Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

May 29

The Washington Post on

America’s economic mood remains glum. This is despite great news: Growth is strong; the stock market just hit record levels; unemployment is low; and inflation has significantly cooled in the past year. Dig a little deeper into public sentiment and there’s a striking dichotomy — the vast majority of Americans (72 percent) say their personal finances are all right, but only 22 percent think the national economy is in decent shape, according to a chart the Federal Reserve recently released.

Negativity about the national economy nosedived during the pandemic and has barely rebounded since. The Fed surveys more than 11,000 adults a year, with its most recent assessment of financial well-being occurring in late 2023. Recent polling shows a similar divide, with Americans saying that they are doing “okay ” (or their state is doing pretty well ) but that the national economy is in trouble. A new poll by the Guardian found the majority of adults wrongly think the country is in a recession. Why?

The main answer is inflation. Prices spiked across the board in 2022, largely driven by supply shortages of everything from gas to meat to kitchen cabinets to workers. Inflation is typically reported as the change in prices in the past year. But looking at the cumulative increase since the start of the pandemic, inflation is up 21 percent. Wages are up 22 percent, but higher prices tend to have more of a psychological impact. Many people feel that they have earned their pay increases but that price increases are unfair.

The cumulative increase since President Biden took office in January 2021 shows prices up 19 percent. That’s unusual. No president in recent memory has presided over a higher cumulative price increase since Jimmy Carter (cumulative inflation was nearly 38 percent at this point in his term).

It’s possible that Americans are experiencing the economic equivalent of a hangover. It’s taking a long time for the economy to get back to normal after the severe shock of the pandemic and then the inflation surge. Prices are no longer rising rapidly for most items. Wages have actually been rising, on average, faster than inflation for the past year. Consumption has remained robust despite people’s expressed gloominess. There’s some hope that if this trend continues, people will really start to notice and the “vibes” will also return to more normal levels. The latest University of Michigan consumers survey shows a big rebound from this time last year, but there has been another noticeable drop this year as people worry they won’t see much additional relief from high prices and high interest rates anytime soon. It’s notable in the Fed data that the group reporting the biggest decline in their personal financial situations in 2023 were parents with children under 18 living at home.

The media’s negative economic coverage might also help explain the glum mood. A study of economic news from Brookings Institution economists Ben Harris and Aaron Sojourner found a more negative tone since 2018 and, especially, since 2021. But they also found a more positive tone at the end of 2023, which did not impact the Fed data but did coincide with an increase in the Michigan survey. Republicans have also been extremely pessimistic about the economy since Mr. Biden took office. The partisan divide explains some of the negative sentiment, though not all since independents are also gloomy.

Many Americans feel deep anxiety about the future. Most doubt their children will be better off than they are. Nearly half aren’t confident they will have enough money for retirement. Young people are especially pessimistic. A new poll from Democratic firm Blueprint of 18-to-30-year-olds found 54 percent believe the country is going downhill and 64 percent agree that “America is in decline.” These poll results help explain why people can see their personal finances as acceptable now but still have deep concerns about the economy’s direction.

Telling Americans the economy is better than they realize doesn’t make much impact in an era when many are still in shock about the rise in prices. Good news about employment and growth isn’t registering. Politicians who try to win support by citing those numbers — we’re looking at you, Mr. Biden — have to find a new language for a new post-inflation psychology, acknowledging the price shock while projecting confidence that it’s being overcome. Wages are now rising quickly, and major companies, such as Target and Aldi, are cutting prices. Recovery takes time.

This is not an easy message to convey. But it is a realistic one.

ONLINE: https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2024/05/29/us-economy-inflation-sentiment/

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May 29

Wall Street Journal on Samuel Alito’s responsibility

Congratulations to Chief Justice John Roberts, who responded to importuning Senators by letting Justice Samuel Alito respond for himself. Justice Alito’s reply on Wednesday: He has “an obligation to sit” on cases under the Supreme Court’s code of conduct.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse, the bully boys of the Judiciary Committee, wrote the Chief Justice last week demanding a meeting and that Justice Alito recuse himself from hearing cases related to the 2020 election or Donald Trump.

As the Senators know, the Court’s code stipulates that individual Justices make their own recusal decisions. Thus the Chief was right to let Justice Alito respond for himself, if he chose. His letter gives the Senators more courtesy than they deserve given their clear partisan motivation and their attempt to violate the separation of powers.

Justice Alito cites the Court’s code of conduct provision that “A Justice is presumed impartial and has an obligation to sit unless disqualified.” And a Justice should disqualify himself only when “the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that is, where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.”

The two Senators are the most biased people on the planet regarding the Court. Their complaint is that a pair of flags flown at Justice Alito’s homes suggest partiality. But the Justice explains in some detail that the decision to fly the two flags was made by his wife, who has her own mind and right to free speech, and that the Justice had nothing to do with her decisions.

Martha-Ann Alito “makes her own decisions, and I have always respected her right to do so,” Justice Alito writes. “She has made many sacrifices to accommodate my service on the Supreme Court, including the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate.”

Who can doubt this given the tenor of the times and the threats against the Justices from the likes of Sen. Whitehouse and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer? One maniac stalked the home of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal,” writes Justice Alito. “I am therefore duty-bound to reject your recusal request.”

Congratulations to Justice Alito for responding with cool reason to an unreasonable demand. And to the Chief Justice for respecting the Court’s code of conduct in not responding for his colleague. Maybe the Senators will read the code—not that they care about anything except smearing the Justices.

ONLINE: https://www.wsj.com/articles/justice-samuel-alito-recusal-supreme-court-dick-durbin-sheldon-whitehouse-john-roberts-98b2dd1c?mod=editorials_article_pos7

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May 29

Los Angeles Times on MLB embracing baseball’s history

Who holds Major League Baseball’s record for the highest batting average in a single season?

It’s not Ted Williams, with his .406 average in 1941, the last time anyone topped .400. It’s not Ty Cobb, with his stunning .420 average in 1911, or even Nap Lajoie, whose .426 average in 1901 generally shows up in the books as the record for players since 1900. Nor is it Hugh Duffy, whose .440 in 1894 is tops if you dip into the 19th century.

It’s Josh Gibson, who hit .446 for the Homestead Grays in 1943.

Gibson also holds the record for career batting average at .372. Generations of young fans were taught to believe the champion was Cobb, who batted a career .366.

The Grays were a Negro League team that played its home games in a small Pennsylvania town across the river from Pittsburgh, then moved to the bigger city and ultimately split its time between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Gibson, a catcher, was a legendary player whose batting prowess was known beyond his league despite the racial segregation that kept him from playing against or alongside his white contemporaries.

After decades of denial about the exceptional performance of Black players before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, Major League Baseball agreed in 2020 that the seven major Negro Leagues were indeed major leagues, as much as the National League or the American League.

That year was considered the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. The racial reckoning following the police murder of George Floyd probably played a role as well.

As of Wednesday, statistics from players in each of those leagues have been melded into the previously existing major league record books.

Lest anyone object that this incorporation of 3,400 previously unacknowledged players is ahistorical, or that players like Gibson never had to face American or National League pitching, let’s not forget that neither Cobb, Williams, Lajoie nor Babe Ruth ever had to face the greatest pitchers in the Negro Leagues. The white players had better salaries and fancier stadiums, but the fans at the Black games may well have been watching a higher quality of play. We can never truly know.

The move by MLB corrects a grievous error that has for too long subverted our proper understanding of our baseball heritage. It means that players like Gibson, who never got a chance to play in the National or American leagues, can be acknowledged for having played in the majors after all — and in fact dominated them.

It means that great Black players like Willie Mays can be recognized for all of their on-field achievements in the Negro Leagues and during their careers in integrated baseball. It means that great white players like Williams and Ruth can finally be measured against all of the other greats rather than an artificially selected few.

The closest baseball ever came to having the best teams play each other came in the early years of the last century, when all-white and all-Black teams played each other in offseason exhibition games. But the National and American league clubs got shellacked by the Black teams so often that the embarrassed owners of white teams ended interleague play.

Now the numbers, at least, are integrated, and young fans who pore over statistics can see that there were once many major leagues, and many great athletes who played the all-American game of baseball, even before all Americans could play on the same field.

ONLINE: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2024-05-29/baseball-negro-league-statistics

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May 28

The Guardian on the Rafah offensive and crossing the red line

The Israeli strike that killed at least 45 displaced Palestinians, many of them women and children, at a tent camp in Rafah this weekend clearly crossed Joe Biden’s “red line” over the need to protect civilians in the Gaza conflict. France’s Emmanuel Macron did not doubt what should happen next. “These operations must stop,” he posted on X. “There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire.”

Those in Israel who believe that they still need to make an appearance of deference towards US sentiments pleaded that the whole episode was a “ mishap ” rather than a deliberate political insult. Mr Biden is inclined to give Israel’s forces the benefit of the doubt, and give himself wriggle room to say his line hadn’t been crossed. Despite the international outcry over Sunday’s deadly blast, Israel stepped up its military offensive on Tuesday, sending tanks into Rafah and leaving a score more civilians dead when it apparently struck a tented area.

The US president defends Israel’s right to retaliate against Hamas for the murderous rampage it carried out on 7 October. But Israel’s indiscriminate use of tactics and weapons has caused disproportionate harm to a civilian population deprived of humanitarian assistance. Aryeh Neier, the founder of Human Rights Watch, wrote that he has become persuaded that “Israel is engaged in genocide against Palestinians in Gaza”.

A perceived lack of sympathy for the Palestinians has also harmed prospects for Mr Biden’s re-election. But resolving the conflict is a moral rather than an electoral question. The US should back a UN security council resolution to end the fighting, as Mr Macron suggested on Tuesday. Mr Biden’s support for Mr Netanyahu has wavered. In March the US declined to use its veto to block a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire. Mr Biden moved again in April when the Israel Defense Forces killed seven foreign aid workers.

But the US has actively shielded its ally from a bitter reckoning over the Gazan war. Washington even went as far as to belittle South Africa’s case before the international court of justice, which last week issued provisional orders to “prevent the commission of acts” in Gaza that violate the genocide convention.

Mr Biden’s decision to stand by Israel in this manner risks undermining the rules-based international order that America should be defending. In fact, the US may itself face legal consequences for being complicit in international crimes, should genocide be established in Gaza. The nub of the problem is that Israel thinks its needs are exceptional, and the US all too readily agrees. When the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court said on Friday that he was seeking arrest warrants for senior Hamas and Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the US secretary of state shamefully threatened to impose sanctions on the court.

It will probably take more than a threat from The Hague to change a mafioso mindset. An investigation by the Guardian and the Israeli-based magazines +972 and Local Call revealed how Israel has spent the best part of a decade attempting to intimidate the court into dropping its investigations into Israeli war crimes – with its top spy chief personally involved in the campaign. The country’s leaders believe that they can operate above the law. It is incumbent upon allies, particularly the US, to disabuse Israel of this notion.

ONLINE: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/article/2024/may/28/the-guardian-view-on-the-rafah-offensive-crossing-us-red-lines-should-have-consequences

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