The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

(Joyce) #1




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NCOHERENCE FROM President Trump is not a
new phenomenon. But the messages emanating
from the White House on the economy have
become remarkably dissonant.
Mr. Trump tweeted on Monday that the “Econo-
my is very strong” before attacking Federal Reserve
Chair Jerome H. Powell’s “horrendous lack of
vision,” insisting that the Federal Reserve should cut
interest rates a whole percentage point and engage
in “quantitative easing” — that is, the central bank’s
purchase of bonds to lower borrowing costs. Both
would be extraordinary moves in an economy with
extremely low unemployment, not to mention
businesses that are already highly leveraged.
These are the sorts of desperate measures the Fed
takes in the midst of a true economic crisis. Even in
the greatest economic disaster of a generation, the
2008 financial crisis, quantitative easing was highly
controversial. So far, the only “crisis” is Mr. Trump’s
fear that the economy he temporarily juiced with
budget-busting tax cuts is beginning to cool —
having never produced the sustained, breakneck
growth Republicans promised would make them
affordable — potentially harming his prospects in

next year’s election.
The Fed was established to independently con-
duct the nation’s monetary policy because what a
president wants in the short term can differ
dramatically from what is desirable for the country’s
long-term economic health. For this reason, previ-
ous presidents refrained from bullying the central
bank. Mr. Trump obviously has other priorities.
On Tuesday, the president was at it again, telling
reporters that the economy is “very far from a
recession,” but that the White House is considering
proposals to slash taxes further. Mr. Trump raised
the possibility that he would sidestep Congress to
reduce capital gains taxes, a plan that would cost
$100 billion over a decade and mostly benefit rich
people. Another possibility is a payroll tax cut,
discussions about which were revealed by The Post’s
Damian Paletta. The Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget reckons that a two-year payroll tax
cut similar to the one for 2011 and 2012 would cost
the federal government nearly $300 billion, before
interest costs.
Then, on Wednesday, Mr. Trump reversed course,
saying he was “not looking at a tax cut now.”

We’re all for contingency planning. Germany’s
central bank just warned that Europe’s largest
economy may be entering a recession. Brexit tur-
moil threatens to make the situation worse in
Britain and elsewhere on the continent. In the
United States, Mr. Trump’s ruinous trade policies
will begin slamming consumers harder on Sept. 1.
They are already hurting farmers and businesses
whose global markets and supply chains have been
If economic conditions worsen sharply, one
would hope the White House would have a plan at
the ready. As economic stimulus goes, a payroll tax
cut would be better than another tax cut aimed at
the wealthy, and the cost might be justified in a
recession. But it is not if the purpose is merely to
keep the economic pump primed through Election
Day 2020.
If the president wants to promote growth and
soothe equity markets, he should end his pugna-
cious trade policies and pressure British Prime
Minister Boris Johnson to deal reasonably on Brexit
— instead of attempting to transfer the blame for
slowing growth to his own hand-picked Fed chair.

Mr. Trump’s economic dissonance

Haranguing the Fed chair and reversing direction on possible tax cuts won’t promote growth.

As a clinical pharmacy specialist in palliative care
at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and president
of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, I have
followed The Post’s series on the opioid epidemic. To
achieve a health-care system that adequately address-
es this crisis, it is vital to establish a team-based,
patient-centered approach that focuses on the pa-
tient’s medical condition and integrates the appropri-
ate use of medications for opioid-use disorder.
Given the role opioid medications play in care and
treatment of pain management, individualized ap-
proaches that comprehensively assess patient vari-
ability in drug response and other underlying medi-
cal conditions are needed.
Misuse of pain medication can be avoided by

medication optimization to ensure rational use of
opioids, with optimal pain-management outcomes
achieved through comprehensive medication man-
agement. Medication optimization is key to a compre-
hensive patient-centered approach to management
of pain and other chronic conditions. Clinical phar-
macists are essential team members in a modern,
multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain.
As Baltimore and other communities across the
country struggle to bring this public-health crisis
under control, we must prioritize a comprehensive
strategy — including a team-based approach to care
that fully uses clinical pharmacists, the health profes-
sionals best suited to optimize medication use.
Suzanne Amato Nesbit, Baltimore

A strategy to combat opioids




HE D.C. school system’s central office has
seen a fair amount of turmoil in recent years,
with controversies and changes in school
leadership. So there was some understand-
able worry that the troubles might be felt in the
classroom and students would be negatively affect-
ed. One encouraging sign that damage has been
avoided is the latest, remarkable results from stan-
dardized tests that measure students’ college and
career readiness.
Results from Partnership for Assessment of
Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests in
English and math were released Monday, and they
showed gains by the system in proficiency across
student backgrounds, including race, socioeconom-
ic status, ward and gender. Overall, there was a

4.9 percentage-point jump in English scores and a
1.9 percentage-point increase in math. The gains
outpaced those of charter schools, which had a
2.9 percentage-point increase in English and a
0.4 percentage-point increase in math.
To be sure, there are significant problems facing
the system. The achievement gap between white
students and students of color persists, and less than
40 percent of all students are proficient in math or in
English. But this is the fourth year the system posted
gains on PARCC; and before the rigorous test was
introduced in 2015, there were increasing scores on
other standardized tests.
That steady, across-the-board improvement is
evidence of progress and a testament to the efficacy
of school reform started more than a decade ago by

former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and continued
by her successor, Kaya Henderson. Ms. Rhee gave a
much-needed jolt to the dysfunctional system with
an insistence on accountability, and Ms. Henderson
brought creative changes to the classroom that
included an alignment of the curriculum to Com-
mon Core standards, the introduction of more high
school electives, an emphasis on interdisciplinary
learning and improvements in teacher development.
That students are doing better is because there is
better teaching — and much credit goes to those who
do this hard, often thankless, work. So it is critical
that as the District tackles the formidable challenges
still confronting the system, it does not abandon the
principles and policies that have resulted in the
steady improvement of its public schools.

Moving in the right direction

D.C. schools still face formidable challenges, but better teaching is driving gains in student test scores.


LESSON learned from Russia’s use of disin-
formation and weaponized social media in
the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is how
it can be both invidious and insinuating,
creeping up where it is least expected. Millions of
people saw the Russian posts — and did not know
they were written in a nondescript office building in
St. Petersburg. So it is welcome news that Twitter
and Facebook this week took the initiative against
Chinese accounts that appeared to be part of a
deliberate, state-backed campaign to discredit the
Hong Kong protest movement.
Back in the halcyon days of social media,
platforms did not want to be policemen. They
claimed to be platforms, not nannies. They relied
on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
of 1996, which stated: “No provider or user of an
interactive computer service shall be treated as the
publisher or speaker of any information provided
by another information content provider.” This is a
pillar of freedom on the Internet and meant the
platforms could not be held liable for posts from
third parties. That opened the door to a cornucopia
of opinions everywhere — and to malign operations
by extreme political movements and authoritarian
Russia tested online disinformation in Ukraine in
2014, then launched a wider campaign to sow
disorder in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
Later, Twitter found 3,814 accounts controlled by the
Internet Research Agency in Russia; Facebook
identified 470 IRA-controlled accounts that collec-
tively created 80,000 posts between January 2015
and August 2017, reaching as many as 126 million
Now, China appears to be emulating the Russia
example. Twitter and Facebook are blocked inside
China but have a substantial presence in Hong Kong,
a semiautonomous territory and a hub of informa-
tion and commerce that has been convulsed by
protests this summer over the extent of China’s
domination. China, through state media and a
phalanx of fake individual accounts, flooded this

open zone with posts sharply critical of the protest
movement. Twitter said it found “a significant
state-backed information operation” and suspended
936 accounts. It also preemptively disabled a “larger,
spammy network” of some 200,000 accounts creat-
ed after the first suspensions but not yet substantial-
ly active. “Covert, manipulative behaviors have no
place on our service,” Twitter said, adding that it
would decline ads from state-controlled Chinese
media. Facebook took down a smaller number of
accounts and did not go after the state-run media.

These decisions cannot have been easy, but they
point to a more cautious, mature attitude toward
information warfare. No longer can platforms just
throw up their hands and say “not our responsibili-
ty.” The underlying values of freedom must be
preserved, but to protect that freedom, rules are
necessary. This is uncharted territory, but at least
Twitter and Facebook have their eyes open. Other
services, including Google, the owner of YouTube,
ought to quickly follow their example on Hong

Fighting China’s


Twitter and Facebook remove
accounts attacking Hong Kongers.


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The Aug. 17 editorial “From cesspools to swim-
ming holes” rightly highlighted the progress we’ve
made on waterways and the need for action, particu-
larly on Rock Creek. Data from citizen monitors, the
D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, and
the U.S. Geological Survey detail that even in areas
upstream of combined sewers, there are dangerously
high levels of bacterial contamination. D.C. Water
should accelerate its work to fix leaking sewer
lines. We need to do more to disconnect our drain
pipes that sweep water into the creek. And we need
to redouble our talks with Maryland, which contin-
ues to contribute to the pollution load in the District.
The kids wading in Milkhouse Ford in Rock Creek
deserve no less.
Marchant Wentworth, Washington

Rock Creek deserves action

Former ambassador Dennis K. Hays was correct
in observing in his Aug. 16 letter, “Mr. Park made the
correct call,” that “Under our Constitution, authority
over foreign affairs rests with the president.” But the
oath all Foreign Service officers take does not bind
us to be loyal to the president; rather, we declare we
“will support and defend the Constitution.”
I joined the Foreign Service in 1985, during the
presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose 1980 campaign
I had protested. I disagreed with many of his
policies. I resigned from the service for personal
reasons in 1997, when Bill Clinton, whom I greatly
admired, was in his second term. I did my best to
advocate and carry out the policies of each adminis-
tration. As Chuck Park explained in his Aug. 9 op-ed,
“I quit the ‘Complacent State,’ ” that is precisely what
he strove to do. Had Reagan, former presi-
dent George H.W. Bush or Mr. Clinton demonstrated
the same contempt for the rule of law, ethics and
democratic norms that President Trump has shown,
many Foreign Service officers would have emulated
Mr. Park’s courageous example.
Mr. Hays concluded, “Mr. Park belonged to a
disciplined service that asks a lot from its members.”
I agree, but that does not mean blindly following
Steven Alan Honley, Washington

It is Dennis K. Hays, who insists that all
presidential orders be carried out without question,
who has “damaged and demeaned” the reputation of
the Foreign Service by his censure of former Foreign
Service officer Chuck Park. “Befehl ist Befehl” (“An
order is an order”) was thoroughly discredited in
Nazi times. Rather than criticizing Mr. Park for
publicizing his dissent, we admire his sense of
personal responsibility and his willingness to give
up a career he loves and economic security for
himself and his family by taking the officially
sanctioned path of resignation from the service.
Lorraine W. Polik, Springfield

Follow one’s conscience, not orders

The Aug. 16 Style article “A knight-errant looking
to right the ways of the wind” illuminated the
president’s views — at best, those of a Luddite — on
the status of wind generation worldwide.
Now available for the first time is a wind turbine
from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and
Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark that can produce
10 megawatts of power apiece. The installation of
such turbines in wind-rich areas of the United
States could do a great deal to offset coal generation
with a carbon-free source of electric production.
One hopes the next occupant of the White House
will be far wiser about technology and development.
Charles W. Linderman, Alexandria

Still tilting at windmills

The Aug. 17 Politics & the Nation article “Demo-
crats ignite controversy with Supreme Court brief in
gun case” reported on an “amicus” brief five Demo-
cratic senators submitted to the Supreme Court that
impugns the court’s integrity and threatens it with
retribution if it fails to drop an appeal in a gun-
control case. The article rightly described the brief as
“incendiary.” Indeed, it is truly outrageous by any
objective standard.
The court should not permit its processes to be
debased by such political grandstanding. Hopefully,
the justices will act unanimously to reject this
“friend of the court” brief, whose authors are
anything but friendly to our core constitutional
value of an independent federal judiciary.
Henry Wray, Ocean View, Del.

A very unfriendly ‘amicus’ brief

Three progressive prosecutors, Parisa Dehghani-
Tafti, Mark Gonzalez and Wesley Bell, argued in their
Aug. 18 op-ed, “Why prosecutors want criminal-
justice reform,” that their more lenient approach,
such as not seeking “the death penalty,” will not lead
to an “increase in crime.”
They might be mistaken. Researchers have found
that harsh penalties deter crime more effectively
than lenient penalties. Each execution deters three
to 18 murders, according to studies by professors at
Emory University and others. Thus, the death
penalty could potentially save many innocent lives —
if more prosecutors were willing to seek it against
Hans Bader, Arlington

The death penalty could save lives

Although John Browne made a compelling case in
his Aug. 18 Outlook essay, “Five myths: Self-driving
cars,” that autonomous vehicles are not the wave of
the future, he overlooked that today’s youths are not
in love with the car.
Past generations could not wait to learn to drive
and own a car. Teenagers today? Not so much. More
and more I hear of parents compelling their children
to learn to drive. It is considered a life chore, such as
learning to swim or which fork to use.
Most teenagers have spent their lives being
chauffeured. Uber/Lyft are part of the daily routine.
It is only a short jump from a stranger to a
self-driving car picking you up. And gone will be the
expense and hassle surrounding car ownership.
Karen Bragg, Germantown

What’s driving this trend?



 Letters to the editor:
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