Editorial roundup

Feb. 13, Orange County Register (Santa Ana, California) on Republicans abandoning even the pretense of fiscal responsibility with the budget deal:

With the budget deal signed last week, the White House and Congress have abandoned even the pretense of fiscal responsibility.

The bipartisan budget deal passed on Feb. 9 suspended the debt ceiling through March 1, 2019, increased spending by $300 billion and raised spending caps first put in place in 2011 at the peak of the tea party movement.

It also keeps the federal government on track to hit $1 trillion annual deficits.

For that kind of outcome to occur under the watch of a Republican-controlled White House, Senate and the House of Representatives should disabuse anyone of the notion that overspending is an exclusively Democratic problem and that Republicans can be depended upon for fiscal discipline.

It’s a complete reversal from the tough talk of Republicans during the Obama administration, something Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, pointed out in a Sunday appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Elected in 2010 as part of the tea party tidal wave that gave Republicans control of the House, Paul recalled the widespread condemnations of $1 trillion deficits under President Obama. “I’m still against deficit spending; just because Republicans are doing it, doesn’t make it any better,” he said.

Unfortunately, President Trump’s new budget plan only takes the discussion even further in the wrong direction. The 2019 spending plan from the White House calls for $4.4 trillion in spending against $3.4 trillion in revenue, which thereby leaves the $1 trillion deficit. The White House plan also projects a near $1 trillion deficit in 2020 followed by a decade of continued deficit spending, ending in 2028 with deficit of $363 billion.

This is not a responsible path forward. Saddling current and future generations with massive debts because of a desire for a bloated federal government with lower taxes than necessary to finance that desire is not a responsible way of governing.

As beneficial as tax cuts signed in December might be, they will ultimately aggravate the gap between spending and revenues. For principled fiscal conservatives, the idea should be to reduce spending accordingly. That is easier said than done, of course, but members of Congress are ostensibly there to do the hard work of solving difficult problems.

For now, it seems, Republican leaders are split on how to effectively tackle the deficit.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has talked about the need for entitlement reform as part of any true attempt to balance the federal budget, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in December that entitlement reform wouldn’t be on the agenda this year, and President Trump has shown little interest in it.

Where they seem to agree, though, is on higher military spending. At some point, fiscal conservatives must be open to the possibility that throwing more money at the military might not be consistent with their vision for limited government or fiscal responsibility. As Sen. Paul encouraged fellow Republicans to think about, “Is the military budget too small or maybe is our mission too large around the world?”

While they’re trying to have it both ways, Republicans must choose between commitments to fiscal responsibility or whatever compels them to drive up $1 trillion deficits once in power.

Online: http://www.ocregister.com/


Feb. 13

Chicago Tribune on the safety of baseball netting:

It happens in the blink of an eye: A pitch arrives at the plate, the batter swings and a baseball or a bat rockets into the stands. In most cases, there is no harm beyond a few spilled nachos. But sometimes a fan fails to get out of the way, with grim consequences.

Last fall, a toddler sitting with her grandparents at Yankee Stadium was struck in the face by a 105-mph foul that broke her nose and orbital bones and caused bleeding in her brain. A Schaumburg man sued the Cubs last year after an errant drive left him with facial fractures and unable to see out of one eye. In 2010, a 39-year-old mother of two attending a minor league game in Texas suffered a fatal injury from a drive that hit her head.

These are not as rare as you might think. A Bloomberg News investigation found that some 1,750 fans are injured each year at major league games.

Major League Baseball has been quick to adopt technological changes to keep fans entertained, even though it means some of them spend more time looking at their smartphones than at the field. It has been slower to address the dangers of such distraction for those sitting close to the plate but beyond the protective netting behind it.

In 2015, it recommended that teams extend the nets to the inside edge of each dugout. Most teams, to their credit, went even further, installing protection to the far end of each dugout. Both the Cubs and White Sox have committed to follow suit.

Last month, with spring training fast approaching, the last two holdouts, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays, said they would do the same before opening day. Commissioner Rob Manfred had been expected to mandate such changes.

He and the teams are wise to look for ways to make the game safer for spectators. Some fans don’t like to watch behind nets, but most quickly forget their presence — and none wants to suffer or see a serious injury during what is supposed to be an enjoyable diversion.

But the change was not entirely altruistic. A New York City councilman had proposed an ordinance requiring the Yankees and Mets to string netting all the way to the foul poles — which is the norm in Japan. Some injuries have led to lawsuits, and delaying improvements amounted to inviting more legal troubles.

The professional sport has long enjoyed the shield of the “Baseball Rule,” which is printed on tickets to warn that spectators attend at their own risk. But that protection, though recognized by the courts, has been called into question by the nature of modern ballparks.

“People can now interact using their cellphones while sitting in their seats,” Chicago attorney Timothy Liam Epstein told The Seattle Times. “And so, you now have venue owners and teams that are participating actively in individual, targeted distractions that would seem to be a relatively easy way for a plaintiff’s attorney to defeat a presumption of the case getting tossed under the ‘Baseball Rule.’ ” Last year, the Atlanta Braves reached a settlement with the father of a 6-year-old girl who suffered a fractured skull from a foul ball.

Team owners would rather not write that kind of check. Fans would rather not incur that kind of injury. With expanded netting is in place, both will be a lot safer.

Online: Online: http://www.chicagotribune.com/