Editorial voices from elsewhere
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States as compiled by the Associated Press
Another week, another list of states – this time the list of “most stressed out states in the country,” from a real estate blog. In this list, factors such as length of commute, number of hours worked, population density, unemployment, percentage of income spent on housing and percentage of population without health insurance were crunched in order to give a numerical ranking that does not quite match up with the results of some other recent “studies.”
West Virginia, according to this list, is the 33rd most stressed out state. It was shown in a nice, relaxed green on the map. Remember, of course, that it has not been long at all since another report showed West Virginia was the most miserable state in the country. According to the folks who throw these things together, we here in the Mountain State are wretchedly miserable, but not terribly worried about it.
Ohio, though, fell in the middle of the stressed list – it was yellow, on the map. The Buckeye State ranked 25th, tied with Pennsylvania.
While it may be amusing to briefly take a look at the results of these studies, the two sets of results demonstrate fairly clearly how dangerous it can be to base anything – be it casual conversation or public policy – on the numbers presented.
We are quickly coming to the conclusion the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission wants all of its highways and byways to be the roads less traveled. How else do you explain yet another increase in tolls?
Mark Compton, the turnpike’s chief executive, said annual toll increases are necessary “for the foreseeable future” to comply with laws requiring the commission to pay $450 million a year to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for highway and bridge work outside the 550-mile turnpike. Under the transportation funding law approved last year, those payments are scheduled to shrink to $50 million a year by 2023.
The new rates, which take effect Jan. 4, will nudge the cost of the most common toll for passenger vehicles by a nickel to $1.09 for E-Z Pass users and by a dime to $1.70 for cash customers, according to the commission. The most common toll for tractor-trailers will increase from $8.62 to $9.05 for E-ZPass users and from $12.15 to $12.80 for cash customers.
While the increases are not likely to force commercial truckers off turnpike roads in Pennsylvania, we’re guessing that as they continue to increase during the ‘foreseeable future’ a lot of motorists will be searching hard for a less traveled road.
We must take the lead on stopping lead poisoning
A recent study by the University of Michigan found that remediating 100,000 of the homes in Michigan most at risk for having lead paint would cost about $600 million, but taxpayers quickly recoup the expense.
The U-M’s Risk Science Center estimates that overall effects of lead poisoning result in more than $330 million in costs a year – and $145 million of that is from tax dollars.
It’s easy to think of children being the victims, but those children grow up and their chances at successful livelihoods are reduced because of lead exposure. To that end, the study measures short and midterm costs like testing, treatment and special-education classes ($21 million). It takes a long view, as well, measuring the cost of juvenile and adult crime associated with childhood lead exposure ($105 million).
In the long run, remediating homes is a trivial investment compared to the cost of lifelong problems associated with high levels of lead exposure. There are a lot of needs and interests jockeying for legislative attention and state tax dollars. But failing to finish this work ignores the state’s poorest and most vulnerable kids.