Georgia editorial roundup

The Associated PressJuly 8, 2014 

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

July 6

Morning News, Savannah, Georgia, on proposed Fort Stewart cuts:

Coastal Georgians know the importance of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield to their communities. But more importantly, they recognize the importance of this U.S. Army installation to America's security.

That's why the latest report from Washington about the Army's proposed realignment for 2020 is alarming.

If leaders in Washington want to make America less secure as the world is becoming more unstable, they're doing a bang-up job.

The Army's the Supplemental Programmatic Environmental Assessment shows as many as 16,000 soldiers and Defense Department civilians could be slashed from Fort Stewart if drastic spending cuts are required by further sequestration. That's not reducing fat. That's cutting muscle and bone.

About 20,000 soldiers are stationed at the Southeast Georgia base. About 3,000 military civilians support what the soldiers do. This worst-case reduction in force — if it happens — would be devastating.

And Fort Stewart isn't being singled out either. Nine other major Army installations face similar deep cuts.

No area of federal spending should consider it immune from spending cuts. Government must live within its means — and that includes the military.

At the same time, our nation's budget shouldn't be balanced on the back of the military either.

The report came from the U.S. Army Environmental Command. It helps the Army plan in advance, trying to anticipate what the White House and Congress might do.

Army officials emphasized the report was designed only to help leaders identify posts where units could be removed. They indicated no decisions had been made as the Army draws down its troops to potentially as low as 420,000 soldiers.

At Fort Stewart, those maximum level cuts assume the loss of a second combat brigade and 60 percent of soldiers in units outside of brigade combat teams. Soldiers and Army civilians at Hunter — Savannah's extension of Fort Stewart — were not considered.

At about 280,000 acres, Fort Stewart is the largest military reservation east of the Mississippi River. It's an important training post. But more than that, it's the tip of a spear.

Combined with Hunter, the installations serve as the primary military power projection platform on America's East Coast.

Maintaining this ability to strike fast and strike hard is critical to America's national security. As terrorist organizations make gains in the Middle East and threaten American interests, this isn't the time to cut bases to the bone. The president and Congress must find spending reductions elsewhere.

Fort Stewart's senior commander, Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, has remained cautiously optimistic about his post while acknowledging additional cuts would be painful.

He asked the community to "pay very close attention" to the potential realignment report and the potential for further downsizing. "I think that Fort Stewart is in pretty good shape, but people need to take this seriously," he said.

Roger that. Loudly and clearly.

Online:

http://savannahnow.com

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July 7

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on a restoration of rights:

This is to anyone angered by the recent Supreme Court ruling that "partial public employees" can't be coerced into financially supporting public-sector unions.

Mute your outrage for a moment and ponder a simple question: If unions are so benevolent - so vitally important to the welfare of the American worker - why do so many people flee them in droves at the first opportunity?

Anyone not completely blinded by ideology knows the answer: Unions just aren't worth it anymore.

That's why Big Labor has been gasping for air during the past several decades. That's why its last bastion is the public sector, where unions have to rely on the force of government to shake down workers for dues and membership.

But hopefully not for much longer.

The recent 5-4 ruling in Harris v. Quinn case ruled home health care workers in Illinois can't be compelled to pay partial dues - known as "agency fees" - to a union they don't want to join.

The case in question involved home health caregivers who worked in private homes for individuals who could hire and fire them. Their only connection to the state was that part of their pay came via Medicaid.

Because the court found such workers were not state employees, the decision emancipates people working in similar circumstances in some two-dozen other states that have similar union extortion laws on the books.

The court rightfully found that mandatory union fees violated the workers' First Amendment rights because it compelled them, as Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, "to subsidize speech on matters of public concern by a union that they do not wish to join or support."

The court could - and probably should - have applied that same standard to all public employees, not just quasi-public ones.

So while Harris was a major win in the battle for workplace freedom, it wasn't the ultimate victory. That would come with the overturning of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

The 1977 Abood case upheld the state's ability to force full-fledged public employees to pay union dues, helping strengthen the parasitic vote-buying relationship between government unions and the Democratic elected officials who feed them from the taxpayer trough.

Cases that could lead to such a reversal already are working their way through the federal courts.

We hope those cases surface sooner rather than later. Taxpaying citizens - the ones who have to pay for the bloated government behemoth and its obscene employee-pension plans - have no chance of reining in the out-of-control public sector as long as workers are forced to fund unions' Big Government-advocacy efforts.

If public-sector employees want to participate in union activities, and pay dues to support those activities, fine. Those who don't want anything to do with a union should be allowed to walk the other way.

They probably would be just as happy to keep their opinions, and their money, to themselves.

Online:

http://chronicle.augusta.com

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July 6

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia, on limiting DC power:

Last week's Supreme Court ruling that family-owned corporations cannot be required by the government to provide insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, if doing so violates the owners' religious beliefs, came at an ironically fortuitous time.

After all, when better for the nation to find itself embroiled in a discussion of religious freedom, personal rights and government power than the days immediately preceding the Fourth of July?

Somehow we don't imagine the legal question involved in the debate is one the Founding Fathers ever could have imagined. That's not because of the modern nature of issues such as contraception and group health insurance, but rather the concept that the federal government could have ever imagined usurping such authority in the first place.

"The greatest (calamity) which could befall (us would be) submission to a government of unlimited powers," wrote Thomas Jefferson, who would be amazed to think there was ever a legal question as to whether the government he helped to create should have the authority to force the private owners of a business to abandon religious beliefs to satisfy legislative mandate.

The ruling in the case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties provided a buffet of hot-topic issues about which liberals could rail, touching as it did on abortion, mandatory insurance, the "war on women," big business and religion.

Liberals thought surely an enlightened Supreme Court contemplating any one of those perspectives would rule in favor of the government.

But it didn't happen, at least not this time. By the slightest of margins, the justices ruled 5-4 that there is, indeed, a limit to the government's power. At least for now.

In this instance, the advocates who argued for religious freedom from government excess were victorious. But the fact that four of the nine justices of the Supreme Court felt the government was within its power to force owners of private businesses to abandon their own religious convictions in favor of the "common good" is frightening.

"I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil," said the esteemed Benjamin Franklin.

And how could you not argue the Affordable Care Act is the result of an arbitrary government attempting to exercise unlimited power so as to encroach on individual privileges?

We have reached the point where we have to step back and ask: How much longer can our nation survive when there are so many among us who are willing — no eager — to entrust such authority to government while ignoring the rights of individuals?

It wasn't that Hobby Lobby refused to provide insurance for its employees. It wasn't even that it refused to provide coverage for contraceptives; it did that as well. What it argued against doing was providing insurance that would pay for certain types of contraceptives that were abortive rather than preventive in nature.

To see the incredible chasm between the legal and political spectrums in the nation, one need look no further than the dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who warned that the courts had set a dangerous precedent by extending religious freedoms to "the commercial, profit-making world."

"The court's expansive notion of corporate personhood invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths," she wrote.

And therein lies the rub; to those of a liberal mindset, the "commercial, profit-making world" is an evil entity that has nothing to do with individual people, at least not at the ownership level. They ignore the fact that the nation's business economy is dependent on real people who create financial success by virtue of their own hard work, ingenuity, business acumen and willingness to bet their future on an idea.

People don't give up the rights and freedoms our forefathers envisioned and fought for simply because they start a business and believe in free enterprise and capitalism. There are those in legislative and judicial power in this country who would rather destroy it than see a successful "profit-making world."

And note as well the freedom enjoyed by those who operate businesses extends to those who work there: (Those who find) their employer's policies too restrictive or unsupportive are free to find a workplace more to their liking. Companies that offer more benefits may lure and retain more good workers, yet that's a choice best made by business owners, not forced upon them.

Opponents of the court's ruling were quick to warn the decision would open the door to other instances where corporations, and perhaps even individuals, were allowed to put their own personal beliefs above those of an all-powerful and benevolent government.

The drafters of the Declaration of Independence, the existence of which we celebrate this weekend, wrote of the king of England: "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

Is our own power-hungry federal government so different than ol' King George?

Online:

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com

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