Editorials from around Ohio
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from Ohio newspapers:
These families need food assistance
The Akron Beacon Journal
Congress spoke a year ago. Democrats and Republicans joined in approving a massive farm bill that included setting the funding and parameters of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps. On Tuesday, the Trump White House proposed changes in the assistance that break from the consensus. The administration wants to narrow eligibility. In doing so, it would deny food assistance to an estimated 3.1 million people, largely working families with children, seniors and those with disabilities.
Administration officials argue the program is vulnerable to abuse, assistance going to those who are not needy. Thus, it proposes to reduce the flexibility long granted states to expand eligibility in modest ways, say, in allowing assistance for those with incomes slightly above 130 percent of the federal poverty level or those with small levels of personal savings.
The administration forecasts the federal government saving $3 billion a year, or roughly $25 billion to $30 billion during the next decade.
Without question, federal officials have an obligation to do all they reasonably can to prevent fraud, and the past decade, the Agriculture Department has become more effective at identifying and halting such activity. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted last week, to receive food stamps, all households must apply and submit to interviews. They must document their monthly income and expenses. The process qualifies as rigorous.
The risk in narrowing eligibility as the administration proposes goes to families struggling to make ends meet landing in more difficult financial circumstances. A household income of 150 percent of the poverty level still is modest, at $31,995 for a family of three. Lose food assistance, and it becomes harder to cover the expense of such things as child care and decent housing. Unforeseen events, in the form of unexpected car repairs, medical needs or the sudden loss of a job, become a severe blow.
The administration proposal would result in children losing access to free lunches and breakfasts at schools. That puts learning in jeopardy, not to mention the opportunities a good education brings.
The proposal also means many households would be less likely to put aside small savings, opening the door to the accumulation of debt.
The flexibility permitted states in establishing eligibility recognizes the reality that there is nothing decisive in the poverty level. Inching above does not translate to financial security. Working families still face the challenge of juggling expenses, making tough choices about basic needs and in dealing with emergencies. Food stamps help to ease the burden, as those working in six of the 10 leading occupations in Ohio can testify.
One argument for the administration proposal cites the strong economy. The unemployment rate is an impressive 3.7 percent. The number of people receiving food assistance has declined from 47 million to 38 million the past six years. At the same time, the discouraging trend of stagnant wages for many working families persists. An achievement of the program the past decade is that more eligible households actually are getting the assistance.
This isn’t the first time the Trump White House has attempted to restrict access to food stamps. The administration joined House Republicans in seeking additional work requirements. It looked to block states from waiving requirements in areas with high unemployment. It did so as it won big tax reductions mostly to the benefit of wealthier households.
Fortunately, the congressional consensus in support of food assistance held firm, lawmakers from both sides alert to the difference the program makes for many families. Now the hope is that such thinking will continue to prevail, the administration falling short in its effort to get around Congress.
Keep Ohio kids covered
The Toledo Blade
After years of steady improvement, the number of Ohio’s children who are covered by health insurance is suddenly slipping.
From February, 2018, to May of this year, the number of Ohio children enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program fell by 3 percent. That’s almost 37,000 fewer children with coverage.
And it’s not just Medicaid coverage. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report shows that in 2016 and 2017, roughly 30,000 children lost insurance of any kind.
The news is distressing, particularly when considering how hard states like Ohio worked to bolster programs such as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. It means that thousands of children in this state without insurance do not have access to adequate health care.
It may be that children are losing coverage when their parents lose their health insurance. It may be that renewing Medicaid coverage was too confusing or complicated for some families to manage, particularly as the number of federally funded health-care navigators has fallen in recent years.
Advocacy groups that work with children’s health issues are at a loss to explain the sudden drop in coverage rates, and they want government officials to help solve the mystery.
This problem is squarely in the wheelhouse of Gov. Mike DeWine, who is known for being particularly focused on problems affecting children and who favors solving problems by tapping the state’s best experts to study and recommend solutions.
Just such a panel is necessary here, and urgently. Ohio cannot afford to wait until a generation of its most vulnerable residents goes without health-insurance coverage and care.
Though the reason fewer Ohio children have adequate health-insurance coverage is a mystery, the consequences of this are not. Children need insurance for adequate health care. And they need proper health care to grow up healthy, to do well in school, and to enjoy happy and productive adulthoods.
Slipping backward on this vital metric of taking care of the state’s children is not something Ohio can afford to do.
Voter rolls must be kept up-to-date
The Marietta Times
Ohio’s Secretary of State’s office has received 20 requests so far for its list of those whose voter registrations will be subject to a purge of the rolls in September. That is a good thing, but Frank LaRose’s office is hoping for more requests.
Access to the list of names will give organizations an opportunity to reach out to some of these folks on the “Registration Reset List,” and perhaps help them avoid being removed if they can update their information in time. The list includes the names of those who have not voted during a six-year span or responded to the mailed notice.
Organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the Ohio Republican Party and the Ohio chapter of the NAACP are among those already taking advantage of the opportunity. It is encouraging to see some of those who had opposed purging the rolls are willing to do the hard work to reach out to those affected, rather than simply complaining about LaRose’s effort to do his job.
“My goal is to get that list and then to work it,” Ohio Conference of NAACP President Tom Roberts told the Columbus Dispatch. “I understand telephone is not the best way to do it, so we may be door-knocking.”
Good. The goal of this effort was never to keep those who are legally eligible to vote in Ohio from making their voice count.
Any help LaRose’s office can get in making sure the voter rolls are up-to-date is likely greatly appreciated.
The incredible disappearing budget concern
The Lima Daily News
Mirrors, smoke, sleight of hand, trap doors or false walls and distractions, these are the tools of the magician’s disappearing act. But a real-life wizard’s most powerful tool isn’t a gadget, it’s his audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief.
At least that might begin to explain how Donald Trump and most Republicans in Congress have taken the budget deficit and national debt — once their unifying doctrine that merited filibusters, budget stalemates and costly government shutdowns back when Barack Obama was in the White House — and made those concerns vanish. One day, it’s a crisis of unfathomable proportions. The next? It’s something to deal with in the future. Maybe. Possibly.
But aren’t things going great now?
This is not mere hypocrisy. After all, when it comes to federal spending, sanctimony and pietism has long been the GOP coin of the realm even as certain lawmakers vacuumed up dollars for their favorite causes and military contractors. No, this is beyond that. It’s a dazzling display of how an entire political movement, the tea party, can be nurtured, promoted and then entirely subverted.
The alternative fact that made it all possible? A willingness to just say nothing. It’s as if the concept of the government spending more money than it takes in from taxes, along with all the mounting IOU’s that make this possible, ceased to exist. Poof.
This incredible disappearing deficit worry has never been more pronounced than last week when congressional leaders sought support for the two-year bipartisan budget deal recently made with President Trump. The agreement raises spending by $300 billion and while some hardcore deficit hawks have complained, their criticisms aren’t exactly stinging — or especially loud or prominently played on conservative media. Meanwhile, the deficit has already been ballooning and the national debt has reached a record $22 trillion thanks to another $1 trillion deficit projected for this year. The two best ways to trim a deficit, cut spending or raise taxes, are clearly out of favor. Instead, there’s still talk about how the nation can grow itself out of the problem which is curious since that’s clearly not working now, nor has it ever.
What should be especially alarming to those folks who used to care about deficit spending is that debt now exceeds the gross domestic product which hasn’t happened since World War II. And who owns all that paper? The biggest holder of U.S. debt is Social Security. That intragovernment obligation (along with all the money owed to foreign governments like China) gives the whole thing a certain house of cards flavor
As a candidate for president, Mr. Trump once boasted that he would eliminate the deficit in eight years. Yet it’s only gotten worse even as the post-Great Recession economic recovery that began under Barack Obama has continued, interest rates remain low and unemployment rates have dropped. If the deficit can’t be reduced under these circumstances, when can it?
Now, perhaps one can make an argument not to get too worried about debt. But that wasn’t the core Republican belief of five years ago when the outlook was actually better. The deficit doomsayers didn’t change their argument so much as clam up. Almost completely. “House Republicans should support the TWO YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT which greatly helps our Military and our Vets. I am totally with you!” the president tweeted Thursday.
Not a word about deficits there. Not even a sign of regret. Instead, Mr. Trump is tweeting about how his economic approval rating should be 100% favorable. “Best stock market, economy and unemployment numbers ever!”
Here’s a sobering number that won’t make the presidential Twitter feed. Interest payments on the debt are rising and it could get much, much worse. In the current fiscal year, it’s expected to be $393.5 billion or 8.7% of all federal spending. It’s actually been a bigger percentage of spending before but that’s only because interest rates are so low right now.
What happens as they rise? As we noted when Mr. Obama was in the Oval Office, the best recourse would be to attack the problem from both directions, limiting the growth of spending while closing tax loopholes and, in some cases, raising tax rates (we’re looking at you, federal gas tax left unchanged since Bill Clinton was president). But who wins an election by being non-magical?
Voters have a habit of supporting candidates who promise the reality they most desire, not the one that’s actually possible.