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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 4:38 pm

Editorial Roundup: Excerpts from recent editorials

By The Associated Press

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Sept. 7

China Daily on political reaction in the U.S. and South Korea to President Donald Trump threatening to terminate the bilateral free trade agreement:

US President Donald Trump has raised a major political storm in both the United States and the Republic of Korea, its long-time ally, by threatening to terminate the bilateral free trade agreement. While making the statement, Trump, it appears, was not thinking about narrowing the $17 billion trade deficit the US has with the ROK. Rather, his is a desperate bid to rewrite existing global trade rules in favor of the US.

Ever earlier, Trump has threatened to withdraw from bilateral or multilateral free trade agreements. He has repeatedly threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement and clamored to use trade remedy measures to impose punitive tariffs on imports from major trade partners. He has ordered the Department of Commerce to investigate steel imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the imposition of tariffs on imports for national security reasons. And he has directed the US Trade Representative to launch an investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 into China's laws, policies and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property and innovation.

The US' huge trade deficits are certainly behind Trump's threats to withdraw from free trade agreements. For example, the US had a trade deficit of $17 billion in goods and services combined with the ROK last year despite having a $10.7 billion trade surplus in services.

By issuing such threats, Trump can cater to those white industrial workers in the US who formed a bulk of his electorate in last year's presidential election, but by carrying out such isolationist ideas in practice, the Trump administration could drag the entire world into a trade war. It could even ruin the chances of increasing jobs and incomes in the US, a promise that in all probability won Trump the presidency, because other economies are set to fight back.

The plain economic truth is that global trade improves the wellbeing of people-not necessarily all groups of people, though-in all countries. In the case of the US, globalization might not have been good for the low-end industries, but it has greatly benefited the advanced manufacturing and services sectors.

This should prompt the US administration to make some policy changes so that it can help those traditionally weak industries to improve their competitiveness and flourish in the globalized world. By pursuing the "America First" policy and coercing other countries to help the US to rewrite the trade rules in its favor, the Trump administration will only evoke firm opposition from countries, even its allies, which would not be conducive to global trade.

Online: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/

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Sept. 8

The New York Times on an upcoming Treasury Department report on the Dodd-Frank financial oversight bill expected to propose lighter regulation for financial firms other than banks:

Among the most appalling aspects of the financial collapse nine years ago was that no matter how reckless and predatory big financial institutions had been, they had grown so big and so interconnected that the federal government found itself forced to prop them up to avoid failures that would wreck the economy. The resulting bailouts, which included billions of dollars in bonuses for executives responsible for the fiasco, provoked deep public anger and became a rallying cry for populists on the right and the left.

To reduce the risks from too-big-to-fail institutions, Congress in 2010 passed the Dodd-Frank financial oversight bill. But ever since, even as the stock market soared, wages stagnated and the victims of predatory lenders continued to struggle, Wall Street's champions have demanded an end to Dodd-Frank's regulations.

Step by step, the Trump administration has made it clear that it is on their side, that Wall Street need have no real concern about Dodd-Frank's provisions and that the lessons of the financial crisis will be ignored.

The Treasury Department is about to release the second in a series of reports on Dodd-Frank. The first one called for weakening constraints on banks, including loosening restrictions on their traders and backing off how much loss-absorbing capital banks are required to hold.

The next report is expected to propose lighter regulation for financial firms other than banks, by restricting the government's ability to designate insurance companies, corporate lending subsidiaries and other firms as too big to fail, a label that subjects a company to additional rules and higher capital requirements.

The rollback would be blind to history. Non-banks proved as unstable as banks in the crisis. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Wall Street's other big investment houses survived by converting into federally insured banks, and raking in bailouts, cheap loans from the Fed and federal guarantees. The insurer American International Group required a $182 billion bailout, and GE Capital needed $139 billion in federal backing to borrow money to stay afloat. Federal deposit insurance was temporarily extended to money market funds to prevent a catastrophic run on the financial system.

Weakening the regulation of institutions that are not banks would weaken a regulatory process that is already too restrained. The only such companies designated as too big to fail now are A.I.G. and Prudential Financial, both behemoth insurers. Federal regulators rescinded a too-big-to-fail designation for GE Capital in 2016 after the firm downsized. A court rescinded another too-big-to-fail designation, for MetLife, in a dubious finding last year. Similarly, regulators decided not to designate huge asset managers like BlackRock and Fidelity as too big to fail, a close call that could prove unwise.

The anti-Dodd-Frank reports by the Trump Treasury do not on their own change law or regulations. But they send a signal to Wall Street that the administration opposes tough federal supervision and regulation, a stance that is also reflected in Mr. Trump's pro-Wall Street choices to head various financial regulatory agencies.

Financial corporations are being given the nod to re-establish their unholy alliances, in which vast interconnections through lending, borrowing, derivatives and other transactions spread and amplify risks throughout the financial system while regulators look the other way. The greater the risk, the greater the potential return for bank executives and traders. For everyone else, heightened risk means greater economic peril, including threatened destruction of jobs, pay, savings, home equity and career opportunity.

The Republican-controlled Congress is too jammed up to move ahead with legislation to weaken Dodd-Frank. But that won't be necessary, since the administration is doing a good job of dismantling the regulations on its own.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com/

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Sept. 7

Los Angeles Times on how Congress should pass legislation restoring protection for immigrants who were under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:

President Trump's decision to end protections for immigrants who have been living illegally in the country since they were children was heartless, cynical and counterproductive. But there is one simple way for the damage to be undone: Congress should acknowledge its obligations to the 800,000 young immigrants whose status has been put in peril and pass legislation restoring their protection.

These are people, after all, who came to the country as infants or children through no fault of their own but as a result of decisions made by their parents. These so-called Dreamers have been raised and educated here, and many know no other country or language. Those who received protection under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program had to show that they have no serious criminal past and that they are in school or have graduated or are serving or have served in the military. Why wouldn't we want to have such people living and working in our country?

Obama sought to help them by executive order in 2012 only because Congress had consistently failed to reach agreement on a comprehensive reform for the nation's dysfunctional immigration system or even to pass the more limited Dream Act to protect this particular group of immigrants. Republicans complained bitterly at the time that Obama's decision to bypass Congress usurped the authority of the legislative branch, but the reality is that Congress abandoned its own responsibility. If Republicans objected to Obama's actions, well, the fix was as simple then as it is now: Exercise authority. Pass a bill. But they're much more comfortable showboating than actually drafting, negotiating and approving legislation.

Now they have a second chance. Instead of missing it again, they should enact a version of the Dream Act that offers a path to legalization for people who have lived illegally in the country since being brought here as children, have not had significant troubles with the law and meet other criteria indicating that they will become in most cases, that they will remain productive members of society.

The California delegation Democrats and Republicans alike should be in the forefront of this battle. After all, one out of every four participants in the DACA program is a Californian. With Trump stripping away their protections, their elected representatives should fight on their behalf. Los Angeles County alone has some 180,000 people eligible for DACA.

For instance, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) represents part of the immigrant-heavy Central Valley and should use his clout as the second-highest ranking House Republican to pressure House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to move legislation on this issue. McCarthy signaled interest in a tweet Tuesday saying, "It is Congress' role and responsibility to make immigration law, and I believe this is an issue that Congress needs to address." Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and David Valadao (R-Hanford) issued similar statements.

We hope they mean it. If they're not sure whether it's politically to their advantage, they might want to recall the decade of damage the California GOP did to itself in 1994 when it supported Proposition 187, which would have denied public benefits to immigrants living in the country illegally.

The best solution, of course, would be for Congress to pass protections for Dreamers as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package that also addresses border security, reasonable immigration quotas and a path to legalization for the bulk of the 11 million immigrants living in the country without documentation. But partisanship and polarization make such broad but badly needed reforms unlikely at the moment.

That's not a reason to sacrifice the Dreamers. During the eight months in which the Republicans have had near total control of the federal government, they have done little to show the nation that they know how to govern, let alone lead. Here's a chance to put a thick and welcome mark on the positive side of the balance sheet. Pass a Dream Act now.

Online: http://www.latimes.com/

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Sept. 13

The Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey on bigotry:

The Trump Administration had a choice last week to either support a gay couple just trying to buy a wedding cake or the baker who refused to make one for them.

Surprise: The president jumped aboard the bigoted baker bandwagon.

You would think that the Department of Justice would have better things to do, but it has joined the coming Supreme Court debate over whether business owners can refuse service for a same-sex couple on grounds of free speech and religious freedom. It filed an amicus brief that argues that the State of Colorado violated the rights of Jack Phillips after he had been cited for discrimination for refusing to do for two men what he does for every other affianced duo.

Longstanding Colorado state law prevents public accommodations - even bakeries - from refusing service based on marital status or sexual orientation.

Most states have similar protections, in fact. They figured that James Madison settled this a few centuries ago, when he wrote, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship."

But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is uncannily wrong about so many things - such as equal protection, immigration policy, race, LGBT rights, militarizing police, justice reform, to name a few - thinks Phillips has a good case, so he'll support the baker because it might please the few people who still support Trump.

The brief included such pearls as, "a custom wedding cake is not an ordinary baked good; its function is more communicative and artistic than utilitarian." Seriously. It was part of the argument that this is a First Amendment issue because baking a cake is "expressive conduct," and Phillips should not be compelled to enter the "creative process" for LGBT people.

That's an interesting reach, but nowhere can you find the "art of baking" as part of the Constitution's free-speech guarantee. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin by private businesses that are places of public accommodation (restaurants, bakeries, etc.). And nearly half the states (and many cities) prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. If the Court created a First Amendment exception to anti-discrimination laws, it would undermine legal protections for every minority group.

It would create a country that few would want to live in, with the possible exception of Jeff Sessions.

The DOJ's other point is that Phillips' right to free religion is being violated, which is an eternally fatuous argument. Religious freedom in America means that we all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against and impose these beliefs on others who don't share them.

Phillips is likely a sincere fellow who has strong beliefs, but a bakery isn't a church, and he's not being forced to endorse gay marriage. He's not there to officiate, he's there to make pastry.

This is not about his religious freedom, it's about people who want to discriminate against others in private transactions - the only card the Republican party had left to play since the day Obergefell v. Hodges became enshrined in law.

The intrusion of the White House into the debate is unfortunate, but hardly surprising, as this issue evokes the kind of religious bigotry that was used to justify slavery and segregation.

When it is used to hurt others, religion is mere sophistry disguised as piety, especially as practiced by Jack Phillips and Donald Trump. Ignorance, discrimination, and cynicism do not become social standards just because they are gussied up by the gospels.

Online: http://www.nj.com/

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Sept. 11

The Las Vegas Review-Journal on federal debt and entitlement programs:

Congress reconvened last week after a month long break. The fall agenda is packed with items such as tax reform, the debt ceiling, DACA and various spending bills.

Conspicuously absent from the list is entitlement reform.

Of course, it's folly these days to assume that Republicans and Democrats could bridge the massive political divisions dominating the legislative landscape to reach a consensus on such a vital issue. But the nation's long-term fiscal health will eventually depend upon it. And each year that passes without a solution only brings us closer to the looming cliff.

In his new book, "The High Cost of Good Intentions," Stanford economics professor John F. Cogan chronicles how we arrived at a point where the nation is $20 trillion in debt and federal entitlements now constitute more than half of all spending. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cogan notes that the urge to win votes by doling out goodies is a temptation that few politicians of either party can resist.

The author points out that in 1873, just 8,000 Civil War veterans collected pensions. By the 1890s, that number had risen to about 1 million and accounted for 40 percent of all federal outlays. It seems Congress kept expanding the eligibility requirements.

Mr. Cogan's research into Revolutionary War pensions found "exactly the same pattern," he said.

Mr. Cogan also describes a similar model for Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and food stamps. "It's a step-by-step expansion," he told the Journal. "Each expansion tends to be permanent. And each expansion then serves as a base upon which Congress considers the next expansion."

The Obama administration's Medicaid enlargement a key point of contention in the recent health care debate is a prime example. Ditto for the Social Security disability program, which Mr. Cogan points out originally applied only to those 50 or older who were unable to work at all. "Gradually, Congress eliminated the age requirement," the Journal reports. "Then lawmakers allowed benefits for temporary disabilities." The number of beneficiaries has quadrupled since the mid-1980s.

Mr. Cogan offers no hard-and-fast solution for tackling these issues. But he does say that any fix will require a combination of presidential leadership, bipartisan cooperation and an agreement among both politicians and the general public that "there's a problem."

None of those conditions exists in Washington today, which explains why the appetite to reform entitlements is nonexistent among the political elite. But let's hope Mr. Cogan's tome at least helps keep the issue in the spotlight until the harsh fiscal realities finally penetrate the Beltway's financial fantasyland.

Online: https://www.reviewjournal.com/

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Sept. 8

The Dallas Morning News on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' comments on sexual violence on college campuses:

Even when we strip away the politics, the content of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' message Sept. 7 about sexual violence on college campuses leaves us queasy.

We've known for months that the Trump administration planned a pivot from the federal guidelines put in place in 2011 to ensure that universities comply with Title IX obligations regarding rape, assault and harassment. And it's clear to us that some modifications may be in order.

But DeVos' message Thursday made it clear she's more about dissolving protections than safeguarding victims. When DeVos was asked, "Are you today rescinding the Obama administration guidelines?" she responded, "That's the intention."

The speech did little to persuade skeptics, including us, that sexual assault survivors will be as fairly treated going forward.

Women's campus safety is too often in jeopardy, as evidenced close to home by the enormity of the Baylor sexual assault tragedy and a 2017 University of Texas survey that found 15 percent of female undergrads at the Austin flagship said they had been raped.

Yet DeVos devoted much of her speech to claiming the 2011 effort to correct this nationwide scandal is nothing more than a failed system that has "weaponized the Office of Civil Rights to work against schools and against students."

DeVos' anecdotes focused mostly on men who she said were the victims of false accusations.

Lost in the pity party for schools and the accused were the very women whose safety is at issue. To hear DeVos tell it, most of the survivors she's talked to also are in agreement that the current system has failed them too.

Count this newspaper with those stakeholders who welcome a constructive conversation about unintended consequences or confusion resulting from the 2011 guidelines.

While the number of false allegations has been proved to be a tiny fraction of sexual assault cases, the voices of those for whom due process failed deserve to be heard. Clearly, some universities are getting tripped up on the mechanics of the mandates; others lack the resources and tools needed to do the work properly.

But for DeVos to start the discussion with the accusation that the current system isn't working for anyone is a denial of the long-overdue support the federal government began providing in 2011.

Remember that DeVos heads a department whose top civil rights appointee said in July that 90 percent of sexual assault accusations are the result of drunken and regretted sex, not rape. And she reports to a president who once bragged that because he's famous, he could grope women whenever he wished.

The one piece of good news out of this mess: At least nothing changes today. The 2011 Title IX guidance to schools remains in place during the upcoming notice-and-comment process.

But while the Education Department hasn't relaxed the rules yet, neither can those who care about justice relax. When all the public debate's done, DeVos and Trump still will make the final decision.

What's at stake

"Any perceived offense can be turned into a full blown Title IX investigation. If everything is harassment, then nothing is." Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

The Education Department says it will announce details of its notice-and-comments process in the next few weeks.

Title IX is the 45-year-old federal law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools receiving federal money. The 2011 Obama-era guidance threatens a loss of funding to schools that fail to do enough to make students safe from sexual harassment, assault and rape.

257 schools are currently under Education Department investigation for their handling of reports of sexual violence and harassment.

Among the constructive suggestions for change is a proposed network of regional centers formed through partnerships between schools and law enforcement that, advocates say, "could be a significant resource for resolving reports of misconduct that violate both Title IX and state criminal law."

Online: https://www.dallasnews.com/