Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

Give Money to Babies

New York Time

Sept. 8

Everyone born in Britain between Sept. 1, 2002, and Jan. 2, 2011, received a baby present from the government: a savings account that could not be tapped until the child turned 18, with an initial balance of between 250 and 1,000 pounds, depending on the family’s income.

This month, the oldest recipients started turning 18 and gained access to that money. Some of the accounts hold more than £5,000 ($6,480).

As any 18-year-old can tell you, money is the best of all possible high school graduation presents. It unlocks the gates of opportunity. And the British program gave money to children from families that had little of their own. The gifts were intended to chip away at the inequalities of wealth, and the resulting inequalities of opportunity, that weigh on developed nations.

Philip Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, proposed last month to create a similar program for children in his state, which would be the first such program in the United States. The “baby bonds” program would create a $1,000 savings account for each child born into a New Jersey household with an annual income below about $131,000.

The money eventually could be put toward school tuition, a down payment on a house or starting a business. Mr. Murphy’s office estimates roughly three-quarters of the state’s newborns would be eligible — around 72,000 children next year.

It is a proposal with the potential to change the trajectory of individual lives, giving New Jersey kids a better chance to thrive and prosper.

Black people are particularly disadvantaged by inequalities of wealth and opportunity in the United States — inequalities that are substantially a result of past and present racism.

Black households with children have on average about one penny in wealth for every dollar held by white households with children, according to a recent analysis by the sociologists Christine Percheski and Christina Gibson-Davis. That wealth gap has increased in recent decades and, strikingly, the gap between Black and white households with children is wider than the overall wealth gap for Black and white households.

The baby bonds program, which builds on the work of the economists Darrick Hamilton and William Darity Jr., is an elegant approach to reducing those racial gaps: Broader programs command broader support. The program would help everyone who needs it. It would create a baseline for individual wealth, limiting inequality in much the same way free public schooling limits inequalities in education. The disproportionate need among Black children would be reflected in the distribution of the benefits.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has introduced federal legislation to create a national program under which children would receive a $1,000 present at birth, plus annual contributions of up to $2,000 a year based on family income. We have previously endorsed Mr. Booker’s plan, which deals in numbers large enough to make a real difference. Some children would get more than $40,000 when they turned 18.

Mr. Murphy is proposing to start small. New Jersey would give newborns a one-time payment of $1,000, with no commitment of more, although he has suggested that he’d like to do more.

The New Jersey nest eggs wouldn’t mature into game-changing sums without additional state contributions. The average cost of a year of community college in New Jersey is $6,125. The median home price last year topped $300,000.

But it’s much easier for a federal program to provide the big bucks. The real value of the New Jersey program may be in the work of hammering out the details, and the trial-and-error of implementation, which can provide lessons for creating a larger initiative.

One key question is how to invest the money. The magic of compound interest — put some money in a pot and watch it grow — isn’t so magical these days. At current rates, $1,000 invested in 30-year Treasuries for 18 years would amount to less than $1,500.

Mr. Murphy’s proposal has drawn fire from Republican legislators who argue that New Jersey cannot afford the roughly $80 million annual price tag. They note that Mr. Murphy is proposing sharp spending cuts, tax increases and borrowing to deal with the fiscal effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit New Jersey harder than any other state.

Some conservatives also warn that children would be spoiled by the state gifts — a concern that oddly has not led those critics to demand the revival of estate taxation.

(In Britain, the Conservative Party phased out the government’s gifts after taking power in 2010, offering similar arguments: The government didn’t have enough money; the children were better off without it. A version of the savings accounts still exists, as tax advantaged vehicles for rich people to save their own money and pass it along to their children.)

The coronavirus crisis instead should be seen as the strongest argument for baby bonds. It has exposed and exacerbated the inequities of life and death in New Jersey and the rest of the nation. Job losses are concentrated among lower-income workers. Their families are struggling to avoid eviction. Their children are struggling to connect to virtual schools. All the while, stock prices keep on rising.

The urgency of the need for government action to check inequality has never been greater. As Mr. Murphy said in introducing the baby bond proposal, “You can’t ignore tomorrow.”

Every new birth is a chance to begin remaking the nation’s future, to help every child realize his or her potential. Without action now, future inequalities will only yawn wider.



Big Pharma right to draw line on science


Sept. 8

Perhaps you assumed, as many Americans do, that pharmaceutical companies believe in science. It’s the main component of their business model, after all, and their corporate lifeblood — the use of science to discover new lifesaving drugs and boost profits.

So it was more than a bit extraordinary that nine major pharmaceutical companies felt the need Tuesday to publicly pledge to do what they always have done — follow the science — in developing a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine. But the unfortunate truth is that their announcement — under the heading “BIOPHARMA LEADERS UNITE TO STAND WITH SCIENCE” — was as needed as it was surreal.

The drugmakers understand that no vaccine will work if the public refuses to take it. And they know public confidence, measured by numerous polls, has been damaged by President Donald Trump’s impatience for a vaccine. He has consistently pressured companies to get one to market, and has repeatedly promised a quick result, by November, to bolster his reelection chances, fueling anti-government conspiracy theorists.

Trump said Democratic opponent former Vice President Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris are politicizing the issue by attacking him. But he followed that by saying, “We’re gonna have a vaccine very soon. Maybe even before a special date. You know what date I’m talking about,” undermining his own equivalency argument.

To bolster trust, Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — the three companies with vaccine candidates in critical Phase 3 clinical trials — joined competitors BioNTech (a Pfizer partner), GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novavax, and Sanofi in pledging not to seek FDA approval for a vaccine until it has been proved safe and effective. Their statement did not rule out seeking emergency-use authorization, which the FDA can give during a declared emergency based on partial data that suggests the vaccine is effective; only Pfizer has said it might do so. The White House insists it will abide by the FDA‘s “gold standard for safety and testing,” which sounds good except that Trump has damaged the credibility of the FDA, too, by pushing it to approve the use of antibody-rich plasma before results warranted it and then overstating the import of the approval.

Trump’s relentless pushing remains risky and could further derail public trust. Both top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and the lead scientist at the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort say a successful October result is unlikely. History reminds us of the debacle of a rushed vaccine for the swine flu in 1976; the campaign was intended to help President Gerald Ford get reelected but it was ineffective and left more than 450 people with the paralyzing Guillain-Barré syndrome. And there still could be development wrinkles. Moderna has said it is slowing down its trial to enroll more minorities, one of the groups most at risk for COVID-19. AstraZeneca paused its trial Tuesday after an adverse reaction in a volunteer.

We all want a vaccine soon. But we all should stand with science to get one.



It Is Wrong To Place Fighting The Virus Over Other Health Needs

The Post-Journal

Sept. 9

It’s important to deal aggressively with COVID-19 both to tamp down outbreaks of the virus and to restore some semblance of normalcy to society.

For those who point to the wonderful utopia that could be created by a “new normal” we point to a story we ran last week. After a few years of declining drug overdoses, the county’s overdose rate is on the upswing again, from 20 a month in 2019 to 29 a month through July. Fentanyl is a problem as is heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol.

“People dealing with alcohol has skyrocketed. We’ve also noticed some folks we work with who initially had issues with drugs like heroin or methamphetamine, who have switched back to alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption has started, especially since COVID-19,” Steve Cobb, Mental Health Association of Chautauqua County executive director, told our Dennis Phillips.

The American Medical Association is asking governors to allow evaluation and prescribing via telemedicine, remove prior authorizations, step therapy and administrative barriers for medications used to treat opioid abuse disorders; remove existing barriers for patients with pain to get medications; and enact, implement and support barriers to sterile needly and syringe programs.

Those are all worthy recommendations, but it’s also important to realize that isolation and the changes wrought by COVID-19 are partly behind this increase. One way people deal with unemployment — a big problem during the pandemic — is drug and alcohol abuse. One way people deal with loneliness — another pandemic problem — is drugs and alcohol.

One argument against a future in which we are more isolated is what we are seeing with addiction right now. Our decision makers must take into account that their isolation and distancing orders have ramifications beyond simply keeping COVID-19 at bay. Too much isolation is making our previously growing addiction issue worse than it already was.

Just as it is the wrong course to place fighting COVID-19 above the financial health and wellbeing of businesses and the families who depend on them, it is wrong to place fighting COVID-19 above other health needs. And right now, politicians’ laser focus on COVID-19 is blinding them to the effect their decisions have on longer-standing public health crises in our communities.

There have been 10 deaths in Chautauqua County from COVID-19. Were it not for Narcan, addiction would kill nearly three times as many each month.

What should our priority be?



Treat opioid abuse with compassion rather than blame

The Auburn Citizen

Sept. 6

In the face of a growing number of drug overdose deaths in Cayuga County, a group working to reverse that trend wants people to look at drug addiction and treatment in a new light.

The Cayuga County HEALing Communities Study has started a campaign called “I Am More” in an effort to combat the stigma surrounding medications for opioid use disorder. Websites, print, banner and bus advertising will be used throughout the county to fight the idea that medication for the disorder isn’t legitimate recovery or is simply substituting one drug for another.

The HEALing Communities Study acknowledges that the complex nature of trying to prevent overdose deaths involves education, stopping the over-prescribing of opioids and supporting therapies and recovery support services. But an obstacle that still stands out is the prevalence of the notion that people who become addicted to drugs are themselves to blame because of personal character flaws.

Cayuga County has already seen more deaths from drug overdoses (16) this year than in all of 2019. When it comes to drug addiction, blaming the victim can play a big part in having people in need fail to seek help.



Cancel fall sports

Plattsburgh Press-Republican

Sept. 5

As much as we hate to say it, Section VII should call off all fall sports if they haven’t already by the time of this printing.

The risks presented by the coronavirus are just too much, the rules are too complicated and conflicting, and the future too uncertain to take a chance.

Sports were shut down in just about every facet when the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March. They stayed shuttered until a sprinkling of events began to take place, first with NASCAR races, in May.

Slowly, sports has come back at both the national and local levels, but the results have been mixed.

At the national level we’ve seen both the NBA and NHL operate an effective bubble by keeping all of the players, coaches and support staff isolated in one spot.

The NBA’s bubble is in Orlando, Fla. and the NHL is using Toronto and Edmonton in Canada.

So far, the plans have worked as both leagues have been able to hold playoff matches with no reported COVID-19 cases.

Major League Baseball has seen a different outcome.

With no bubble city, teams have been traveling as they normally would, going city to city.

This has presented problems as several teams have experienced outbreaks, causing numerous games to be canceled. Hopefully MLB can keep the number of cases down so they can finish the season.

College football normally would be starting about now, but several major programs and conferences have decided to forego the season.

The NFL is supposed to start soon and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Locally, youth and some adult league sports have been able to play this summer, but they too have had hiccups. A large party of young people in Altona in July caused several local leagues to shut down briefly in the wake of positive cases.

A league for high school soccer players, both boys and girls, has been playing games this summer and has had no issues, although not everyone on the sidelines seemed to be wearing masks or social distancing.

The moderate success of those two leagues has given us hope that perhaps high school sports can be played, and played safely this fall.

But when you factor in all the aspects of conducting school sports — practices, games, transportation, treatment for injuries, crowds etc. — there is just too much exposure.

Also, the rules of daily school activities prescribed by the state don’t mesh with sports. For example, kids in gym class must be at least 12 feet — double the normally recommended 6 feet — apart during activities.

But at 3 p.m. when the end-of-the-day bell rings, all of a sudden playing sports inches apart or even touching is OK?

High school sports offers our young people so much in the way of team camaraderie, hard work, discipline, sacrifice, dedication, exercise and of course, fun.

Canceling the fall sports season no doubt will be heartbreaking for student-athletes, coaches and parents and a lost opportunity to gain some valuable life experiences.

But going without sports for a few more months is better than winding up in the hospital or worse or putting someone else in your family in jeopardy.

It’s that simple, and as hard as it is to take, it has to be.

Stay safe North Country. We are still in a pandemic.