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  • 19-02-06 12:11
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[주요 외국 언론의 칼럼] The New York Times 190204 - A More Honest State of the Union

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The New York Times

Feb. 4, 2019

 

A More Honest State of the Union

America has many needs. A 30-foot-high wall on the Mexican border is not one of them.

 

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

 

By many measures, America is thriving. The economy is humming, and unemployment is at 4 percent. High-school graduation rates are at an all-time high, and teenage pregnancy rates are at an all-time low. The crime rate is way down, and illegal immigration has been declining for over a decade.

 

And yet: Polls show that three in five Americans think the country is on the wrong track. A majority expect things to get worse in the coming year. The president’s job approval numbers are underwater; Congress’s even more so.

As President Trump prepares to deliver his delayed State of the Union address on Tuesday, he might want to ask himself why people are so unsettled.

Our dysfunctional political system is surely taking a toll. Witness the recent partial government shutdown over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding: For 35 days, a quarter of the federal government was derailed and 800,000 workers stripped of their livelihood, at an estimated loss of $3 billion in economic activity. All in service of nothing but a presidential tempest.

 

One certainty: There was not and is not a border emergency meriting the infliction of such pain and damage, or the waste of billions on a futile wall.

Mr. Trump has said that his big speech on Tuesday will “cover a lot of territory” and emphasize unity. Considering that he pledged the same last year, it’s wise to remain skeptical. But if he is interested in assuring the public that he can see beyond his narrow politicking on immigration to tackle truly urgent problems, here’s a starter list of possibilities:

Health care. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Mr. Trump promised. Instead, after laboring to gut the Affordable Care Act, he has so far produced only higher premiums and, according to a recent Gallup survey, seven million more uninsured Americans.

Opioids. Mr. Trump was on the right track when, in October 2017, he declared opioid abuse a public health emergency. Yet almost 50,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2017, more than were ever killed by guns or H.I.V. in a single year.

Economic inequality. “In many ways this is the greatest economy in the HISTORY of America and the best time EVER to look for a job!” the president tweeted last June. Not for all Americans. Real wages have barely budged for decades; the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not risen in nearly 10 years. Though oversimplified, Bernie Sanders’s claim that the top 0.1 percent control almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent is basically correct. Before falling silent on the question, Trump once vowed to eliminate a tax loophole that benefits wealthy hedge fund managers and private equity executives; that might be one proposal on which he could team up with the newly Democratic House.

Infrastructure. The president once sought $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure, but Congress allocated only $21.2 billion or slightly more than 1 percent of Mr. Trump’s pledge. One-quarter of bridges in the United States are structurally deficient or not designed to handle the current traffic, the Department of Transportation estimates. The lead contamination in the water system of Flint, Mich., shocked America, but it was one of many examples of lead-poisoned water around the country. New York’s subways and public housing have fallen into decrepitude. Schools in Baltimore went without heat during last winter.

 

Editors’ Picks

 

Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water.

They Created a Muslim Enclave in Upstate N.Y. Then Came the Online Conspiracies.

‘A Pumping Conspiracy’: Why Workers Smuggled Breast Pumps Into Prison

 

Foreign policy. On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump pledged a Middle East peace plan. Where is it? Meanwhile, we are spending roughly $700 billion annually on the military. Our troops have been fighting in Afghanistan for 17 years. Thousands more troops remain in Iraq.

The high price of higher ed. Student-loan debt has topped $1.5 trillion and now constitutes the second-largest category of consumer debt, behind only mortgages. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who recently declared the debt load a “crisis in higher education,” has proposed no credible plan to address it.

Gun safety. “We’ve seen too much of it, and we’re going to stop it,” Mr. Trump said in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting last February. Yet in 2017, more people were killed by guns than in any other of the past 50 years and at the highest rate since the crack epidemic of the mid-1990s.

Climate change. Most scientists and nations see it as the mother of all crises. Mr. Trump’s approach thus far: champion fossil fuels and, when the weather gets chilly, tweet a joke about how the nation could use more global warming. Compromise on how to address the climate crisis will be hard to come by. But if the nation’s leaders are going to have a showdown, can’t it at least be over a real problem?

 

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