- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

May 2

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on Benghazi email as a smoking gun:

The Obama administration - and likely 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton - keep wishing the Benghazi mess will vanish.

Or, failing that, they hope to spin it as a fantasy of right-wing nut jobs.

But facts are stubborn things.

They’re hard to erase. And you never know when they’ll catch up to you.

Like (last) week.

“A newly released email shows that White House officials sought to shape the way Susan E. Rice, then the ambassador to the United Nations, discussed the Middle East chaos that was the context for the attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012,” one major news organization reported.

Nope. That’s not a report from Fox News.

It’s from the New York Times.

The Times reported that an email dated Sept. 14, 2012, from Benjamin J. Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was sent to Ms. Rice ahead of her controversial appearances on several Sunday morning news talk shows three days after the attacks that resulted in the slaying of four Americans, including J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Libya.

The subject of the email was: “PREP CALL with Susan.” The president’s lieutenant gave directions to Ms. Rice on how to discuss the tensions boiling over in parts of the Middle East. Especially pertinent are two goals:

- “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

- “To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

That the White House would issue such orders - to Ms. Rice and others on Obama’s team - is no huge shock.

The president was running for re-election; a big part of his platform was that America was winning the war on terrorism. So it was in his political interest to play up the possibility that a third-rate video sparked the violence that left four Americans murdered.

What is surprising is that these directions were typed and emailed. That made them subject to being ferreted out, thanks to one of the best tools available to uncover facts in our democracy - the Freedom of Information Act.

Governments can run from what they do. But thanks to this splendid, nonpartisan measure, they can’t hide.

The conservative group Judicial Watch used it to dig up this smoking gun on Benghazi. It shows that political considerations played a role in how the Obama administration, including then-Secretary of State Clinton, laid out the facts to the American public.

Not surprisingly, White House press secretary Jay Carney, in a heated briefing, dismissed the email as irrelevant.

Thus the spin continues.

Meanwhile, three family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack have written to House Speaker John Boehner, demanding that a select committee be established to probe the attack.

So far, Boehner has only authorized House committees to investigate. Given the latest revelation - which even the Times couldn’t ignore - it’s time to stop the obfuscation and begin to root out everything.

Americans can be trusted with the truth, even if some politicians can’t.

Online:

http://savannahnow.com

___

May 4

The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on the wages of politics:

Now that we think of it, maybe it would be best to have legislators stay home during an election year.

That’s not doable, of course, particularly in Congress, where a third of senators and all representatives are up for re-election every two years. But based on the ideas we see proposed at the state and federal levels, it’s clear most even-year legislation is aimed not at solving real-world issues but getting in the heads of voters before they cast a ballot.

Today we’ll train that notion on the push in Washington to raise the minimum wage to a nationwide standard of $10.10 an hour, up from the current $7.25.

A bill proposed last week by Senate Democrats would raise the rate incrementally, first to $8 then up to 10 bucks and a dime over time. It was stalled by minority Republicans through a filibuster, the party-line 54-42 vote not enough to bring it to a vote.

The arguments for and against a minimum wage hike fall along those lines: Democrats claim those who work for such pay can’t make ends meet and deserve a raise; Republicans cite the likelihood it will cost jobs and hurt small businesses.

While we acknowledge how difficult it is for some to live on such meager pay, we tend to agree with the latter argument that the damage done by such a move would counteract its benefits.

That said, back to our original point: Last week’s bill, like others previously proposed, was clearly aimed at voters during an election year. Democrats know that by having their plan rejected, they can again paint the GOP as the party of rich bullies and stir up their voting base. Same as it ever was.

The debate boils down to an economic quandary: What is the tipping point for labor costs at which businesses will be forced to cut jobs, hurting rather than helping those who need them most?

A Congressional Budget Office report said a higher rate would reduce employment by about 500,000 workers from among 28 million Americans who earn minimum wage. That’s about 1.4 percent of such workers, if accurate, not a huge percentage. Yet is it worth it to put half a million people out of work so the others can buy a little bit more?

Backers claim the evidence of lost jobs is not evident in states that have raised their base pay beyond the federal level. That’s a valid argument, but not for raising it across the board nationwide. What it proves, instead, is that the different economies throughout such a large and diverse nation are not best served by a one-size-fits-all federal mandate.

Minimum wages indeed are higher in several states and cities, mostly those with growing, vibrant economies that can withstand the costs. Just last week, Seattle’s mayor proposed raising that city’s floor wage to $15 an hour. It may be that such an upscale city can handle that bump without massive job loss or inflation (though it’s worth noting that one of the city council members pushing this is an avowed socialist likely unconcerned by the impact on free markets).

States that have raised their minimums include California, Minnesota, Connecticut and Maryland, all boasting healthier economies not dragged down by manufacturing slumps or lost industries that have slowed the recovery elsewhere.

So perhaps the best way to deal with the minimum wage is what is already being done: Let it be decided on the local and state level. As with so many other policy decisions, it gives everyone more input and doesn’t force one part of the country to unfairly meet standards set by another.

The downside of raising the wage to a higher level in areas where economies remain shaky is not hard to see. Small businesses who already are just scraping by can only afford to pay so much. Many already are dealing with higher costs for health insurance, as imposed by the Affordable Care Act (those with enough employees to qualify; some have cut back on staff or made many full-timers part time to avoid such measures).

If you own a small business and can’t afford to raise the pay of your 15 workers, you might trim back to 10 or 12. That means putting a few workers out of jobs, those who need that pay the most. The unemployment rate has been falling in the state and nation, but a federally imposed pay hike surely would bump it back up.

The other alternative for businesses is to raise the cost of goods and services to absorb the higher labor costs. Yet that could drive away customers, leaving less money flowing into everyone’s pockets. At a time when the economy is showing signs of real recovery, it’s unwise to knock it down by forcing such difficult choices.

And keep in mind a large number of wage workers are young, entry-level employees who need workplace experience more than they do a paycheck. A higher rate that leads to labor cuts would keep many young people from being able to find summer jobs.

The best way to reduce poverty is not with government policy requirements but through the creation of more good-paying, private-sector jobs that can better support families. And the way to do that is to decrease burdens on businesses big and small and maintain a climate in which the economy can grow, prices can stay low and money is flowing freely.

When that happens, those who have mouths to feed and the experience to fill such jobs can leave the minimum wage positions to teens and college students who only need pizza money and a little job seasoning.

At the very least, our national leaders should discuss this issue with clear eyes and honestly discuss its potential effects, pro and con, rather than just play election year “gotcha” as a cheap stunt to gain voters.

Good intentions mean little when they’re wrapped in self-interest and dishonesty for the sake of political gain.

Online:

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com

___

May 6

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on a valid veto:

Gov. Nathan Deal absolutely did the right thing in vetoing a severely flawed private probation services bill this past week.

Had it become state law, House Bill 837 would have shielded key information kept by private probation firms from the Open Records Act.

“I favor more transparency over private probation services,” Deal said.

The restriction of public information alone was enough to warrant the veto. But this lobbyist-driven legislation also would have foolishly expanded the power of for-profit companies. The industry has come under fire for abusive practices against misdemeanor probationers who are supervised by these companies.

A civil rights lawsuit filed by local residents against Sentinel Offender Services is pending. Deal made reference to the case during his veto.

“It is my understanding that the Supreme Court of Georgia has under its consideration an appeal that would address the role of private probation services,” he wrote. “This legislation seeks to have a pre-emptive impact on any decision in that appeal.”

Plaintiffs in the Sentinel case allege the firm’s practices have resulted in low-income probationers being falsely arrested, wrongful imprisoned and subject to fines and fees that can lead to a continuous cycle of debt and longer probation terms.

Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Craig ruled last fall that private probation firms are not permitted under state law to ask judges to extend probation sentences beyond their original terms or to provide electronic monitoring services. Sentinel’s attorneys have appealed Craig’s ruling. Richmond County State Court judges have filed briefs in support of Sentinel’s position.

H.B. 837 was created in response to Craig’s ruling and influenced by the eight lobbyists employed by the Private Probation Association of Georgia during the legislative session.

Ironically, provisions that could have prevented abusive tactics or increased public accountability were stripped from the bill in a Senate committee headed by Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, a state court judge candidate who has political ties to the private probation and bail bonding industries.

Stone was the only local delegate to vote in favor of H.B. 837.

But a round of applause is in order for our nine other area legislators who rightfully voted “no” on this bill that civil rights groups called a “gift” to the private probation industry.

This page favors privatization of government services where it is appropriate. But we can’t support giving judiciary-like authority to private firms whose profits are tied to incarcerations, probation-term extensions and “services” such as electronic monitoring.

There’s just too much opportunity and incentive for abuse.

The state’s high court is expected to issue an opinion on Judge Craig’s ruling. We pray the court will say private companies can’t unilaterally alter probation terms - especially without the probationer’s knowledge. That’s a frightening delegation of power.

We’re sorry to see the extent to which lawmakers threw the people of Georgia under the special-interest bus. It’s an outrage.

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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