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Past opinions provide perspective

Looking Back reviews opinions published in The Spokesman-Review during this week in history.

Science grads, Nov. 16, 1982

The push for more STEM graduates (science, technology, engineering and math) isn’t new, as this S-R editorial from 35 years ago shows.

“There is no disagreement that high technology is the wave of the future. We are on the leading edge of the computer age. By the time it’s through, the computer and its scientific descendants probably will have brought about more changes in our lives than the automobile and radio-television combined. The vast changes we have seen so far are only the tip of the iceberg.

“And yet in spite of this certainty of direction, the U.S. is not getting ready for the hi-tech age. Specifically, the shortage of scientists and engineers is extremely acute, and according to studies by the American Association of Engineering Societies and other industrial associations, the supply of electrical engineers and computer scientists will show no significant increase in the foreseeable future unless dramatic new actions are taken.”

The editorial concluded: “Whether we like it or not, we are competing head-on with countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany, China and Japan. In several of these countries, the school year is 240 days compared with 180 days. And they recognize the importance of science and technology.”

Tough on budgets, Nov. 13, 2003

Being tough on crime was politically popular but expensive, as this S-R editorial showed.

“For the past two decades, tough-on-crime politicians have passed law after law to the applause of a supportive public. ‘Truth in sentencing,’ mandatory minimum sentencing, ‘three-strikes’ laws, the end of parole and tougher sentences for drug-related crimes have all played a role in increasing the number of elderly prisoners. Washington state’s prison system has hospice care now; nursing homes may be in the offing, too.

“In Washington state, there are 1,600 prisoners over the age of 50, and they make up 10 percent of the prison population. Ten years ago, it was 6 percent. In Idaho, the number of over-50 prisoners has grown from 6 percent to 8 percent, and the total is 568.

“This outcome was predictable when the various get-tough measures were debated, but those pointing to the long-term consequences were shouted down. Now the bill is due, and it is a whopper. Medical care alone costs $3,965 per prisoner in Washington state, according to Prison Health Services, a private health-care provider. For men over 50, it’s $4,344; for women over 50, it’s $7,359. Like all health-care costs, these are expected to rise.

“Because Medicare and Medicaid programs don’t cover state prisoners, the burden for subsidizing this care is borne almost entirely by state taxpayers. In a time of tight budgets, that fact has gotten the attention of even the toughest lawmakers.

“The solution is to remove the handcuffs legislators have placed on the criminal justice system, thereby allowing it to emphasize prevention and alternative punishments.”



Top stories in Opinion

Editorial: Washington state lawmakers scramble to keep public in the dark

State lawmakers want to create a legislative loophole in Washington’s Public Records Act. While it’s nice to see Democrats and Republicans working together for once, it’s just too bad that their agreement is that the public is the enemy. As The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia reporter Jim Camden explained Feb. 22, lawmakers could vote on a bill today responding to a court order that the people of Washington are entitled to review legislative records.