LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Can’t-do Congress' unfinished business

Congress has once again let partisan paralysis prevent it from passing the fundamental necessary spending bills that keep the government functioning.

They did this as their summer vacation approached. The House’s last day was July 14; the Senate finished up July 15. They’ll be back Sept. 6, when the leaves fall on the tennis court. They also hope that voters will fail to recall that in January, the House and Senate Republican leadership, notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, pledged to pass the spending bills, no matter what, and the Democrats promised to play fair, too. Both parties seem to have been struck by “senior moments” regarding their pledges and are, instead, playing their usual games.

There are a dozen or so of these basic appropriations bills, all stuck, mostly in or because of the Senate. They include the military spending bill; a separate military construction and veterans bill where the parties differ on spending to fight the Zika virus; and the commerce, justice and science bill, stuck over gun control. It seems that neither the slaughter in Orlando, Fla., nor the killings in Baton Rouge, La., and St. Paul, Minn., followed by the slaying of five police officers in Dallas and Sunday’s murder of three in Baton Rouge, has made any difference in the congressional response to lobbying by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, blocking gun measures.

The Senate Democrats are blocking the defense appropriations bill because they are afraid that if they pass it, the Republicans, who want it to please their campaign contributors, will cut the amount by which the defense bill exceeds agreed-upon spending limits from money for domestic issues.

It seems remarkable that America’s legislators would play these games with vital spending in an election year. If voters see any of these people, at the beach or on the golf course, during their upcoming seven-week vacation, it might be worth reminding them that they are expected to do what they are paid to do — particularly passing appropriations bills — and that what they do or don’t do will be reflected by votes for or against them in November.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 18

_____________________

Crisis looms in the banks of an EU power

Italian banks are in bad shape, facing the release of the results of a European Central Bank stress test July 29.

The EU has already had to deal with the Greek financial disaster. That has gone only reasonably well. Greece is still in the EU and eurozone, but its unemployment is the highest in the bloc. Then came the British referendum decision June 23 to exit the EU.

Now come the Italian banks. Italy is the EU’s fourth-largest economy. Its unemployment rate is second only to Greece’s. Its economy is considered to be overregulated and productivity low. Italy’s banks hold an estimated $400 billion in shaky loans, only $180 billion of which are covered by assets. Of the banks’ bond stock, 55 percent is held by private investors. That is to say, if a bank stumbles or goes under, private investors will take a large part of the fall, risking the whole Italian economy. The smoke is rising most visibly from Siena’s Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest bank and Italy’s third-largest. The largest and second-largest, UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, have also seen major drops in share price.

Italy benefits from the fact of low expectations: Its economy is generally considered to be inefficient and corrupt. At the same time, the EU cannot afford a major crisis or, worse, a financial crash in one of its primary members at this point. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, in power since 2014, is doing reasonably well. But he is counting on a referendum containing important constitutional reforms.

The ECB, the International Monetary Fund and Germany, facing elections next year, need to watch this one very carefully and try to ensure that Italy doesn’t crash and burn on this problem. Neither the EU nor Europe nor the United States needs this problem at this point.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.daily-times.com/story/opinion/columnists/2016/07/22/roundup-editorial-opinions-other-papers/87317754/