Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Seattle Times on food stamp legislation:
Too many Americans are still out of work to justify cuts to the food stamp program. Democrats and Republicans banded together in the Senate to defeat an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to slash spending on the program nearly in half.
Still, a version of the 2012 Farm Bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee and being debated by the Senate floor contains a $4.5 billion reduction over the next decade to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program budget. The cuts aren't as steep as Paul's proposal and they represent a fraction of the federal program's $80 billion a year spending. But it would nonetheless be a devastating blow to poor families. ...
An amendment restoring cuts, offered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is the best solution. Her amendment would not add to the deficit. Restoring cuts to the food stamp program would be paid for by capping subsidies to the highly profitable crop insurance companies. ...
Participation in the food stamps program is high. That's understandable given widespread unemployment.
Congress must reduce spending. But this isn't the time to cut food benefits ...
Food stamps are one of the most effective first lines of defense against hunger. Nearly half of food stamp recipients are children. ...
At a time when much of America's focus is rightly trained on education, it is worth reminding the Senate that children with empty stomachs are less likely to do well in school. ...
The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times on surveillance drones:
Americans are leery about the use of domestic drones as the Federal Aviation Administration takes on the task of developing plans to open U.S. skies to the domestic use of the unmanned aircraft by police, other agencies and individuals.
The FAA licenses a limited use of drones now, but it has been directed to identify six sites for testing how drones can be safely integrated into national airspace along with civilian and military aircraft. It has a September 2015 deadline for defining the regulations that would greatly expand their use. The FAA will draft rules setting limits on size, flight restrictions and who is permitted to operate drones.
The Department of Homeland Security uses drones to patrol the northern and southern borders. Domestic drones vary in size from a few ounces to larger ones resembling those used to conduct surveillance and other military operations overseas. Law enforcement officials see the drones already in use as a low-cost alternative to helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to conduct search-and-rescue operations, investigating an accident scene or other surveillance ...
Those uses would be all right with the majority of Americans, according to a poll by the Monmouth University Polling Institute. ... But the majority of Americans were less supportive of drones for other traditional policing activities. ...
Four out of five had some concerns about their privacy, which is understandable given the possibility that in the next few years there could be thousands of high-tech drones flying unnoticed overhead.
Houston Chronicle on weather service and hurricanes:
Every summer, hurricanes threaten millions, if not billions, of dollars in economic damage, and dozens, hundreds or even thousands of deaths. Hurricanes cannot be negotiated with; they cannot be prevented; they cannot be stopped. They are inexorable forces of nature, and the only defenses we have are quick evacuation routes, properly constructed buildings and drainage, and the meteorologists at the National Weather Service. So news that NWS workers may have to go on furlough during the height of hurricane season provokes alarming thoughts.
The NWS has spent the past several years "reprogramming" its funds, transferring $35 million away from certain projects in order to cover its payroll. There is no evidence of fraud or personal gain, just an agency trying to bridge the structural deficit between congressional funding and employee payroll, which makes up about 70 percent of the NWS budget ... unless Congress provides extra money or repurposes current funding, the NWS may have to furlough thousands weather service forecasters or even temporarily shutter some offices. ...
While the current National Weather Service sits within the Department of Commerce, the national security and safety issues related to weather should not be ignored. Every summer raises the specter of that question: Will this be the year of a Category 5?
Our country is appropriately alert to any threats of terrorism, but let's not forget that some of the greatest threats to our homeland security come not from bands of terrorists but from the west coast of Africa, where nascent weather patterns grow into destructive and deadly tropical storms. ...
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, on the middle class:
The middle class is getting lots of love on the campaign trail these days.
When he spoke at Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Campus recently, President Barack Obama declared that this election marks a "make-or-break moment for the middle class." Republican Mitt Romney said in New Hampshire that he's running to give "the middle class of America a fair shot."
It's hard to argue with those sentiments. ...
The collective impact of the recession that began in 2007 and turned into a full-blown meltdown in the fall of 2008 can be seen most starkly in figures released by the Federal Reserve. The central bank calculates that the median net worth of American families fell 39 percent — from $126,400 to $77,300 — between 2007 and 2010. Families were left roughly where they were two decades earlier.
So, yes, helping the middle class ought to be a central theme in this year's campaign. But so far, we have heard mostly warmed-over partisan bromides. ...
So instead of partisan wish lists, how about some common sense?
Obama needs to talk about reforming entitlements. Romney needs to acknowledge that a long-term plan to balance the budget will require more revenue. ...
A serious, results-oriented discussion might not excite their bases. But it just might accelerate the recovery the middle class needs so much more than rhetorical love.
Journal & Courier, Lafayette, Ind., on the "You're Not Special" graduation speech:
By now, you've probably heard about the graduation speech offered by David McCullough, an English teacher at Wellesley High School outside Boston.
It has become known as the "You're Not Special" speech, thanks to a passage in which McCullough said the following:
"Contrary to what your soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh-grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader swooped in to save you ... you're nothing special.
"Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you ... But do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not."
Seemingly minutes after the ceremony, the speech went viral and moms and dads coast-to-coast were offended, as was a onetime presidential hopeful ...
Perhaps what McCullough was attempting to do was help the graduates understand that the real world is not as forgiving as the cocoon in which they have been living. It is tough out there. ...
The Miami Herald on the U.S. Postal Service:
As the U.S. Postal Service struggles to balance its books under pressure from congressional rules that have required it to pay more up front for its workers' pensions than most businesses, the quasi-private/public agency has come up with a "solution" that smacks of a monopolistic pricing arrangement that would favor one national direct mail media company and hurt community newspapers big and small.
More than two dozen members of Congress — led by U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, and including Florida Rep. Connie Mack — have written Postmaster General Patrick Donahue to ask for a "detailed justification" for the proposed deal. The Newspaper Association of America also asked the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission to nix the proposal between the Postal Service and the Valassis company.
The problem isn't the discounted rate, per se — if that rate were applied in a manner that's fair to competitors. But the way the rules have been written, the deal essentially grants one company postage rebates ranging from 20 percent to 36 percent for new mailings containing advertising by national retailers ...
It's a lose-lose proposition. ... To have one special deal for a single national company raises questions about anti-trust shenanigans. The courts would have to make that call, of course, but it's vexing that the Postal Service would view this one-size-fits-only-one-company proposal as a fair and profitable deal. It's not. ...
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on jobs for youth:
It's summertime, but the living ain't easy — especially for teenagers on the job hunt. Fewer than three in 10 American teens now spend June through August working the jobs that have traditionally belonged to the youth, such as busing tables or working cash registers.
Employment rates for 16- to 19-year-olds are at the lowest level since World War II, The Associated Press reported recently.
We already knew that we live in a country where application pools for entry-level jobs are teeming with the overqualified; where job fairs touting underpaid positions draw in crowds by the hundreds. But now, it is also one where a 16-year-old can no longer expect to bag groceries all summer, watching those precious minimum-wage paychecks add up in their college fund.
These lower-skill jobs once filled by high school students now go to college graduates, immigrants and the recently laid-off, struggling to pay off loans and support families in a weak economy.
What's even more frightening is that teen employment may never return to pre-recession levels, according to a projection by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The work ethic that was instilled in many at a young age may now be lost with the rising generation, the consequences of which we likely won't learn until they take the helm of the working world. ...
But Americans were smacked with another unpleasant statistic: The average tuition at four-year public universities rose a whopping 15 percent between 2008 and 2010 — faster than the cost of health care. ...
So what are teens supposed to do, when work is nearly impossible to get, and public university tuition, along with loan interest rates, continue to rise? These are problems that cannot be ignored in the upcoming election. ...
San Francisco Chronicle on Rodney King:
Rodney King was a most unlikely — and imperfect — symbol for this nation's unfinished business with civil rights. On March 3, 1991, he was doing what he did all too often in his troubled life: He was breaking the law, driving 100 mph with law enforcement in hot pursuit.
King, who died Sunday at age 47, forever will be remembered as the man whose brutal beating at the hands of four Los Angeles police officers shredded anyone's illusion about this nation's state of race relations. The grainy videotape was a "gotcha" moment for African Americans and other minorities whose complaints of the routine indignities they experience from law enforcement tended to fall on deaf ears from a society in denial.
The rage on Los Angeles' streets that followed the acquittal of the officers the following year — by a Simi Valley jury that included no African Americans — stunned many Americans who were oblivious to the tensions of race and class that existed outside their comfortable communities. More than 50 people were killed and 600 buildings destroyed in the six days of riots — which some people to this day insist should be called "the insurrection."
It was left to King, showing signs of speech impairment from the beating, to offer the defining appeal for calm as the city burned: "Can we all get along?"
The verdicts and riots led to searing national introspection about race relations, about police procedures and the pain and perils of income inequality. In the ensuing years, King never quite found peace or vanquished the demons that brought him to a moment that jarred and divided us in those difficult days of 1992.
Neither has this nation.
The Daily Star, Lebanon, on Egypt:
Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised they would transfer power to the new president by the end of June, following the decree it issued under which it maintains significant powers until a new constitution is written, limiting the power of that president.
Inspection of SCAF's decree reveals that the military has not only given itself power to potentially form the committee that will write the constitution, but also legislative power until a new parliament is elected.
It has mandated its head as the head of the army, rather than the president, until a new constitution, clauses of which it has given itself veto power over, is written.
This decree will heavily circumscribe the power of the future president, and is being seen by many as a pre-emptive coup to ward against the possibility that Egypt's Islamists will triumph in elections. It follows the military's decision to dissolve the parliament, in which the Muslim Brotherhood gained a majority in elections six months ago. ...
This situation does not bode well for a country that's in dire need of, firstly, security and stability so that people can return to work and the government can begin attempts to revive the dying economy, bridge the country's deficit and attract investors.
Egypt's spring revolution may yet turn into an autumn for the country, thanks to the immature and undemocratic manner in which political matters have been carried out, whereby hopes for a smooth transition to civilian rule have not only been dashed, but have created a deadlock, the end of which nobody can foresee. ..
To continue on the current path creates a real threat of violence, which many fear certain parties would like to see erupt in Egypt. The price of that will be colossal for all.
London Evening Standard on the Eurozone crisis:
The eurozone crisis had a temporary reprieve before chaos returned to the markets because of renewed uncertainty, this time about Spain. There was initial relief about the results of the Greek election, which saw the New Democracy party, which is willing to accept an austerity deal to remain in the euro, get three per cent more of the vote than the radical Syriza party. That translates into far more seats in parliament for the winning party, enough for a coalition with the socialists.
Meanwhile, the French socialists' victory in yesterday's parliamentary elections should give us pause. Following François Hollande's win in last month's presidential election, last night's results give him huge power. He should have little difficulty getting his tax-and-spend policies passed. Hollande is committed to reducing France's deficit, but the program for doing so has been extended to 2017. In addition he is fulfilling campaign promises to reduce the pension age in some sectors and hire 60,000 more teachers.
But where does this leave the Franco-German alliance? The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is clear that a long-term resolution of the eurozone crisis lies in a fiscal union which would require all economies in the single currency to harmonize their fiscal policies and budgets. The French president would appear to have other plans. How will Merkel's plans for a fiscal union for the entire eurozone work if even her closest partner has quite different objectives?
Both Merkel and Hollande are pragmatists and may square their different priorities. It's not going to be so easy for the new Greek government to get its way with Germany. ...
For now, a chaotic breakup of the euro has been averted — but perhaps only postponed.
China Daily, Beijing, on G20 policy:
A slim victory for pro-Europe parties in the Greek election has saved the G20 leaders the trouble of making their two-day summit in Mexico a crisis management meeting.
It was widely believed that a disorderly Greek exit from the euro would unleash global financial turmoil.
That is why Chinese President Hu Jintao deemed Europe's debt crisis "an issue of general concern" and urged the other G20 members to "encourage and support efforts made by Europe to resolve it and send a signal of confidence to the markets".
But the leaders of the world's largest advanced and emerging economies shouldn't breathe a sigh of relief simply because the worst-case scenario seems to have been avoided. The pro-Europe vote does not mean the problems of Greece will be over anytime soon, as Europe is yet to find a real solution for its debt crisis.
With the risks of recession still rising, the G20 leaders should realize that the stakes are higher than ever as the latest crisis tests their determination and power to promote world economic stability, recovery and growth.
In the wake of the 2008-09 global financial crisis the G20 leaders quickly coordinated global moves to support growth through large stimulus packages and aggressive interest-rate cuts by central banks. And their strong leadership helped reverse that global downturn.
Unfortunately, almost four years later, global leaders have to brace themselves for a possible worldwide lending freeze similar to the one that happened when Lehman Brothers went under in September 2008.
However, while recognizing the urgency for strong and swift actions to prevent the eurozone debt crisis from spilling over into the rest of the world, G20 leaders should also begin to focus their efforts on deeper reforms to reinvigorate growth, especially in those debt-laden rich countries. ...
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on gender equality:
A recent survey of G20 countries found that the most developed economies also have the greatest gender equity. Canada tops the list, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom.
The study reveals, yet again, the strong correlation between sustainable growth and development, on the one hand, and gender equity on the other. A country cannot progress until it includes women in the labor market in a meaningful way, removes barriers to their advancement and offers them the same opportunities for education and health care as men.
Nowhere is this more true than in India, a vital democracy with an emerging economy which came dead last in the survey, conducted by Thomson Reuters Foundation in advance of the G20 summit... Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently noted that India's most underutilized resource is women, who compose only one-third of the labor force.
A panel of 379 experts ranked the 20 nations on several factors, including women's and girls' access to state resources, participation in politics, quality of health, freedom from violence and freedom from slavery and sex trafficking. ...
Also lagging in the survey are Mexico, China, South Africa and Indonesia. Saudi Arabia was second-to-last. Despite being an oil-rich country with good access to education and health, the participation of women in political and economic life is severely curtailed.
The best way to transform such a society is to convince government and the private sector of the business case for the advancement of women. Among other persuasive arguments is that educated and empowered women are better positioned to ensure that their own children — regardless of gender — are raised in a way that prepares them to succeed, helping to ensure the next generation is positioned to enhance productivity and competitiveness.
... Sustainable development isn't possible when half a nation's work force cannot fulfill its potential.