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Other editorial boards weigh in on government corruption and the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty

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Tell us something we don’t know

A pair of Gallup polls released last month revealed some interesting insights about Americans’ views on their government.

In the first, a whopping 75 percent of Americans feel that corruption is “widespread throughout the government in this country.” That sentiment is up from 67 percent in 2007 and 66 percent in 2009, and has remained between 73 and 79 percent since 2010. Gallup notes a number of scandals, from the IRS going after conservative organizations under the Obama administration to the Department of Justice’s firing of a number of attorneys, allegedly for political reasons, during George W. Bush’s administration.

If that were not enough, a separate Gallup poll found that 49 percent of Americans think the federal government “poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” That response is up from 30 percent in 2003, and has remained at least at 44 percent since 2006. Gallup notes that there seems to be a decidedly partisan aspect to the results, with predominantly Republicans complaining about such threats with a Democrat in the White House and vice versa, though that sentiment is stronger among Republicans during the Obama administration than it was among Democrats during the Bush administration.

 

When asked an open-ended question about what ways the government constituted a threat to citizens’ rights and freedoms, the most common responses were that the government is too big or there are too many laws (19 percent), violations of freedoms or civil liberties (15 percent), gun control or Second Amendment violations (12 percent) and too much involvement in people’s private lives (10 percent). Others voiced concerns about violations of First Amendment speech and religious freedoms, government surveillance of citizens and police violence.

Considering the government’s corruption, scandals and abuses of American citizens’ rights we see on an almost daily basis, one wonders how the other half of the country remains blissfully ignorant — or perhaps even supportive of — these attacks on our liberties. Sadly, Americans’ increasing distrust of their government is justified. It is our hope that they will use the energy stemming from this frustration and outrage to demand that the government be slashed back to its core functions and hold public officials to a higher standard.

​The Orange County Register, Oct. 5

Globalized trade and the TPP

It’s too early to tell whether Congress should ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty that the Obama administration negotiated with 11 countries on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. The details matter, and the actual text of the agreement won’t be released for a few weeks. Yet the very fact that negotiators from a dozen nations were able to strike a deal reflects the inescapable reality that trade is more globalized than ever before, which is why the administration is right to pursue agreements that promote higher standards for commerce in the 21st century.

Increasing trade around the world is a net positive in theory because it means more goods will be produced and consumed, leading to more economic activity and growth. That’s why the United States has sought for decades to reduce the barriers that protect industries around the world against foreign competition. Two such barriers — import tariffs and quotas — would be reduced by the TPP in numerous industries, albeit not completely. For example, the deal calls for Canada to allow imported products to hold just a slightly larger share of its markets for eggs, chickens and other agricultural goods.

The trickier exercise is preventing countries from using labor, environmental and other laws to give their industries an unfair advantage, which means setting the right common standards for how goods should be produced. Trade deals shouldn’t encourage a race to the bottom when it comes to environmental and labor protections; instead, they should push for standards that protect the long-term interests of their people. This deal appears to do that in several areas, including more demanding and enforceable provisions on minimum wages, collective bargaining and forced labor, sustainable fishing and logging. It also has laudable protections for the Internet and e-commerce.

It’s not clear yet, though, whether negotiators struck the right balance between competing industries’ interests in other areas, such as automobiles, where the deal may help Asian automakers with suppliers in China (not a TPP signatory) at the expense of parts manufacturers in the United States and Mexico.

That’s why the details matter. Nevertheless, lawmakers shouldn’t preemptively reject the TPP, as some industries and interest groups that oppose even incremental steps toward free trade have urged. As the distance between countries is obliterated by commerce and technology, the U.S. can’t simply impose the rules it wants for trade on the rest of the world; it has to negotiate for them. The administration deserves credit for getting this far — and a fair hearing for what it has proposed.

Los Angeles Times, Oct. 6

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