- Associated Press - Friday, December 1, 2017

Editorials from around New England:


The Rutland Herald, Dec. 1

Tax reform is one of those things that most Republicans and Democrats have long agreed ought to happen.

It was an area President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney agreed on during a debate in 2012.

Goodness knows it’s overdue. The last time the tax code was overhauled was 1986, when Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Tip O’Neill was speaker of the House and Bob Dole was Senate Majority Leader.

Conditions were different then because, among other things, the internet had not soiled our national debate and Republicans and Democrats were able to work together.

So yes, it’s been awhile.

Virtually everyone agrees the tax code is far too complicated and should be simplified. That’s a laudable goal that serves the public interest, with the possible exception of lawyers and accounts being paid by the hour. It’s one of the reasons both sides over the years have pushed to overhaul the system.

Where they disagree is on just what constitutes “reform.”

But since Republicans now control the White House and both chambers of Congress, the Democratic definition of reform is pretty much a moot point. Republicans are driving the bus.

A major Republican selling point is that tax reform will result in a huge decrease in taxes for the middle class. President Donald Trump even crowed that the proposed changes would be “the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.” As things are shaping up, it’s pretty clear that’s going to be yet another Trump lie, though a fairly mild one, as Trump falsehoods go.

Yes, many people would benefit from doubling the standard deduction and from a bigger child tax credit.

But the tax cut for the middle class called for under the GOP plan would be only for the short term for most people.

The Senate version of the bill eliminates that short-term individual tax cut after 2025, but keeps the tax cut for corporations.

Individual taxpayers would be wise to look at short-term tax cuts the same way they might consider one of those credit card offers that tout a 0 percent interest rate to get you in the tent, then jacks up the rate to 20 percent.

That’s the kind of deal being offered by Republicans. It allows them to claim they are lowering taxes, which provides something of a rhetorical cushion against charges that their plan favors the wealthy, which is exactly what it does.

But don’t take our word for it.

Writing in Forbes magazine, CPA Anthony Nitti concluded: “Sure, it looks like the middle class makes out just fine in year 1, but by the end of the decade, the plan is revealed for what it really is: a $900 billion corporate cut, a $400 billion break for non-corporate business owners, a $127 billion estate tax break, and what little is left over falls squarely in the pockets of the richest 1 percent.”

Congress also wants to eliminate deductions for state and local income taxes and the deduction for the interest you pay on your mortgage, so Vermonters would have that to look forward to if the bill passes.

A critical point to keep in mind when considering changes to the tax code is that if revenue raised remains roughly the same, almost every tax cut that accrues to someone must be offset by a tax increase imposed on someone else. It’s the way math works.

You’ll notice we said “almost.”

One way to get around that math problem is to put tax cuts on the national credit card, and this bill being rushed through Congress without so much as a hearing would add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt over the next decade.

Apparently those Republicans who fancy themselves fiscal hawks and rail against driving up the national debt feel more generous when the money is pouring into the bank accounts of their rich friends and the corporations who bankroll their campaigns.

In other words, the cost of cutting taxes for America’s billionaires and corporations would be borne by America’s unborn sometime in the future.

Because fiscal hawks turn chicken when the president crows.

Online: http://bit.ly/2zHCwGL



The Nashua Telegraph, Dec. 1

Conservative speaker Lucian Wintrich clearly should not have done what he did when protesters disrupted a speech he was trying to present Tuesday night at the University of Connecticut. To judge by a video showing the altercation, police were right to charge Wintrich with breach of the peace.

But there is more to the story.

Wintrich was attempting to deliver a speech titled, “It’s OK to be White.” Protesters already had disrupted the event with chants and boos.

Then a woman and man walked up to the podium Wintrich was using. The woman grabbed papers, probably notes for the speech, and retreated up an aisle. Wintrich followed, then grabbed her in what appeared to be an attempt to retrieve the papers. A brief altercation broke out and was stopped by police, who led Wintrich away and arrested him.

Also arrested was a student who broke a window in the building where Wintrich tried to speak. At this writing, no one had been arrested for setting off a smoke bomb in the building.

Nor had the woman who stole Wintrich’s papers, clearly provoking the confrontation, been charged.

University President Susan Herbst blamed “offensive remarks” by Wintrich and said he “appeared to grab an audience member .” She did not mention the woman who brought Wintrich’s speech to a halt.

Yes, Wintrich was wrong. But so were those who refused to allow him the freedom to speak. So was the woman who clearly was the aggressor in this case.

Herbst and others at the university insist they stand for freedom of speech for everyone.

But do they, really?

Online: http://bit.ly/2Ao8yst



The Bangor Daily News, Nov. 29

When a Republican, Democrat and independent all oppose something, you know it is a bad idea. Such is the case with a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality. That plan is opposed by Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Rep. Chellie Pingree.

“The open Internet has changed the way Americans conduct their business, pursue their education, and interact with their communities. It’s a vital part of 21st century life, and a critical driver of a modern economy,” King said in a statement sent to the Bangor Daily News. “The proposed repeal of net neutrality threatens those advancements by putting speed and availability of information for sale to the highest bidder - a simply unacceptable approach, which will stifle innovation and slow the creation of new businesses.”

Net neutrality is a concept that aims to ensure equal access to the internet for consumers, by barring internet providers from discriminating among content and applications. The FCC, under former President Barack Obama, decreed in 2015 that internet services are telecomm services and therefore must be equally available to all.

Earlier this year, the FCC put out a notice that it intended to do away with net neutrality in exchange for a “light touch” regulatory approach. Earlier this month, the FCC shared details of its plans, which would allow internet providers to control what content and sites their customers can access and at what cost. The commission is scheduled to vote on the plan on Dec. 14.

Groups ranging from the Maine State Library and the American Library Association to Google and Amazon oppose the rule change.

The fear is that the providers, including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T;, will slow down sites and services that compete with their services. For example, Comcast, which is also a cable provider, could slow video streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube so its customers would be more likely to watch movies on its cable or streaming channels.

Comcast, which has previously said it would not offer paid prioritization, has dropped that pledge. Paid prioritization allows internet providers to charge some website and services higher rates in order to speed up delivery of their content on the web, creating so-called fast lanes for those willing to pay for them.

Another fear, shared by King and Collins, is that doing away with net neutrality will slow the buildout of broadband in rural places, including Maine, as internet providers focus on more lucrative areas and services.

A recent report found that investments in broadband have increased during the two years that the net neutrality rules have been in effect. This directly contradicts claims from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a longtime net neutrality critic, that the rules have stymied investment.

Although we disagree with Pai’s efforts to do away with net neutrality, we strongly condemn threats against him and his children, which are misplaced and juvenile.

Net neutrality rules are working. There is no compelling reason to abandon them.

Online: http://bit.ly/2ikNoqz



Telegram & Gazette, Nov. 28

We won’t pretend to know what’s going on in the head of Alabama’s senatorial candidate Roy Moore. In fact, for this purpose we’re not here to determine the truth behind the claims of sexual misconduct involving young teenagers when he was in his 30s.

What compels us to speak out are comments from some of Mr. Moore’s supporters who are dismissive of the claims but also justify them if they are true, defending what the now-grown women have accused him of. Frankly we’re with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, never a Moore supporter, in his statement urging Mr. Moore to withdraw: “I believe the women.” But what kind of society do we live in where justifications for allegations of this nature are even uttered by responsible individuals?

We speak specifically of statements like this from Alabama state auditor Jim Zeigler: “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Really? What is there to say after a comment like that?

Whether or not Ray Moore did what he’s said to have done, Mr. Zeigler is defending such behavior by comparing the former judge to revered biblical figures and practices from 2,000 years ago and giving him a pass on the alleged actions, and thus giving the same sort of pass to anyone having relations with an underage girl. It’s sickening.

At least Mr. Moore, for his part, has denied making such unwanted advances toward teenage girls, one as young as 14, when he was in his 30s.

It’s an interesting time we’re living in. It seems that allegations against politicians and Hollywood figures are coming out daily. We may even be starting to become numb to all the bad behavior. Sometimes allegations are really just that, allegations. And while some people may ultimately be wrongfully accused, what we’re talking about here concerns people - hopefully no more than a few - who have come out publicly in various media interviews defending sexual misconduct. It’s disgusting and unbelievably irresponsible.

The Marion County Alabama GOP chairman, David Hall, has been quoted in the Moore scandal as saying, “It was 40 years ago. I really don’t see the relevance of it. He was 32. She was supposedly 14. She’s not saying that anything happened other than they kiss.”

Again, we don’t know the truth of this. But if the allegations against Roy Moore are true, it would be a public embarrassment if he were to be seated following the December 12 special election. If not criminal behavior, although what else is assault on a minor, it’s certainly creepy. If supporters don’t believe the allegations, that’s their prerogative - but to support that kind of behavior?

“Whatever he did 40 years ago is irrelevant to the person he is now,” said Christopher Word, an Alabama attorney. We’d beg to differ. While there’s no doubt people can change over time and learn from their mistakes, “irrelevant” is not a word we’d use to describe sexual misconduct with an underage girl.

We’re reminded of President Donald Trump’s comment in January, 2016: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Mr. Trump may well be correct. We have no doubt certain supporters would find a way to defend an indefensible act. But at least Mr. Trump didn’t attempt to justify any of the alleged misdeeds, but only said that Mr. Moore had denied the accusations.

Maybe these defenders of the indefensible in Alabama are so wrapped up in political partisanship that blind allegiance is the only avenue available to them.

While people are responsible for their own actions, everyone is also responsible for what they say. Too many people, in this age of instant messaging and social media, make statements that get shared and saved and don’t ever go away. Defending the indefensible is a losing proposition. Words, as well as deeds, can define us.

Mr. Moore previously was defined as a twice-elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was removed from the bench by state authorities in his first go-round and then suspended after being elected again, subsequently resigning, over allowing his religious convictions to override the Constitution in his official actions - first in defying a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments that he had commissioned on court grounds and a second time for continuing to insist that Alabama state judges enforce a same-sex marriage ban after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

We’re disheartened by people, hopefully not many, who have risen in defense of the latest revelations about Moore in using God to defend bad behavior. “And if he (Moore) had done it, it doesn’t matter in God’s eyes because he’d have been forgiven,” Alabama’s Bruce Register was quoted by the Huffington Post while interviewing Alabama residents about the allegations.

Then there’s Dottie Finch, another Moore supporter in an interview on CNN. “I think that would just be between him and his good Lord. Even if they (the allegations) prove to be true, I would still support Roy Moore because I feel it happened in the past.”

We think it’s best to leave God out of this. The Roy Moore story isn’t going away any time soon and people who believe in Mr. Moore certainly have the right to do so. But if he did what he’s accused of, defending the indefensible is the last thing anybody should be doing, no matter how long ago this occurred.

Online: http://bit.ly/2Ao6Irt



News-Times, Nov. 29

Cities and towns throughout Connecticut have been buffeted around by the state’s budget uncertainty for months on end. It was challenging enough to develop local budgets in the spring, when the General Assembly had no alternative to the first budget proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy in February.

Local leaders were left to build their budgets on wishes and fears.

The governor’s first budget scared municipal leaders because it called for shifting 30 percent of teacher pension costs from the state down to the local districts, which would have pushed up local property taxes.

The General Assembly didn’t endorse that seismic shift - though no local mayor or first selectman could have been sure of that outcome when predicting the level of state aid for their own budgets to go into effect last July 1.

For a while, state legislators considered abolishing local car taxes. While perhaps more equitable for taxpayers, the sudden move would have been a devastating loss of revenue for local governments. For a while, state legislators considered raising the sales tax slightly and giving the difference to municipalities - a boost and revenue diversification. That idea went nowhere.

The ups and downs, hopes and fears, played out as the General Assembly failed to agree on a budget until mid-September. But it was vetoed by the governor, who proposed other budgets that would have cut state aid, among other items. Finally - finally - after 123 days the General Assembly passed a budget that met Malloy’s approval.

Local leaders at last had a definitive picture of how much state aid they would receive, which was not as harsh at it had seemed in February.

But then, like a bad dream that won’t end, the governor on Friday cut another $880 million in agency funding and municipal aid to balance the state budget. One can argue about the necessity, and possibly the General Assembly will attempt to overturn his decision, but they will have to find savings elsewhere.

Municipalities need more predictability, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, told the Hearst Connecticut Media’s editorial board with leaders of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities this week. Lauretti, a declared Republican candidate for governor, is a member of CCM’s legislative committee.

This year’s budget roller coaster is a stark lesson that state budget preparation must be done differently. It simply wasn’t fair to cities and towns.

Legislative leaders should find ways to give relief. Here is one suggestion: Reset the percentage of reserve funds that could be protected in arbitration.

That may not sound exciting, but it is important. To protect bond ratings, municipalities should have two to three months in reserves. CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong said his group advocated for 15 percent of those reserves to be off limits for arbitration award consideration, and it was in the budget vetoed by the governor. The new budget amended the wording, which opens municipalities to greater risk.

At the very least, state legislators need to correct that formula to help cities and towns out of this endless budget nightmare.

Online: http://bit.ly/2Brpqhg



The Providence Journal, Nov. 30

Even in the realm of executive compensation at major corporations, Roger Goodell’s contract demands seem outrageous. When viewed in the context of his poor performance as commissioner of the National Football League, they appear downright crazy.

Mr. Goodell, whose fate may be decided at league meetings next week, is reportedly seeking $49.5 million a year, plus health care and private jet travel for life. He may get all that, since the owners, according to ESPN, believe they cannot afford to lose him until a new player contract is secured to replace the one that expires in 2021.

If this seems like the sumptuous compensation packages earned by CEOs at the biggest wealth-producing corporations, it is not, Wall Street Journal business columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. says. The big CEO pay plans “typically consist of at-risk stock-based compensation. Mr. Goodell would be handed a pile of money regardless of performance,” Mr. Jenkins wrote in a Nov. 25 column.

His performance so far has been terrible.

Mr. Goodell’s handling of the domestic violence conviction of Ray Rice, of the Baltimore Ravens, was a case in point. He initially punished him with a two-day suspension. Only after a brutal video came to light, creating a firestorm, did Mr. Goodell decide to up the penalty, while claiming (falsely) that Mr. Rice had misled him.

“To any public company CEO, this would have been the kiss of death. How could any institution ask its workers, customers and stakeholders to trust a leader after such a performance?” Mr. Jenkins asked.

But this was only one of his blunders. Mr. Goodell, evidently pandering to owners sick of the dominance of the New England Patriots, decided to turn the discovery of slightly under-inflated footballs during one game (possibly because of the air temperature) into an enormous scandal. Without definitive evidence, he trashed the game’s marquee star, quarterback Tom Brady, turning him into a sleazy cheater, despite Mr. Brady’s vehement denials of wrongdoing.

Thus far, Mr. Goodell has done an equally poor job handling public outrage over some players’ refusal to stand for the national anthem. Instead of remembering he runs an entertainment business whose profits can only be damaged by divisive politics, and finding some face-saving way to tamp down the controversy, he angrily took on the president of the United States for criticizing his players.

Whatever the political merits of Mr. Goodell’s position, many of the NFL’s customers are older males who tend to be traditional, and dislike seeing multi-millionaire players demonstrate disrespect for the national anthem and the flag - to the point that many will find something else to do with their free time. Meanwhile, the bombastic Donald Trump continues to inflame the issue.

NFL ratings and merchandise sales have dropped precipitously - the Thanksgiving games posted their lowest ratings in nine years - with millions fewer fans tuning in this year. Protests, to be sure, are only part of that trend. People have expanding entertainment options in a digital age, and football’s fan base is aging. But certainly, Mr. Goodell’s failure to resolve the protest flap aggravated the problem.

All that may not matter, because Mr. Goodell answers not to stockholders, but to a small a group of team owners. If they had any sense, they would be looking for a replacement. But we suspect that, for all their billions of dollars, they possess very little of that commodity.

Online: http://bit.ly/2jDTHlt

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