The United States has unsuccessfully opposed some of its key allies’ decisions to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
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Payday lending is capitalism at its unloveliest. It’s a business that wouldn’t even exist if the market were providing everyone with enough income to meet their needs — yet 12 million adults, the vast majority of them low-income, resorted to short-term, high-interest loans to cover cash shortages in 2010. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a typical borrower takes out eight payday loans a year totaling $3,000, paying about $520 in interest. Not infrequently, borrowers pay off old payday loans with new ones, creating a pyramid of debt that ends in default.
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.
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.
A locked cockpit door, a commonsense post-9/11 security measure, gave the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 all the time he needed to deliberately crash the aircraft in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Members of the U.S. Senate are making a mockery of important legislation to help victims of human trafficking. If Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., doesn’t intervene, he risks much-deserved criticism his caucus is bandying women’s health issues around for political gain.
Congress is within reach of trashing the old and unworkable formula that Medicare uses to pay doctors. By itself, this is what it sounds like — a bureaucratic maneuver that matters little to anyone but the doctors who treat Medicare patients. The system that Congress replaces it with, however, could represent a big step forward in improving the quality, and lowering the cost, of everyone’s health care.
At this point, the best solution to the staggeringly brutal but seemingly stalemated civil war in Syria is probably a diplomatic one. But with support for Syrian President Bashar Assad by China and, more reliably, Russia, diplomacy so far has failed. As permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, they have exercised their vetoes four times to block actions against Syria, including one that would have referred war crime allegations to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. They did sign off on resolutions calling on member nations to supply humanitarian aid to Syria, demanding an end to attacks on civilians and authorizing aid workers to enter Syria without Assad’s permission. But human rights groups and a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon say member nations have failed to deliver. And Assad and various rebel forces continue to target civilians, observers say.
Benjamin Netanyahu chose to call an early election in Israel in the hope that he could strengthen his hold on power. On Wednesday he appeared to have achieved his aim, but only after striking troubling positions that alarmed Israel’s neighbors and its Western allies — and that could come back to haunt his next government.
Here’s the United States’ fiscal predicament in a nutshell: Under current law, the publicly held debt of the federal government will increase by 4.5 percent of gross domestic product over the next decade, to a historically anomalous 78.7 percent of GDP. Thereafter, the debt will grow steadily, exceeding 100 percent of GDP in 2039, due chiefly to medical and retirement programs for an aging population, plus interest payments. The Congressional Budget Office, which produced these forecasts, says this scenario would have “significant negative consequences for both the economy and the federal budget.” It’s a future in which entitlements and interest gradually squeeze out core functions of the national government such as defense, law enforcement, national parks and basic research.
Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State has raised fears of terrorism spreading across middle Africa. Yet such anxieties threaten to overshadow a larger and less hypothetical threat: that Nigeria’s upcoming elections will spark widespread unrest in Africa’s leading power.