Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post says that, with midterms coming up, Democrats must act now to have a big impact on financial regulation
President Biden likes to tout his role as “Sheriff Joe” in the Obama administration, where he helped distribute and monitor billions in recovery aid in response to the Great Recession. But another key part of the cleanup from the 2008 financial crisis was tighter regulation of Wall Street banks. In that area, Mr. Biden is in danger of not getting his own sheriffs in place.
At the top of the list is the need to fill the role of the Federal Reserve vice chair of supervision. This post has been vacant since Oct. 13, 2021. If midterm elections go the way polling currently predicts, Mr. Biden will have an even tougher time getting much done with a GOP-led House and possibly Senate, too. So this is likely Mr. Biden’s last window to get his picks in place in top bank cop positions. It’s inexplicable how slowly the White House and Senate Democrats have moved to fill these roles.
Financial regulators aren’t household names, but they can have a massive impact on everything from bitcoin to bank mergers to market stability. They have wide discretion to make regulations, largely without any additional input from Congress. The Trump administration used regulatory channels to severely curb immigration. Democrats could make a similarly large impact on financial regulation, but they have been slow to nominate and confirm key appointments.
It was well known since Mr. Biden’s first day in office that the Fed’s banking supervision position would be open in October 2021, yet the White House waited until January 2022 to nominate Sarah Bloom Raskin for the role. She was unable to garner enough Democratic votes for confirmation and was forced to withdraw. On April 15 — six months after the position became vacant — Mr. Biden nominated former Treasury official Michael Barr for the Fed role. His confirmation hearing has been scheduled for Thursday. Senate Democrats need to move swiftly after that to confirm him.
Mr. Barr was instrumental in implementing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act during President Barack Obama’s first term. He is widely seen as a moderate Democrat and is well known in the financial industry. He was an acolyte of Robert Rubin when he was Treasury secretary during the Clinton administration. While some on the left are concerned that Mr. Barr would be more lenient on the banks than they would like, it’s clear he is qualified for the role. In a less polarized world, he would garner Republican votes, too.
The comptroller of the currency post also remains open after Mr. Biden’s nominee, Saule Omarova, was forced to withdraw in December after a rocky confirmation hearing, and there’s no confirmed chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. At both the OCC and FDIC, there are acting heads, which, while not ideal, at least allows Mr. Biden to have some sway over the agencies. But the Fed needs to have a confirmed person for the role.
At a time when stocks are nosediving and various cryptocurrencies are collapsing, Mr. Biden and fellow Democrats need to make these appointments a more urgent priority. This opportunity may not come again.
The New York Times argues that the Buffalo shooting was not a random act of violence but the extreme expression of the GOP’s worldview
Republican politicians, including some of the party’s top leaders, openly espouse versions of a white supremacist conspiracy theory holding that an orchestrated effort is underway to displace white Americans. A recently published poll found that almost half of Republicans believe that immigrants are being brought to the United States as part of such an effort.
On Saturday, a gunman who said he was motivated by a version of this “replacement theory” killed 10 people at a Buffalo grocery store, officials said. The suspect, identified as Payton S. Gendron, wrote in an online diatribe that he sought to kill Black people because he wanted to prevent white people from losing their rightful control of the country.
Mr. Gendron described himself as part of a movement. He said that he was inspired by similar attacks on other minority communities and that he hoped others would follow his example. The suspects in several mass killings in recent years, including the 2015 murder of nine Black worshipers at a church in Charleston, S.C.; the 2018 murder of 11 Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh; the 2019 murder of 51 Muslim worshipers at a pair of mosques in New Zealand; and the 2019 murder of 23 people, many Latino, in El Paso, Texas, also propounded versions of this racist worldview.
American life is punctuated by mass shootings that are routinely described as idiosyncratic. But these attacks are not random acts; they are part of the long American history of political violence perpetrated by white supremacists against Black people and other minority groups.
Politicians who have employed some of the vocabulary of replacement theory generally do not make explicit calls for violence. The office of one of those politicians, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, said in a statement that the Buffalo attack was an “act of evil” and that she “has never advocated for any racist position.”
The matter is not so simple.
Replacement theory is an attack on democracy. It privileges the purported interests of some Americans over those of others, asserting, in effect, that the will of the people means the will of white people. It rekindles fears and resentments among white Americans that cynical practitioners of American politics have stoked throughout the nation’s history. It also provides a disturbing rationalization for people inclined to resort to violence when the political process does not deliver what they want or protect what they see as their place in society.
The Fox News host Tucker Carlson, a leading purveyor of replacement theory rhetoric, has promoted the idea that elites are seeking to replace white Americans on more than 400 episodes of his program, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
“Now I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the third world,” Mr. Carlson said on an episode in April 2021. “But they become hysterical because that’s — that’s what’s happening, actually.” Representative Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, later tweeted that Mr. Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory as he explains what is happening to America.”
In September, Ms. Stefanik’s re-election campaign paid for a Facebook ad that combined imagery of immigrants with the accusation that “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.” Ms. Stefanik’s ad continued, “Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.”
Right-wing rhetoricians in the United States portray undocumented immigrants as the primary threat. This sanitizes replacement theory for mainstream consumption without diluting its logic. The same argument is easily applied to other minority groups.
The French author Renaud Camus coined the term “the great replacement” in a 2011 book to describe what he saw as a conscious effort by French elites to open the country’s doors for Muslim immigrants to replace the ethnically French population and culture.
The template has been adapted for use by extremists around the world. Mr. Gendron wrote that he blamed Jews for orchestrating the replacement of white Americans. He copied large portions of his manifesto from the document posted to justify the New Zealand killings, in some cases inserting the name of the Jewish philanthropist George Soros in place of the former German chancellor Angela Merkel’s name. The manifesto posted by the El Paso shooting suspect, which Mr. Gendron also referenced, spoke of the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” The common thread — the ineluctable core of replacement theory — is that some people are white and some people are not, and the people who are white are threatened by those who are not.
It must also be emphasized that the United States makes it easy for domestic terrorists to kill. The police said that the Buffalo assailant used a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle that he had purchased legally at a gun shop near his hometown. As a practical matter, almost anyone can buy guns that are designed to kill a lot of people quickly. The only real line of defense is the judgment of the people who sell guns. “He didn’t stand out — because if he did, I would’ve never sold him the gun,” Robert Donald, the store’s owner, told The New York Times.
The focus on the gunman’s motives should not obscure the fact that the most important step the government can take to impede similar attacks is to limit the availability of guns.
The health of American democracy also requires the constructive use of free speech, especially by the nation’s political leaders. There are always demagogues whose stock in trade is the demonization of immigrants and other minority groups, and American society has long allowed those on the fringes to air their views. The question in any era is whether such views are voiced, or echoed, by those in positions of responsibility.
It is telling that House Republicans last year installed Ms. Stefanik in leadership to replace Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who remains among the most forthright critics of the party’s illiberal turn.
Ms. Cheney tweeted on Monday: “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”
The Wall Street Journal believes recent SCOTUS decision on campaign loan cap is integral to political free speech
Imagine a successful small-business owner who wants to run for Congress. To jump-start his campaign, he might lend it some money. Once fundraising gets going, it can pay him back. But the law says donations arriving after Election Day may repay only $250,000 of candidate debt. If the businessman loans his campaign more than that amount, he’s taking a real financial risk.
That was true until Monday, when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in FEC v. Cruz that the repayment cap, passed as part of the McCain-Feingold mess of 2002, is unconstitutional. Sen. Ted Cruz advanced his 2018 campaign $260,000, leaving him $10,000 short after Election Day. As Chief Justice John Roberts writes for the Court’s majority, this restriction “inhibits candidates from loaning money to their campaigns in the first place, burdening core speech.”
It’s more than a theoretical worry: More than 90% of campaign debt is candidate loans, per the Federal Election Commission. Since 2002, Chief Justice Roberts says, “the percentage of loans by Senate candidates for exactly $250,000 has increased tenfold,” which suggests that people are trying to stay under the cap. Political competition is in the public interest, and the Chief adds that self-funding is “especially important for new candidates and challengers.”
Justice Elena Kagan, writing in dissent for the Court’s three liberals, defends the law’s merits. “Political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption,” she says. “The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return.” She also argues that the repayment limitation doesn’t affect Mr. Cruz’s ability to self-fund, only his opportunity to get money back from donors.
Yet Chief Justice Roberts replies that the government “is unable to identify a single case of quid pro quo corruption in this context.” Individual donations are “capped at $2,900 per election,” and meaningful sums are publicly reported. The Chief quotes incumbent Senators who originally debated the repayment limit, saying high-minded things such as: “I would like to be able to have a level playing field so I could stay in the ball game.”
Justice Kagan’s view of perceived corruption in politics is expansive. She cites a YouGov poll, commissioned by the government, in which 81% of Americans said they believed that post-election donors would likely expect political favors in return. OK, but would the public feel the same way about regular pre-election donors? The survey didn’t ask.
The Chief’s opinion is a logical extension of the Court’s many precedents on free speech and campaign finance. But the Court’s liberals can’t seem to acknowledge this as a matter of stare decisis. It’s clear they’re willing to overturn those precedents as soon as they get the chance, which we hope for the sake of political free speech will be a long way off.
According to the Los Angeles Times, ignoring white supremacy in the United States has allowed it to become normalized
The ugly truth is that while Americans, especially those in the white establishment, shake their heads and maybe even shed some tears over the 10 Black people gunned down in Buffalo over the weekend in another apparently racially motivated attack, we’re growing accustomed to the virulent white supremacy that may have driven it.
How long did the shock last after the killing of 23 people, most of them Latino, at an El Paso Walmart in 2019? How long after 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 or nine Black churchgoers were murdered inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015? Hours, even a few days, but never long enough to decide that we have had enough.
Instead, Americans have ignored the insidious creep of white supremacy into the public discourse to the point that it has become normalized and has radicalized extremist politicians such as U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, and similar Trump-aligned politicians to the point that they now feel comfortable repeating the lie that Democrats and American Jews are plotting to replace white voters with people of color.
The so-called replacement theory has been repeated by Tucker Carlson of Fox News hundreds of times in recent years. And it is what allegedly motivated the 18-year-old white man who police say drove hundreds of miles to a largely Black neighborhood in Buffalo to gun down people who were trying to work or buy food for the week ahead.
Although only a few politicians openly support this garbage, the Republican Party has done almost nothing to reject, denounce or investigate radicalized white supremacists, perhaps more afraid of alienating nativist constituents than they are of allowing certain groups — especially Black Americans — to be victimized repeatedly to the point where they have to fear ordinary activities. And that is just one aspect of how racism, especially racism against Black people, becomes part of the system.
Ironically (or perhaps intentionally), even as conservative elected officials tolerate the radical and racist theories within their ranks, they insist that there is no systemic racism in the U.S. — and want classrooms to reflect this revisionist view. So far, at least a dozen states have passed laws limiting or banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and more than 10 others are considering similar legislation.
Critical race theory examines racism as embedded in society and our daily lives, and in many aspects of legislative and legal systems. That is not a radical thought. We regularly fail to provide an equal education to children of color, then blame them for not overcoming the enormous barriers of poverty, inequality and criminalization that society places in their path.
The normalization of the fringe begins when we fail to accept the reality of more common forms of racism, and take little to no action against its more horrifying forms. Why does Fox News allow Carlson to shoot off his mouth in hateful, ignorant and dangerous ways? Why do legislators refuse to accept the idea that if we don’t teach children about racism in the many forms it takes today, they will grow up more susceptible to it and less able to stand against it?
The death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer shocked much of the nation into realizing that the Black community was justified in its complaints about treatment by law enforcement. The shooting in Buffalo should similarly become the clarion call about the danger of virulent white supremacy to the stability of our nation.
China Daily says lifting “punitive” tariffs on Chinese goods would help temper U.S. inflation
Tariffs are a double-edged sword in trade between countries. When one country imposes tariffs on the other for protectionist purposes, there has seldom, if ever, been a net winner, or net loser.
Driven by its zero-sum perspective on China-U.S. trade ties, and the overall bilateral relationship, however, the previous U.S. administration under Donald Trump ignored economic and trade common sense and imposed “punitive” tariffs on Chinese goods. And, despite loud calls from both China and within the United States for their removal, the Joe Biden administration has by and large sustained them, believing they serve U.S. interests.
But, just as many economists and business insiders have repeatedly argued, there is a price being paid. And that price is being felt keenly now, especially with inflation reaching record highs in the U.S..
On Tuesday and Wednesday, when he spoke about inflationary pressures, U.S. President Joe Biden acceded “inflation is unacceptably high,” the “number one threat” to U.S. economic strength, and bringing it down is his “top economic priority.”
He didn’t count in the trade war his government inherited from the previous administration as a reason for the United States’ current economic woes, and instead blamed the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict as two key drivers of the 40-year-high inflation.
But the potential flexibility his administration is signaling on the matter of tariffs on Chinese goods is a welcome sign of a possible return to economic common sense, which would benefit not just both countries, but the world.
Economists and business communities in both countries are in favor of total removal of such tariffs for good reason. There has been sufficient proof of their failure to serve U.S. interests. They make it more expensive for U.S. businesses to import these goods from China, and for the average U.S. consumer to buy them, and they have not helped to protect U.S. industries or jobs, because many of the goods covered are no longer manufactured in the U.S. at all, or not at a pace that meets demand.
It has been calculated that as a result of the trade war, U.S. businesses have lost more than $1.7 trillion, U.S. families have spent $1,300 more each year, and the U.S. has lost more than 240,000 jobs.
While addressing the pandemic and Ukraine factors that have been driving up inflation appears beyond the capabilities of the Biden administration for various reasons, everyone knows the removal of these tariffs — which are punitive to both sides — will contribute greatly to bringing down the inflationary pressures.
President Biden said his administration is “looking at what would have the most positive impact.” Well, that is it. The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office is conducting an expiry review of the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese goods. Any unbiased look at them would support lifting them. Because, at the end of the day, the Chinese and U.S. economies are more complementary than they are competitive, whatever Washington might claim to the contrary.