Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Anniston Star on Coalition in danger :
One of the greatest political alliances to fly beneath most people's radar has been the connection between Republicans from the farm-belt states and Democrats who represent poorer constituencies, often in inner cities.
Every time a farm bill comes before Congress, fiscal conservatives wring their hands over the cost while free-market economists without constituencies enriched by the legislation grumble about how the government is subsidizing when it should be standing aside. None of this makes much difference because when the bill comes to a vote, rural Republicans and urban Democrats stand shoulder-to-shoulder to pass it.
The reason is food stamps, a lifeline for poor people in America. Is the program abused? Occasionally. Is it humane? Generally.
Food stamps, which are formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also help farmers sell what they produce. If the poor cannot afford food, major consumers would consume less and farmers would earn less.
So, bound by mutual self-interest, senators and representatives beholden to these constituencies work together. It may be one of the least heralded, but most important, examples of bipartisanship going for us today. As a result, people get fed, farmers make a profit and everyone is happy.
Well, not everyone, which is why the nearly $1 trillion farm bill awaiting congressional action is in trouble.
Although the bill cuts $20.5 billion from food stamp costs, the conservative Heritage Foundation argues that "it isn't a 'farm bill.' It's a food stamp bill," and as such perpetuates a social program the foundation opposes. Legislators who march to that tune will vote against it.
Some Democrats oppose the bill because they feel the food stamp cuts are too deep, and they are prepared to vote against it as well.
The coalition that has united to pass farm legislation for decades may not survive.
It is the task of House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who represents an agricultural state, to hold together as much of the old alliance as possible to get the measure through. If he fails, bipartisanship will take another blow. Many more and there will be nothing left.
The Decatur (Ala.) Daily on concerns over monthly mayors' meeting:
For more than 35 years, Morgan County mayors have been coming together monthly in different towns and cities to schmooze, compare notes and socialize.
The gatherings have been going on since 1976, when Mayor Bill Dukes was in office. Mayors, council members and commissioners insist it's a beneficial meeting, allowing officials to get to know one another better, pick up ideas and problem-solve.
The meetings must have been helpful over the years; otherwise, they would have been discontinued. But they raised several concerns. First, the public was not offered a seat at the table. Second, watchdog media members were not invited — because some officials said they might not be as forthcoming if a reporter was present. Third, there was no way to know if a quorum of elected officials showed up, which would be illegal. And fourth, taxpayers paid for the meals, in some cases for officials' spouses. (The state Attorney General's office said this practice is legal.) In April, the city of Decatur picked up the $520 bill.
After several stories published online and in print by The Daily about the meetings, some of the smaller cities started to feel the pinch and asked for help. The Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce stepped in.
Using private funds from the organization's political action committee, ProsperityPAC, the chamber said it would pick up the tab. Chamber President John Seymour reasoned that his organization's goal is to help build relationships, which will help build a stronger Morgan County.
One would think, though, that politicians would be leery of accepting funding from a chamber PAC, especially nowadays with Republicans in Montgomery still talking tough about ethics.
Surprisingly, the state Ethics Commission says there's nothing improper about the chamber paying.
The common sense solution would be for officials to pay for their own meals and avoid all outside influences.
The media has been invited to the next meeting in Hartselle, by that city's mayor. The unanswered question, though: Will regular citizens be allowed to attend the meeting?
The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News on Feds should be accountable for privacy breach:
In the days following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many people accepted as conventional wisdom that we couldn't expect things to be the same. To protect American citizens, government agencies would need additional power to ferret out terrorists.
Yet, even then, voices were crying in the wilderness that warned against giving the federal government more power. They said that those who traded freedom for security would wind up with neither. Their warnings were largely ignored, and they were ridiculed and marginalized. It appears that they were right.
"Big Brother," the name George Orwell gave to the all-seeing, oppressive government in his novel "1984" seemed for many years like an exaggerated literary device. With the revelation that the National Security Agency is monitoring tens of millions of phone calls a day and mining data for evidence of terrorist activities, Big Brother seems more like reality than fiction.
The skeptic might ask what harm has actually come from this. After all, the agency isn't listening to the telephone calls average citizens make. It's just looking at the metadata for patterns. So the NSA can run the disclaimer that "no citizens were harmed in the gathering of this intelligence."
Until recently, there was no proof that the Internal Revenue Service abused its power to grant tax-exempt status. ...
If one branch of the federal government was willing to step over the line and single out groups based on ideology, is there any reason to believe another branch of the government wouldn't listen to the telephone calls made by members of those groups?
NSA contractor Edward Snowden might have been wrong to violate his agreement with the government and leak information about the agency's secret program. But there are some who consider what he did a public service.
That debate is for another time. The debate at hand is whether the NSA, or any other government agency, should be allowed to undertake a program that tunnels so deeply into what many American consider their private business.