South Carolina editorial roundup

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 3

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on battling the bad-news bugs:

Public health menaces originating in such disparate places as Asian slums and American hospitals are proving very difficult to eradicate even though they kill tens of thousands of victims a year.

Obamacare isn’t the only health care issue that needs attention.

The Haitian cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 9,000 and sickened 715,000 in Haiti and the Dominican Republic since it broke out in 2010 has now spread to Mexico, and it could possibly cross the border into the United States.

Evidence of the disease has also been found in Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Italy, Germany and The Netherlands.

That epidemic has its origins in Bangladesh and was very likely transmitted to Haiti by a United Nations peacekeeper from Nepal billeted at a camp where sewage wastes spilled into streams used as water supply by Haitians. The U.N. is being sued in a U.S. federal court case seeking financial compensation for victims.

Cholera can spread rapidly in countries with poor sanitation. The last time it reached Mexico, in 1992, it was not eradicated until 2002. That time the epidemic was stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the U.S. might not be so fortunate this time. Likening cholera to the plague, Ebola and pandemic influenza, Dr. Edward Ryan of Massachusetts General Hospital told National Public Radio, “It is one of the ones that tests the (public health) system.”

Unfortunately, a recently developed vaccine against cholera is not widely available.

Another threat comes from drug-resistant “superbugs,” bacteria that have evolved immunity from available antibiotics.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in September that more than 2 million Americans are infected by these bacteria every year and that they cause 23,000 deaths. It announced that three of these bugs were “particularly frightening,” and said that finding cures should be considered “urgent.” …

Solutions must be found to these mounting menaces.

The administration and a divided Congress should be paying attention to the problem, and providing support to public health and research agencies, as needed.



Nov. 29

Aiken (S.C.) Standard on White House success not linked to resume:

The case has been made by at least two possible 2016 presidential contenders – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – that serving as governor should be a prerequisite for anyone seeking the White House.

The fact that Haley and Walker are fans of other governors shouldn’t come as a shock, but their assumption that serving as such is vital isn’t necessarily credible. Haley recently indicated that as a chief executive of a state, governors “make great CEOs,” adding they operate an entire state, and consequently, have a better grip on how to run an entire country.

However, being elected a governor doesn’t exactly equate to being a great president.

This debate certainly intensified during the 2012 election when then-Republican nominee Mitt Romney said executive experience is the quality that likely matters most for a presidential contender.

The former Massachusetts governor said this often during the race, particularly pointing out that Barack Obama’s political knowledge was largely gleaned in the U.S. Senate and not as a head of a company or state. Although the missteps of Obama and his administration are evident, success in the White House isn’t tied to particular bullet points on a resume. Ultimately, it’s about leadership. That attribute has certainly been lacking lately in the Obama White House, but it’s also been missing in the presidential administrations of ex-governors. …

It seems that historically great presidents are simply and inevitably the best at making tough calls. That doesn’t mean they have to be a former governor.

A candidate’s background can certainly provide powerful insight. However, the challenges that a sitting president faces are overcome with effective and resolute decision making, not just by holding another political office.



Dec. 2

Greenville (S.C.) News on smoking keeps declining in state:

When South Carolina increased its cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack in 2010, the rationale behind the change was that it would encourage people — especially young people with limited incomes — to give up a destructive habit.

That alone was good motivation for the tax hike. South Carolina had one of the highest rates of smoking in the nation, and the state had among the highest rates of smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.

When South Carolina was pressing for the cigarette tax increase in 2009, the American Lung Association estimated that more than 6,000 South Carolinians died every year due to smoking-related illnesses. Data show that for every smoking-related death, another 20 people suffer from a smoking-related illness. Smoking carried an estimated $3.2 billion annual economic cost to the state, according to news reports at the time. Nationwide, smoking was and still is the No. 1 most preventable cause of cancer. The risk of dying within 15 years is cut in half for people who stop smoking by age 50, the American Cancer Society reports.

At the time, South Carolina’s cigarette tax was 7 cents per pack; it was the lowest in the nation and it inexcusably hadn’t been raised in decades.

Here were the statistics that were facing South Carolina when it was considering the tax in 2009 and 2010, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: 22.3 percent of South Carolinians were smokers, including 19.1 percent of high school students; 103,000 South Carolina children who were alive at the time were projected to die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses; and 7,300 people under age 18 started smoking every year. …

Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that South Carolina at the time spent $223 per person per year on direct medical expenses to treat smoking-related illnesses.

To help sell the tax increase, supporters said that the 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax would prevent 23,300 South Carolina children who are alive today from becoming smokers; would prompt 12,800 adult smokers to quit; would save more than 10,000 state residents from a premature smoking-related death; and would generate $529 million in long-term health care savings.

We’ll probably never know if those numbers will be realized. But there is recent, concrete data we can point to that show real, positive and expected effects from the cigarette tax increase; and that lend credibility to the other predicted effects.

The number of high school students who smoke has seen a dramatic decrease since the state’s cigarette tax was increased, the Department of Health and Environmental Control announced on Nov. 21, the date of the annual Great American Smokeout that encourages people to kick this dangerous habit. …

It should be encouraging to everyone in South Carolina that these gains have been made. Yes, the cigarette tax increase has had a positive impact on the state’s revenue streams. More importantly, it is improving the quality of health in South Carolina by encouraging people to give up tobacco use.

At the time the tax was approved, there was hope such gains would be realized. Although more progress is needed, the continued gains have turned that initial hope into progress, and have made the increased cigarette tax in South Carolina a win-win proposition for the state and its residents.


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