Some views from the editorial pages of other New England newspapers:
Tough future ahead
Chris Cox and Bill Archer submitted a piece in the Wall Street Journal that Americans really should read. Cox is a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Archer is a former chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and is a senior policy adviser at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The pair says the United States is in far more trouble than most people think. Driving our well-publicized, hotly debated annual deficits are entitlement programs. They represent a small fraction of our overall debt.
That truth is that, in addition to our $17 trillion national debt, we also carry $88 trillion in unfunded pension and health care liabilities. These are liabilities that the government doesn’t report. It’s money the government has promised to federal employees for their retirement and health care as well as the obligations “guaranteed” by Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
Cox and Archer — “The actual liabilities of the federal government — including Social Security, Medicare, and federal employees’ future retirement benefits — already exceed $86.8 trillion, or 550% of GDP. For the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, the annual accrued expense of Medicare and Social Security was $7 trillion. Nothing like that figure is used in calculating the deficit. In reality, the reported budget deficit is less than one-fifth of the more accurate figure.”
The figures, they write, don’t show up in any balance sheet. They have to be extrapolated from the actuarial tables found in the annual Medicare Trustee report. From there Cox found the write-downs — $42.8 trillion (Medicare) and $20.5 trillion (social security).
Forget about how big you want your nanny state. There is not a way to borrow and tax enough to honor these promises.
As the authors conclude, part of the answer begins with honest reporting of these figures. The rest of the solution? Prepare yourself for a tough future.
— The Caledonian Record
of St. Johnsbury (Vt.)
Modern day slavery
It might come as a surprise to many who have seen “Lincoln” in movie theaters over the past few weeks, but slavery is alive and flourishing in America. It’s not the same as that which the Emancipator was instrumental in eradicating; it’s not nearly as visible.
But it destroys human beings, body and spirit, and is a moral affront to everything this country is supposed to stand for.
If he accomplishes nothing else in the United States Senate, Richard Blumenthal, the soon-to-be-senior senator from Connecticut, will achieve distinction worthy of history if he can help rid the country of the scourge of human trafficking. For the senator is correct when he calls trafficking modern-day slavery.
To that end, Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are forming the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking. While it is true that there are many caucuses in both houses of Congress, and many that do not achieve very much, this new group has the potential to create a foothold in the fight against what has proven to be an impenetrable foe, and one that receives far too little publicity.
— The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate
Truth in advertising
You may recall the news story about the judge who imposed an unusual sentence on a woman for passing a school bus on the sidewalk.
The offender was ordered to stand at a busy intersection in Cleveland with a sign that said, “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.”
Tuesday a federal judge ordered something similar for tobacco companies for doing something far more sinister: lying for years about the dangers of smoking.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the industry “to pay for corrective statements in various types of advertisements,” according to NBC News.
Each ad is to say a federal court has determined the companies “deliberately deceived the American public about the health effects of smoking.”
The ads must also say smoking kills more people annually “than murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol combined.”
The stiff sentence against big tobacco companies is part of a government action first brought in 1999 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — RICO — law.
This case has been winding its way through the courts for 15 years as litigation revealed the shameless way tobacco company CEOs and employees deliberately concealed the deadly health effects suspected by their own scientists.
While none of this is new news, it is worth recounting the judge’s findings for a new generation of possible smokers.
The tobacco companies covered up and denied the medical evidence for years, even as they knew themselves it was true.
It’s time all Americans, including the 20 percent of Mainers who still smoke, know the awful truth.
— The Sun Journal of Lewiston (Maine)