Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier of Charleston on gerrymandering:
Election night was expected to yield few surprises in South Carolina. While there is plenty of noise during the campaign season, the reality is that incumbents from both parties generally are safely tucked away in districts that are gerrymandered to favor the Republican or Democrat holding the seat.
These politically "safe" districts carved out by the Legislature make most races foregone conclusions. That is not good for voters or democracy. A bipartisan, independent commission tasked with drawing electoral boundaries would help take the politics out of the process and make it fairer for everyone.
Electoral districts for the state House and Senate and Congress are redrawn after each Census to make sure they contain roughly the same number of people. With the 2020 Census on the horizon, the Legislature should make the elimination of gerrymandering a priority in the coming session.
Voters approve of the idea: Sixty-eight percent of the respondents in a Winthrop poll released in February supported the creation of an independent commission.
The power in South Carolina resides in the Legislature, and it won't be easy to persuade lawmakers to give up some of their authority. But it's clearly the right thing to do.
State Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, has tried for more than a year to garner support for a bipartisan measure that would ask voters to decide via constitutional amendment if they want an independent commission. Her bill was dumped into the Judiciary Committee where it languished last session.
State Rep. William Cogswell, R-Charleston, and several other lawmakers ran into the same problem with a redistricting bill on the House side.
It is notable that the redistricting effort has garnered Republican and Democratic support. South Carolina is a solidly GOP state, but Republican lawmakers such as Gary Clary, a former circuit judge from Clemson, argue that lawmakers have no business drawing their own district lines. They also do not see an independent commission as a threat to GOP control.
The zig-zagging, often illogical district boundaries benefit both Democrats and Republicans. For instance, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn is the lone Democrat among the state's seven congressmen, but his district is a contorted maze that ensures he will remain in power as long as he wants — and that whatever Democrat comes after him will as well.
With many districts "safely" Republican or Democratic, gerrymandering too often ensures that the winner is chosen in the primaries instead of the general election. That lack of competition is not good for the political system — or for voters.
The courts have taken an interest in redistricting controversies in other states. It would be best if South Carolinians solved this problem without court intervention.
Lawmakers should want fair elections from compact, contiguous districts. Voters would benefit from a less politically influenced process. An independent commission is the best option for making that happen.
The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on flu shots:
While unusual health threats of all types make headlines, the public should not fail to be proactive against a common illness that contributes to the deaths of 3,000 to 50,000 individuals every year depending on the severity of the season.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly — especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.
With school in session, children are in close quarters with other kids, raising the risk of contracting all sorts of illnesses, flu among them.
Health officials have long touted the importance of getting vaccinated.
Dr. Tracy Foo, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control immunization medical consultant, encourages everyone six months and older to be vaccinated every flu season.
"Getting your flu vaccine protects not only you, but your whole family and community," she said. "Last flu season was one of the worst in recent years and highlights the importance of getting your flu vaccine."
Even if you were vaccinated last year, you should do so again this year because protection provided by last season's vaccine decreases over time. Also, the flu vaccine is updated each year to keep up with changing flu viruses.
Flu vaccine is available from many local providers — including doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces. DHEC county public health departments offer flu shots. To learn more about where to get vaccinated, visit scdhec.gov/health/flu.
While there is no guarantee of not contracting influenza even with the vaccine, the proof is in the history of results. But too many people don't take getting a flu shot seriously.
Flu viruses are easily transmitted from person to person. With the increased exposure the new school year, football season and the coming holidays bring, it is important to receive a vaccination in a timely manner.
From the date of vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the antibodies that provide protection to develop in the body.
In addition to getting vaccinated, South Carolina residents are encouraged to practice good health habits each day. ...
While we count on our leaders and health experts to warn of and address the threat of the unusual, do your part against a known threat. Get a flu shot.
The Post and Courier on banking reforms:
The Federal Reserve Board recently adopted far-reaching reforms in the way American banks are regulated. On balance they are a sensible reaction to changes in the banking industry since the market crash of 2008, but they should be strengthened by reform in the way banks keep their books.
The reforms, based on a law enacted by Congress in May over the strenuous objection of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will relieve all but the six largest banks of many of the onerous and costly regulatory oversight procedures mandated by the 2010 Dodd-Frank reform law for all major banks. These six banks together own about half of all bank assets in the United States. They are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Together with previous decisions this year by the Fed, that should make it less profitable to be a mega-bank known as a Systematically Important Financial Institution or "too big to fail." At the same time, the new reforms should improve the bottom line for smaller institutions, which will not have to maintain as large a capital buffer as the six mega-banks or face the same costly regulatory oversight. That does not completely solve the "too big to fail" problem, which would require breaking up the mega-banks. But it does put the brakes on the further growth of the problem.
Specifically, the Fed has decided to reduce the capital buffer for eight banks ranging in size from $250 billion to $700 billion in assets, although these banks will still have to undergo the Fed's costly stress tests. Another 24 banks with assets between $100 billion and $250 billion get even looser capital and oversight requirements, except for banks with significant overseas exposure. The law passed by Congress last spring frees another six banks with assets of $50 billion or more, the original level set by Dodd-Frank, from "advanced" supervision. It also reduces regulations for banks with less than $10 billion in assets.
A welcome likely effect of the new regulations will be to slow the consolidation of the banking industry by improving the bottom lines of smaller institutions. Between 1984 and 2018 the number of U.S. banks covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has fallen by about 70 percent, from over 18,000 to less than 6,000, and the size of mega-banks has grown rapidly as they bought up smaller banks. That will now be less profitable.
Banks make money by lending. The larger the volume of loans they can make for a given amount of capital, the more money they can make. But the higher this leverage, the more a bank risks failure when some of its loans fail to be repaid.
The new reforms effectively reduce the leverage of the mega-banks and increase the leverage of all other banks while reducing their regulatory requirements.
But along with this shift comes a higher risk of failure. One of the ways banks get in trouble is by ignoring the riskiness of their loan portfolio and failing to take steps to reduce it.
Under current accounting rules banks may book an asset, such as a loan, at its initial book value until that transaction is completed, either profitably or not.
That should change. If banks were required to "mark to market" all of their assets, the bad ones as well as the good ones, they would have to increase their capital reserves to cover anticipated losses. The private, nonprofit organization that oversees financial accounting standards has proposed such a reform, which would work like an automatic brake on risky lending.
The banking lobby has worked overtime to obtain relief from Dodd-Frank. It now strenuously opposes this accounting change proposed by the Financial Accounting Standard Board. The arguments put forward by the banks for retaining the old rule are self-serving and not in the public interest. Congress should not intervene to prevent the proposed rule from becoming the standard in the banking industry.
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