Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Los Angeles Times on the danger of turning the debt limit into political theater:
Congratulations to Congress for avoiding economic catastrophe for another month or so. The Senate voted Thursday night to increase the nation’s debt limit by $480 billion, and the House is expected to do the same. That’s just enough money to pay America’s bills until Dec. 3, when Congress will likely have this fight all over again while the nation teeters on the edge of default.
Can we get off this idiotic merry-go-round?
The semi-regular debt limit fight is politics at its worst. Why? Because raising the federal debt limit should be a routine, obligatory act by Congress to fulfill the government’s basic duty to pay the bills run up by the very same Congress.
Instead, the debt limit has become a prop in Washington’s Political Kabuki Theater. One party — usually the GOP — refuses to vote to raise the debt limit, while bemoaning the amount of federal spending and the size of the deficit. The other party scrambles for strategies or concessions to get the votes.
While the standoff plays out, the U.S. inches closer to the moment when it runs out of cash and can no longer borrow to meet its financial obligations, which include Social Security payments and reimbursing hospitals for Medicare patients.
A default could be devastating to the American economy, which is still struggling from the pandemic shutdowns, and trigger a recession. But even if Congress somehow gets its act together and raises the debt ceiling again before December, the constant brinksmanship and last-minute scrambling undermines confidence that U.S. Treasuries are a stable, predictable investment. That could hurt the nation’s economy in the long run, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned.
“It’s led to a series of politically dangerous conflicts that have caused Americans and global markets to question whether or not America is serious about paying its bills,” Ms. Yellen said Thursday on CNN. That’s why she has endorsed eliminating the debt limit. And she’s right.
Congress established the debt limit more than a century ago. In theory, it is supposed to encourage fiscally responsible behavior. In practice, the debt limit is largely ignored until the U.S. hits it. That’s why the current version makes no sense.
The debt limit doesn’t actually stop Congress from running up debts. It merely stops the Treasury from borrowing the money needed to pay federal creditors, pensioners, investors and others to whom Uncle Sam owes money.
The debt limit is an irresponsible way to manage the nation’s obligations, and it’s time to get rid of it.
There is a value in having some mechanism to constrain spending, or at least force a meaningful debate over whether the expense justifies the debt.
Over the years, there have been countless proposals to reform or replace the debt limit, such as those from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the nonpartisan anti-deficit group, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The core recommendation is to more closely link decisions about spending and borrowing.
But for now, the best course for Congress is to repeal the debt limit, and put an end to this dangerous brinksmanship.
The Hindu on the Islamic State vs the Taliban disrupting stability in Afghanistan:
The suicide attack on a mosque in Kunduz last week, killing at least 50 people, all of them from Afghanistan’s persecuted Shia minority, is a grave reminder that the conflict in the country is far from over.
The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghanistan-based arm of the terrorist organisation, has claimed responsibility. The IS’s doctrinal hatred towards the Shias is known. In Iraq and Syria, it systematically targeted Shias, who it calls “rejectionists” of faith, and used such attacks to mobilise the support of Sunni hardliners and trigger sectarian conflicts.
The Kunduz blast was the third major attack by the IS since the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15. Days later, an IS suicide squad attacked Kabul airport when thousands of Afghans were desperately trying to flee the country, killing at least 170 Afghans and 13 American soldiers. On October 3, a bomb targeted a memorial service being held for the mother of the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a Kabul mosque, killing five. All these attacks suggest that the IS-K’s ability to strike has grown. The group, which started operating in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces after it suffered setbacks in Iraq and Syria in 2015-16, is no longer confined to the east.
When the Taliban captured power in 1996, their main promise was to provide security to a people who were living through almost two decades of civil war. The Taliban had taken control of almost 90% of the country and established order through the implementation of their brutal code.
This time, the Taliban control almost all of the country, but still struggle to establish order. There have been multiple instances of direct fighting between the Taliban and IS-K jihadists. The Taliban is an enemy for the IS-K, which wants to establish a foothold in Afghanistan exploiting its sectarian wounds and security vacuum.
While both groups have used tactics of terror, the IS-K is a pan-Islamist jihadist outfit, while the Taliban are largely a Pashtun nationalist militancy. The rise of the IS-K poses multiple challenges to the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan, which many in Afghanistan and Pakistan saw as a solution to the country’s security woes.
On one side, their promise to provide security looks hollow. Afghanistan’s cities under the Taliban remain as insecure as they were under the previous Islamic Republic. On the other hand, even if the Taliban, under pressure from Afghanistan’s donors and the public, want to make some concessions on the many restrictions already imposed, they would come under pressure from the more extremist IS-K, which says the Taliban are not Islamic enough. For the people of Afghanistan, who are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, the war that started 40 years ago continues, no matter who is in power in Kabul.
The Wall Street Journal on Canada, Michigan Gov. Whitmer and Line 5 pipeline:
The Democratic Party’s hostility to oil and gas pipelines is now becoming an international problem, as Canada seeks a Biden Administration intervention over Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to shut down Enbridge Energy’s Line 5.
Ottawa last week formally invoked the dispute-resolution article of a 1977 treaty governing transit pipelines between the two nations. The treaty states that, except in an emergency, natural disaster or pressing safety concern, “no public authority in the territory of either” the U.S. or Canada may take measures “which are intended to, or which would have the effect of, impeding, diverting, redirecting or interfering with in any way the transmission of hydrocarbon in transit.”
Yet Ms. Whitmer is acting like she’s her own sovereign nation. She moved last year to revoke and terminate an easement that allows Line 5 to operate in a 4.5-mile stretch in the Straits of Mackinac and ordered Enbridge to shut down and “permanently decommission” the pipeline within 180 days. Enbridge has defied Ms. Whitmer and continued operations, saying her unilateral actions lack legal authority. The Governor is seeking an injunction to close the pipeline.
If Ms. Whitmer prevails, she’ll disrupt a major energy supply chain that moves more than half a million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids a day throughout the Great Lakes region. In an amicus brief filed in federal court in May, Canada said residents of Quebec and Ontario rely on Line 5 to fuel their cars and heat their homes. The Toronto Pearson International Airport depends on it for jet fuel. Line 5 is a critical supplier for the Sarnia-Lambton Petrochemical and Refining Complex in Ontario, which employs more than 4,900 people. If the pipeline shuts down, “up to 400,000 barrels per day of oil originating from western Canada (much of it destined for the United States)” would be stranded, the Canadian government said.
“The shutdown would cause massive revenue losses and potentially significant job losses in the energy sector in western Canada, just as it is struggling to recover from the impacts of covid-19,” Canada warned. “Thus, the economic impacts of a shutdown would be immediate and severe both for fuel users in the east and for producers in the west.”
Ms. Whitmer said in a statement that she is “profoundly disappointed” in Canada’s invocation of the treaty. “Rather than taking steps to diversify energy supply and ensure resilience, Canada has channeled its efforts into defending an oil company with an abysmal environmental track record,” she said.
Never mind that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the federal regulator responsible for overseeing the pipeline, said this year that it is “presently aware of no unsafe or hazardous conditions that would warrant shutdown of Line 5.”
Canada is seeking a bilateral negotiation, but if that fails the dispute could end up in arbitration. In an email Thursday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said “we expect that both the U.S. and Canada will engage constructively in those negotiations,” adding that “in addition to being one of our closest allies, Canada remains a key U.S. partner in energy trade as well as efforts to address climate change and protect the environment.”
If that’s more than diplomatic boilerplate, the U.S. will abide by its treaty and tell Gov. Whitmer to stand down. But Canada has learned the hard way from President Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline that, in this Administration, hostility to fossil fuels trumps good neighborly relations.
The Omaha World-Herald on the election lie being a danger that leaders must squelch:
Elected officials lead us simply because of their positions — we have chosen them to do so. They lead by policy-making, they lead with the tone they set and the issues they choose to pursue.
This editorial is a plea for these leaders of both parties to come together and tell the American public clearly and unequivocally that our electoral system is sound. To do anything less abets false conspiracy theories and dangerously ignores a real growth of fringes unwilling to accept vote outcomes and increasingly willing to resort to violence in an effort to get their way.
No responsible, clear-thinking political leader should need more evidence than the video footage and subsequent findings about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to fully accept the dangers. And yet many Republicans ignore, minimize or reframe an assault that included violent attacks on law officers and threats to constitutional officers and process.
Their winks at the widely discredited conspiracy theory that the presidential election was stolen by massive, multistate fraud and their failure to firmly and forcefully tell the whole truth allow suspicion in the public to simmer and grow.
They appear to believe the mob they continue to incite can be controlled. We have ample evidence that it cannot.
The influence of this fetid lie is evident. This week, 1.2% of state legislators nationwide — 92 of the 7,383 — including Nebraska Sen. Rob Clements of Elmwood, signed onto a call for a 50-state Arizona-style audit of 2020 election results. Those who believe the fraud myth will latch onto these ill-informed and irresponsible leaders’ call as evidence when it really is just proof of the power of a big lie oft repeated.
It is important to say here, as we have for more than a year, that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. A Bloomberg Government canvass of all 50 states found 200 voter fraud cases nationwide since the November 2018 elections “during a timeframe when hundreds of millions of people participated in thousands of elections around the country.”
Those calling for extragovernmental audits thumb their noses at extensive systems already in place to conduct recounts in tight elections, to canvass and certify totals and the role of prosecutors, from the county to federal level to prosecute fraud.
Despite repeated studies with similar findings, Republicans across the country are moving to change voting laws to address a nearly nonexistent problem, citing suspicion among voters as why it’s needed — when, once again, that suspicion is really just evidence of the power of a big lie oft repeated. This only fuels our division.
A poll by the respected University of Virginia Center for Politics found that 41% of Biden voters and 52% of Trump voters agree at least somewhat with the proposition of dividing America — “I would favor (red or blue) states seceding from the union to their own separate country.”
This is absurd and serious at the same time.
Where would we draw the border? Not everyone in a red state is a conservative Republican; not everyone in our cities is a liberal Democrat. America’s economic engine is in its cities — the 17% of the nation’s counties that voted for Biden account for 70% of the U.S. GDP.
This is the rotten fruit of our current politics. Our elected leaders are responsible for where we are and where we go from here.
The Virginia poll found substantial areas of agreement — improving infrastructure, raising taxes on the wealthy, rural broadband and more — if we can just move beyond cynical exploitation of conspiracy theories and start trying to address our real problems.
What we ask is a return to normal politics. Posturing and rhetoric to gain an electoral or policy edge is part of life in our democratic republic. We can and should expect tough partisan fights over redistricting, immigration and spending issues. But holding onto, repeating and abetting a lie about the security of our elections is a danger to our country.
Our leaders must lead. Condemn the BS unequivocally. This would be an excellent role for Congress’ Problem Solvers Caucus, of which Nebraska’s Don Bacon is a proud member.
We as individuals also have a responsibility. We must contemplate who we are. The Virginia poll found that three-quarters of both parties see their opposites as “a clear and present danger to the American way of life.” Do we really hate our neighbors who don’t see things the way we do?
You know that if you saw your neighbor fall, you would go help. We are humans, we are Americans. We can get through this.
The Connecticut Post on how jury awards will never be enough for Sandy Hook parents:
Nearly nine years later, there is no closure for those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary School. There’s no justice. There’s nothing to make them whole again.
There is, thankfully, a measure of punishment for one of the worst people to appear on the public scene in the wake of that tragedy, someone who mocked the families’ loss, denied the tragedy had even happened and, worst of all, sent legions of twisted followers to harass and defame people who were experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare.
Alex Jones, a right-wing conspiracy theorist and founder of Infowars, claimed for years on his radio and internet shows that the Sandy Hook shooting, where 20 students and six adults were killed, was a government hoax and the relatives were actors. It was all a plot to get the government to take away your guns, he argued, or some such nonsense.
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. But there’s something uniquely disgusting about the malicious campaign launched against grieving family members, abetted by Jones, that forced innocent people to defend their loved ones’ very existence. One can have empathy for people with differing viewpoints while also believing that Jones and his followers represent the worst in humanity.
Over the years since the 2012 tragedy, nine Newtown families have sued Jones, who has lost several defamation suits and been ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars of their legal fees.
More recently, a district judge in Texas issued default judgments against Jones and Infowars after his refusal to provide court-ordered information relating to two of those lawsuits. A third has since won a defamation suit. The lawsuits will now proceed to trial, with the question being how much Jones will have to pay.
“Alex Jones and Infowars no longer have the ability to make excuses or defend their actions,” a lawyer for one of the family members said on Tuesday.
Jones has argued in court documents that he no longer believes the worst crime in Connecticut history was a “hoax,” and that he has a right under the First Amendment to be wrong. But no one is interested in what he believes. What we know is what he has done, which is cause people pain. He will now pay a price for those actions.
And it’s on him that the issue has not yet been settled in court. “(A)n escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties and nondispositive sanctions have all been ineffective in deterring the abuse,” a judge wrote in the most recent ruling. Now the case will go to trial, where a jury will determine damages.
There is no amount that will make the families whole or make up for the abuse. But the jury should ensure that Jones has to pay a serious price — both to ensure he never commits such acts again and to deter any potential followers in future cases.
The First Amendment gives people in this country a wide berth to speak their mind. It’s among our most cherished rights. But it is not limitless. Jones’ actions have been clearly beyond its protections and must elicit punishment.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on cities rethinking defund-the-police as violent crime grows:
St. Louis leaders aren’t the only ones reassessing the wisdom of downsizing the city police department to mollify a loud but not necessarily representative group of far-left activists. Rising violent crime is plaguing cities across the country, and a growing number of Democratic mayors have realized that defunding the police is the opposite of what’s needed to retake control of the streets.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones scheduled an online “community listening session” for late Tuesday afternoon, fulfilling her promise to let citizens have input into the person she chooses to replace John Hayden, who will retire as police chief in February. The new chief will inherit a mountain of challenges that include understaffing, an increase in violent crime, and the growing appearance of lawlessness characterized by mass drag-racing events and downtown motorcycle rallies that openly defy police attempts to impose order. A feckless approach to prosecutions by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner contributes to a sense of declining morale among rank-and-file officers.
The mayor’s listening sessions with citizens no doubt will include the voices of progressive activists demanding follow-through on her alignment with the defund-the-police movement. While hearing them out, it’s important that she insist on empirical and statistical evidence from defund advocates rather than letting assumptions and assertions go unchallenged that reducing the police presence on the streets would somehow lead to improved public safety.
Many cities that experimented with police defunding are now realizing what a bad idea it was. After initially cutting $92 million from the New York City police department to defund a new precinct, Mayor Bill DeBlasio this year bumped up the department’s funding by $200 million. Los Angeles is boosting officer pay. In Dallas, Mayor Eric Johnson and the city council have done an about-face and not only reversed funding cuts but approved a plan to hire 250 additional officers.
“It’s hard to have a serious conversation with folks about cutting a police department’s budget when crime is up,” Philadelphia’s former mayor, Democrat Michael Nutter, told The Wall Street Journal.
Some defund activists in St. Louis point to a recent decline in homicides to pre-pandemic levels as a sign that deemphasis on aggressive policing is having beneficial effects. Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom suggested in August, however, that the reduction might be the result of boosting policing during times when homicides most often occur — on weekends and at night.
That said, activists are correct to question traditional policing methods and urge experimentation with alternative ways to de-escalate tense situations, such as mental health crises, that too often yield tragic results when police respond with a guns-drawn standoff. That’s a public conversation Jones should encourage. But if she lets these community engagement sessions devolve into anti-police tirades, the job of replacing Hayden with a highly qualified, enthusiastic leader can only be made that much harder.