Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: March 2013

March
23rd

Lawmakers must revisit sensible gun safeguards

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

So far, the 2013 Legislature hasn’t shown much interest in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerously unbalanced people.

Next year may be another story. Let’s consider a few things an older and wiser set of lawmakers ought to do:

Every gun sale – including those between private parties – should be subject to a federal background check. This safeguard is so stupefyingly reasonable that lawmakers should have approved it by acclamation by now.

Instead, it’s been derailed in the Democratic House by pressure from Second Amendment absolutists. Their chief objection, we gather, is that it will lead to registration and confiscation of all firearms by a future tyranny.

But there’s a disconnect between their rhetoric and existing law. If they’re serious, why aren’t they trying to repeal the existing laws that require all licensed gun dealers to run background checks on all buyers?

Dealers not only run checks but also maintain records of sales subject to review by police. So the dreaded registration already exists – and has existed for many years without jackbooted storm troopers sweeping up citizens’ guns.

What’s more, all applications for concealed pistol permits also go through the system and are kept on record by law enforcement. Again, registration without confiscation.

Those requirements apply to all law-abiding people who keep and bear firearms, and nobody’s raising a stink. Yet when private sales are involved, the very same background checks suddenly become a terrifying step toward dictatorship. Come on.

Here’s another proposition that ought to be even less controversial: People who lack the mental competence to use firearms safely shouldn’t have them.
Read more »

March
22nd

Sacramento letter writers aren’t keen on keeping the Kings

I’ve come to view letters to the editor as a fairly good indicator of public opinion around election time. I can usually predict how ballot measures are going to turn out just by the number of letters we receive on each side.

If that’s the case, then folks in Sacramento either don’t really care whether the Kings basketball team relocates to Seattle or the folks who do care don’t write letters.

Checking out four recent letters to the Sacramento Bee inspired by news that a local deep-pockets “whale” had emerged in the bid to buy the team, only one supported efforts to keep the Kings in California’s capital city. And even she admitted to being “disenchanted” with the franchise.

Two writers focus on how the proposed new stadium deal would be a bad one for Sacramento. A third opponent of keeping the team just seems tired of the whole thing: Read more »

March
21st

When high-tech medicine costs more, it should deliver

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

A recent Time magazine article on the cost of health care points out that while the United States spends twice as much on health care per capita as most other developed countries, we have the same or worse outcomes. One reason is that we don’t understand what we’re buying, writes Steven Brill in “Bitter Pill: Why medical bills are killing us.”

Take this scenario, for instance. Facing surgery, you have a choice between two procedures: One has been done for years with a certain level of success while the other uses a high-tech robotic system and has much the same success rate.

The main difference, which consumers with good health insurance might never be aware of: The latter procedure can cost at least $2,000 more. Read more »

March
20th

Save marijuana licenses for those who play by the rules

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Legislature doesn’t normally amend an initiative within two years of its passage. But the state doesn’t have that kind of time as it makes the rules for the soon-to-arrive legal marijuana industry.

The Liquor Control Board – which will regulate legal pot – has to get it right the first time. That’s why lawmakers should deliver the required two-thirds majority to make necessary tweaks to Initiative 502.

State Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, has proposed an important amendment to the initiative. It would allow the board to charge fair-market rates for the growing, wholesaling and retailing licenses it will distribute.
Read more »

March
19th

Give DNR more tools to deal with derelict vessels

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Many Washingtonians have a love affair with boats. But when the romance wears off, owners often walk out on them. And guess who ends up footing the bill for these derelict vessels?

The taxpayers, of course. Now legislation is moving that would prevent many problems in the first place and, when that fails, make it easier to go after abandoned boats’ owners to assume responsibility.

Derelict vessels can be found in waterways all along Puget Sound, often one bad storm away from sinking. When that happens, they can spill fuel, asbestos and other toxins, posing a hazard to marine life and potentially obstructing commerce.

A couple recent examples: Read more »

March
18th

VA’s delays, errors create hardships for veterans

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ delays in acting on disability claims isn’t just inconvenient. Congressional testimony Thursday indicates that at least two veterans may have died “due to delay in care.”

That would be the most extreme result of the VA’s backlog, which doesn’t appear to be decreasing. Most regional offices  are experiencing longer processing times, according to auditors and a review of VA data by McClatchy Newspapers.

The average wait to begin receiving disability compensation is now 337 days at the Seattle office – more than 11 months – up from 213 days in January 2012. It’s even worse in New York City: 641 days. The number of vets with backlogged claims is expected to be more than 1 million by the end of March – and keep growing. Read more »

March
18th

Fluoridation: Where the real tax savings are

I was in my middle twenties before I knew what a cavity was. My friends had them; I almost felt left out.

I happened to have spent my early years in Madison, Wis., one of the first cities to have its water supply fluoridated.

Our editorial today argues for restoring Medicaid dental coverage for poor adults. That would cost the state something on the order of $30 million and the federal government more, since it would be paying for a further expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Total Medicaid dental in Washington could come in at something north of $90 million per biennium.

That cost might be pared in the future if all of Washington’s cities adopted fluoridation, which the U.S. Centers for Disease controls has called “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” One study cited by the American Dental Association estimates that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 worth of dentistry later.

Close to two-thirds of Washingtonians benefit from fluoridated drinking water, but a few bastions of enlightenment – including Olympia, Spokane and Bellingham – remain holdouts.
Read more »

March
17th

A chance to get poor adults back to the dentist

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Since the Great Recession hit five years ago, the Legislature has had to do dumb things with money – short-term spending cuts that, long term, were bound to cost more money than they saved.

One of these forced errors was the elimination of Medicaid dental coverage for more than 400,000 poor adults in recent years. For every dollar saved, the state forfeited another dollar in federal matching funds – and set itself up for higher medical expenses down the road.

It’s now time to reverse that penny-wise decision. With the Affordable Care Act about to supplement state Medicaid spending with federal, the restoration of dental care would leverage far more federal dollars than it would cost.

Dental infections are like other infections: Let them fester, and the problems only get bigger and more expensive.

After the Medicaid cut in 2011, adults who’d lost their coverage either had to seek charity care or go to the emergency room when they got a toothache.

Pain in the jaws and the teeth can be symptoms of nasty conditions, including abscesses turning into massive bacterial infections. Emergency room staffs can provide painkillers and antibiotics, but they can’t treat the underlying dental diseases.

Diabetes is the best illustration of pay-now-or-pay-more-later.
Read more »