Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Telegraph of London on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding:
A divorced, mixed-race, Hollywood actress who attended a Roman Catholic school is to marry the son of the next King. Such a sentence could simply not have been written a generation ago.
The forthcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and his American fiancée Meghan Markle are emblematic of a nation that has changed utterly, no longer hidebound by stuffy tradition and populated by Establishment courtiers seeking to prove Shakespeare's observation that the course of true love never did run smooth.
Perhaps it might have been different had the would-be groom been Prince William and at just one remove from the throne. But arguably we have changed enough to recognize that what matters nowadays is whether the couple want to spend their lives together, not whether the background of an individual is considered to be insufficiently aristocratic or religiously problematic.
If anything, it is the Church of England that has caused difficulties in the past over Royals marrying divorced people, which is something of an historical irony since it was founded upon a Monarch's desire to end his marriage.
The abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 was a consequence of his falling in love with a divorced woman. Princess Margaret was told in 1955 she could not marry the divorced Group Capt. Peter Townsend and retain her privileged Royal status. She ended the relationship declaring she was "mindful of the Church's teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble".
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, both of whom had been divorced, were married in a civil ceremony in Windsor despite initial concern that this would not be legally permissible. The Princess Royal remarried in a church wedding, but in Scotland.
However, since 2002 the marriage of a divorced person whose spouse is still living has been possible in the Church of England, at the discretion of the member of clergy conducting the ceremony.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, indicated yesterday that special dispensation will be given for a Church of England wedding for Prince Harry. "Marriage is a special and joyous commitment, one that Jesus celebrated together with friends at the wedding in Cana. I am so happy that Prince Harry and Ms. Markle have chosen to make their vows before God," he said.
Constitutional questions are inevitably raised whenever a senior member of the Royal Family marries, but there are no impediments for Prince Harry now he is no longer close to the throne as fifth — soon to be sixth — in line. But above all, this is a story about the happiness of a young couple who deserve our congratulations and best wishes.
For Prince Harry in particular, the country will be delighted to see him settling down to the responsibilities and obligations of married life. Earlier this year he disclosed in this newspaper how his mother's death when he was just 12 had such a destabilizing impact on his life.
But despite a sometime playboy reputation in his twenties, he has not been idle.
After his time in the Army he has become a champion for disabled ex-servicemen and women, playing a prominent role in helping to set up and promote the Invictus Games, which were staged for the third time in Toronto in September. Their success is a tribute to Prince Harry's hard work and commitment to the cause.
He has recently turned his attention to mental health in the Armed Forces, recognizing that not all injuries suffered by military personnel are of a physical nature.
His fiancée has come to prominence through appearing in a number of hit American TV programs; but she, too, has used her fame and fortune to help others. Her work as a global ambassador for the Canadian charity World Vision has involved developing clean water projects in Africa.
The echoes of Princess Diana's charitable roles are hard to escape. Miss Markle's beauty seems to be matched by a maturity and grace that will endear her to the country. Together they should make a formidable team as they set out on what will be a lifetime of service and commitment to public duties.
After a long period of political uncertainty and the seemingly interminable controversy over Brexit, the country now has a Royal wedding to look forward to; and if there is ever an event that can draw our fractured nation together then this is it. As we were reminded by the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, the style and pageantry are hard to beat.
It is not yet clear where the couple intend to marry and they may prefer a low-key affair. That would be a shame. The monarchy has shown its ability to adapt to the realities of the modern world but there remains an important place for tradition, spectacle and color. The wedding is set for next spring. Let it be a great national occasion in a great national church.
The Washington Post on the rise of hate crimes:
A new FBI report on hate crimes tells a sobering story. For the second year in a row, police departments across the country reported a rise in the number of crimes motivated by bias.
In 2016, the FBI counted 6,121 reported incidents nationwide — an increase of 4.6?percent from 2015, during which 5,850 cases were reported. That number, in turn, marked a 6.8?percent increase in reported hate crimes over 2014. Roughly 58?percent of such attacks last year were motivated by racial bias, of which about half targeted African Americans. Of the 21?percent of crimes fueled by animosity toward the victim's religion, more than half the attacks were aimed at Jews, a quarter at Muslims.
The sharp rise in crimes against Muslims and people of Arab descent is particularly troubling. Racially motivated attacks on Arabs jumped 38?percent from 2015, the first year in which the FBI requested data on such crimes. And attacks on Muslims, which spiked 67?percent in 2015, rose an additional 19?percent last year to more than 300?reported incidents. That makes 2016 the year with the highest number of hate crimes against Muslims since 2001, following the 9/11 attacks.
Meanwhile, crimes against Latinos and against white people rose 15?percent and 17?percent, respectively, from 2015. Crimes against transgender people went up 44?percent.
The FBI's report doesn't draw conclusions as to what might be behind this disturbing rise in hate. But it's noteworthy that many of the groups against whom crimes rose by double digits were the focus of inflammatory rhetoric by Donald Trump over the course of his presidential campaign. Likewise, the FBI data shows a sharp rise in bias-motivated incidents in the months around the 2016 election — confirming reports by the Anti-Defamation League and others of a surge of attacks on Muslims and Jews in the wake of Mr.?Trump's election.
"Hate crimes are different from other crimes," FBI Director James B. Comey said in a 2014 speech. "They strike at the heart of one's identity." For this reason, it's important that the United States be able to tackle this growing problem with the best data it can gather. The FBI's statistics on hate crimes, while the best we have, are also incomplete — partly because it's up to state and local police departments to decide whether to provide the federal government with their data. What's more, a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that many hate-crime victims never report the offense.
Police departments should work to provide the federal government with more complete data. But taking this rise in hate seriously also requires that law enforcement officials cultivate trust with the communities they serve. Victims need to know they will be treated with respect if they come forward — especially in the current political environment, where many may be particularly fearful.
The Houston Chronicle on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
Open a bank account using a stolen identity and you might find yourself behind bars.
Open millions of accounts using stolen identities, and you might be the world's second largest bank.
Between 2009 and 2016, Wells Fargo created an estimated 3.5 million sham deposit and credit card accounts created under customers' names.
Scandals like this one are why we have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which fined Wells Fargo $100 million for its scam. Now more than ever, the nation needs a strong CFPB to help keep big banks in line.
You'd think that a president who once accused hedge funds of "getting away with murder" would find common cause with this regulatory agency. Instead, Donald Trump wants the watchdog to go belly up for the wolves of Wall Street.
The CFPB director, Richard Cordray, resigned this month, and Trump is trying to find a temporary replacement in Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (For those checking, that's the same OMB director who has failed to deliver on a once-promised Hurricane Harvey recovery package).
Consider this just another example of Trump's compulsion to stand on the side of the rich and powerful against the American middle class. He might as well put an arsonist in charge of a fire department. Mulvaney has a record of trying to eliminate the CFPB, including cosponsoring a bill to do just that when he was in Congress. His appointment would also open the bureau to potential back-door dealing — a longtime Mulvaney aide now works as a key lobbyist for a major bank, Santander, which faces a $10 million fine for illegal overdraft fees.
A bureaucratic battle has Mulvaney fighting with Leandra English, the CFPB's deputy director, for legal control over the agency. All this wrangling for power should be unnecessary. Trump needs to pick a formal appointee and submit that person to Senate approval.
Corporate profits are sky high and the stock market continues its eight-year-long surge, but paychecks remain stubbornly stagnant. The middle class deserves a qualified director to head up the only federal agency solely dedicated to balancing the playing field between Main Street and Wall Street. When debt collectors illegally threaten veterans, or payday lenders trick working families into a pit of debt, or mortgage companies charge more on the basis of a customer's skin color, the CFPB must be fully empowered to set things right.
Less than a decade has passed since reckless financial institutions brought the global economy to the brink of collapse. The American people may have forgiven banks for their sins, but the CFPB exists to ensure that we don't forget.
The Ledger of Lakeland, Florida on an act passed by the House of Representatives designed to update and upgrade the flood insurance program:
Hurricane season ends on Thursday, and we say good riddance. The misery visited upon Florida by Hurricane Irma — as well as that wrought in Texas by Hurricane Harvey — made us even more appreciative of our state's decade-long lull between major storm events.
But the storms of '17 may lead Congress to support an important and much-needed change in responding to these events, and the effects of other severe weather episodes, if the Senate can be convinced to go along.
Two weeks ago the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, which was designed to update and upgrade the nation's flood insurance program — and which included provisions championed by Republican Congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland.
Specifically, Ross' contribution to the final package would grant latitude for private insurers to enter the flood insurance market. It's a much-needed reform to a beleaguered program. The Senate should retain Ross' idea as it debates the House measure.
Flood insurance has been a government monopoly since the program was created in 1968. While the government mandates coverage for landowners in flood-prone areas, mortgage companies may also require landowners outside such zones to purchase insurance.
Though handled by private companies — about 85 firms issue policies — the federal government is the primary underwriter for the 5 million policies now issued across the United States. About 1.8 million policies were issued in Florida, the most of any state.
The problem is that Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) plunged the program deep into debt. Today, the program is more than $30 billion in the red, and operates at an annual loss of $1.4 billion, according to the House Financial Services Committee.
Trying to cover that shortfall necessitated more government borrowing and, as of earlier this year, rate increases.
Yet, additionally, the government artificially suppressed the cost of insurance by surveying the market through the broader lens of average loss within the flood zone rather than analyzing each individual property, as a private insurer would do. The insurance industry estimated a few years ago that premiums were about half of what they would be in a privatized market.
Ross' language, which was co-drafted by Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, broadens the private market. It allows companies to write policies if they can meet the government's coverage criteria.
Critics assert introducing profit-seeking private firms into this program would jack up rates, particularly for middle- and low-income homeowners who can least afford it.
But they don't account for the pressure of increased competition that would accompany the opening of the market, and industry analysts suggest insurers eagerly eye entry to an underserved, overpriced and inefficient market with, according to CNBC, some $3 billion in revenue.
We can understand the reluctance of some to get the government out of this effort. Washington's role as the source of relief and rebuilding funds is seen clearly against the devastating backdrop of the losses generated by Harvey and Irma.
We agree the government should be there for such unique and widespread disasters — but not routine flooding issues that create most of the claims. Nor should taxpayers be on the hook to rebuild homes lost repeatedly to flooding — such as one federally insured home in Houston that has been flooded 19 times — or homes that are not the policyholder's primary residence.
Moreover, allowing private companies to access these customers would save taxpayers middle-man costs already flowing to private companies. By one estimate, roughly one-third of premiums cover administrative costs for insurance companies that assume no risk, and the Government Accountability Office estimates those firms have pocketed $10 billion for that over the past three decades.
Ross' reform is long overdue, and the Senate should support that. We shouldn't need once-in-a-century storms to remind us that this 50-year-old money pit, as Ross put it, is "both too big to fail and yet absolutely bound to fail."
The New York Times on the Senate tax bill:
This is how Senate Republicans compromise these days: They could make their enormously unpopular tax bill, which lavishes benefits on corporations and wealthy families, more generous to real estate tycoons and hedge fund billionaires to win over a couple of lawmakers who say the legislation doesn't do enough for small businesses.
Even by the collapsing standards of Congress this is astounding. The change demanded by the two unhappy senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana — would further lower the tax bills of people like President Trump who earn most of their income through limited liability companies, partnerships and other "pass through" businesses that do not withhold taxes on the money passed along to their owners. About 70 percent of all pass-through income goes to people in the top 1 percent of Americans who receive any income whatsoever.
Under the Senate bill, business owners could claim a 17.4 percent deduction on their pass-through income before paying taxes. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Daines want a higher deduction, meaning that moguls would pay taxes on less of their earnings. It is conceivable that this could benefit some mom-and-pop businesses, but only modestly so. This is really about stuffing the pockets of people like Mr. Trump, who controls his real estate, licensing and hospitality empire through more than 500 pass-through businesses, according to his lawyers.
Forgotten in this deal-making are the millions of poor and middle-class families whose tax and health insurance premiums would rise under the Senate bill. Republican lawmakers keep talking about how middle-class families would see tax cuts of about $1,000, or about $19 dollars a week, but those cuts would last only a few years before expiring after 2025. By 2027, families making under $75,000 a year would on average pay more in taxes, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. All told, half of all taxpayers would pay more by that year and two-thirds of people in the middle 20 percent of the income distribution would pay more, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. People earning $40,000 to $50,000 would collectively lose $5.3 billion by paying more in taxes and receiving less in government spending in 2027 while millionaires would gain $5.8 billion, according to the Joint Committee and the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill would also repeal the Affordable Care Act's mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. As a result, up to 13 million could lose coverage, and premiums would rise 10 percent a year for the next 10 years, the C.B.O. says. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has correctly noted that any temporary tax cuts for the middle class would be more than offset by the higher cost of health insurance — a good reason for her to vote against the bill.
Because it would cut corporate taxes so deeply — to 20 percent, from 35 percent — this bill would blow a huge hole in the federal budget. Over the next 10 years, it would add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit. That hole would have to be filled somehow, someday. That would probably mean even higher taxes on the middle class in the future and cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other important government programs. Several Republican senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jerry Moran of Kansas — have expressed concerns about the deficit. If they are genuinely troubled, they will uphold their demand that Congress not pass the buck for tax cuts to future generations and will vote no on this bill.
The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is trying to rush the bill to a vote by the end of the week. This self-imposed deadline is intended to give lawmakers and the public as little time as possible to analyze and understand the bill. The Senate has held no hearings on this legislation, which has been cooked up behind closed doors by Republicans without Democratic input. Senator John McCain of Arizona gave a stirring speech in July about the need for the Senate to be "deliberative" and "bipartisan" during the debate about repealing the A.C.A. The mad dash to get a tax bill passed before Christmas has been a prime example of what Mr. McCain was railing against. If he stands for the principles he spoke about so eloquently, he will vote no on this bill, just as he did on the deeply flawed health care legislation.
Republican senators have a choice. They can follow the will of their donors and vote to take money from the middle class and give it to the wealthiest people in the world. Or they can vote no, to protect the public and the financial health of the government. There's no compromise on that.
San Francisco Chronicle on President Donald Trump's comments during a ceremony to honor Navajo Code Talkers:
Nearly every day, President Trump spouts off on random topics: NFL kneel-downs, the stock market surge or his feud with media networks not named Fox. The constant bluster nature can make it forgettable, if not forgivable, except it's neither. A president's words have weight.
No better example is his Pocahontas comment that overwhelmed a ceremony to honor Navajo Code Talkers who helped win World War II. He paid tribute to the aging group and then veered into a gratuitous aside ridiculing Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who once claimed American Indian heritage on a resume.
He's used the label before, drawing angry responses from tribal leaders who consider it derogatory and racist. Now he's doing it again, blind to the hurt he causes in jousting with a liberal senator he doesn't like.
His self-justifying world is filled with mirrors that reflect only him. It's natural to grow tired of his narcissism, but it's impossible when Trump showcases himself so often. He's cheapening his office and the nation.
His deluded self-absorption hit another low point this week via a news report indicating he didn't believe an infamous "Access Hollywood" video clip showing him bragging about groping women was authentic. But his original words are real, and he's already acknowledged it and tried to apologize.
The too-easy defense of such conduct is that the president enjoys provoking and later backpedals to reality. That's an answer that argues his words have no meaning. The damage he causes can't be repaired amid the chaos he creates.
It's foolish to call on the president to change. When John Kelly was named chief of staff, the expectation was he'd tone down Trump's rampaging ways. He hasn't.
The public shouldn't tune out when Trump speaks. He must be held accountable for his insults and falsehoods.
A reckless president can't be excused or indulged.