- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

Jan. 20

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on America’s economic freedom:

You can now say America’s free economy is a “mostly free” economy.

It’s official - the United States has fallen from the list of the world’s top 10 freest economies. The newly released 2014 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal places the United States at No. 12, down two spots from No. 10 last year.

The United States is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom in each of the past seven years, starting with the tail end of the Bush administration and continuing through the Obama presidency.

“Now considered only a ‘mostly free’ economy, the U.S. has earned the dubious distinction of having recorded one of the longest sustained declines in economic freedom, second only to Argentina, of any country in the (20-year) history of the Index,” observe the report’s editors, Ambassador Terry Miller, Anthony B. Kim, and Kim Holmes, Ph.D., all Heritage Foundation scholars.

It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out the underlying causes to our decline, but experts lay them out anyway: reckless government spending, onerous regulations, bureaucratic red tape, the nationalization of American industries, trillion-dollar annual deficits and, the latest and greatest, Obamacare.

“Implementation of the health care law passed in 2010 has hit major snags and appears to be significantly hurting job creation and full-time employment,” the editors write.

If you’re wondering about our current standing in the world, the United States is now sandwiched behind No. 11 Estonia and No. 13 Bahrain.

The top 10 (in order of rank) are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Ireland and Denmark. The top six are in the “free” economic category.

So, in a nutshell, nonstop expansion of the state is causing our economic freedoms to plummet.

“Substantial expansion in the size and scope of government, including through new and costly regulations in areas like finance and health care, has contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom,” the index editors write.

How can the trend be reversed? By making it easier for Americans to acquire wealth, for starters. Don’t let over-regulation smother our nation’s legendary entrepreneurial spirit.

If the United States suffers another drop in this ranking next year, citizens’ economic suffering could continue for many more years to come.

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

___

Jan. 17

The Telegraph, Macon, Ga., on election year posturing on education has begun:

Gov. Nathan Deal’s State of the State message, delivered Wednesday, hit some high notes concerning education — and it’s about time. State lawmakers have eviscerated public education funds for close to a decade. Deal, while not giving teachers a raise, something that’s mandated by the state, does have some increases for teacher training and experience. He plans to send $300 million to local districts through QBE formula, increase funding for transportation and vouchers and give $25 million in grants for digital education and wi-fi enhancements. Any dime will help — if it actually happens. The budget will be sliced and diced by a General Assembly that has shown itself to be anti-public education.

School districts have had to take drastic measures to keep afloat. Seventy-one percent of the state’s districts have cut school calendars to less than 180 days.

It gets worse, 85 percent of the state’s schools have increased class sizes since 2009; 83 percent have used reserve funds to operate and are now coming up empty. While school populations have increased, there are 8,982 fewer teachers than in 2009, and fewer instructional support staff.

Seventy percent of Georgia’s school districts have cut instructional support staff: counselors, social workers, media specialists, psychologists, etc. Bibb County had the third-largest reduction in the state.

Read the entire study at: http://gbpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Cutting-Class-to-Make-Ends-Meet.pdf

Georgia is already behind in educational achievement. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Georgia’s eighth-graders rank 40th in math, 31st in science, 34th in reading and 27th in writing, all the while the nation trails other developed countries in the world.

Will lawmakers respond? Some are still sleeping below decks. According to the PAGE Report from the Capitol, state School Superintendent John Barge had to appear before House and Senate members to outline the state’s educational budget less than an hour after he received the 430-page document.

Sen. Bill Heath, R-Breman, wanted Barge to say teacher furloughs were the result of “poor spending priorities of local school systems” rather than state budget cuts. Barge did not budge and the study supports him. Lawmakers are already busy trying to avoid a hammer that may be headed their way in this year’s elections, but a bigger hammer is headed for everybody if they do not act.

Online:

http://www.macon.com

___

Jan. 17

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on Benghazi bungling:

Up until now, critics of the Obama administration’s mishandling of the events leading up to the murders of four Americans in Benghazi in 2012 were lambasted by the president’s defenders as right-wing crazies who were trying to derail the president’s re-election effort.

After Wednesday, they need a new script.

A long-delayed, bipartisan, 58-page report by the Senate Intelligence Committee faulted the administration and the intelligence community for not preventing attacks on two outposts in this Libyan city - a diplomatic compound and a CIA annex.

As a result, people were killed, including U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

“The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya - to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets - and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” the Senate panel said in a statement.

This conclusion flies in the face of what the administration initially reported. It also contradicts much of the picture that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton painted of the events before and after this outrage.

What’s unclear from this scathing report is why Ms. Clinton was caught napping.

The person who’s now considered the leading Democratic contender in the 2016 presidential race was in charge of the State Department when Americans died preventable deaths. She has never fully explained herself.

Democrats and Republicans alike on the Senate committee shared in the unvarnished critique of the Benghazi bungling. Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the ranking GOP member on the panel, was blunt: “In spite of the deteriorating security situation in Benghazi and ample strategic warnings, the United States government simply did not do enough to prevent these attacks and ensure the safety of those serving in Benghazi.”

There’s ample blame to go around.

But the biggest lapse was in Washington.

State Department officials naturally tried to downplay this report; careers are at stake. While it’s reassuring to know that the State Department learned from its tragic errors in 2012 and is working to prevent them from recurring, that doesn’t eliminate this horrible black eye. Or excuse the bungling.

Online:

http://savannahnow.com

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