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The end of the White House’s insularity?

WASHINGTON — In the early days of the Obama administration, my Washington Post colleague Shailagh Murray and I used to trade tales of the arrogance of White House officials more interested in their insular club and the prestige of their positions than in the responsibility they had.

Fight poverty, not savings, by fixing welfare asset rules

Some welfare programs exclude people who have financial assets, and for good reason. If the goal is to help people who are living in poverty, the program shouldn’t waste resources on people who aren’t actually poor. If you lose your job but have enough money in the bank to tide you over comfortably, you don’t need food stamps, disability payments or other forms of public support as much as people with no savings do.

County’s rush to approve speed humps called into question

Brad Main’s speed hump declarations published on March 21 in West Hawaii Today raise many concerns about the county’s enforcement of speed limits and other procedures. Speed enforcement is the responsibility of the police, and they should be held accountable to report how they are meeting this responsibility islandwide. If police manpower is short, then hire speed monitors to measure speeds and document licenses of speeding cars, sending the evidence to the traffic court for prosecution.

Remembrance of Clintons past

WASHINGTON — An abscess of anger seems to gnaw at Hillary Clinton, but the reasons for her resentments remain unclear. The world’s oldest party, which governed the nation during two world wars and is the primary architect of America’s regulatory and redistributive state, is eager to give her its presidential nomination, in recognition of … what?

What’s the Afghanistan endgame?

President Barack Obama’s announcement this past week that he will delay the withdrawal of some 4,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan is an acceptable course correction. Keeping troop levels at their current strength will allow the United States to continue training Afghan forces while also helping with counter-terrorism efforts, officials said. If those efforts help stabilize the country and prepare it for the moment when the U.S. withdraws for good, that’s fine with us.

Wacko birds nesting in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama got it two-thirds right when he said that the delayed confirmation of his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, is owing to Senate dysfunction and Republican stubbornness.

‘Doc fix’ fixed?

The House of Representatives passed Thursday a major piece of Medicare legislation with strong support from the leadership and rank and file of both parties. Yes, you read that right: The House voted on a package that permanently eliminates the expensive annual budgetary charade known as the “doc fix,” while enacting tens of billions of dollars worth of structural reforms to the massive program for seniors — and providing a two-year, $5.6 billion dollop of funding to an important children’s health care program to boot. For their labors in moving this bill to passage, we’d pat House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., on the back — if they weren’t already doing so themselves.

Staying in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a much-needed adjustment in his plans for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, telling visiting President Ashraf Ghani that a scheduled halving of the 9,800 currently deployed troops by the end of this year would be set aside, and the force maintained into next year. This was a sensible response by Obama to a range of developments, including Ghani’s impressive efforts to improve relations with Washington. But the adjustment still falls short of what will be needed to give the new Afghan government a reasonable chance of success.

Who says economics is hard?

WASHINGTON — Every day the Chinese go to work, Americans get a raise: Chinese workers, many earning each day about what Americans spend on a Starbucks latte, produce apparel, appliances and other stuff cheaply, thereby enlarging Americans’ disposable income. Americans similarly get a raise when they shop at the stores that made Sam Walton a billionaire.

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A boost for defense

Two pieces of good news about U.S. defense spending: Both President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have recognized that cuts imposed by the 2011 “sequester” scheme are unacceptable, and both have moved to restore tens of billions of dollars in funding for next year’s budget. Two pieces of bad news: The proposed increases still face thorny political challenges — and even the revised spending plan remains far from adequate at a time when the United States has returned to war in the Middle East and faces mounting threats elsewhere.

Presidential debates should include 3-party candidates

Most Americans want a third party, which probably explains why leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have conspired for the past three decades to exclude third-party candidates from the presidential debates. Never mind how unlikely a third- party victory may be, they say. Keep those interlopers away from the cameras!

How to block a bad deal with Iran

WASHINGTON — It is the common temptation of Republicans and Democrats to support a strong executive when it does things they like, and to condemn it when it does things they don’t. There is, however, a group of committed institutionalists that has gathered around the Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, now scheduled for a vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 14.

The right’s word-deed problem

WASHINGTON — Briefly, there seemed a chance we might have a cross-party discussion of the biggest economic problem the country faces: the vexing intersection of wage stagnation, declining social mobility and rising inequality.