Editorial Roundup: United States
Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post says Jan. 6 should have been a turning point in US politics
A third member of the extremist Oath Keepers group pleaded guilty Wednesday to seditious conspiracy, admitting his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. The pleas provide more proof that the right-wing campaign to whitewash Jan. 6, playing down the extent to which the participants sought to stage an insurrection, is not just craven but also dangerous. The attackers did not behave like “tourists”; they were not unarmed; Jan. 6 was not a normal protest that got out of hand; the attack was not staged by far-left agitators posing as Trump supporters. Instead, it was a coordinated and concerted effort on the part of pro-Trump zealots, riled up by then-President Donald Trump himself, to reverse a presidential election by intimidation and force.
William Todd Wilson led a North Carolina cell of the Oath Keepers, a heavily-armed far-right radical group. According to the Justice Department, Mr. Wilson admitted that “he agreed with others to take part in a plan to use force to prevent, hinder, and delay the execution of the laws of the United States governing the transfer of presidential power. He and others used encrypted and private communications, equipped themselves with a variety of weapons, donned combat and tactical gear, and were prepared to answer a call to take up arms.” The goal was “to stop the transfer of power by disrupting a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to ascertain and count the electoral votes related to the presidential election.”
Mr. Wilson stashed an AR-15-style rifle, a pistol and ammunition in a Virginia hotel, the Justice Department stated. Teams of “quick reaction forces” were stationed in area hotels, waiting to join the attack, according to court records. Mr. Wilson also brought “a large walking stick intended for use as a weapon, and a pocketknife.” On Jan. 6, he was the first of the Oath Keepers co-conspirators to force his way into the Capitol, the Justice Department noted.
Mr. Wilson also admitted that, after law enforcement resecured the Capitol, he was present during a phone call between Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and someone apparently close to Mr. Trump and heard “Rhodes repeatedly implore the individual to tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oath Keepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power,” according to court records. It is bad enough that a dangerous fanatic such as Mr. Rhodes apparently had access to someone in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. It is chilling to imagine what would have happened if his message had been relayed — or if the Oath Keepers had been able to speak directly with Mr. Trump.
Jan. 6 should have been a turning point in our politics. Voters must recognize that where politicians stand on democracy is more important than tax rates, inflation, gas prices or any other policy issue. Lawmakers who see the threat that growing illiberal forces pose to the nation must secure its democratic institutions. A bipartisan group of senators has been working on updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, misinterpretations of which served as the predicate for the events of Jan. 6. Their window to fix the act, clarifying that neither the vice president nor Congress can overturn a presidential election in the manner that Mr. Trump and his supporters desired, is closing. They must move faster. They should have no higher priority.
The New York Times believes the US is not ready for the end of Roe v. Wade
Imagine that every state were free to choose whether to allow Black people and white people to marry. Some states would permit such marriages; others probably wouldn’t. The laws would be a mishmash, and interracial couples would suffer, legally consigned to second-class status depending on where they lived.
It seems an unthinkable scenario in 2022. That’s because in 1967 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that barring interracial marriage, as 16 states still did, violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the state,” the court stated in Loving v. Virginia.
More than half a century on, Loving is considered one of the court’s great rulings, and yet it was not universally admired at the time. Southern states complied only grudgingly; Alabama didn’t repeal its ban on interracial marriage until 2000. That’s the point of having a federal Constitution that is supreme; the guarantees and rights in that document apply to all Americans equally, wherever they live. The court system — and the Supreme Court in particular — exists to protect those rights when state and local authorities refuse to.
Many who oppose Roe v. Wade today, and even some who support it, argue that the 1973 ruling short-circuited a running debate over abortion, a debate that should have been allowed to play out in the states, many of which had long banned abortion. This is one of the main justifications in the leaked draft opinion in which a majority of Supreme Court justices appear ready to overturn Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that preserved Roe’s central holding with certain restrictions.
The problem with this reasoning is that, as in Loving, leaving the matter to individual states and the political process means that millions of Americans will be denied their fundamental rights — in this case, the right of women to decide what happens inside their own bodies.
The draft opinion relies heavily on the lack of a mention of abortion in the Constitution, and therefore argues that the document cannot be the basis for the right to terminate a pregnancy. The Constitution also says nothing about interracial marriage, but that didn’t prevent the justices from finding in the 14th Amendment the guarantee that no couple may be treated differently because of the color of their skin.
In short, constitutional rights are meaningless unless they apply across the entire country. That is why the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia and Roe v. Wade as it did. These rights are inherent in the Constitution, even if they are not explicit in it.
The principle is clear: Women and men should have equal control over their own bodies, as many Americans believed in 1973 and a majority believe today. And yet the right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy is on the verge of being eliminated because five members of the current Supreme Court don’t like it.
Congress has failed repeatedly to codify the protections of Roe and Casey in federal law despite various efforts, not only from Democrats but also from two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Top Democrats are now left planning a vote on an abortion rights bill that they know has zero chance of passing. This is an empty gesture, coming after years of the Democratic Party failing to provide meaningful leadership on reproductive freedom despite the clear warning signs that Roe was endangered.
President Biden, as leader of the party, has an obligation to take the threat to Americans’ constitutional rights seriously by doing all he can to protect access to abortion where it still exists. The White House can encourage regulators to make it easier for women to get medication abortions and over-the-counter birth control, to challenge state laws that limit access to medication abortions and to lease federal property to abortion providers. This would at least show a commitment to the issue, even if legislative options are limited.
Overall, the outlook for reproductive freedom is bleak. In 13 states, “trigger” laws will automatically or very quickly ban abortions after Roe is overturned, as seems highly likely. In about a dozen other states, lawmakers are gearing up to severely restrict access to abortions, if not effectively prohibit them, as Texas has already done without interference by the Supreme Court.
The upshot: Within a few months, abortion could be illegal in more than half the states. The anti-abortion movement isn’t stopping there. Efforts are already underway to impose a nationwide ban on abortion as soon as Republicans regain the White House and Congress, which could happen as soon as 2025.
For the foreseeable future, the real battle for reproductive freedom will be fought in the states, by regular Americans, and their state and local representatives, who are trying to protect this fundamental right while they still can. That means, first and foremost, securing more access.
California lawmakers are moving quickly to pass a package of bills that would make their state, the most populous in the country, also one of the most accessible for women seeking to exercise their reproductive freedom.
Those most in need of abortions are often the least able to afford them. States that want to protect reproductive freedom are helping to pay for the procedure and for the travel required to obtain it — costs that can easily run into the thousands of dollars and are prohibitive for many women. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the percentage of abortion services in Illinois and New York provided to nonresidents has already risen sharply over the past decade, a trend driven by increased restrictions on abortion in other states.
New York lawmakers are considering a bill that would direct funds to abortion providers, allowing them to increase staffing and security to meet already rising demand. In March, Oregon lawmakers approved a $15 million fund for these purposes, which should help provide access to abortion not only for residents of the state but also for those in neighboring Idaho, which has already passed a bill that would prohibit abortions after about six weeks.
All laws are subject to being overturned when the political winds shift, of course. That’s why abortion-rights groups in some states are focused on their own constitutions. In New York, supporters of abortion rights, including Gov. Kathy Hochul, are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would go before New York voters in 2024, to protect reproductive rights in case the State Legislature falls into Republican hands. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month asked her state’s Supreme Court to rule that the Michigan Constitution affirmatively protects the right to an abortion.
Finally, pro-choice states are realizing they have to play some strategic defense when it comes to protecting abortion providers, and possibly women who get abortions themselves, from states that reach outside their borders to force their anti-abortion laws on everyone else. Missouri lawmakers, for example, are considering a bill that would allow its residents to sue anyone in any state who helps a Missouri resident get an abortion.
In anticipation of laws like these, a bill in New York would bar law-enforcement authorities from assisting in the out-of-state investigation of abortion providers or women who seek abortions in New York. The Connecticut General Assembly has gone even further, passing a law to allow providers in the state to countersue anyone who sues them for damages for providing abortion care.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, a state that still imposes the death penalty, lawmakers recently passed out of committee a bill that would define a fertilized egg as a full person — meaning that anyone who performs an abortion, and any women who obtains one, could be charged with murder.
What all this shows is that the right to an abortion cannot be left at the mercy of individual states — something that few people on either side of this issue genuinely seem to want.
This is why a national standard is necessary. That national standard, at least for a few more weeks, is Roe v. Wade as modified by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. These two rulings are not perfect, but for all their flaws, they have managed to strike a delicate balance that reflects the public’s complex position on a morally fraught issue. The majority of Americans do not want these cases overturned, and an overwhelming majority say that abortion should not be banned outright.
If you thought Roe v. Wade itself led to discord and division, just wait until it’s gone.
The Wall Street Journal argues that the April jobs report doesn’t tell the whole story
The 428,000 net new jobs last month in the Labor Department’s Friday report is mildly encouraging since every major industry added workers. But the report also contains a warning that inflationary pressure may be starting to hurt the labor market.
While the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%, the labor participation rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 62.2% and total employment declined by 353,000. Numbers from the household survey can fluctuate from month to month. But labor participation and the workforce have been trending up since January 2021 as lockdowns eased and vaccines rolled out. April represented the biggest labor participation decline since September 2020.
What happened? Demand for workers isn’t falling, as nearly every employer survey shows businesses are desperate to hire. This week’s JOLTS report estimated a record 11.5 million job openings in March. The National Federation of Independent Business says 47% of small business owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill last month.
Perhaps the answer is that hourly earnings rose a mere 0.3% in April. While wages are up 5.5% from a year ago, increases have slowed over the past few months. This may be partly due to employers hiring more lower-wage workers, which may reduce average earnings. Some may also be struggling to increase pay amid other inflationary pressures.
But workers also have less of an incentive to keep working or return to work if their real wages are falling, as they have for 10 of the past 12 months. Large wage increases for production-level workers helped draw more Americans into the labor market last year. But real wages for unskilled workers have been declining at an accelerating rate this year.
Worker paychecks can’t buy as much as they did even a few months ago, and those without the luxury to work from home have been slammed by surging gasoline prices. Expectations for continued economic growth rest with solid consumer spending, but the jobs report raises the question of how long this will continue if real wages keep falling.
The Federal Reserve is worried that tightening too aggressively could tip the country into a recession, but meanwhile inflation is taking a toll on the labor market.
China Daily says Fed’s raising of rates is “exporting inflation”
In a think tank event last week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai downplayed the possibility of significant U.S. tariff reductions on Chinese goods to check the United States’ 40-year-high inflation, even though she had mooted that idea not long ago.
Despite her shilly-shallying, it is common knowledge that the trade-war tariffs the U.S. imposed on its largest trade partner have directly pushed up the prices of commodity in the U.S., stoking inflation.
But rather than lifting the tariffs, the U.S. is taking advantage of its dollar hegemony to try and transfer the costs of addressing its economic woes to the rest of the world.
The Federal Reserve raised U.S. interest rates by 50 basis points last week, pushing the dollar to a 20-year high, triggering a fall in the renminbi, the euro and the yen.
The exchange rate of the renminbi against the dollar has depreciated rapidly from late April, close to 5% over the past half a month, and it is Chinese foreign trade enterprises that bear the brunt of that.
Yet it will be quite difficult to ease inflation by simply raising interest rates alone, since inflationary pressure is generated by many factors, for example labor withdrawal.
Although the unemployment rate in the U.S. is as low as at 3.6%, there were 11.5 million job openings as of the end of March. Which means there are two job openings for every unemployed person in the U.S., suggesting that withdrawal from the labor force is getting worse.
The irony is that the U.S. always blames the rising inflation on other countries, China in particular, while “exporting inflation” itself.
Although Tai knows that lifting tariffs on Chinese goods would be the correct choice, the rigidity of the Joe Biden administration’s China policy greatly reduces her operating space.
U.S. policymakers don’t take the global economy into account in their reckonings. The raging novel coronavirus, which the U.S. has notably and tragically failed to control, has rattled the recovery of supply chains with endless uncertainties.
And the sharp fluctuations in global food, energy and commodity prices caused by the Ukraine crisis are also beyond the Fed’s reach. Being unable to reconcile the economic interests of the U.S. with the global situation, of which Washington has been a key shaper, the Fed can’t make the right decisions.
If the U.S. really wants to tame inflation and improve its labor and technology efficiency, the key to boost quality growth, it needs to lift its controls on the free flow of talents and technology, remove its protectionist barriers, end its punitive tariffs on China’s exports, and stop trying to rewrite the rules of the global market system.
Partisan politics have made professionals helpless puppets, which explains why U.S. policies keep boomeranging, harming the U.S. economy and its interests.
The Guardian believes that overturning Roe v. Wade is a staging post to restrictions on other matters
It has taken anti-abortion campaigners a concerted five-decade campaign to get here: the supreme court’s provisional decision to overturn Roe v Wade. More than half of America’s women can expect to live in states where abortion is banned or greatly restricted if, as anticipated, next month’s ruling is largely unchanged. Yet that will not mark the climactic triumph of the anti-abortion lobby. In their eyes, it is merely a staging post to further restrictions on other matters too, affecting more people – including outside the U.S.
First, they will not be satisfied with pre-Roe laws or even the trigger laws waiting for Roe v Wade to fall. There will be a new drive to remove exemptions from bans, such as for rape and incest. While many state laws have so far targeted providers, we can expect increasing attempts to criminalize women who have abortions – or are suspected of having done so. Louisiana already has a trigger law in place to ban abortion after six weeks; on Wednesday, a House committee voted for a bill that would make abortion a homicide and allow women to be charged for obtaining one.
Strikingly, the bill would also change the state’s legal definition of a person from a fertilized egg implanted in the womb to simply a fertilized egg. That points to a second issue: activists are already beginning to target forms of birth control, such as emergency contraception and some intrauterine devices that can stop fertilized eggs from being implanted, by wrongly framing them as abortifacients. Third, the draft opinion drives a bulldozer through the foundations of other rights similarly rooted in privacy protections, such as LGBTQ+ rights; even if it adds that abortion is unique because it concerns life or potential life, those all become more vulnerable.
Finally, this is not just about the symbolic power of overturning abortion protections in the world’s superpower. U.S. anti-abortion groups have long been spreading their message abroad, through direct activism and funding. They have coordinated and poured millions of dollars into campaigns for restricting abortion in Latin America. Africa has been another prime target. According to openDemocracy, U.S. Christian organizations have spent at least $280m of “dark money” supporting campaigns to restrict abortion and LGBTQ+ rights internationally. Bans kill. Almost all unsafe abortions and related deaths occur in Africa, Latin America and south and west Asia.
Globally, the trend has overwhelmingly been for abortion liberalization: about 50 countries have relaxed laws in the last two and a half decades, with only a handful increasing restrictions. U.S. funding played a part in the near-total ban on abortion that came into force in Poland last year. There, as in the U.S., the right has captured state institutions; the public opposed further restrictions. In both places, the anti-abortion lobby took root and found victory in specific conditions.
Not everything is transplantable. The American groups that funded the anti-abortion lobby in Ireland were repaid with a landslide vote for legalization. But the rise of misogynistic rightwing populism in many places, and attempts to inflame culture wars in the U.K. and elsewhere by Donald Trump’s admirers, remind us that there is no room for complacency; 50 years ago, few U.S. evangelicals saw abortion as an issue. The supreme court draft decision has given anti-abortion campaigners new momentum. Their targets and actions must now be monitored closely by opponents outside the U.S. as well as within.