- Associated Press - Friday, October 21, 2016

Excerpts of recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England newspapers:

The (Meriden) Record-Journal (Conn.), Oct. 20, 2016

Back in March, when the wild and woolly Republican Presidential primary was in full-swing, we pondered what the general election campaign might look like if the bombastic Donald Trump was still in the mix.

We wrote in this space: “If Trump is to be the GOP nominee, as heated as his campaign stops have been thus far, we shudder to think what his rallies may look like in the fall.”

Turned out our concerns were justified.

With Trump’s presidential hopes sinking under the weight of his unpolished debate performances, demeaning talk about women and allegations of sexual misconduct, the Republican standard-bearer’s campaign has taken a dark turn.

Trump is telling his followers the election is rigged. The real estate mogul says his opponent Hillary Clinton belongs in jail. He rails against international bankers, Washington elites and the media.

And Wednesday night, in the final presidential debate, Trump said, if Clinton were to win the election, he would not necessarily accept the results. “I will look at it at the time,” the GOP nominee told moderator Chris Wallace.

Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters are taking this all in, and they’re angry. They feel they’ve been wronged by “Crooked Hillary” and Co.

Speaking of Clinton, Dan Bowman, a 50-year-old contractor, told The Boston Globe: “If she’s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot. That’s how I feel about it. We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed. But that’s what it’s going to take … I would do whatever I can for my country.”

Then there’s this tweet from Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a vocal Trump backer: “It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time.”

And Trump backers aren’t just talking tough. Two of them, carrying firearms, stood outside a Democratic campaign office in Virginia for nearly 12 hours last week because, well, it’s not exactly clear why.

“I’m just trying to provide a voice for someone who might be a closet supporter of Trump,” Daniel Parks, one of the protesters, said. “We’re not a threat to anybody, the only threat is ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear.”

With Election Day drawing ever closer, and Trump’s chances of becoming president fading, odds are great that the candidate’s rhetoric will only get more heated, and he’ll work his staunchest backers into even more of a lather.

He is playing a dangerous game.

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The Portland Press Herald (Maine), Oct. 18, 2016

For decades now, each successive generation of Americans has been less prepared for retirement than the one before, the result of a broken system that is leaving seniors with too little income in their golden years.

That’s why new ideas are needed for getting young workers to save even just a little each month, because while a slight majority of millennials say they are confident they’ll have adequate savings when it comes time to retire, the hard numbers say something very different.

According to a GenForward survey released recently, more than 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 30 have no retirement savings whatsoever.

They are part of a generation whose earning power has been clipped by rising college costs, stagnant wages and the Great Recession, so saving has been a low priority. But they are also facing fewer options.

Just 7 percent of the Americans aged 18 to 30 polled by GenForward have access to pensions: employer-based retirement plans with guaranteed and fixed payouts that were commonplace among private-sector workers until relatively recently.

As pensions faded in popularity, along with the union strength that won benefits for workers, employees were left to rely on 401(k) plans, which move the risk from employer to employee and do not offer fixed payouts.

But many workers are finding even those unavailable. From 1999 to 2011, the share of employees being offered an employer-based retirement account fell from 61 percent to 53 percent. The plans were particularly hard to find in the personal-services category - one of the largest sectors, and growing - and for young employees.

With that the case, millennials are looking at a stark future, and they don’t have to look far.

Forty percent of baby boomers have saved nothing for retirement, and only a quarter of Americans aged 55 to 64 will have enough savings. They’ll likely have to rely only on Social Security, with its declining value. Ultimately, 9 percent will face extreme poverty in retirement, and 24 percent will live in near-poverty.

That’s what happens when so many people don’t have the easy option of having retirement savings come, directly and automatically, out of their paycheck. And that’s why California’s plan is so intriguing.

California is now offering a state-run retirement program to nearly 7 million private-sector workers. Officials are still working out many of the details, but the plan will operate much like a 401(k), with little risk to the state, which won’t contribute and won’t have to cover losses.

Eventually, all companies with at least five employees will have to offer their own plan or enroll in the state plan, which will automatically enroll employees and start setting away 3 percent of pay, rising 1 percent annually until it reaches 8 percent, unless the employee opts out.

There is still a lot of unknowns with such a plan, but it would certainly provide a convenient way for everybody to save for retirement, not just those workers whose employers are among the shrinking number offering plans. Done correctly, it could replace the pensions lost to history, and Maine officials should keep an eye on it.

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The Lowell Sun (Mass.), Oct. 21, 2016

Millions of Social Security recipients were disappointed again this year with the news of their 2017 cost-of-living adjustment.

Of course, it’s designed by the federal government to be essentially a wash, since it’s tied to a broad price index generated the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If prices drop or remain level, there’s no cost-of-living increase. If prices rise, the rate of that increase is matched by a raise in benefits.

Though they’ll hardly notice it, the 70 million or so Americans who receive Social Security will see an increase of 0.3 percent, about $4 a month. That’s a departure from recent years, when recipients received no increases.

On paper, the system sounds equitable, but in reality, most seniors must view this as a losing battle. The price index measures the cost of food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

However, that’s a broad brush. Costs vary greatly by region. And for example, savings from lower gasoline prices may not benefit many seniors, who might rely on public transportation rather than private vehicles.

And if you live in New England, the elderly already have been warned about higher home-heating costs this winter, far in excess of that minuscule benefit pump.

This isn’t merely some statistical analysis for federal numbers crunchers. The fallout is profound, given the growing reliance on Social Security for retirement income.

According to the Social Security Administration, nearly 50 percent of retired married couples and 70 percent of single seniors rely on Social Security for at least 50 percent of their income.

And as we’re all well aware, that Social Security pot continues to dwindle, because the number of workers can’t keep up with the increase of retirees, due to radical changes in demographics.

In 1945, there were 42 workers for every recipient. That ratio decreased to 16-1 in 1950 and 2.8-1 in 2015. And within 50 years, there’ll be just two workers for every retiree.

So if current retirees think they’re getting the short end of the stick, imagine how workers in their 40s and 50s feel?

According to Social Security’s own estimates, without an increase in payroll taxes, the ability to pay recipients full benefits will cease in 2037, when the trust fund’s reserves are expected to run out. At that point, tax collections will only be able to pay about 75 percent of that total.

So for younger workers, who will likely pay more in taxes and receive less in retirement, you’ve been given fair warning. Make those full contributions to that IRA or 401(k), because you can’t rely on Social Security.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2eoXLFU

The Nashua Telegraph (N.H.), Oct. 20, 2016

Even the most loyal Donald Trump voters will admit their candidate has a well-documented case of foot-in-mouth disease, which has done nothing but embolden their support for the brash New York billionaire.

His recent bombastic language, however, about Hillary Clinton and the media rigging the Nov. 8 election should have all Americans concerned.

Trump posted several tweets over the last week about election rigging by a “dishonest and distorted media,” proving again it is easier for hard-line Republicans to attack the messenger instead of the message.

But his claims have mounted — it’s also the FBI and Department of Justice that have colluded with Clinton in a “rigged” system, according to an Oct. 17 post. Too many of his supporters widely believe the voting machines will be tainted, or just that the big, bad media is out to get him with “false allegations” of sexual assault.

“It looks to me like a rigged election,” Trump told a Portsmouth crowd last Saturday. “The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president.”

Trump’s claims are utter nonsense.

There is no evidence whatsoever that there is any massive conspiracy to keep Trump from the Oval Office, no matter how many tinfoil alt-right sites pretend the accusations are true.

To casually drop hints that the entire American system is fixed is dangerous and, frankly, unpatriotic. Trump supporters have to begin accepting the fact that they could lose this election fairly or else lead us on a dark road toward complete misinformation and open, hostile dissent against democratically elected leaders.

Many leading Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have attempted to walk back Trump’s comments, saying they will respect the results of the election. Even Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, on Wednesday told MSNBC she does not believe the election is rigged.

And yet top Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich continues to argue that without the media, The Donald would be up by 15 points.

On the contrary, if the press covered Trump like a presidential candidate during the first six to eight months of his campaign instead of like a ratings-driven circus clinging to every outrageous statement, he may not have made it out of the early voting states.

Furthermore, many of the battleground states Trump needs to win — among them Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and New Hampshire — all have Republican-led Legislatures. Other states have adopted tougher voter identification laws, which disproportionately impact Democrats, yet Clinton is not screaming from the rooftops about a rigged election.

The irony of Trump’s rigging claims is that only four presidential elections ago, Republicans blasted the Gore/Lieberman ticket, who won the 2000 popular vote, as “Sore Loserman” during an actual election scandal in Florida. Democrats put up a little stink but, for the sake of the country, put their party loyalties aside.

My, have times changed.

In the end, Trump’s inflammatory statements will only harm the faith many once had in our representative democracy, all because he cannot convince enough voters he is fit for the White House.

In New Hampshire, it’s just called being a sore loser, man.

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The Providence Journal (R.I.), Oct. 16, 2016

The announcement that singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, 75, had won the Nobel Prize for literature was quite a stunner. One had to double check to make sure the satirical website The Onion was not at work.

Considering some past literary Nobel laureates - Rudyard Kipling (1907), William Butler Yeats (1923), George Bernard Shaw (1925), Sir Winston Churchill (1953) and Toni Morrison (1993) - it seemed like a highly unusual choice.

And the prize indeed engendered a fair amount of controversy. Many were troubled that little-recognized and poorly compensated writers who labor over richly detailed and profoundly insightful poems and novels were shoved aside for a popular musician with a nasal voice (now a croak) who has received piles of money and reams of honors for his hit-or-miss songs: multiple Grammys, an Oscar, enshrinement in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even the presidential Medal of Freedom. It seemed to many a nod to aging hippies instead of literary art.

“As reading declines around the world, literary prizes are more important than ever. A big prize means a jump in sales and readership even for a well-known writer. But more than that, awarding the Nobel to a novelist or a poet is a way of affirming that fiction and poetry still matter, that they are crucial human endeavors worthy of international recognition,” Anna North complained in The New York Times.

Yet it is hard to argue against the notion that Mr. Dylan’s words - which transformed popular music - stirred people all over the world. He inspired a generation of musical artists, including the members of the Beatles, to write about more than the pangs of love.

His song lyrics pack a punch. “Like a Rolling Stone” blasted a spoiled woman who was forced to fend for herself. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” portrayed an apocalyptic landscape post-Cuban missile crisis. “The Times They Are a-Changing” seemed to point to the inevitability of the civil rights movement.

Other songs such as “Desolation Row” were so densely packed with Mr. Dylan’s peculiar ideas that their meaning was anyone’s guess - yet they struck people with such a force that mulling them over seemed a worthy effort.

The lyrics of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” arguably his greatest song, have a simplicity and profundity that remind one of Abraham Lincoln: “How many years can a mountain exist before it is washed to the sea? Yes, and how many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Phrases of his have entered the mainstream: “The times they are a-changing”; “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”; “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

“Hurricane” railed against what he saw as the unjust conviction of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. “Gotta Serve Somebody” voiced his service to God after his stunning conversion from Jewish atheism to born-again Christianity. “Things Have Changed” was his Oscar-winning song from the film “Wonder Boys.” ”Across the Green Mountain” was a tremendously moving, haunting song about the suffering of Americans during the Civil War. “Forever Young” was a beautiful wish for a child.

“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was a piercing attack on capitalism and consumerism: “Our preachers preach of evil fates, teachers teach that knowledge waits. Can lead to hundred-dollar plates, goodness hides behind its gates. But even the president of the United States, sometimes must have to stand naked.”

He made pop songs into literature. Which certainly argues in favor of his Nobel recognition.

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https://bit.ly/2erirvy

The Rutland Herald (Vt.), Oct. 19, 2016

Self-immolation is often the destiny of the dictator. In history, Hitler is the classic example. As defeat loomed, he took Germany down with him in a destructive inferno. In literature, the classic example is Macbeth, who waded in ever deeper, forced by the logic of his murderous path toward his own end.

To put Donald Trump into this category of great villains inflates his stature unjustly. He is too pathetic and hapless to rank highly among the catalogue of famous self-destructive lunatics. But the dynamic of his campaign shares the narcissism of the historic and literary strongman and the spiteful destructiveness of one intent on wreaking vengeance in defeat.

That is one way to interpret his baseless accusations that the election has been rigged against him. It is a fabrication made up to cover for his impending defeat, but not just to salve his wounded pride. In impugning the integrity of the nation’s democratic system, Trump seeks to inflict damage on democracy itself, undermining our faith in our elections, and bringing the system down in the ruins of his defeat.

There is explicit racism in his recent attacks. He urges his followers to go down to “certain neighborhoods,” by which he means the inner cities, to guard against voter fraud. Voter fraud, having proven to be virtually nonexistent, is code for black people voting. It has been the Republican strategy in recent years to prevent black people from voting, so Trump’s strategy is actually a crude vigilante’s expression of the GOP’s long-standing aim of voter suppression. But if his more thuggish supporters - like those sending death threats to newspapers - show up to intimidate voters, violence could be the result. (The violence occurring when someone bombed a Republican headquarters in North Carolina this week is an indefensible echo of the violent tone established by Trump.)

Most Americans understand what fair play means. In baseball, we respect the call of the umpire, even when we don’t agree. We play hard, and when we lose, we shake hands with the winners and say, “Good game.”

With defeat staring him in the face, Trump is threatening to blow up the stadium, metaphorically at least. It might be useful to remember how others in our history faced up to defeat. Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the election when the Supreme Court interfered with the vote count in Florida. If anyone had grounds to complain about the umpiring it was Gore. But he saw that the way the system was set up, he had lost, and he was gracious in defeat.

It is through magnanimous behavior of that sort that democracy survives. Winning politicians don’t throw their vanquished foes into jail, as they might in some countries and as Trump threatens to do. Losing politicians don’t whine (except, memorably, when Richard Nixon lost the race for governor of California in 1962. He got his revenge six years later, and then the system got its revenge six years after that).

It is one of the paradoxes of the election that Trump’s followers see him as strong when his behavior is patently that of a weakling, forced by his inadequacies to pump himself up, to bully and bluster. Whining about the election is the behavior of a loser.

His decline in recent weeks following allegations of sexual abuse should not have come as a surprise. What is surprising is that it took this long. He skated through the primaries, and the media, rather than acting as a grand conspiracy to thwart him, failed to shine a light on his history. When he was high in the polls, he touted the polls and he soaked up the media attention. When he is down in the polls, it is all a conspiracy.

Through it all Hillary Clinton has carried on like the Little Engine That Could, with a well-managed, serious campaign, working overtime not to be distracted by the psychodrama of Trump’s self-destruction. There will be a debate tonight, and viewers will probably be tuning in to view Clinton’s effort to maintain her dignity while her opponent covers himself in mud.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2e8q0GU

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