Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The (Gloversville) Leader-Herald on the national debt
The $21.2 trillion national debt today is worrisome enough. But it is going to get worse, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
You may want to sit down for this: Within 30 years, the national debt will top $100 trillion, if nothing changes, the CBO is predicting.
That would amount to more than $300,000 each for every man, woman and child in our country now.
How would this disaster occur? CBO analysts made it plain: Tax revenue will increase only slightly during the next third of a century. Meanwhile, government spending will continue to grow.
Thoughtful Americans have worried about deficit spending for many years. Few politicians skip opportunities to proclaim it is a major concern.
Then, Congress and presidents of both major political parties do nothing. Some liberals decry tax cuts for their effect on the debt - but when it comes to cuts in federal spending, they adopt an over-my-dead-body position.
Unless something is done quickly to reduce the imbalance between spending and revenue, the situation 30 years from now will be a tragedy for our children and grandchildren.
The Utica Observer-Dispatch on elder abuse
We are rightfully concerned about and should be vigilant when it comes to preventing child abuse. But something that often flies under the public radar is elder abuse.
We must be ever alert to that, too.
A recent report from county officials was disturbing. It found that more than 143 seniors facing some form of elder abuse had been referred to the Oneida County Office for the Aging & Continuing Care and its partners in the county’s Elder Abuse Coalition last year.
According to the county’s data, the largest number of cases - 51 - was self-neglect. That might be one of the tougher problems to keep track of since many elderly folks live alone and, if they have no family, could go days without any human interaction.
That’s why it is incumbent on all of us who might know or at least be aware of shut-ins to make every effort to stay in touch with them to keep track of their well-being. In some cases, a friend, neighbor or even an acquaintance might be the only human contact an elderly person has for days or even weeks. Elderly people who live alone might neglect themselves in many ways - ranging from health care to nutrition - that could be harmful to them.
If you know an elderly person who is alone, periodic checks on their well-being could make the difference between life and death.
Other types of elder abuse include financial exploitation and caregiver neglect (both affected 20 seniors, county record show), while another 22 cases involved some type of “other domestic” abuse. Two cases involved a senior being controlled or isolated by another person. In cases other than self-neglect, family members were the most common culprits, accounting for 36 cases while friends accounted for 10 cases, professionals or paid caregivers for three cases and others for three cases.
Just as we me must be advocates for children, so must we be the eyes and ears for elderly folks who cannot adequately fend for themselves. Keep tabs on elderly people who might be alone and watch for signs of neglect, and do not hesitate to report a suspected problem by calling 315-798-5456.
The Wall Street Journal on the Thai cave rescue
On Tuesday the last of the Wild Boars soccer team that had been trapped in a dark and flooded cave in Thailand were safely extracted. It was an exhilarating end to a story that had riveted the world’s attention on Chiang Rai province in the country’s north since the 12 teenage boys and their coach went missing on June 23.
And what a story it is. Once the team was discovered alive a little more than a week after they’d entered the caves, everyone put aside their differences to pull for these boys, praying they would soon be united with their anxious families.
Some did more than pull for them. The operation was led by Thailand’s Navy SEALS, who oversaw an effort that included professionals from across the world and resulted in a daring and successful rescue in limestone passageways that were often flooded and as narrow as two-feet wide at some points.
Not, alas, without cost. One former Thai SEAL who came out of retirement to help - Saman Gunan - died after being caught in a flash flood and running out of oxygen. But not before he completed his mission by delivering oxygen to the trapped team. After his death, his fellow rescue workers made good on the vow he had made while boarding the plane to join the mission: “We will bring the kids home.”
The Thai king ordered a royal-sponsored funeral complete with military honors for Petty Officer First Class Saman Gunan. For his family and admirers, it’s a bittersweet moment. As his wife told the BBC, “I use my pride to repress my sadness.”
The world often seems dominated by bad news, and Thailand has itself been divided politically between city and countryside. But that makes the rescue of the Wild Boars all the more satisfying as the effort united the country. Congratulations to all the men and women whose names aren’t public but who played a role, however small, in this treacherous operation. And a special hurrah to the Wild Boars for their courage and tenacity in hanging together in an ordeal that others might not have survived.
The Poughkeepsie Journal on SUNY tuition
In its initial year, the state’s Excelsior Scholarship program - perhaps better known as the “free tuition” plan - benefited 22,000 students who were income eligible.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers approved the idea as part of last year’s state budget negotiations - and about 75,000 students applied for the free tuition. Not all were successful, largely because the program gave the tuition to students at SUNY’s 64 campuses if their household income was less than $100,000 this year. This year, that threshold moves to $110,000 and then to $125,000 in 2019.
But there’s another side to this story. The law that created the Excelsior program also included a provision that allows SUNY to raise tuition up to $200 a year. And, lo and behold and probably to no one’s surprise, SUNY trustees have done precisely that two years in a row.
All the more reason why students and parents should be aware of the July 23 deadline to apply for the Excelsior program. They also ought to understand the various limitations and requirements, including students needing to agree to live in the state and stay in New York after they graduate for as many years as they received the free tuition. Students also need to have good grades and attend public college full time, and, if they break certain agreements, the state will convert the scholarship to a loan. Keep in mind that Excelsior is considered the “last dollar” award after other tuition assistance programs are exhausted, and there are many of them, including TAP and Pell grants. And Excelsior addresses only tuition costs, which are rising to $6,870 annually at the state’s four-year colleges. Average expenses total about $25,000 for a SUNY education each year when you add in room and board, fees, books and transportation.
Cuomo is making the free-tuition program one of his talking points during the campaign for re-election this year, and that’s understandable.
SUNY schools are still a relative bargain, and the free tuition program helps, but allowing annual tuition increases to continually creep up beyond the rate of inflation has to stop. Solutions to the high cost of education in general run the gamut from having the federal government enact policies that lower interest rates for college loans, to SUNY offering more courses online and addressing its high administrative costs. Students, too, can better control their financial fate by starting at a community college and doing everything they can to finish college on time.
Free tuition is great for those who are eligible, but SUNY has about 600,000 students in credited courses, and more than 700,000 in continuing education and outreach programs. These numbers clearly show that the program, while laudable, is nowhere near a total solution to rising education costs.
More information about the state’s free tuition program can be found at www.hesc.ny.gov .
The Daily News on Judge Brett Kavanaugh
If confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, federal appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh will almost surely cement the top judicial panel’s right-wing majority for years to come.
That’s why Democrats in the Senate, led by Chuck Schumer, instantaneously declared their implacable opposition to the nomination. So much for giving the man a fair hearing, like the one Dems demanded Senate Republicans give Barack Obama’s choice, Judge Merrick Garland.
The GOP was wrong then. Forswearing Kavanaugh at the outset is wrong now, turning what should be a tough confirmation process into a partisan guerrilla war.
But a deep dive into Kavanaugh’s long record is required, as are tough hearings that delve into his most troubling rulings and writings.
By early indications, Kavanaugh would be a reliable fifth vote for a maximalist interpretation of the Second Amendment. In a 2011 dissent from the majority on his appeals panel, he wrote, “There is no meaningful or persuasive constitutional distinction between semiautomatic handguns and semiautomatic rifles.”
Senators must grill him on this dissent.
Kavanaugh also looks poised to join a majority eager to weaken the already eroding status of workers and unions.
The Senate must cross-examine him on whether this tendency conflicts with the “open mind” he promises to bring to every case. And scrutinize his rulings upholding voter-ID laws with the effect of disenfranchising large numbers of African-American voters.
Kavanaugh could well tip the high court’s balance to overrule Roe v. Wade, the two-generation-old precedent granting women the right to an abortion. Without forcing him to prejudge on any particular case, senators must demand he say whether he considers that 1973 ruling settled law, fundamentally flawed or somewhere in between.
We worry deeply about the direction of the court if and when Kavanaugh joins it. But Democrats must remember he is one among many conservative jurists President Trump could have chosen, and generally considered a star in the firmament respected across the spectrum for his temperament and intellect.
Had Garland gotten his deserved vote under Obama, Kavanaugh would not now be getting ready to fill a second vacant seat. That’s an injustice Democrats should remember every November. The road to turning the high court in the right - or left - direction ultimately runs through the ballot box.
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