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Crafting a flight plan

Some people intend to be national security threats. Others are just drunk. In the case of Monday’s drone crash on the southeast corner of the White House grounds, the immediate problem seems to have been an inebriated pilot. But the underlying issue is the federal government poorly regulates the booming drone industry. The right response is not overreaction but rather tightening rules and procedures in some ways — and loosening them in others.

Our debt delinquency

President Barack Obama sounded a triumphant note about the federal government’s fiscal condition in his State of the Union address last week, boasting that the budget deficit has fallen by two-thirds since 2009, his first year in office. He then went on to outline new plans for tax and spending increases, framed as “middle-class economics,” with nary a word about how he would bring down the country’s national debt over the long term. Whereas he entered the White House promising that “some of the hard decisions” about entitlement reform would be “made under my watch, not someone else’s,” Obama seems inclined to declare victory in the debt battle and pull out.

False hope in Syria

U.S. officials are celebrating a modest victory in the war against the Islamic State in Syria — the apparently successful defense of the Kurdish town of Kobane, on the border with Turkey. Under siege since early October, Kobane has little strategic value but came to be seen as a test of whether the United States and its allies could stop the expansion of the Islamic State and the humanitarian crimes that accompany it.

Cut emissions the cheaper, smarter way

Whether Republican state leaders like it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency is going to require them to cut their states’ greenhouse-gas emissions. They can choose to do it the easy way or the hard way. One Virginia Republican is proposing they choose the easy way — and the smart way.

A welcome legal review of marijuana use

A federal judge has done what Congress and the Obama administration have failed to do — open a discussion on whether marijuana should continue to be listed as a Schedule 1 drug, a classification that is supposed to be used only for the most dangerous, addictive drugs, such as heroin and LSD.

To Obama, family leave is a family value

In rolling out the issues he hopes will define the final two years of his administration, President Barack Obama has proposed two workplace initiatives: requiring companies with 15 or more employees to provide them seven days of sick leave per year to their full-time workers, and encouraging states to establish paid family leave programs for new parents or workers tending to family members with significant health issues. As with most such proposals, the devil will be in the details, but we believe the president is on the right track.

Free trade, and US role in Asia

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.

Judicial elections undermine confidence in justice system

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.

State of Union speech not as important as reaction

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.

Biting the hand

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.

Closing the income gap

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.

Obama puts war on hold

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.

Holder, Justice Department right to revise treatment of media

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.

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A 21st-century Supreme Court

“On November 10, 1893, The Washington Post identified an emerging technology that was reshaping American society: Pneumatics!” This is how Chief Justice John Roberts began his 2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, in which he announced a long-overdue move to put court documents online. But he stopped well short of embracing other obvious improvements, such as live video or audio from the Supreme Court chamber. “The courts will always be prudent whenever it comes to embracing the ‘next big thing,’ ” he wrote.

Repression continues in Cuba

A Cuban performance artist named Tania Bruguera planned a simple event for Tuesday: She would set up a microphone in Havana’s Revolution Square and invite anyone who wished to step up and talk about the country’s future. Dozens of dissidents planned to participate under the slogan “I also demand” — which might be taken as an allusion to their exclusion from the secret normalization negotiations conducted by the Obama administration and the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro.

Petrobras scandal gusher could drown Rousseff and Brazil

Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run oil giant, is now engulfed in a scandal befitting its size — a multibillion-dollar miasma of bribery, larceny and political chicanery. How newly re-elected President Dilma Rousseff responds may decide not only her fate but also, to exaggerate only slightly, that of Brazil itself.

Students lose out in university numbers game

If you thought the deluge of holiday catalogs and charitable solicitations this season was overwhelming, consider what high school seniors confronted this fall: hundreds of mailers from colleges and universities suggesting that they apply and implying they might have a shot, even if they haven’t met a school’s high standards.

Venezuela’s shock

A lot of people were caught off guard by the sudden announcement of rapprochement in U.S.-Cuban relations this month, but probably none more so than Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro’s regime is a de facto satellite of Havana: Thousands of Cuban operatives are seeded in its security services and, in a deal that has long propped up the Castro regime, Venezuela supplies Cuba with 100,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for the services of a few thousand doctors.

Ebola’s lessons

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa this year came as a surprise. Perhaps no one could have predicted that such a terrible scenario would unfold. But over the past decade, there have been four major outbreaks of infectious disease caused by a virus: severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS; swine flu; Middle East respiratory syndrome; and now Ebola. Each has taken populations by surprise. Next time, the world should not be gobsmacked. It is possible to be better prepared, be more aware of the potential threats and not start from zero every time the alarm goes off.