Editorial Voices from elsewhere
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:
Not much is heard these days about the bailout of American International Group. But AIG was perhaps the most spectacular – and outrageous – exemplar of the panic of 2008 and excesses of Wall Street.
The reason AIG hasn’t been much in the news is because the news of AIG has been remarkably good. The Treasury Department says it soon plans to unload what’s left of its AIG holdings. This won’t be the government’s first sale of its AIG stake, but all told, it expects to show a net return of more than $15 billion.
AIG was only one of many companies to which cash was shoveled four years ago, when it looked as if the entire global financial system was at risk. But it was AIG that seemed to generate the greatest public resentment.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that while he concluded the AIG bailout was necessary because of the threat to the overall economic system, it still made him livid. Thanks to AIG’s reckless underwriting of credit-default swaps, regulators feared that a collapse would trigger a contagion that could bring down its network of counterparties and cripple the global economy for years.
We’ll never know the answer to that one; we’ll never get a definitive accounting of the bailout’s costs and benefits, because we can’t know what would have happened in the absence of a bailout. Still, this is one chapter of the story that is ending unexpectedly well.
Conservatives argue that Washington never cuts programs, it just increases spending on them more slowly than planned. But to recipients of federal benefits, that type of “cut” can seem just as painful. That’s why there is an intense battle looming over a proposal to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments applied to numerous federal programs, including Social Security. The change is billed as a more accurate way to calculate the effects of inflation, but it’s really just a way to make Washington’s financial picture marginally brighter.
The problem with applying the new measure to Social Security benefits is that the surveys that are used to calculate the CPI measure the buying habits of the broad U.S. population. Social Security recipients spend a larger portion of their income on health care, and those costs have been rising disproportionately fast. Chained-CPI makes sense for programs whose participants are well represented by the CPI data. But if lawmakers really wanted a more precise cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, they’d have to invest in better surveys – and accept less dramatic savings, if any. Such a change wouldn’t solve the long-term funding problems in the program, though.
Beware the National Rifle Association. The disproportionately powerful pro-gun lobby group finally broke its silence about the Newtown massacre Tuesday, but only to say that it “is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” After years of doing the exact opposite, it would be unwise to hope that the NRA’s “meaningful contribution” will involve tighter gun controls.
The essential problem for the NRA is that it has spent decades fighting against even the most common-sense restrictions on gun ownership.
It is, frankly, ludicrous to believe the NRA will support those it has demonized as un-American and “socialist,” including the NRA’s greatest stated enemy of all, President Barack Obama.
Most likely, the NRA will do what it has always done: say something soothing and ambiguous, and then lay low until the shock of Newtown has passed. In due time, it will resume its full-throated defense of unfettered gun ownership and its attacks on the “enemies” of the Second Amendment. The massacres at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech and so many others were not enough to change the NRA’s fundamental (and fundamentally wrong) position that tighter restrictions won’t prevent future tragedies.