Los Angeles Times on Cuba's exclusion at the Summit of the Americas:
Once again, Cuba was absent from the Summit of the Americas. Yet the communist nation might as well have attended the gathering last weekend in Cartagena, Colombia, because it took center stage, despite U.S. efforts to focus on other issues.
Ecuador's president refused to attend the summit in protest of Cuba's exclusion. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Brazil's Dilma Rouseff, both moderates rather than left-wingers, said there should be no more Summits of the Americas without Cuba. A leftist bloc of nations that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and some Caribbean countries said it won't participate again unless Cuba does. And the meeting ended without a final joint declaration because the United States and Canada refused to agree to language specifying that Cuba would be invited to future summits.
The controversy should serve as a wake-up call to the United States: The policy of banning Cuba from the gathering of the hemisphere's leaders for nearly 18 years is backfiring. It hasn't led to regime change any more than the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba has; it hasn't persuaded President Raul Castro or, before him, his brother Fidel to embrace democratic reforms, hold free elections or abandon human rights abuses.
Engagement, not isolation, is the best way to encourage change without alienating allies.
Los Angeles Times
Student loan system needs fixing
Student loan debt topped $1 trillion for the first time late last year - more than credit card or auto loan debt. Buried in that alarming statistic are countless heartbreaking stories of students who never will break free of their debt.
Congress cannot let this go on. An army of young Americans shackled with loans they can never repay could be ruinous for the economy.
The federal government started its student loans in 1965, opening college doors to young people who would pay back the loans when they got the job. Later, the federal government added a provision that the loans could not be discharged in bankruptcy. That put a stop to the practice of declaring bankruptcy after graduating from, say, medical school and leaving the government holding a big IOU.
But in 2005, the prohibition on discharging student debt through bankruptcy was extended to private loans. Some for-profit schools found they could make big profits by encouraging students - wooed with promises of high-paying jobs - to borrow huge amounts.
The schools get the money up-front, and their bottom lines are unaffected if students don't graduate or don't get jobs in their fields. Ninety-five percent of the for-profit school revenue comes from the federal government. Accrediting agencies - funded by the schools they oversee - provide scant protection. It's a system that's ripe for abuse.
Bipartisanship key to nation's future
One of the reasons Congress is at such a low popularity with the American people is that it can't get anything done.
One example is the inability of both political parties to reach a compromise on the budget.
But there are a few members who bravely supported true compromise recently.
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, presented a budget alternative that followed the principles of the Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson commission, titled the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
It would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade.
About 100 colleagues in the House signed a letter of support, but by the time the vote was taken, there were only 38 in favor: 382-38.
There are legitimate debates that ought to be held. These are tough decisions. But at the end of the day, we need to do something.
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union