- Associated Press - Monday, May 6, 2019

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:

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The Akron Beacon Journal, May 3

The challenges facing the Social Security and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds are largely demographic, in the shape of an aging population. Consider that the share of Americans age 65 or older is projected to grow more than one-third by 2040 as baby boomers move deeper into retirement. So this isn’t a surprise. This increase in the number of people accessing the programs has been evident for years, along with the heavier strain on their finances.

Toward the end of April, the Social Security and Medicare trustees reported again on where the programs stand. They forecast the Social Security trust fund would be empty by 2035, and the Medicare fund by 2026. That doesn’t mean the programs would cease. Social Security still would cover 77 percent of benefits through revenue generated by the payroll tax, and Medicare would pay 89 percent of hospital care.



That isn’t acceptable, obviously. Yet, if anything, those percentages offer a reminder that the challenges can be addressed through relatively modest measures, though Social Security more easily than Medicare. In addition, the burden promises to be less the sooner the country takes action, not that Congress and the White House will comply, even with the Congressional Budget Office projecting the country will add $11.6 trillion in debt the next decade.

What can be done to bolster Social Security? It helps to start by adding another bit of perspective. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted recently that the surge of baby boomers would raise Social Security spending from 5 percent of the overall economy to 6 percent, where the share would remain for 75 years.

So, at an additional 1 percentage point, the increased cost is affordable. Arguably, there would be room to enhance benefits for those at lower-income levels, as a response to persistent income inequality and an average benefit today of about $17,600 a year.

It has been nearly four decades since an independent commission improved the financial position of Social Security. That involved a higher payroll tax and savings through a gradual increase in the retirement age. Some similar combination would work today, though it seems fair to start with those beneficiaries in a better position to absorb the change, or further tapping mechanisms for means-testing.

In that way, it is reasonable to look at applying the payroll tax to income above the current limit of $132,900 a year. Those at $50,000 a year see every dollar subject to the payroll tax, while others at $250,000, $500,000 or higher experience a fraction of their earnings affected.

The Medicare trust fund long has been projected for insolvency. At various turns, presidents and lawmakers have acted, including increases in the payroll tax. What is distinctive about this trust fund is the link to the overall health care system and its rising costs. Curb those expenses, as the country must, and Medicare improves its financial position.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that the Affordable Care Act has been good for Medicare finances, the trust fund projected to remain solvent for eight years longer since enactment. The outlook would be better if the White House and Congress of late had not retreated, for instance, ending the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of experts with the task of slowing the climb in Medicare costs.

The bottom line is that neither Social Security nor Medicare is in immediate crisis. Each will require adjustments in navigating the arrival of more baby boomers. That’s something presidents and lawmakers are almost certain to achieve given the stakes for their constituents and their own political fortunes. The test will be how they do it and when.

Online: https://bit.ly/2ViUG05

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The Lorain Morning Journal, May 4

A bill to abolish state control of academically struggling school districts, including Lorain City Schools, passed in the Ohio legislature May 1, must have the support from the state Senate and Gov. Mike DeWine to make it the law.

State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, and state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, introduced the bipartisan House Bill 154 that seeks to end state takeovers of Ohio schools and restore local control to education officials over the school improvement process.

A jubilant Miller said it’s heartening to see HB 154 pass in bipartisan fashion, but the work is far from done.

The vote was 83 in favor of HB 154, and 12 against.

The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate for further consideration, but there is no date set to vote on the bill.

Miller said for too long, top-down, unaccountable school takeovers have failed to provide struggling schools with the support they need.

So far, Lorain Schools along with Youngstown and East Cleveland school districts are under state control of House Bill 70, which created academic distress commissions to run academically troubled school districts.

What’s good about HB 154 is it would dissolve academic distress commissions in favor of a building-based, bottom-up reform model.

Miller said the vote is an important step in restoring Ohio’s promise of living the America Dream, which starts with ensuring the students receive a quality education so they can learn important skills to live a better life.

This proposed legislation easily can be called “Hardy” Bill 154, in reference to Lorain Schools CEO David Hardy Jr.

It may be a stretch, but Miller and Jones crafted the proposed legislation only after seeing what was happening with Hardy and his difficulties with the Lorain community.

It’s no secret Hardy has had trouble working with other stakeholders.

Hardy’s management style has brought out the flaws and problems with HB 70 by not having everyone working in harmony.

In the two years of Hardy’s leadership, he’s been at odds with teachers, the school board, Lorain’s mayor and police chief.

Something’s definitely wrong with that picture.

But HB 154 is designed for people to work together to improve academics.

School improvement teams made up of community stakeholders would work alongside state leaders to develop and implement a new plan based on proven models of success.

The passage of HB 154 came as no surprise to Lorain Schools Board of Education President Mark Ballard.

What was unexpected, he said, was the margin of approval.

Ballard said the vote shows people are starting to see that HB 70 is flawed. He hopes the state Senate has the same vision and will vote to correct HB 70.

Tony Dimacchia, vice chair of the Lorain Schools board of education, called the passage a win and great news for Lorain.

Dimacchia said the House has taken this opportunity to correct an unconstitutional wrong that has devastated public education and will continue to do irreparable harm to other school districts in Ohio if it doesn’t change.

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer echoed Dimacchia’s remarks on Twitter.

Ritenauer wrote, “CEO/Dictator David has talked about unity. I’m sure he never knew he could be this type of uniter. End the disaster! Well done, @JoeMiller.”

In a statement to The Morning Journal, Ritenauer expressed hope for swift action as the bill progresses.

However, the Columbus-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticized the House’s passage of HB 154 calling it a rushed process for legislation that fails to address the issues.

Chad L. Aldis, vice president for Ohio Policy and Advocacy at the Fordham Institute, said the state has an obligation to taxpayers, and most importantly, families to step in when students aren’t being served well.

While academic distress commissions can, and should be improved, Aldis said, HB 154 creates a framework that represents an outright abdication on behalf of Ohio’s most vulnerable students.

An analysis of the legislation conducted by the Fordham Institute, indicates it found merit in some of its provisions in focusing on earlier intervention in schools, individual schools rather than a district approach and engagement of a broad group of stakeholders in creating a reform plan.

But HB 154 doesn’t provide additional intervention for schools that fail to improve after four years of local control; fails to establish clear, established exit criteria for schools operating under an improvement plan; and ignores student achievement and growth as benchmarks for districts to include in their improvement plan.

Aldis said rather than providing important fixes for academic distress commission implementation issues, HB 154 dismantles any sort of accountability.

He also believes that if HB 154 becomes law, students at persistently low-performing schools will be hurt.

But students are hurting now and something needs to be done now.

And HB 154 needs the chance to correct the wrongs of the flawed HB 70.

Online: https://bit.ly/2V06I9O

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The Toledo Blade, May 6

Just as the controversy surrounding Boeing’s 737 Max 8 seemed to be fading away, a new report about the company’s negligence emphasizes the need for Boeing executives and Federal Aviation Administration officials to explain their actions before Congress.

The Max 8 came under scrutiny after the aircraft was involved in two deadly crashes - the Lion Air Flight 610 crash off the coast of Indonesia on Oct. 29 and the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash in Ethiopia on March 10. A combined 346 people were killed in the crashes.

While the FAA and Boeing initially insisted that the Max 8 was still a flight-worthy aircraft in the immediate aftermath of the Ethiopian crash, information came to light about Boeing’s Maneuvering Characteristic Augmentation System, or MCAS, software that the company had installed on its Max 8 planes without notifying pilots.

The MCAS was meant to resolve an issue created by Boeing’s decision to implement larger engines on its 737 planes. The larger engines were added to compete with Airbus’ larger, more-fuel efficient engine design. But because Boeing planes are lower to the ground than Airbus planes, adding larger engines presented an engineering problem.

The company designed to raise the placement of its engines, placing a significant portion of the engine above the wing. But when the plane was taking off, the nose tended to point too far up, creating the risk of a stall. To work around this problem, Boeing designed the MCAS, which automatically pushed the nose of the aircraft down when it believed the nose was pointing too far up.

But Boeing, which claiming a two-hour iPad course was sufficient training for operating the Max 8, did not inform pilots about the MCAS.

What’s more, a recent report by CNN found that Boeing did not even test scenarios in which the MCAS malfunctioned. This oversight is significant because once in practice, the MCAS malfunctioned repeatedly. Several U.S. pilots complained to the FAA that the Max 8 was unexpectedly nosing down when it should not have been, and flight logs from the doomed Indonesian and Ethiopian flights show that the pilots fought with the MCAS as the software dragged the planes down to the ground.

Boeing was so eager to get its Max 8 plane out to market that it overlooked fundamental flaws with the plane and the training required to fly it. That the FAA seems to have accommodated this reckless behavior, helping to rush the plane through the certification process, only adds to the shock.

Executives and officials from Boeing and the FAA must explain themselves before Congress, the American people, and the world. It is a disgrace that the Max 8 was ever allowed to fly, and this shameful disregard for safety cost 346 people their lives. We deserve answers as to how this was allowed to happen, and we deserve assurances that it will never happen again.

Online: https://bit.ly/301GK9C

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The Columbus Dispatch, May 5

When former Ohio Gov. John Kasich tried - unsuccessfully and in his typical brash style - to persuade Ohio’s majority Republican lawmakers to enact a state law allowing guns to be temporarily seized from individuals in certain cases, he might as well have been waving a red flag in front of a bull.

All Kasich accomplished late last year before complaining “we can’t do anything due to rotten stinking politics” was to rile up gun-loving legislators who instead sent him legislation to outlaw municipal gun regulations and shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases, which the term-limited Republican governor countered with his veto pen.

Now Gov. Mike DeWine is in search of a so-called red flag gun law, and The Dispatch is glad to see it.

Kasich had wanted to temporarily take guns out of the hands of people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

But as his second term ended, lawmakers denied that wish. They instead overrode his veto on House Bill 228, delighting gun-rights advocates who had argued Ohio was the only state that required defendants to prove self-defense claims, rather than putting the burden on prosecutors to disprove the assertions.

Meanwhile, Ohio voters put Republican DeWine in the governor’s office after he had campaigned on more of a gun-rights platform, boosting the hopes of those who shoot firearms for fun and distressing those who decry gun violence.

Early indications were that DeWine was indeed as advertised to the gun lobby.

His campaign was supported by gun-rights groups and he has indicated, although declining to say directly, that he might support pending legislation, House Bill 174, that would relinquish Ohio’s current requirement for a sheriff-approved permit and training before Ohioans can carry concealed handguns.

Indeed, the first bill DeWine signed into law was House Bill 86, an emergency measure to fix a drafting error in HB 228. The governor even called that occasion “a reaffirmation of the Second Amendment.”

Then like a trap used to launch clay pigeons, DeWine last week gave the gun lobby a surprise target to try to shoot down.

Unprompted and unexpectedly, DeWine told reporters on Monday that the previous weekend’s shooting at a California synagogue left him “deeply concerned about what we are seeing in this country in regard to attacks on houses of worship.”

Prodded for specifics, the governor said his goal was to “get a red flag law that can pass.”

Quick on the draw, the Buckeye Firearms Association shot back with an email to its members claiming, incorrectly and inexplicably, that DeWine had misspoken and would not seek a red flag bill. Later, the association’s website said it would “help the governor explore options for safety and due process.”

We hope that subsequent more conciliatory stance holds and that gun rights advocates do help DeWine reach his goal of winning bipartisan support sufficient to land a red flag bill on the governor’s desk.

But we also recognize that aim is no less daunting than was DeWine’s earlier successful quest to raise gasoline taxes for much-needed Ohio road and bridge work.

And it will take the same kind of rare bipartisan House-Senate cooperation that won a gas tax increase for the General Assembly to move past staunchly held partisan positions to agree on an Ohio red flag law.

For starters, lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the gun barrel should explore what elements are most effective in these kinds of laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders or Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

The reality, though, is that while 15 states have enacted ERPOs, most such laws were passed after and in response to the 2018 shooting in which 17 students and adults were killed by a gunman at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Just five states - California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington - had laws in place before Parkland to allow temporary court-approved confiscation of guns from individuals on grounds that they were mentally unstable or that they might use firearms in cases of domestic violence.

Early indications are that red flag laws can help prevent gun-assisted suicides. Studies showed a 7.5% reduction in firearm suicides in the 10 years after Indiana passed its law in 2005. Connecticut passed the first red flag law in 1999 and subsequently saw a 14% drop in firearm suicides.

But most other states passed their laws more recently, so it’s difficult to say with any certainty that a red flag law would keep Ohioans safer in their chosen places of worship, as DeWine said they should be, or in a school, concert venue, movie house, even a newspaper’s newsroom.

Red flag laws are also getting attention in Congress. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a self-proclaimed Second Amendment supporter, invited testimony March 26 to “focus on the possibility of incentivizing states to create their own red flag laws.” Graham said his interest was prompted by a desire to “make our towns, communities, cities and states a little safer.”

Graham noted the Trump administration in March 2018 “called on every state to enact Extreme Risk Protection Orders” and directed the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance if requested.

For his part, President Donald Trump told the NRA on April 26 in Indianapolis that the constitutional right to bear arms is “under assault,” urging NRA members to support him over Democrats who he said want “to take away your guns.”

This should not be a partisan issue; bullets don’t check voter registrations before hitting their mark. The Dispatch urges Gov. DeWine to seek the strongest red flag law possible for Ohio and to do it before the nation witnesses another hate-fueled mass shooting.

Online: https://bit.ly/2J5oxTo

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