Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Houston Chronicle on the anti-Semitic attacks in New York:
The list of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area in December is appalling, a litany of hatred that calls out to be condemned and countered.
Starting with the death of three people at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, more than a dozen incidents have been reported. These include a 65-year-old man who was punched and kicked while his assailant yelled anti-Semitic slurs and a 34-year-old woman who was walking with her son when she was hit on the head as her attacker called her a “f------ Jew.”
The latest assault happened on Saturday (Dec. 28), when a man wielding a large blade barged into a rabbi’s home and stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration. The man, who was charged Monday with a hate crime, allegedly searched online for nearby Jewish temples and for “Why did Hitler hate the Jews.”
The rash of attacks is even more troubling when you consider that it is hardly unique.
Close to 1,900 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Anti-Semitic homicides reached their highest level ever last year after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead, FBI statistics show. And even while white supremacists led the chant of “Jews will not replace us!” at a 2017 Charlottesville, Va., rally, anti-Semitism can come from across the political spectrum.
“What we’re finding about various attacks is that they don’t fill any one single narrative. Perpetrators are from different backgrounds, expressed different politics,” Kari Dunn Saratovsky, CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, told the editorial board. “What they share is a hatred of Jews.”
This hatred is not limited to the United States, either. Around the world, ugly incidents of bigotry and discrimination are becoming all too common. In France, where 500 anti-Semitic attacks were reported in 2018, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated this month — swastikas spray-painted on dozens of gravestones. In Germany, where a recent survey found that 1 in 4 hold anti-Semitic beliefs, a gunman attacked a synagogue during Yom Kippur, killing two people.
This rise in anti-Semitism must be met with a greater force, one that we must all contribute to spreading. Houston is a diverse city with a thriving Jewish community that deserves and welcomes support.
“It takes all of us to stand up together and unite against this hate and perpetual violence,” Saratovsky said. “We can’t remain silent here. We have to call for action, and that’s on all of us.”
Anti-Semitism is virulent and pervasive. Its tropes are used not only by racists but sometimes unwittingly reside along with calls for tolerance in many Americans’ Twitter feeds and thoughts.
While Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., rightly asked after the string of recent attacks that no one be “targeted because of their faith, race or ethnicity,” her previous tweets tied Jews to money and loyalty to Israel. President Donald Trump, who did the right thing Monday by condemning the attack in a tweet that called on Americans to “eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” has at other times relied on harmful tropes, too. He called Jews “brutal killers” when it comes to business deals at an Israeli American Council conference.
This reminds us all that side by side with our compassion and our condemnations of anti-Semitism, we should strive for understanding. Groups such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston engage in regular education efforts and interfaith community outreach, but if we are all in this together, the effort should go both ways.
This can begin as easily as visiting the newly reopened Holocaust Museum, which teaches the dangers of prejudice and apathy, or spending time at the Jewish Community Center, which offers the chance to experience activities and meet new people.
The only way to fight hate is through love. Meeting one another, and understanding one another, is a great way to start.
The Khaleej Times on former Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn being found in Lebanon after escaping from Japan as a fugitive:
When a former auto boss-turned-suspect does a Houdini act and vanishes from Japan, and mysteriously reappears in Lebanon, questions will be raised. So how did Carlos Ghosn, the former Renault-Nissan chief, pull off such an audacious escape from right under the noses of security agencies in Japan, a country where he is being investigated for corruption? Why was security so lax ahead of his trial? Ghosn is a familiar face and it is surprising how he managed to give officials the slip. His lawyer said he is 'shocked' by the development. If some reports are to believed, Ghosn sneaked into musical instrument box aboard a private plane to Lebanon where he holds citizenship and remains a respected figure despite his fall from grace on the other side of the world.
The former automobile titan also has a French passport but he decided against heading to the country as it has an extradition treaty with Japan where he is being tried for white collar crimes. This getaway appears to be an inside job and Ghosn's connections in higher echelons seemed to have helped him flee the country. But Japanese prosecutors are not commenting and the country's courts are closed for the New Year break. The flight happened at an opportune moment for Ghosn when the system was caught napping during the holiday season.
The former corporate hero was jailed on two occasions last year and the high profile case in Japan has been followed closely by world media. Ghosn rose to fame after he did the impossible by bringing Nissan and Renault together for a successful partnership. Mitsubishi became the third partner to make it a behemoth. But the fall was swift for Ghosn, the revered corporate saviour, who has since maintained his innocence which raises another question: why did he flee justice if his hands were clean? The system in Japan was rigged, he said. He had escaped "injustice and political persecution," he claimed. Lebanon, where he is now based, faces a harsh winter of discontent. The economy is on its knees and there is political chaos. A fugitive in its midst makes matters worse. Talk about flying from the frying pan to the fire. To locate and extricate Ghosn will, therefore, be a gargantuan task, but the accused has promised to become more active on social media in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the quest for justice continues. The system clearly failed to stop Carlos Ghosn from fleeing because it was rigged.
The Dallas Morning News on the church shooting near Fort Worth:
On Sunday (Dec. 29), the kind of news no one wants to see slid across the landscape. There was a shooting at a church in White Settlement outside of Fort Worth, and there were casualties. But as we delved into the details, we will admit feeling first a sense of relief that the loss of life was not larger — two innocent lives were lost along with the assailant — and then a sense of gratitude.
Our gratitude, which was also felt by Gov. Greg Abbott, comes from the knowledge that this mass shooter would have likely incurred a lot more mayhem except for the fact that a good man and a volunteer member of the church’s security team immediately shot back. In response to the era of mass shootings that we are in, Texas specifically enacted a law to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons in church (and elsewhere, unless specifically prohibited at that location). That law saved lives this weekend in North Texas.
Regardless of whether people like this fact, it remains true that there have been at least two church shootings in Texas in recent years that ended because law-abiding citizens had the means and willingness to fight back. The second occurred two years ago in Sutherland Springs, and unfortunately resulted in the loss of many more lives. But as in this most recent shooting, in that incident the assailant did not survive after good men responded with force.
The truth is that there isn’t one solution that will bring an end to all mass attacks, which is one reason we’ve supported such things as creating a federal center to evaluate local, state and federal laws to find the cracks violent criminals exploit to obtain firearms. But it is also true that part of the set of solutions will have to involve enabling innocent people to protect themselves and each other up to and including fighting back.
If that’s tough to consider, there is another hard reality cast into sharp relief by this latest shooting. As in many other incidents — whether it’s a knife-wielding attacker on a Jewish community in New York or a synagogue, church, mosque or other shooting — the attack in North Texas was an assault on a community, on a group of people freely associating with each other and working toward common purpose.
These attacks are pernicious and act with particular purpose to destroy communities. They seek to kill more than individual lives. They seek to kill social bonds that bind us together. They seek to divide and isolate, to leave survivors feeling alone or unsafe in any common space. So it is all the more important for us to stand together in defense against hateful, divisive and evil purpose. It is civil society itself that’s under attack.
The New York Times on raising the minimum wage:
Opponents of minimum-wage laws have long argued that companies have only so much money and, if required to pay higher wages, they will employ fewer workers.
Now there is evidence that such concerns, never entirely sincere, are greatly overstated.
Over the past five years, a wave of increases in state and local minimum-wage standards has pushed the average effective minimum wage in the United States to the highest level on record. The average worker must be paid at least $11.80 an hour — more after inflation than the last peak, in the 1960s, according to an analysis by the economist Ernie Tedeschi.
And even as wages have marched upward, job growth remains strong. The unemployment rate at the end of 2019 will be lower than the previous year for the 10th straight year.
The interventions by some state and local governments, however, do not obviate the need for federal action. To the contrary. Millions of workers are being left behind because 21 states still use the federal standard, $7.25 an hour, which has not risen since 2009 — the longest period without an increase since the introduction of a federal standard in the 1930s.
Across much of America, the minimum wage is set to rise again in the next few days. In Maine and Colorado it will reach $12; in Washington, $13.50; in New York City, $15. Workers in the rest of the country also deserve a raise. The time has come to increase the federal minimum.
House Democrats passed legislation in July that would gradually increase the federal standard, to $15 an hour in 2025 — likely raising the real value above the peak value in the late 1960s — and most of the Democrats running for president have endorsed the legislation. Last year, only about 430,000 people — or 0.5 percent of hourly workers — were paid the federal minimum. The share has fallen in recent years as state and local governments, and some employers, have stepped in. But a much larger group of workers stand to benefit, because they now earn less than the proposed minimum. The Congressional Budget Office estimated a $15 minimum hourly wage would raise the pay of at least 17 million workers.
Among the beneficiaries: people who work for tips. Federal law lets businesses pay $2.13 an hour to waiters, bartenders and others who get tips, so long as the total of tips and wages meets the federal minimum. The legislation would end that rule; the same minimum would apply to all hourly employees. Opponents of the change argue customers will curtail tipping and workers will end up with less money. But eight states, including Minnesota, Montana and Oregon, already have a universal minimum, including for tipped workers, and restaurant workers in those states make more money.
Crucially, the legislation also would require automatic adjustments in the minimum wage to keep pace with wage growth in the broader economy. The current minimum rises only when Congress is in the mood. As a result, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has eroded by nearly 40 percent over the last half-century. A full-time worker making the minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in almost any American city.
The simplistic view that minimum-wage laws cause unemployment commanded such a broad consensus in the 1980s that this editorial board came out against the federal minimum in 1987, calling it “an idea whose time has passed,” and citing as evidence “a virtual consensus among economists.” The old critique is still put forward regularly by the restaurant industry and other major employers of low-wage workers.
But evidence that any such effects are relatively small has been piling up for several decades. A groundbreaking study published in 1993 by the economists David Card and Alan Krueger examined a minimum-wage rise in New Jersey by comparing fast-food restaurants there and in an adjacent part of Pennsylvania. It found no impact on employment.
This prompted other economists to test the standard theory. This year, the British government asked the economist Arindrajit Dube to review the results accumulated over the last quarter-century. Mr. Dube reported the sum total of the research showed minimum-wage increases raised compensation while producing a “very muted effect” on employment.
The patchwork nature of recent minimum-wage increases — the rate rising in some jurisdictions while staying the same in adjacent areas — is offering new opportunities for research.
Consider, for instance, the situation along the New York-Pennsylvania border. New York State has been raising its minimum wage since 2016. On Tuesday, the legal minimum will reach $11.80 outside New York City. Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is among the 21 states where the $7.25 minimum remains in force. In September, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that wages have climbed significantly in counties along the New York side of the state line, again without a discernible difference in the pace of employment growth.
For most companies, the bill is relatively small, and it can be defrayed by giving less money to shareholders, or by raising prices. Opponents often argue minimum-wage increases will encourage automation, but the point is easily overstated. Companies constantly invest in technology: McDonald’s is installing self-order kiosks across the United States, not just at places with higher minimum wages. And instead of replacing workers with robots, companies may choose to invest in technology that enhances the productivity of their work force.
More than doubling the current federal standard would be a significant change, and it is not without risk. It is possible that a national $15 standard would produce the kinds of damage critics have long predicted; the Congressional Budget Office puts the potential increase in unemployment somewhere between zero and 3.7 million people, essentially acknowledging the effects are unpredictable. Workers may be most vulnerable in areas where prevailing wages are relatively low. In California, for example, the minimum wage for large employers (more than 25 workers) will rise to $13 an hour on Wednesday. That is unlikely to cause problems in San Francisco — but the new minimum is quite close to the median hourly wage of $15.23 in the Visalia metropolitan area in the Central Valley. The federal minimum would apply to metropolitan areas like Daphne, Ala., and Sumter, S.C., where the median worker earned less than $15 an hour in 2018.
One simple corrective, proposed by Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, would be to include exemptions from the $15 standard for low-wage metropolitan areas and rural areas.
But the successful increases in minimum-wage standards across a diverse range of states and cities suggest the broader risk is worth taking. The American economy is generating plenty of jobs; the problem is in the paychecks. The solution is a $15 federal minimum wage.
The Wall Street Journal on the stock market in 2019:
Regarding the movement of equity prices, we associate with the words of Alan “Ace” Greenberg, the head of Bear Stearns during the 1987 market crash: “Stocks fluctuate, next question.” The good news in 2019 is that mostly they fluctuated up, which offers a lesson or two.
Stock prices fell Monday (Dec. 30), no doubt in part as investors took profits before the end of the year. But what profits they probably are. With one day of trading left in 2019, the S&P 500 was up 29% for the year, the Nasdaq Composite had risen 35%, and even the dowdy Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 22%. Apple and Microsoft, which drove much of the increase in the Nasdaq, each now have market capitalizations of more than $1.2 trillion.
Anyone who sold a year ago missed a major boost in net worth, yet at the time the investor mood was negative. Markets had declined in the fourth quarter of 2018 as the Federal Reserve tightened money and Donald Trump’s trade war accelerated. Fears of recession were widespread, and even Mr. Trump had stopped touting stock prices on Twitter.
One lesson is that no one knows how stocks will perform in any given year because so much can change. In 2019 the Fed quickly corrected its December 2018 mistake of raising interest rates. Inflation stayed under control. Mr. Trump decided that he wanted a trade truce with China, notwithstanding some harrowing fits and starts along the way. The momentum built by tax reform and deregulation helped the economy, and especially the job market, stay remarkably buoyant despite a trade-induced recession in manufacturing. (See the editorial nearby.)
If you predicted all this, raise your hand. We didn’t think so.
The same uncertainty applies to stocks in 2020, an election year that adds political volatility to the usual economic and policy variables. Will Mr. Trump revert to trade populism if his re-election looks to be in jeopardy? Will markets fall, at least for a while, if Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren appear likely to win the Democratic presidential nod?
The truth is no one knows, though the fact that some people think they do is what helps make a market. You know, for every buyer there’s a seller. Some poor folks probably even heeded the infamous Oct. 21, 2016 article in Politico that began: “Wall Street is set up for a major crash if Donald Trump shocks the world on Election Day and wins the White House.” The S&P 500 was then trading at about 2200. It closed Monday at 3221.
The lesson here is that, as Warren Buffett likes to say, don’t bet against the United States to succeed. America makes mistakes, voters sometimes hand power to misguided politicians, and the public sometimes succumbs to financial manias that turn into panics and crashes. But left to work, trade and invest without too much political interference, Americans unleash their energies in productive fashion. Stocks fluctuate, but over time they go up—often in years you least expect it.
The Seattle Times on a federal law helping community newspapers:
The survival of independent regional newspapers shows hope for a revival of American local journalism. Thanks to a new federal law, these bastions of the free press — including The Seattle Times — can build toward long-term stability despite financial burdens left from an earlier era.
Part of the budget deal signed Dec. 20, the Save the Community Newspaper Act will allow privately held community newspapers to stretch out payments owed to pension plans that have been frozen through years of industry trouble.
Without the urgently needed relief, these newspaper companies would face immense obligations coming due in 2021 under federal pension contribution laws. This long-sought relief reduces the annual bill to a manageable level while preserving pensioners’ rights to every penny they are due.
For The Times, along with sister papers in Yakima and Walla Walla, the restructuring reduces the annual bill by more than $10 million by extending payments over time. That longer runway means the difference between an imminent bankruptcy threat and a fair shot at long-term stability.
“This is a ‘glory, glory, hallelujah’ moment for the newspaper industry, for localism and for family ownership,” Times publisher Frank Blethen said.
This lifeline will help at least 17 — perhaps many more — independent regional newspapers across the country, from Seattle to Albuquerque to Tampa to Bangor, Maine. In these markets, print and online news readers benefit from coverage decisions made by institutions rooted in the communities they serve.
Other cities across the nation have watched helplessly as their newspapers declined despite wide local audiences. Hedge funds and debt-encumbered newspaper chains cut staff and sold assets to wring out money. The simultaneous shift of advertising revenues to large internet companies accelerated these troubles. Business decisions sank the journalism, and communities lost out.
According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s Layoff Tracker website, some 3,160 newsroom jobs disappeared in 2019, mostly at newspapers. The longer trend is even more stark. The Pew Research Center found that from 2008 to 2018, the number of newspaper newsroom workers dropped from 71,000 to 38,000 — a 47% decline in reporters, photographers, editors and design teams. That means cities and towns across America now lack the robust information about city council meetings, state legislatures and local culture their newspapers once provided.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers who fought for this new law recognize what the free press means for American democracy. U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Washington state Democrats, and Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Washington’s U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith, both Democrats, and Republicans Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and former Rep. Dave Reichert deserve special praise for their work to support this cause.
Thanks to their commitment and that of others, The Times now has an opportunity to sustain Seattle’s independent journalism tradition.
“The business model is under a lot of stress,” Blethen said, “but it still works.”
The Save the Community Newspaper Act preserves a special asset for the nation’s communities and governance. Federal recognition of the unique value of America’s free press made this victory possible. Governments and the public should build upon this foundation with resounding support for the mission to help local journalism thrive.