How's It Playing? One Down, A Zillion To Go

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President Obama's signing of the $787 billion stimulus bill on Tuesday brought a small measure of closure to one of the early challenge of his presidency, but today's headlines remind us that the new administration still has many other fires to fight. Homeowners teetering on the edge of foreclosure need help, the nation's major banks and two of the Big Three automakers are slouching toward bankruptcy, and the country is grappling with the political and economic implications of the current troop escalation in Afghanistan. Today's editorials in newspapers across the "purple states" reflected the staggering range of public policy challenges before the president.

 

The Des Moines Register believes that President Obama's foreclosure plan looks like the right approach to dealing the country's mortgage crisis. Though the editors feel many details of the plan need to be worked through, they like its multifaceted approach to a multifaceted problem and believe it will lay the groundwork for preventing future delinquencies and foreclosures - a particularly urgent consideration given Wednesday's Federal Reserve announcement that unemployment likely will increase at rates higher than previously predicted. After years of essentially unregulated mortgage lending and months of a growing economic crisis, the editors make a forceful case that the country - and the federal government - cannot afford to do nothing.

 

The Orlando Sentinel argues that Obama shouldn't pour more taxpayer money into Chrysler and GM. The editors acknowledge that a shutdown of either company would deal a sharp blow to the U.S. economy, but they point out that Ford hasn't asked for any federal loans, nor have foreign-based car manufacturers that also employ hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers. GM and Chrysler's problems didn't begin with the current recession, the editors argue, and American taxpayers can't be expected to funnel their money indefinitely to bail out poorly managed companies.

 

The Denver Post seconds this argument, asserting that the country is already borrowing money at a furious pace and cannot continue bailing out every company that's faltering. Though expressing sympathy for the automakers and paying tribute to the all-American symbolism of their brands, the editors believe that bankruptcy is the only federal protection that Congress should extend the automakers at this stage. They argue that bankruptcy would allow the companies to rework the remaining complications in their union contracts and better transform the automakers for the 21st century.

 

The Raleigh News and Observer assesses the card-check controversy at a time when North Carolina, widely considered one of the least friendly states to unions, is seeing an uptick in pro-union activities.  The editors don't come out strongly on either side of the issue.  They criticize card-check opponents like Senator Richard Burr for being reflexively hostile to unionization, but also express skepticism towards any change that would seem to take away the right to a secret ballot.  Labor might score more victories, the editors assert, by "working in Congress for changes to level the playing field in conventional unionization elections -- and by creating genuine advantages for employees in union membership."

 

On the eve of the troop surge in Afghanistan, The Concord Monitor makes a strong case that President Obama should explain to the American people - and to the families of soldiers who might die there - exactly what the mission in Afghanistan is, how long it might take and how success will be measured.  Is America's goal to prevent a takeover of the government by the Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist group that has not launched terrorist attacks outside Afghanistan? Is the goal to eliminate the drug trade? Is the goal to train indigenous Afghan forces so they can control, if not defeat, the Taliban? In the editors estimation, these are just some of the questions that President Obama must answer, now that he's committed to escalating the war.

 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette echoes these concerns, arguing that the country still doesn't been given a clear understanding of "the parameters, the objectives or the end game" of the Afghanistan conflict.  Can America realistically escalate its war efforts abroad at a time when it is strenuously grappling with economic survival at home? The U.S. defense budget is already $513 billion, the editors note, with another $66 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At the same time, the cost of the Obama administration's economic recovery program is trillions of dollars and rising almost daily. The editors conclude that America can't just keep spending without counting the cost and that priorities need to be established.    

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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