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State and Regional

on 8/22/01.

Here's a sampling of editorial opinion from around the state:

August 12

Las Cruces Sun News, on student credit card debt:

It's been a couple of years since Tom Udall was New Mexico attorney general, but he hasn't lost his interest in consumer issues.

Udall, now a Democratic New Mexico congressman from the 3rd congressional district in the northern part of the state, has put into the political spotlight an issue that is most appropriate as another school year begins: college students who get in trouble from credit-card debt.

Specifically, Udall is calling attention to a new General Accounting Office
(GAO) report which confirms that college students are vulnerable to high credit card debt. In almost an understatement of a conclusion, the GAO finds that the "consistent misuse of credit cards by college students, particularly combined with student loan debt, could lead to substantial debt burdens." No kidding!, a number of college students hit with such debt problems would no doubt exclaim, a concern shared by parents who choose to come to the rescue to help their kids pay off credit card debt.

Udall, in a press release from his Washington, D.C., office, said the report represented a good first step in understanding credit card excess by college students and the credit card industry's "tenacious drive to sign up college students."

"Additionally, the report clearly demonstrates the need for further congressional action including more investigation, oversight hearings and legislative remedies," said Udall.

The big government approach no doubt might strike temporary fear into the hearts of the credit card companies, but it doesn't get to the crux of what needs to be done on the students' side of things: better financial education at an earlier age and a heightened sense of individual responsibility.

The need for these characteristics is emphasized in the following statements from the GAO report:

"...some university officials and debt counseling services told us that they believed that college students were more likely than other types of credit card users to run up debts they could not pay because of their financial inexperience. This problem could become particularly severe after graduation, when many students must begin making payments on educational loans (about half of college students leave schools with an average of $19,400 in student loans)."


To Udall's credit, he does not see government intervention as the only solution. He says that financial literacy classes should be urged for high school and college students, noting that 14 percent of college students in the GAO study said they had credit cards in high school.

Such an emphasis on financial education also should serve to help bring about the sense of personal responsibility that individuals should develop with regards to the sensible use of credit cards.

August 10

Portales News Tribune, on Buyback America:

In a rebuke to a pointless Clinton-era gun-control policy, the U.S. Senate recently agreed with the Bush White House and put an end to Buyback America. The program earmarked $15 million to local police departments to buy guns from residents in and near public housing projects.

Launched in July 2000, Buyback America was one of those PR-heavy efforts we 've come to associate with the former president. He said it would stop "an untold number of gun accidents, suicides and crimes." But beyond creating another opportunity for soundbites, it did little but waste taxpayer dollars.

There were many problems with the program. First, we're always leery of federal programs that intrude on a local function, namely law enforcement. Second, the program was unlikely to achieve any of its goals. For instance, in a study of gun buyback programs, the Medical College of Wisconsin reported that "Guns captured by buyback programs generally are not those associated with gun deaths."

As one of the Milwaukee physicians pointed out, "The typical buyback handgun is older and of smaller caliber, more of an antique than a weapon." Clearly it's not criminals with lucrative uses for their high-powered weapons who show up at buyback centers and turn in their expensive weapons for $50.

But the biggest problem with the program is the dishonest premise on which it is based. Supporters of buybacks, and those who endorses strict gun controls in general, believe the mere existence of weapons in a household is such a danger that it's always worth discarding weapons. But extensive research by Yale researcher John Lott Jr. shows that guns are far more likely to be used by individuals for defensive purposes than for crimes.

So encouraging law-abiding people in some of America's roughest neighborhoods to disarm themselves leaves them vulnerable. The more a community disarms, the more emboldened its criminals become...

Even the Democrat-dominated Senate understood the foolishness of Buyback America. Maybe the Bush year will usher in more common sense with regard to guns. One can only hope so.

August 17

Roswell Daily Record, on President Bush's foreign policy:

Europeans don't like the way President Bush is handling foreign policy.

Europeans in four countries, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, were asked if they approved of Bush's policies. Approval ranged from one in six in France to three in 10 in Italy.

The problem, it seems, is that they believe Bush makes his decisions based on U.S. interests.

Well, duh.

What did they expect? That Bush would put the interest of Europeans, or even the rest of the world, ahead of those of his country?

How long would British Prime Minister Tony Blair stay in office if British voters thought he was more concerned about the German economy or French farmers than about those in Great Britain?

Former President Bill Clinton got a much higher rating on his international policies - from two-thirds among the French to almost nine in 10 in Germany.

Does that mean Clinton was more willing to sacrifice American interests for the sake of European interests, or for the sake of his liberal agendas? We certainly hope not.

More likely is that Clinton's views on some key issues, which are liberal by American standards, are much closer to those of the average European than Bush's views. Or, perhaps, Clinton was less candid in making his views known.

European leaders have blasted Bush for his vocal opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming, but Clinton never pushed for its passage and, in a trial vote, the Senate rejected the treaty 95-0.

If fact, we wonder how much support the protocol really has in Europe. Despite the attacks on Bush for voicing his opposition to the treaty, only Rumania among European countries has actually ratified the treaty. No doubt, leaders of other industrialized nations are privately applauding Bush's opposition even while he is publicly pummeled.

But Bush may be less concerned about what the average European thinks about his stands than what the average American thinks. Even those who disagree with his stand on Kyoto and his proposed missile-defense system have to appreciate the fact that he is taking stands based on what he perceives as the best American interests, regardless of the opposition of others.

We should be concerned about the effects on others in the world of what the United States does from the standpoint of justice and humanity. We want to do what's right and we care about other people around the world.

We also recognize that what happens to people in other parts of the world affects us. We do all live in the same world and are interdependent in many ways.

But, in common with everyone else around the world, we put our own interests ahead of others and we expect our leaders to do the same.

Perhaps Bush's greatest offense is not that he puts American interests first but that he has been honest about his attitude.

August 14

Clovis News Journal, on privatizing the postal system:

Have you noticed that mail delivery has been tardier than usual lately?

"New delivery standards implemented by the U.S. Postal Service earlier this year are adding an extra day for first-class mail delivery to most cities in the West," reported the Associated Press.

The reason: The Postal Service has switched some services from planes to ground transportation because of flight delays, said Chuck Gannon, national manager for service standards. It's true the nation's air traffic system needs an overhaul; privatization of air traffic control and airports would help.

But the Postal Service is slow, and it has a monopoly on first-class mail.

The last time privatization or breaking the monopoly was seriously on the table was 1988, in the waning days of the Reagan administration. Jim Miller, then the director of the Office of Management and Budget, made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful push for postal reform. Now a counselor for Citizens for a Sound Economy, he says one way to improve deliveries would be to privatize the Postal Service.

But even better, he said, would be to end the monopoly.

"There is some concern for postal issues in the Bush administration. But every administration has to be driven by the very short run." he said. The catalyst could be an impending Postal Service operating deficit, causing mush greater price increases that would slam consumers, even as consumers switch more and more to e-mail.

Germany, Holland and Great Britain have privatized mail delivery. It's time for the United States to do the same.