to certain people. The idea is similar to the "carbon tax dividend" that has been floating around Washington to build a political constituency for new taxes on energy.
Tariffs are also taxes, and they have negative economic consequences. Mr. Cotton's plan would take a giant step toward making the GOP the Tariff Party, as in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modern Republicans once tried to compete with Democrats by reducing taxes. Increasingly they want to compete by keeping tax rates high and trying to out-redistribute Democrats. This won't work any better politically than tariffs have worked for Mr. Trump economically.
Trump's foreign policy is worrisome
Once again, Syria is burning. Turkey and its proxy militias are advancing into area controlled by Kurdish fighters, leading to civilian casualties and reports of atrocities. Chaos abounds, with even the secure handling of dangerous Islamic State prisoners in doubt.
It did not need to be this way.
President Donald Trump enabled the mayhem when he effectively greenlighted the Turkish advance into Syria after an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It was an astonishing gamble for U.S. national security interests, unleashing Turkey upon the Kurdish troops who have been America's key allies in the fight against the caliphate sought by the Islamic State.
Trump is right that Turkey has a long history with the Kurds, a stateless people who have clamored for their own territory. Some have fought for that right within Turkey's borders. But a near-victory against the vicious Islamic State was won with Kurdish blood. Thousands of Kurds died in combat. They earned the trust and admiration of U.S. troops, some of whom, such as the deputy commander of U.S. Special Forces in the Middle East, have voiced disapproval at America leaving the Kurds behind. There are legitimate concerns that the Islamic State could resume terror operations in the confusion.
Erdogan does not like Kurds in control of Syrian territory on his border. So he is pushing them back, brutally.
Late Monday, as the situation continued its rapid deterioration and Trump faced a bipartisan pushback from Congress including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president belatedly promised sanctions against Turkish officials. It might be too late to undo his mistake and flip-flopping. Why does Trump have a history of making quick policy decisions in Erdogan's favor after phone calls with the Turkish leader? Take the December 2018 call when Trump shocked advisers by committing to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria. In the call this month, Trump reportedly went off his national security team's script, greenlighting the Turkish incursion.
Erdogan won again. Also winning: Prime Minister Bashar Assad of Syria, the brutal leader who now wins concessions from the Kurds, and Russia. Vladimir Putin expands his influence in the region, while Europe could face more terrorist threats from ISIS.
This setback for America comes amid increasingly fumbling foreign and trade policy dealings involving China, Ukraine, North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran. Trump's poor decision-making and his unfathomable placating of Putin, along with chaotic staff upheavals, are very worrisome.
We do not disagree with the larger goal of ending military engagements in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. That doesn't mean abandoning an ally at the ring of a phone. Foreign policy is difficult. Those who don't understand that sound like Trump when he heartlessly implies that he wasn't bothered by the idea of ISIS prisoners now held by the Kurds escaping, because "they will be escaping to Europe."
Trump's reliable GOP allies should question whether this is how the leader of the free world should think, and what the next phone call will bring.