President Obama made the right decision to seek Congressional authorization for his announced plan to order unilateral military strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons. There has to be a vigorous and honest public debate on the use of military force, which could have huge consequences even if it is limited in scope and duration.Former defense secretary Leon Panetta looks at the effects of sequestration and the overall pattern of obstructionism in Congress:
If he is to win Congressional support, Mr. Obama and his top aides will have to explain in greater detail why they are so confident that the kind of military strikes that administration officials have described would deter President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from gassing his people again (American officials say more than 1,400 were killed on Aug. 21) rather than provoke him to unleash even greater atrocities.
They will also have to explain how they can keep the United States from becoming mired in the Syrian civil war — something Mr. Obama, for sound reasons, has long resisted — and how military action will advance the cause of a political settlement: the only rational solution to the war.
In these next few months, major decisions loom on the budget, the debt ceiling, appropriations, the sequester and immigration reform. If nothing is done because of political gridlock, members may somehow hold onto their offices, but the United States will have been weakened — and not as the consequence of some unforeseeable event, but because our elected leaders did nothing.More analysis on the day's top stories below the fold.
Theodore Roosevelt said: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing is the wrong thing. And the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Neither Congress nor the nation can afford to become resigned to failure. If brave men and women in uniform can put their lives on the line every day to defend our nation, then surely members of Congress can take the risks to do what is necessary to keep America strong. That is not just their responsibility. It is their solemn oath.
The Washington Post also editorializes against Republican obstructionism:
Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court found most of its provisions to be constitutional. Republicans, having opposed the bill and supported the legal challenge to it, are entitled to be unhappy about the outcome, though in our view they are wrong on the merits. They are not entitled to obstruct and flout the laws of the United States. On the contrary, they have an obligation to cooperate in good faith with wholly legitimate laws duly passed and reviewed by all three branches of government.Eugene Robinson adds his take:
Are we really going to do this? Are we going to wade into a struggle we don’t really want to fight? Are we going to mire ourselves in a senseless, grinding conflict whose possible outcomes range from bad to worse?Over at The Los Angeles Times, the editors speak up for mininum wage workers as well as for promoting upward mobility:
I’m talking about the upcoming budget battles in Washington, of course. (What, you thought I meant something else?)
More important than entry-level pay, though, is workers' ability to advance into higher-income jobs. A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that 43% of those born to families in the bottom fifth of U.S. incomes never rise to a higher rung, and 70% don't make it to the median income. That lack of mobility belies the American self-image as a land of opportunity. And while Pew's polls show that the public wants government to promote upward mobility, combating the entrenched, intergenerational poverty in this country presents an enormous challenge.Harold Meyerson argues that the right to unionize should be protected by civil rights laws:
One place to start is by doing a better job of equipping workers for such a change. Although enormous amounts of tax dollars are spent on various types of career training, the efforts have been inefficient, duplicative and poorly targeted. Federal and state governments are trying, though, to narrow the gap between the skills imparted and the demands of today's job market.
There's no obvious way to imbue young people and disadvantaged adults with more marketable skills. Instead, governments are doing a lot of experimentation with career and technical education reforms, including career academies, apprenticeships and partnerships between schools and local employers. The potential payoff is not just a better career path for Americans than flipping burgers and delivering pizzas, it's a more competitive workforce and a faster-growing economy.
Under the NLRA, union organizing is a legally protected activity — it's just not protected very well. Extending the protections of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to workers seeking to form unions would transform what is now only a legal right into an effective right as well. But it would do more than that.Arlie Hochschild at The Los Angeles Times writes about the need to incorporate lessons on empathy in our schools:
Americans — liberals especially — are troubled by the rise in economic inequality that has imperiled the nation's middle class, and troubled as well that few solutions for this problem are readily apparent. Globalization may have reduced the incomes of Americans in industries that are open to competition from low-wage nations, but the jobs held by most Americans — in sales, construction, transportation, restaurants — can't be outsourced, which means that wage scales aren't affected by those in China. And yet, pay in those sectors has been declining as well.
By making union organizing a civil right, the California Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown could begin to end this public-policy paralysis.
We often assume that children are innately selfish and have to learn compassion. But at the core of each child is a capacity for empathy that can serve as a starting point. Psychologists have documented spontaneous helping behavior in 2-year-olds. And children seem able to identify with gerbils, cats and storybook waifs, creatures quite unlike themselves. But sadly, according to one study, children become less generous toward others as they grow older. So empathy can be learned and unlearned.
And there are things schools can do to teach it. Take Kids for Peace, an organization founded in 2006 by Jill McManigal, a former elementary school teacher, and Danielle Gram, who was then a high school student. The program teaches children about other cultures and then connects each American child with a child living in another country through such things as sending a hand-painted knapsack filled with school supplies, a toy and a personal note.
In Canada, child advocate Mary Gordon established Roots of Empathy, a nonprofit aimed at students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The program, now up and running at 12 sites in Canada and three in the United States, brings in a parent and baby to visit classrooms over nine months, and a trained empathy instructor helps children figure out what a baby is feeling from watching its face and body. According to the scientific director of Healthy Child Manitoba in Canada, the program reduced the probability of its participants getting into fights from 15% to 8%.