Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Washington puts recovery at risk

Everything Americans should know about what's wrong with Congress could be seen in a couple of hours Thursday. First, House Republicans rammed through a tea party budget for the future that slashes spending, repeals health care reform — and is dead on arrival in the Senate. Then a bipartisan House vote sent a stopgap spending bill to President Barack Obama to keep government running under arbitrary spending cuts few like but nobody will fix. Then Congress went home for a two-week break, and we apparently are supposed to celebrate that a potential government shutdown next week was averted.

Congress can't get the short-term vision right. With ineffective leadership from Obama, it can't get the long-term vision right. The longer conservative Republicans refuse to raise revenue and Democrats refuse to reform entitlements, the greater the risk to the economic recovery.

The temporary spending bill sanded off a few rough edges of sequestration, which was aimed at threatening arbitrary spending cuts so unpalatable that Congress would have to compromise. That strategy backfired, of course, and the automatic cuts took effect March 1. The bill sent to the president Thursday provides more flexibility to the Pentagon to cope with the spending cuts, saves tuition breaks for active military and protects meat inspections. But the across-the-board spending cuts still will spread plenty of pain, and keeping the government running on autopilot through September is hardly a proud achievement.

There is a reason Republican Gov. Rick Scott criticized sequestration and legislators are nervous about writing a state budget. Florida stands to lose tens of millions in federal dollars for education, children's programs, the National Guard and other programs. Military bases and defense contractors will be affected, and thousands of jobs are at stake just as the state's unemployment rate dips under the nation's for the first time in five years, to 7.8 percent. But Washington can only move from crisis to crisis.

Sequestration and the failure to agree on a broader deal to reduce the federal deficit — with a combination of targeted spending cuts, more revenue and entitlement reform — are a dangerous mix. The economic recovery has come this far in spite of Washington rather than with its help. The stock market has reached record highs. The number of people seeking unemployment over the past month fell to a five-year low Thursday. Mortgage rates remain near historic lows, and home sales in February were the highest in more than three years.

Yet all of that is at risk because of Washington's gridlock. Obama has been on a charm offensive with congressional Republicans, but the House responded with a sharp stick to the eye. The long-term Republican budget plan is uncompromising: deep spending cuts, a voucher system for future Medicare recipients, Medicaid block grants to the states and no new revenue. That is no olive branch.

Members of Congress have two weeks to spend at home listening to the voters. The message: Stop the partisan posturing, negotiate in good faith and get out of the way of the economic recovery.

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Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18