Commentary - Archive 2012

December 25, 2012

In “Living With Guns” Craig R. Whitney, a former correspondent and editor for The New York Times, writes that he is motivated by the belief that “Americans on both sides of the debate about guns can and must find common ground.” He hopes to defuse the prevailing “hysteria” by establishing that both sides are correct in at least one fundamental assertion.

To gun-rights advocates he would say that there is indeed a personal right to bear arms, and that it actually predates the Second Amendment.

December 24, 2012

With Friday's defiant statement, the National Rifle Association massed its troops along familiar fronts in the culture war -- and even opened some new battle lines. But it also squandered an opportunity to participate in reasonable dialogue with an America that has begun losing its appetite for political extremism.

Longtime NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, eager to keep the rank-and-file "mothers and fathers" among his membership from going soft,sounded themes critical to maintaining gun owners' collective identity and solidarity. These themes included:

December 24, 2012

In the massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newtown, Connecticut, a 20-year-old man killed 20 young children and six adults before turning one of his guns on himself. Earlier he had shot his mother at the home that they shared. This event is the latest and most horrific mass murder in the United States during 2012, which has been a very bad year in that respect. Is it possible to make sense of these events? Is it possible to do anything about them?

December 21, 2012

After the massacre of 20 Connecticut schoolchildren and six women who died trying to save them, plans are afoot for a parents' protest for stricter gun laws. More than a decade ago, we had such an event — the Million Mom March — and the lessons are instructive.

One of us devised the idea for the Mother's Day march, led the national organizing effort and remained involved as a volunteer; the other conducted a scholarly study of the march participants. Here's what we learned.

December 19, 2012

Americans are now confronted with two radically different visions of public education. Which vision ultimately prevails will go a long way toward determining the quality of the education available to future generations of children.

The first -- call it the "private" -- vision can be seen in the well-funded efforts in states and localities across the country to dismantle many of the fundamental structures of public education that have evolved since the mid-19th century and to replace them with models borrowed from the private sector.

December 10, 2012

If Americans judged the quality of hospital care the way Newsweek judges high schools, we would soon be inundated with “charter hospitals” that only treat healthy patients.

December 4, 2012

The "fiscal cliff" is a rhetorical device designed to hijack the inauguration of new federal programs that would address our nation's mass unemployment crisis. It distracts us from alternatives to reducing the federal budget deficit by other means than massive federal spending cuts.

Indeed, the fiscal cliff debate has subverted our nation's courage and imagination. Instead of feuding about how deep cuts in federal expenditures should be, Congress should enact a national program of public service employment that will provide a job for every American seeking work.

November 30, 2012

As another college football season winds down, there is nearly as much talk of conference realignment and television packages as there is of wins and losses. The Big Ten, already earning more than $240 million a year from its own TV network, last week added two more media markets by inviting Maryland and Rutgers to join the conference.

The bounty of earnings from big-time college sports would be unthinkable without the millions of fans eager to watch games on TV, in real time. Surveys suggest there are some 75 million Americans who follow college football alone.

November 26, 2012

AT a time when territorial disputes over uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea have led to smashed cars and skulls in China, a similar, if less dramatic, dispute over two remote rocks in the Gulf of Maine smolders between the United States and Canada.

Machias Seal Island and nearby North Rock are the only pieces of land that the two countries both claim after more than 230 years of vigorous and sometimes violent border-making between them.

November 16, 2012

In his first press conference since being re-elected, President Barack Obama acknowledged he'll focus on climate change in his second term. "I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior, and carbon emissions," Obama said at a televised news conference on Wednesday. "And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it."

November 2, 2012

The fate of Obamacare and the direction of the next step in health reform is the clearest choice in the presidential election.

November 1, 2012

As the election nears, citizens agree that our highest priority is improving the economy. We must be pro-business and pro-economic growth. And we must look for real economic development, not a quick fix.Toward that end, candidates and voters, we ask that you heed the advice of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million businesses: invest in early childhood education for every child.

October 23, 2012

The final debate of the 2012 campaign season presented a sharp contrast between one man who seemed comfortable in the role of commander-in-chief and another man who seemed unsure of his political fortunes and desperate to tear down his opponent. Such a contrast often appears when a presidential race features an incumbent and a challenger.

But have we ever seen the contrast so vividly and so paradoxically in reverse?

October 23, 2012

Monday’s foreign policy debate made clear that no single international issue is dominating the campaign. Rather, voters are formulating an overall sense of the respective abilities of President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney as effective statesmen amid the threats and opportunities of the 21st century.

October 18, 2012

Millions of U.S. citizens are too poor to buy health insurance but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.  And this “not poor enough” problem varies, state by state, depending on the generosity of local governments.  In some states, a person’s income can sit below the poverty level, and that person still won’t qualify for Medicaid.

October 16, 2012

In the 1960s, when my family drove by all those textile mills on Interstate 85 on our way to visit grandparents in Georgia, I couldn’t imagine that our rivers wouldn’t always run brown. I couldn’t picture paddling my canoe on the Neuse River below Raleigh’s wastewater discharge.

But a visionary law and effective partnerships between federal, state and local governments have achieved more than I would have thought possible when I was a boy.

October 13, 2012

Elections are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.

September 28, 2012

Carolina was the only college to which I applied while a student at Goldsboro High – UNC-Chapel Hill was my dream school.

When I arrived, I was interested mostly in not living with my parents, enjoying newfound freedoms and pretty girls. Four years later, I was passionate about health policy and on my way to graduate school (also at UNC) and a career as a professor.

September 27, 2012

The recent uproar over purported widespread cheating in a Harvard government course raises a number of perennial issues—declining moral standards, increasing competition for grades, colleges’ often ambivalent responses—and an important new one.

What counts as individual work when colleges and companies increasingly urge us to work in teams?

September 21, 2012

The CNN program "Global Public Square" asked a group of historians and commentators for their take on the most successful and least successful U.S. presidents, from a foreign policy point of view.

September 20, 2012

The CNN program "Global Public Square" asked a group of historians and commentators for their take on the most successful and least successful U.S. presidents, from a foreign policy point of view.

September 14, 2012

The killings of four U.S. diplomats in Libya Tuesday exposed a stark truth that many Americans either don't realize or won't believe — diplomacy has gotten dangerous.

Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and a career foreign service officer, died in a rocket and mortar attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the first U.S. ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan was abducted and murdered in 1979.

September 4, 2012

North Carolina matters in this presidential election. The two major-party candidates frequently jet in and out of our state to give speeches, and it is no coincidence that the Democrats selected Charlotte to host their convention this week.

People outside the state aren't sure what to think of us. It seems liberal, because Terry Sanford and John Edwards served as senators. But so did Jesse Helms, and for a lot longer.

August 23, 2012

This Sunday, Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day, marks the date in 1920 when women in the United States won the right to vote after nearly a century of political organizing.

It also commemorates the 1970 March for Women’s Rights, when feminists emphatically declared it necessary to continue working toward women’s full equality in the workplace, the home, and American culture as a whole.

In 2012, is Women’s Equality Day still relevant? In the 21st century, who needs feminism?

August 15, 2012

“We need to be screwed!”

Not altogether surprising words to spill out of a college student’s mouth. But this particular student was not talking about sex. She was discussing the U.S. health-care system – more specifically what she thought it would take for our two political parties to come together to find a reasonable way to control our nation’s health-care costs.

August 8, 2012

America has a math problem. We've had a math problem for at least fifty years - since the Soviets launched Sputnik, if not before. Our high school students have trouble competing with those raised in considerably poorer nations, and we aren't producing enough talented scientists and engineers to ensure our nation a leadership position in the twenty-first century knowledge economy.

July 26, 2012

While the policy specifics -- and lack thereof -- in Mitt Romney's VFW speech have gotten most of the attention, it's the underlying thematics aimed at the broader electorate that were the main political play.

July 20, 2012

Last summer, I was honored to be invited to an Iftar dinner -- the meal to break the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- hosted by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The guests consisted of many high ranking government officials, including a large number of Muslim government employees.

These Muslim officials seemed similar to other government employees I have met - highly professional, smart, personable, distracted by the constant buzz of their smart phones, and, for the most part, dead tired. 

July 2, 2012

If you thought donuts were bad for your health, consider donut holes. Specifically, the donut hole sitting smack in the middle of Medicare Part D, the program helping senior citizens pay for their medications.

The donut hole is a gap in coverage causing people, once they’ve received a certain level of financial support for their prescriptions, to have to go it alone for a while, bearing all their medication costs until they’ve spent so much money that a higher level of financial support kicks in.

July 2, 2012

Last week, a panel of university presidents dealt with one of college sports’ festering problems by approving a four-team playoff for football. For years, critics have been calling for this kind of playoff, which is so popular in pro sports and the NCAA’s own March Madness.

To someone who has spent the past five years researching the business and ethics of big-time college sports, this change may be welcome, but it leaves five unresolved problems with college athletics.

June 17, 2012

June 18 marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812, a conflict that may well be the last time most Americans thought seriously about Canada.

June 12, 2012

Earlier this year, economic data suggested that the Thai economy was on the path to recovery after last year's devastating floods.

Projected output growth was revised upward to 5 per cent for 2012. The vulnerability and downside risk from the euro zone crisis was thought to be under control. There was even a ray of hope and cautious optimism that key governments in the euro zone and the European Central Bank (ECB) would agree to readjust their stance on their "expansionary austerity" policy following the G-8 Summit last month.

June 8, 2012

Just four years ago, only two people in the world had their genome sequenced: James D. Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) and J. Craig Venter (former President of the firm that mounted a private-sector rival to the Human Genome Project). There are now many thousands of such people.

At genome meetings, scientists are talking about millions of fully sequenced genomes in coming years. And after that…?

June 8, 2012

Alcohol abuse is a multifaceted problem that requires a diverse portfolio of programs and policies. Adolescent drinking, alcoholism, drunken driving, alcohol-enabled domestic violence and child neglect, crime and public drunkenness all elicit distinct, tailored policy responses.

But one policy instrument would help reduce all these problems: alcohol prices. With higher prices come reduced rates of alcohol abuse and improvements in public health and safety.

June 6, 2012

The World Health Organization's Director-General recently warned of the growing challenge of antibiotic resistance in the starkest terms: "A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

June 5, 2012

New York City's plan to prohibit the sale of large, sugary soft drinks is a brave and provocative policy, one that promotes public health at minimal cost to New York City residents.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement last week highlights the kind of tough regulatory action we, as a society, need to make to combat an obesity epidemic that experts say will cause this generation of elementary school children to be the first in centuries to experience a shorter life span than their parents.

May 27, 2012

Before long the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the health care reform law, a decision that will have tremendous policy ramifications and could reshape the presidential election.

May 22, 2012

The fact that North Carolina’s unemployment rate seems to be moving in the right direction is good news, with the current three-month average rate lower than it has been in some time.

But this improvement ironically puts North Carolina beyond the eligibility threshold for receiving assistance from the federal Extended Benefits program. As a result, thousands of unemployed North Carolinians received their last unemployment check during the week of May 7.

May 8, 2012

When we started the Bi-Sectoralists series, our thesis was that the public and private sectors as well as the major political parties had to work better together for America to succeed. To that end, we laid out five guiding principles to help the United States revitalize domestically and compete globally.

May 4, 2012

“How can the government make us buy health insurance?  What gives them that right?” Sitting on my left while our airplane raced above the clouds, Elizabeth was clearly upset about Obamacare. 

She wondered why the bill had to be so long, and why Obama would endorse a plan that doubled her health insurance costs.  But nothing vexed her more than the individual mandate. 

May 2, 2012

The United States is not being overrun by illegal aliens, is not running out of oil or natural gas, and is not being sucked into the vortex of Mexican cartel violence along the border.

In fact, illegal immigration is at a 40-year low, oil production is at an eight-year high and U.S. cities along the Mexican border are among the safest in the nation.

All this might come as news to anyone who has closely followed this year's presidential primaries, whose general theme seemed to be that America is circling the drain.

March 21, 2012

According to the current storyline regarding this fall’s presidential election, Barack Obama has jumped out of the frying pan of a weak economy into the fire of skyrocketing gas prices, a spike driven largely by tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Like President Carter before him, Mr. Obama supposedly risks losing an election over something he can’t control.

Fortunately for the president — and millions of American drivers — he may have more energy options than most of his recent predecessors.

March 20, 2012

The cornerstone of the Obama administration's strategy for addressing homegrown terrorism is the development of trusted relationships between law enforcement and communities targeted by al Qaeda and other radical groups. Since the policy was rolled out last summer, a series of episodes has undercut this effort.

March 11, 2012

A recently released report has spawned new outrage over an old problem: Black and Hispanic students are more likely to be suspended from school than white students.

The knee-jerk reaction to this finding is to think it unjust, reflective of lingering racism among school principals and disciplinarians, and no doubt a contributor to the achievement gap.

If you believe that, ask yourself if you also believe the following things:

March 2, 2012

Wake County is grappling with a question that has been asked across the country: Should more students take Algebra I in eighth grade?

Put it off until ninth grade, and there's little chance you can take calculus in high school. Take it in eighth grade and do badly, and there goes your strong foundation for higher math courses.

February 29, 2012

As Alberta’s Premier makes her rounds in the United States this week to sell the oil sands, she might want to capitalize on the current American preoccupation with gasoline prices, which have soared more than 20 percent in parts of the country since mid-December.

The good news that Alison Redford could highlight is that Canadian oil exports have helped keep gas prices dramatically lower in several U.S. states.

February 16, 2012

The price of gasoline is spiking again, but the pain is not being shared equally.

Drivers on Long Island paid an average of $3.82 a gallon last week, the highest in the country according to the Lundberg Survey. But people gassing up in Denver paid only $3.01 on average, the country's lowest.

Why the difference? Taxes account for a small part of that gap, but for the bulk of it, blame Canada.

Over the last 20 years, Canada has quietly become our largest foreign source of petroleum products, supplying almost a quarter of the oil we have to import.

February 2, 2012

Today, Feb. 2, also known as Groundhog Day, marks a more momentous event in North American history that most Americans can’t remember, and most Mexicans can’t forget.

On that date in 1848, negotiators for the United States and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, formally ending what we, north of the border, call the Mexican-American War and what our neighbors to the south still call “the American Invasion.” Under the terms of the treaty, Mexico surrendered 525,000 square miles to the United States, more than half of its territory.

February 1, 2012

Change — especially the slow, steady kind — can be a hard thing to notice. When we see the same people and places every single day, we often don’t register how they grow and evolve.

But when we stop to reflect — digging out an old photo album to size up the effect of time on a hairline or a house — the differences can be profound.

A slow, steady change has come to urban America — to New York City, its suburbs and places all over the country. It has been going on for nearly 50 years, and it is undoubtedly a good thing for society.

January 24, 2012

We acknowledged when we began our Bi-Sectoralists column that it would be naïve to suggest that politicians and investors should never think short-term. But it's even more unrealistic to accept pervasive short-termism as a given when it is so antithetical to being strategic.

January 1, 2012

If Charles Dickens were writing about big-time college sports in 2011, he would have left it at, "It was the worst of times."

The year began with long-standing concerns about runaway spending, a bowl system that unfairly favors rich conferences and the exploitation of athletes. Then came a string of scandals at high-profile programs, among them Ohio State, North Carolina and Miami. Then the year concluded with shocking allegations of sexual abuse at Penn State and Syracuse.