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Susan Estrich - Stop vilifying TSA workers

After last week's tragedy at LAX, can we all agree to stop beating up on the men and women of the TSA who are just trying to do their job, which is to protect you and me from being killed?

Can we stop behaving like spoiled children, thinking we have a God-given right to show up late for airplanes, forgetting to unpack the penknife in the bottom of the suitcase, and wearing shoes and boots that take forever to get on and off?

Sure, I know what it's like to get in the wrong line — and worse. I've had the ridiculous experience of being detained for a secondary check by TSA agents who know exactly who I am (big fans of Fox News in that case). But I was traveling on a series of one-way tickets, and that's how it works.

According to Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the TSA "is seen as another administrative step. We used to be able to walk through metal detectors and get on an airplane; now we have to go through long search lines before we can leave."

True enough. We used to race through metal detectors and get right on the plane, but that was before four planes were hijacked, before we caught a would-be bomber with an explosive device in his shoe, before we became so painfully aware of the extent of terrorism and hate and our own vulnerability. Sure, there may be better ways to protect us; that is a legitimate debate. But the public discourse about the TSA has gone way beyond the confines of legitimate and productive debate.

Wrongly, the TSA has become the butt not simply of humor but of ridicule and vilification, portrayed as petty voyeurs who have no business looking us up and down. Such vilification isn't just unfair; it's dangerous.
Those who have studied hate crimes know this to be true. "When people or institutions are vilified on national television and in the public square, you often see people latch on to them as enemies to be destroyed," Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told reporters.

There is no good reason for Paul Ciancia to have so hated the TSA. But there were a lot of bad reasons, and those who have crossed the line in their attacks on the TSA should, quite simply, stop. I'm talking about folks like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has raged against the TSA for "groping toddlers and grandmothers," and Matt Hawes of the Campaign for Liberty, who raged that "the government literally has its hands in our pants."

No, no one told Ciancia that the answer was to start shooting, and no one is arguing that the loudmouths are responsible for the death of a husband and father who went to work every day to protect the rest of us. But enough is enough. Words have power. Vilify public servants, and the crazy people out there — and there are too many of them — will turn those words into weapons.

So enough. Paul and his pals aren't responsible for the death of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, but they should be on notice that their rhetoric is dangerous. They need to grow up and shut up before more people die.

Put your laptop in the bin. Take out your liquids. Put your hands up. No one is interested in groping grandmothers and toddlers. They're looking for weapons. They're trying to save lives. They deserve to be protected. They deserve to be thanked. And this week, sadly, one must be mourned.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Why should Germany listen to 'globalists'?

Chutzpah. I believe that's the word for it.

Just days after learning the Americans have been tapping her phones and taping her conversations, Angela Merkel has been publicly upbraided by the U.S. Treasury for being a bad global citizen.

What did she do to deserve this? Merkel just won a third term as chancellor with a record vote and has an approval rating near 80 percent. But she is a bad global citizen because Germany is running the world's largest trade surplus.

The Washington Post thinks the Treasury's tongue-lashing is overdue, as does Paul Krugman of the New York Times: "In this environment, a country that runs a trade surplus is ... beggaring its neighbors. It is diverting spending away from their goods and services to its own, and thereby taking away jobs."

Is this not astonishing? Competing successfully in world markets is now tantamount to stealing food off the table of one's less-competent and less-successful neighbors.

By this standard, America was a selfish nation and a rotten global citizen for the first seven decades of the 20th century, when we ran trade surpluses every year, averaging 4 percent of GDP. From the Civil War through the Roaring '20s, with a high tariff, we became the mightiest manufacturing power the world had ever seen. Our economic independence enabled us to stay out of two world wars. And when we did go in, we won within months in 1918, and we won again only a few years after Pearl Harbor.

Is this a record to be ashamed of?

Every modern nation that has risen to world power has done so through economic nationalism: Britain under the Acts of Navigation; the United States under protectionist Republicans from 1860-1914; Bismarck's Germany; postwar Japan, which rose from the ashes of 1945 to become the world's second economy; and China from 1980 to today. Trade surpluses, run at the expense of rival powers, have been the hallmark of great nations in their rise to preeminence.

Though Germany is smaller than Montana, with a population not a fourth that of the United States, she is the powerhouse of the European Union, makes some of the finest products on earth, and sells abroad one-third of all she produces. Her unemployment rate is only 5 percent.

Why is that not a record to be admired? And whom are the Germans supposed to emulate? Answer, if you can believe it, Obama's America.

The Post and Krugman feel the Germans must shake off their habit of working and saving and start spending to get Club Med countries like Spain and Greece out of intensive care. The Post wants Merkel to embrace the Social Democrats' idea of raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, which was too rich even for the mayor of D.C. The need, says Treasury, is for "rebalancing."

Basically, what the globalists want is for prudent counties with trade surpluses to start running deficits to get money flowing, like transfusions, into the moribund economies. Where as "Engine Charlie" Wilson reportedly said, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," the globalists retort, "What's good for the global economy is good for America."

But is this true? From their behavior in recent decades, neither the Chinese nor Japanese nor Germans, proprietors of the second, third and fourth largest economies on earth, buy into this ideology.

And how has America's conversion to globalism, since George H.W. Bush proclaimed the coming of the New World Order, worked out for us? From 1989 to 1993, Bush 1 ran $360 billion in trade deficits in goods, a U.S. record. Bill Clinton, who enlisted the Republican establishment to help ratify NAFTA and U.S. membership in a World Trade Organization where the United States has the same vote as Armenia, ran $1.8 trillion in trade deficits. Clinton's deficits were then dwarfed by George W. Bush's, who ran up $5.3 trillion in trade deficits in goods. In four years and eight months, Obama has piled up trade deficits totaling more than $3 trillion.

Thus, during 25 years of free-trade globalism, the United States has run up well over 10 trillion, or ten thousand-billion, dollars in trade deficits in goods.

And what do we have to show for it? Our economic independence is history. We rely on foreigners for the necessities of life. We are the greatest debtor nation in history. Beijing and Tokyo bank scores of billions in annual interest payments on the T-bills and Treasury bonds they hold. And as the gleaming cities of Asia rise, America's infrastructure visibly crumbles.

The real wages of our working men and women have not risen in decades. In the first decade of this century, we lost 6 million manufacturing jobs as 55,000 factories disappeared.

Why should successful Germans emulate the folly of the failed American politicians responsible for the decline of the greatest republic in the history of mankind?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - Website will be fixed & eyes will dry

About the Obamacare website rollout: So-rry.
Yes, it's a mess. Tears of apology have flooded the streets of Washington, raising the Potomac to dangerous levels.
But the federal health plan's website will be fixed. (The state exchanges seem to have it right.) Once Americans can get inside the doors, most should appreciate their options. To use real estate parlance, Obamacare is not currently a "drive-by."
Between now and then, though, expect continued histrionics as only Washington can do them. Republicans frame the program as a disaster, and Democrats are into a defensive crouch, as they are wont to do. But when the situation resolves itself, most Americans will forget what they were mad about.
Some non-website concerns do deserve a respectful explanation right away. It is true that a small percentage of people are seeing their private policies canceled. This does not affect the great majority — those covered by their employer, in Medicare or Medicaid, or with a high-quality private plan. Some may have to pay more for better coverage — or possibly not. They'd know if the damn HealthCare.gov site were functioning.
Critics are correct that the president was — how shall we put it? — inaccurate in assuring the public that the Affordable Care Act would not affect people happy with their current private coverage. Point is, policies are being canceled because they don't offer the basic coverage required under the new law. And more to the point, many who bought these policies are being cheated and don't know it.
We speak of the cheap mini-med insurance plans that, Consumer Reports writes, "may be worse than none at all." They are often issued by big-name insurance companies, leaving buyers the impression that they have serious coverage.
Sure, Fox News can dredge up lots of "victims" to insist they were happy with their substandard coverage. That's because they haven't had a medical crisis yet.
Consumer Reports offers the example of Judith Goss of Macomb, Mich. The 48-year-old was calmly going through life with a $65-a-month policy from Cigna's Starbridge plan. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Goss found herself facing a $30,000 hospital bill, with medical "coverage" limiting payments to $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospital care. Frightened by the cost, the former Talbots saleswoman put off treatment until after her tumor had tripled in size.
So what was Goss getting for her $780-a-year premiums? If she'd had no insurance, at least she'd have known she wasn't covered for cancer. Depending on income, someone in her position might now qualify for subsidies to bring the premiums for good coverage way down. And yes, under Obamacare, an insurer can't turn anyone away because of a pre-existing condition.
On to the other complaint: Obamacare makes those with decent incomes help the worse-off obtain health coverage. Not a terrible thing, in this opinion, but also not the full story. We who pay full freight have already been subsidizing the uninsured who show up at hospitals for "free" care. Now most everyone will have insurance.
And even the wealthy may come out ahead, as the reforms force some sanity into our ludicrously wasteful health care system. For those in fine health or with high incomes, one can envision the money saved from the efficiencies eventually exceeding the cost of the subsidies.
Foes and even some friends of the reforms are calling those compelled to pay more for coverage or subsidize others "losers" in Obamacare.
"Loser today, winner tomorrow" may not be the most inspired rallying call. And the breakdown of the federal website sure hasn't helped the education process.
But all shall be repaired. Once the reality sinks in, eyes will dry.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 09:47

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Lisa Morris - Expand Medicaid in N.H.

The mission of Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health is "to improve the health and well being of the Lakes Region through ... public health improvement activities." The expansion of Medicaid coverage to citizens in the region would be a public health action of immense consequence.

The Commission to Study Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility has recommended that N.H. expand its Medicaid program to cover uninsured adults with annual incomes up to approximately $15,900, about 4,000 of whom live in Belknap and Carroll Counties. The majority of these individuals are young adults between the ages of 18 and 40 who are under-employed and struggling to get by. They work as wait staff, janitors, classroom aides, in construction and in grocery stores as critical components of our local economy, but without access to a critical benefit.
Without access to health insurance, they pass up preventative care that would help them avoid medical crises. When a crisis does occur, these individuals must use the emergency room: the most expensive health intervention and one that provides no follow-up care to ensure that the patient continue on the road to recovery. We at the Partnership believe that extending Medicaid coverage to this population benefits more than just those 4,000 individuals.
Individuals with health insurance coverage see their physician for preventative care and remain healthier throughout their lives. The N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies has found that insured individuals are almost twice as likely to see a doctor regularly as the uninsured. The insured are five times more likely to have a colon cancer screening than the uninsured. Those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma can manage their symptoms more effectively and avoid medical crises when covered by insurance. With access to health coverage, these individuals have fewer absences from work or school, have healthier pregnancies and children and are able to participate in community activities. Health insurance coverage for this population could free up our emergency room resources to be able to treat real emergencies quickly and more efficiently. Our local physicians will get reimbursed for seeing these patients, reducing the cost shifting that leads to higher overall costs for everyone.

The commission was careful to recommend that individuals with access to health insurance through their employers stay on that plan rather than switch to Medicaid. The commission also recommended protecting New Hampshire from unsustainable expense should the federal government alter its level of financial support for the expanded population.
As the Partnership collaborates with colleagues such as LRGHealthcare, Genesis Behavioral Health, Lakes Region Community Services and Central NH VNA & Hospice, among others, toward our mutual goal of a healthy region that encourages healthy living practices, we envision the expansion of Medicaid coverage as a step vitally important to assuring all of our residents the opportunity to meet these healthy lifestyle goals.

(Lisa Morris is executive director of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health (LRPPH) in Laconia. She wrote this column on behalf of the LRPPH Board of Directors.)

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 08:57

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Michael Barone - Americans moving to states with low taxes & low housing costs

Where are Americans moving, and why? Timothy Noah, writing in the Washington Monthly, professes to be puzzled. He points out that people have been moving out of states with high per capita incomes — Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland — to states with lower income levels.

"Why are Americans by and large moving away from economic opportunity rather than toward it?" he asks.

Actually, it's not puzzling at all. The movement from high-tax, high-housing-cost states to low-tax, low-housing-cost states has been going on for more than 40 years, as I note in my new book "Shaping Our Nation: How Surges of Migration Transformed America and Its Politics".

Between 1970 and 2010, the population of New York state increased from 18 million to 19 million. In that same period, the population of Texas increased from 11 million to 25 million.

The picture is even starker if you look at major metro areas. The New York metropolitan area, including counties in New Jersey and Connecticut, increased from 17.8 million in 1970 to 19.2 million in 2010 — up 8 percent. During that time, the nation grew 52 percent.

In the same period, the four big metro areas in Texas — Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin — grew from 6 million to 15.6 million, a 160 percent increase.

Contrary to Noah's inference, people don't move away from opportunity. They move partly in response to economic incentives, but also to pursue dreams and escape nightmares.

Opportunity does exist in the Northeastern states and in California — for people with very high skill levels and for low-skill immigrants, without whom those metro areas would have lost, rather than gained, population over the last three decades.

But there's not much opportunity there for people with mid-level skills who want to raise families. Housing costs are exceedingly high, partly, as Noah notes, because of restrictive land use and zoning regulations.

And central city public schools, with a few exceptions, repel most middle-class parents.

High taxes produce revenues to finance handsome benefits and pensions for public employee union members in the high-cost states. It's hard to see how this benefits middle-class people making their livings in the private sector.

Moreover, Noah's use of per capita incomes is misleading, since children typically have no income and many in the Northeast and coastal California are childless. If you look at household incomes, these states are far closer to the national average.
As economist Tyler Cowen points out in a Time magazine cover story, when you adjust incomes for tax rates and cost of living, Texas comes out ahead of California and New York and ranks behind only Virginia and Washington state (which, like Texas, has no state income tax).

Critics charge that Texas's growth depends on the oil and gas industries and is weighted toward low-wage jobs. But in fact, Texas's low-tax, light-regulation policies have produced a highly diversified economy that from 2002 to 2011 created nearly one-third of the nation's highest-paying jobs. In those years, its number of upper- and middle-income jobs grew 24 percent.

Liberals like Noah often decry income inequality. But the states with the most unequal incomes and highest poverty levels these days are California and New York. That's what happens when high taxes and housing costs squeeze out the middle class.

As Noah notes, "Few working-class people earn enough money to live anywhere near San Francisco."

This leaves a highly visible and articulate upper class willing, in line with their liberal beliefs, to shoulder high tax burdens and a very much larger lower class — many of them immigrants — available to serve them in restaurants, landscape their gardens and valet-park their cars.

There's nothing wrong with living in a high-rise, restaurant-studded, subway-served neighborhood (I do). It's great that America offers more such options than one and two generations ago.

But it's foolish to try to cram everyone into such surroundings, as the Obama Department of Housing and Urban Development (as Terry Eastland reports in the Weekly Standard) and California Governor, Jerry Brown, are trying to do.

Noah notes correctly that fewer Americans have been moving recently. That's always true in times of economic distress (the Okies' trek along U.S. Route 66 to California's Central Valley in the 1930s was a memorable exception, not the rule).

But they continue to move to the low-tax states that are providing jobs and living space where they can pursue their dreams and escape places that burden them with high costs and provide few middle-class amenities in return.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 08:52

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