We’ve faulted President Barack Obama for his less-than-full-throated support of free-trade agreements that enjoy the nominal backing of his administration. There was no such cause for complaint about his State of the Union address Tuesday night, however, in which he called on “both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe.” In practical terms, that means Obama believes his negotiators are close to cementing market-opening pacts with 11 Pacific Rim nations — most importantly, Japan — and with the European Union and that passing a bill authorizing an up-or-down congressional vote on the final agreements will strengthen his hand at the bargaining table.
Subscribe to Editorial RSS feed
Almost all candidates for public office have one thing in common: They have to be very good at asking people for money. Except if they happen to be running for judge in Florida, where judicial candidates are prohibited from personally soliciting contributions. They can, however, have surrogates ask — and they are allowed to send personal thank-you notes to those who donate.
President Barack Obama’s annual State of the Union addresses have been more fanciful than most. Not because he has championed colonizing distant galaxies or dispensing free ice cream, but because for the last four years half of Congress — this year, all of it — has been controlled by a party that has starkly different ideas about the role and purpose of government.
The Internal Revenue Service may be the least-loved arm of the federal government. For tax-hating Republican lawmakers still angry over what they see as IRS malfeasance, the antipathy is especially strong. That explains why GOP lawmakers repeatedly have cut the agency’s budget over the past several years, including a 3 percent reduction this year. But no matter how therapeutic it may feel to hack away at the IRS, it is deeply irrational.
Glaring, and growing, inequality of wealth and income is one of the most troubling issues facing the United States and other democratic, capitalist societies. So far, this threat to social stability and political legitimacy has proved as intractable as it is worrisome. The lawmaker and the party that devise an effective solution could deserve a grand electoral prize.
President Barack Obama’s neglect of the anti-terrorism march in Paris seemed reflective of a broader loss of momentum by his administration in combating Islamic jihadism. Five months after the president launched military operations against the Islamic State, fighting in Iraq and Syria appears stalemated. The training of Iraqi army units for a hoped-for counteroffensive is proceeding slowly and, according to a report by The Washington Post’s Loveday Morris, looks under-resourced. Weapons and ammunition are in such short supply that trainees are yelling “bang, bang” in place of shooting.
There has been been a welcome evolution by Attorney General Eric Holder on the issue of government interrogation and investigation of reporters. The new approach reflects more thought and balance than the administration’s earlier efforts. Holder’s final actions before leaving office do not entirely ease worries about leak investigations, but they do show that Holder was listening to reasonable objections and willing to change.
Francois Hollande, France’s much-derided president, has found his voice in response to last week’s terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, the French government has yet to strike the right balance.
Any time an official retires after devoting 40 years of honorable public service to a single institution, it’s an occasion for thanks and respect. And it’s an occasion to listen carefully to what that veteran has to say upon his departure. Case in point: the valedictory remarks of Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe on Jan. 6, which reflected the lessons of a lifetime as a U.S. Postal Service employee and manager. Donahoe’s words properly framed the predicament facing this financially distressed but vital agency as a basic test of democratic governance.
While the world fixated on the murder of 12 people by Islamic terrorists in Paris last week, another slow and grisly massacre was taking place in Nigeria, at the hands of the Islamist militants of Boko Haram.
On its face, there is nothing particularly mischievous about the budget accounting rule that the House of Representatives adopted last week. It simply calls for the two nonpartisan bodies that keep score on fiscal matters, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, to “incorporate the macroeconomic effects” of “major” tax or mandatory spending legislation when they develop official cost estimates: That is, analysts are supposed to factor in the wider impact on growth, employment and inflation and how that might feed back to make the budget deficit larger or smaller.
“Today I’m announcing an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in this country,” President Barack Obama said in Tennessee on Friday. “I want to bring it down to zero. I want to make it free.”
In announcing the normalization of relations with Cuba last month, President Barack Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change. In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees — or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.
The New York City police officers who turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio at the recent funerals of two slain officers were within their rights — no matter how boorish others (we included) think that behavior. What members of the force aren’t entitled to is not doing the job for which they get paid. In refusing to enforce the law, the police are jeopardizing public safety and undermining any claim they have for respect from the community.
Gallup reported Wednesday that the national uninsured rate dropped to 15.5 percent of the nonelderly population, down from 20.8 percent a little over a year ago. Yes, the improving economy may have helped. But that’s also the period in which the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, began phasing in. Eventually the law is likely to cut the proportion of nonelderly Americans without health insurance to something like 11 percent, the residual number explained in part because the ACA doesn’t cover illegal immigrants. Twenty-six million people will have gained coverage.