Here are excerpts of editorial opinions from newspapers throughout Illinois.
July 7, 2020
Trump runs foreign students out of the country in a desperate move to return to ‘normal’
We have one question about a Trump administration plan to force thousands of foreign college students to leave the country should their school go online because of COVID-19:
Why now, when dozens of states are seeing skyrocketing new cases of COVID-19 and colleges are struggling with how best to serve their students during this resurgent pandemic?
Why the rush? Why no advance warning? Why create even bigger problems for more than a million international students who already are struggling to carry on with their education in the United States in this time of global crisis?
Why is the Trump administration so eager to turn back smart and talented young people from around the world whose presence here only makes our campuses of higher learning, college towns and big cities more cosmopolitan, vibrant and diverse?
It’s not as if international students have been a burden. They pump an estimated $41 billion into the U.S. economy each year and support 458,290 jobs, according to NAFSA: Association of International Educators. In Illinois, 53,724 foreign students boost the economy by some $1.9 billion and support 25,855 jobs.
Not normal times
On Monday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced a decision — out of the blue and without explanation — to scrap a rules exemption, granted just months ago, that allows international students to remain in the U.S. while taking all their classes online. The exemption was created in response to the inconvenient fact that schools are shifting heavily — and sometimes exclusively — to online learning during the pandemic.
We appreciate why, in normal times, the federal rule against international students taking most or all of their classes online while residing here made sense. The intent was to guard against bogus “students” enrolling in bogus online “universities” just to gain legal entry into the country.
But need we point out the obvious? These are not normal times.
We can only assume that scrapping the exemption now is nothing more than another foolish effort by the Trump administration, eager to deny the truth of the pandemic, to force the country back to business as usual way too soon.
We also smell more than a hint of xenophobia. These are “foreign” students.
Get out or face deportation
The message from ICE to foreign students whose schools will be operating only online this fall is blunt: Get out now or get deported.
Or, ICE is saying, go ahead and take all those courses online. But do so from your own country, be it China or India or some other place four or five time zones away. Get up in the middle of the night for that physics class that starts in the U.S. at 9 a.m.
Or, as a third alternative, transfer to another U.S. school that will offer a sufficient number of in-person classes this fall and show up in person.
International students at dozens of schools that already have decided to go exclusively online this fall — 9% of 1,090 institutions tracked by the Chronicle of Higher Education — will have to make that no-win decision.
A new mess for local universities
Another 24% of schools are planning hybrid teaching with both in-person and online instruction. The University of Illinois system, the University of Chicago, Loyola, Concordia and Columbia College are among this group.
Students at these schools can remain in the U.S., but they also will face huge potential obstacles, as Neal McCrillis, vice provost for global engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explained to us.
Now that ICE has reimposed the pre-pandemic rule strictly limiting online course-taking, McCrillis said, UIC will have to re-examine the fall schedules of its almost 4,000 international students to make sure they meet the old standard. And that information must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in a mere three weeks.
“We spent two or three months working out how to offer these hybrid classes,” McGillis said. “Now we’re being thrown this huge curveball.”
Hundreds of other schools across the country are finding themselves in the same bind.
Will they ever return?
A raging pandemic is a bad time to impose hard-and-fast federal rules that handcuff colleges and universities from making the tough decisions that are best for their students and financial bottom line.
And nobody should be surprised if all those talented young people from abroad do, indeed, pick up and leave, never to return.
“At a time when new international student enrollment is in decline, our nation risks losing global talent with new policies that hurt us academically and economically,” as NAFSA Executive Director Esther D. Brimmer said Monday.
All because America’s got a president who wants to pretend away a deadly pandemic.
July 7, 2020
Coronavirus aid to businesses: How Washington helped but overspent on PPP
Did you see which Illinois millionaires got big bucks from the federal government’s coronavirus rescue package … while most businesses suffered? That’s one interpretation of the data released Monday on organizations that received aid via the Payroll Protection Program.
In reality, the $660 billion aid program appears to have accomplished its broad aim of providing assistance to many smaller businesses in the form of forgivable loans so they could continue to operate, and make payroll, during a pandemic that might otherwise have capsized them. It’s a massive federal program, though, so expect there to be waste, and don’t be too shocked by allegations of fraud or misuse. We also suspect this program could have done just as much good for half the cost. Count on Washington to overspend.
The focus now is who got in on the deal. In no particular order, according to the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, local recipients of $1 million to $10 million included Rosebud Restaurants, Pete’s Fresh Market, Andy Frain Services Inc., Baird & Warner, Brookfield Zoo, Willow Creek Community Church, Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning, Sterling Bay, the American Library Association, Buona Beef and Home Run Inn. The list goes on and on — 255 Illinois businesses received $5 million to $10 million, according to news reports.
Oberweis Dairy is run by the son of wealthy Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis, who is chairman but doesn’t take a salary. “Without the PPP, at a minimum it would have been prudent to close all restaurants and some ice cream stores that we operate for some period of time,” and with the PPP funds no workers were laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut, Oberweis Dairy told the Sun-Times.
Nationally, 660,000 businesses got loans worth at least $150,000, and there should be no shame attached to recipients accepting money as Congress intended: emergency loans to companies and organizations with 500 or fewer employees. In many states, government was the entity shutting down businesses through governors’ executive orders. Government, then, should help those businesses regroup. The deal was, if they kept their employees on the payroll, the loans would be forgiven. These workers might otherwise have qualified for unemployment, but keeping businesses operating provided more long-term stability to the economy.
Where assessing the PPP gets complicated is weighing the overall benefit to the economy against exceptions and loopholes that allowed some big businesses to take federal aid. For example, the restaurant industry, which was hit hard by closures, received an exemption to the 500-employee limit. The result was some larger players, including those owned by private equity firms, were eligible to receive loans.
We’re fine with smaller, local restaurant operators getting aid to tide them over because they would otherwise have a hard time obtaining financing during a pandemic. But couldn’t P.F. Chang’s, a national chain owned by a New York investment firm, have secured its own private-sector funding through its parent? Those and other legitimate questions have largely gone unresolved due to the rush of getting payments into the hands of job creators.
This page is predisposed to looking skeptically at big federal programs for business, especially when they increase the federal debt. During the Great Recession, we opposed bailouts to General Motors and Chrysler because big, global companies and major industries should have the wherewithal to stand on their own two feet. When they need money, they should get it from private sources, including lenders and the markets, not taxpayers. When they can’t, they should face the consequences. Investors and executives who get the rewards should bear the risks, without counting on a rescue from Uncle Sam.
During the first round of coronavirus loans, we didn’t like the Trump administration’s bailout of airlines, which were singled out for help — and then in a flash, one carrier, United Airlines, announced plans to lay off thousands of employees in October. If those layoffs go through, United would essentially be using government money to fund a corporate restructuring. Even Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin expressed frustration with what appeared to be a violation of the spirit of the program.
There are times when taxpayer-backed loans make sense and times when free-market principles should stand tall. The swift, unexpected and unpredictable COVID-19 pandemic has provided examples of both.
Yes, the PPP helped some big corporations that happen to employ a lot of people. The program undoubtedly also sent aid to some unworthy recipients. The transparency of the data release should smoke them out. But the program, according to the Small Business Administration, helped a vast majority of employees at small businesses, many of them stationed in moderate- and low-income communities. Those businesses might not have survived without it.
July 5, 2020
The Dispatch-Argus (Rock Island)
Do your part and wear a mask
At least 39 human beings living in Scott and Rock Island counties have died from COVID-19.
It’s a stunning number, really, and one worth pausing to reflect upon. Every one represents a family who lost a loved one.
The death toll is still rising in the Quad-Cities, where more than 1,570 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus. After a plateau, cases are surging again. In Scott County, early June saw two to four cases reported daily, and in the past week, that has increased to eight or more.
“We are telling health systems to be prepared to be ready for a surge,” Dr. Louis Katz, an infectious disease specialist and medical director at the Scott County Health Department, said last week.
Local health experts say one major reason for the spike is because people, especially the young, are not using face coverings.
Face coverings, including masks, experts say, are the most effective way to stop the spread of the virus, along with frequent hand-washing and social distancing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidelines for face coverings on Sunday. The CDC now recommends face coverings be worn in public and when around anyone who doesn’t live in your house.
Wearing a mask or other type of face covering is more about protecting others than it is protecting yourself. That’s because masks block potentially infectious air particles from skyrocketing into the air around you.
If you’re not wearing a face covering, you may be allowing the virus to spread to anyone who comes close enough to your cough, sneeze or even just your breath. In effect, people who don’t wear masks are creating the same kind of public health jeopardy posed when anti-vaxers don’t get their shots.
We applaud those who are doing their part. That includes numerous businesses on both sides of the river that require their employees to wear face coverings. We encourage every business to do the same – and to consider requiring customers wear face coverings, as well. After all we’ve already sacrificed, that last thing we want is to backslide.
Regardless of policy, folks should wear face coverings out of a sense of duty. This virus has been unprecedented. The sooner we get on board and behind the latest science, the sooner we can beat this thing.
To us, wearing a mask out and about for the time being seems a small price to pay if it means we can prevent more death. In respect to the 39 Quad-Citians who’ve already died — and to prevent another devastating loss for a local family — please, consider a mask.