Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Dec. 26

Tuscaloosa News on an opioid lawsuit:

For the past few years, NFL football players have worn pink during the month of October in an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer. The league moved last year to end the practice, but you still see players wearing the color. It is a worthwhile cause that has led to increased donations. But breast cancer, as bad as it is, now kills fewer Americans each year than opioids.

In 2016, there were 41,070 Americans who died from breast cancer, but there were 42,249 overdose deaths involving opioids that same year. Opioids were involved in the majority of the more than 63,600 overdose deaths last year.

And, as pharmaceutical companies get richer, the problem is only getting worse. U.S. deaths from drug overdoses increased a whopping 21 percent in 2016. Preliminary 2017 data shows that the rise in overdose deaths is continuing. It is such a problem that it is dragging down the overall life expectancy of Americans for the second straight year.

While the problem is nationwide, it is especially troubling in Alabama, where we have more opioid painkiller prescriptions than people. A recent study by Quintiles IMS found earlier this year that there are 1.18 opioid prescriptions per person in Alabama, which was the worst ratio of all states.

There's no way that pharmaceutical companies don't know that they are shipping more of these drugs than are needed in Alabama. There's no way that doctors prescribing these highly addictive drugs at such a remarkable rate are unaware they are being abused.

Back in June, the New York Times reported that overdoses are now the leading cause of death of Americans under the age of 50, outpacing disease, car crashes or gun violence. That same month Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office Chief Loyd Baker told a local meeting of the League of Women Voters that "drugs are the underlying current, affecting everything we do." He said about 21 to 23 people die from opioid overdoses in Tuscaloosa County each year.

It's time to address this incredibly serious problem in a serious way, a way that gets results, so we're heartened to hear that Tuscaloosa County's largest local governments are considering participating in a class-action lawsuit against manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs. Tuscaloosa County, the city of Tuscaloosa and the city of Northport are all in the process of doing due diligence and researching which law firm they should choose.

While joining the lawsuits isn't a panacea that will make this problem go away, it is a step in the right direction. Settlements have already been reached in other cases brought against the pharmaceutical companies. And Mississippi, Ohio, West Virginia, along with other counties and cities, such as Chicago, have also started litigation.

These companies have enriched themselves while our citizens are addicted and dying. They've wreaked havoc in our communities and depleted resources and we're all paying a steep cost.



Dec. 22

Cullman Times on Roy Moore not conceding:

Roy Moore, brooding in defeat at the hands of a Democrat and the voters of Alabama, is oddly asking for financial donations from.

In an email to supporters, Moore's campaign asked supporters to "dig deep" and donate anywhere from $25 to $1,000 to his "Election Integrity Fund."

The fundraising email was sent after Alabama's secretary of state announced that "the most controversial" issue of potential voter fraud had been resolved after his staff found no evidence of anything improper.

Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, has a reputation of being thorough concerning voting issues in Alabama. He has investigated issues promptly and also is the architect of registering thousands of Alabamians to vote. With Moore still crying foul about fraud and irregularities in the Dec. 12 special election for the U.S. Senate, it's become all too clear that the former chief justice simply has too much pride to accept defeat.

Even with calls from within his own party to concede from respected Republicans, Moore is acting like an undisciplined child, moping and whining about the outcome of the election.

From every indication coming from Montgomery and counties across Alabama, solidly in most cases under control of Moore's Republican Party, there is nothing lingering to change the outcome of the election. Not even enough to barely budge the count.

Alabama's voting rolls have been through major purges or cleanups through the years. The equipment used by voters has also performed accurately and with few mechanical issues. It's difficult to understand what Moore envisions as fraud and irregularities.

Frankly, his prolonged holdout over the results of the election mean nothing, other than frustrating Republican voters and leadership who are ready to move on to the upcoming state elections in 2018. Some Republican leaders have also said they will watch Jones closely as he enters the U.S. Senate, hoping that he lives up to the campaign promise of reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans and to respect Alabama's decades-long conservative voting record.

Jones has been a gracious winner. He knows well that Alabama is widely known for conservative values and has voted Republican heavily in the elections of the last 20-plus years. In essence, he respects the Republican Party and conservative Alabamians more than Moore, who seems to care only for himself.

Once the votes are certified, Jones will be declared the official winner and journey to Washington to take a seat in the Senate alongside Alabama's distinguished senior Sen. Richard Shelby, a man who has served with dignity and effectiveness for Alabama.

Moore, who continues to showboat and whimper about the election results, will soon fade to the shadows of politics past.



Dec. 26

Decatur Daily on the Republican tax cut package that was signed by President Donald Trump:

Come April 15, many American taxpayers will see a cut in their tax bills. That will be welcomed by most, but it comes at a price tag that is payable in a few years.

The cuts are set to expire in 2025, except those granted to corporations. For everyone else, tax bills will return to current levels, and in some cases, increase.

The bill also contains some accounting sleight of hand that ignores actual inflation rates. The Internal Revenue Service will begin revising taxable income levels with a measure that anticipates consumer behavior. In other words, it assumes people will limit inflation in their lives by replacing costlier products with cheaper ones. That's straight out of the trickle-down economics playbook, and everyone can expect to get wet.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says about 80 percent of Americans can expect tax breaks. They skew, however, toward the wealthy. The top 5 percent — those who earn $307,900 or more — of earners can expect the biggest benefits from the changes. By 2027, they will be the beneficiaries of more than 99 percent of the cuts, according to the analysis.

The working poor need not expect any significant help from the tax cut legislation. Those earning under $20,000 a year will not see their income taxes go down.

Middle-class earners likely will see an increase in taxes after 2027.

The bill contains an increase in the child tax credit, from the current $1,000 to $2,000. But it will revert to $1,000 when the other cuts expire. It will remain at $2,000 for the next eight years without adjustment for inflation.

The theory behind the temporary cuts is that the money saved by earners will be spent to help stimulate the economy. Had cuts been generous to lower-wage earners instead of the wealthy, that certainly would occur. As it stands, the wealthy might spend a little more money, but it's likely they will plow most of the tax savings into the stock market instead.

The corporate tax cuts have a similar theory. The bill's authors say by making more money available to corporations, jobs will be created and wages will rise. It's more likely that corporations will buy back stock and increase dividends for shareholders.

Then, there is the price tag. The cuts will contribute almost $1.5 trillion more to the deficit, hindering the government's ability to fund infrastructure projects and education.

The only way to stop deficit growth, in the minds of the Republican majority in Congress, is to cut funding of so-called entitlements such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Those options are unacceptable on every level.

The tax cuts are irresponsible, especially the way the cuts are distributed. It's time for a reality check in Washington.


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