Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Archives: Oct. 2012


With sobered expectations, Obama for president

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Is the country better off than it was four years ago? We believe the answer is yes and that Barack Obama deserves re-election.

Four years ago, before Obama’s election, the United States was sliding into its deepest economic downturn since the 1930s. The economy is still in the doldrums, and the jobless rate remains far too high. But the financial system is not flirting with collapse, and few Americans wake up in fear of another Great Depression.

Presidents do not stage-manage the U.S. economy. If politicians of either party knew exactly how to deliver unbroken prosperity, they would have done it a long time ago. This is less of a science than economists like to admit, in part because there’s no second United States to serve as a control group.

Obama has played a very bad hand well. The maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2009 stimulus bill and such smaller measures as the Social Security payroll tax cut may well have kept the nation from falling off a cliff.

When the economy is sinking, deficit spending is not reckless – though failing to cut deficits after recovery would be monumentally irresponsible.

The deficit problem is less about either Obama or Mitt Romney than it is about their respective parties. Historically, Democrats have pandered to beneficiaries of middle-class entitlements; Republicans have pandered to hatred of taxes.

It seems obvious that, long-term, both parties will have to back down. Entitlements must be cut and taxes increased to chip away at America’s increasingly dangerous national debt.
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School, fire district measures deserve voter support

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

When it comes to ballot measures to be decided Nov. 6, most of the attention has swirled around the controversial referendum on same-sex marriage and initiatives backing charter schools and marijuana legalization.

School and fire district measures might not grab headlines, but they’re vital to a community’s quality of life. Voters from Federal Way and Auburn to the Key Peninsula and the slopes of Mount Rainier have important issues close to home to decide. The News Tribune editorial board recommends that they approve the following measures:
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Foreign policy questions for tonight’s debate

Tonight’s third and final presidential debate will focus on foreign policy. In the article below, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin, who has long written on foreign affairs, previews the debate and outlines questions she’d like to see answered. It moved on the wire Friday, so the time element in the first paragraph is a little off.

By Trudy Rubin

If you’re still hoping for a serious foreign-policy debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama, you’ll have to wait until Monday, when the candidates will focus on global issues.

Don’t get your hopes up, however. For one thing, the two men know the public isn’t focused on foreign affairs, which was barely raised by the audience at Tuesday’s town-hall discussion.

For another, the most serious security challenges confronting the country — in the Mideast and South Asia — are so complex and fluid, it’s hard to provide clear answers. This makes for a lot of posturing by Romney (it’s easier for a challenger to insist the answers are obvious) and for oversimplification by Obama. Read more »


Our tortured pick for state Supreme Court: Richard Sanders

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

We would have preferred a different choice for the state Supreme Court.

Four candidates entered the race for the seat Justice Tom Chambers is leaving. Either of the two eliminated in the primary – former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg and Judge Bruce Hilyer of King County – would have been better than the two who wound up in November’s runoff.

Not that we don’t like Richard Sanders and Sheryl Gordon McCloud. Each is highly intelligent and devoted to the law. It comes down to the role of the judiciary. Either McCloud or Sanders would bring a settled ideological agenda to the cases that reach the high court.

Sanders is a doctrinaire libertarian. McCloud is what used to be called a flaming liberal. Passionate political beliefs keep the fires of democracy burning, but good court decisions aren’t born in furnaces. Sanders and McCloud both appear likely to equate their personal philosophies with constitutional dictates.
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A quick tour of our choices for the November ballot

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Since the middle of May – five months ago – the editorial board of The News Tribune has been immersed in homework on the ballots now arriving in mail boxes across the state.

We’ve been studying initiatives and issues, interviewing candidates for the August primary, and interviewing yet more candidates for the Nov. 6 election. Since July, we’ve been publishing our conclusions.

Just to the left is a summary of the endorsements and recommendations we’ve run to date. Here are highlights (or lowlights, if you prefer):

• For governor, we believe state Attorney General Rob McKenna is the better choice. Unlike his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, McKenna has made a serious effort to lay out detailed plans to deal with the state’s problems – funding basic education chief among them. He also has substantial administrative experience, which Inslee lacks.

• For the U.S. Senate, we’ve endorsed Maria Cantwell. For the House, we’ve endorsed Derek Kilmer in the 6th Congressional District, Dave Reichert in the 8th, Adam Smith in the 9th and Denny Heck in the 10th.

We’d like to make special mention of Kilmer, a state senator who faces a heavily self-funded opponent, Weyerhaeuser heir Bill Driscoll. Driscoll has much to recommend him, but Kilmer has been an effective and unusually thoughtful lawmaker. He has a profound understanding of job creation and grass-roots economics – expertise that’s desperately needed in Congress. He also possesses a quality that’s too scarce in Washington, D.C.: genuine niceness.

• A yes vote on Referendum 74 would affirm the gay marriage law that cleared the Legislature this year. We see this as a civil rights issue and believe the law reflects Washington’s historic commitment to equality. Its passage could make Washington the first state to enact same-sex marriage by popular vote – a historic milestone.
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$50,000 well spent: Blocking robocalls

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of robocalls – those automated sales pitches that invariably come in at the most inconvenient times.

Even if you’re on the “do not call list,” these calls – many of which are scams – still get through. I think they should rename it the “please for the love of God stop calling me list.”  (The list does not apply to political robocalls, which are just as irritating but considered a protected form of speech.)

Luckily I have an ancient but very effective answering machine that lets me monitor incoming messages, and many robocallers hang up as soon as my voice prompt comes on.

The government feels our pain. It’s offering a $50,000 prize to any individual, team or small company that comes up with the best way to block illegal commercial robocalls. Besides getting money, the winner would be a “national hero,” predicts David Vladeck, head of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer protection bureau.

National hero? Heck, I’d say that would be a Nobel-worthy achievement.

For information on the contest, go to the FTC’s website.

Here’s an AP article that gives more information. Read more »


Our endorsements in Pierce County Council races

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

At least three faces on the Pierce County Council will change after the Nov. 6 election, but the political makeup of the council is likely to remain roughly the same with Republicans outnumbering Democrats. The only question is whether the GOP majority is 5 to 2 or 4 to 3.

• The District 2 race won’t affect that equation; it’s between two Republicans – incumbent Joyce McDonald, a former state representative from Puyallup, and Jeffery Hogan, the mayor of Edgewood. The district also includes Sumner, Milton and Northeast Tacoma.

Hogan’s main issue with McDonald has been her strong support for creating a flood control district that could levy a small countywide tax aimed at preventing and mitigating flood damage. Given the vulnerability of so much of the district to a catastrophic flood, her position makes sense.

Hogan could be a viable candidate for this position in four years, when McDonald term-limits out. But for now, district voters should stick with the incumbent (they gave her 68 percent of the vote in the primary). She works hard for their concerns and deserves a second term.

Here are our endorsements in the other council races – all open seats:

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More dollars, more graduates

Does more money spent on public schools translate into better performance by students?

People have been arguing over that question for decades. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy – which does non-partisan research for state government – just published what looks like a thorough “meta study” of other research, including some from other countries.

It did conclude that more money can make a difference, though mostly when it’s targeted toward lower grades. Spend 10 percent more, and WSIPP estimates the high school graduation rate could be raised from 76.6 percent to 79.5 percent. That’s not a huge gain

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