A stand against public sentiment

IN a representative democracy, it is occasionally a good thing for lawmakers to stand up against what appears to be an overwhelming public sentiment.

Such was the case (March 17) when a majority of the House of Representatives courageously voted down the superficially popular Balanced Budget Amendment.

The amendment enjoyed a high level of public favor, not without good reason. Americans are generally convinced that Congress and recent administrations have not responsibly managed the government's fiscal affairs. The evidence, of course, is clear. That does not mean, however, that this particular radical populist proposal is the correct answer to the problem.

If taken at face value, the amendment requires a drastic and sudden change in the nation's economy, the kind that invariably leads to instability and loss of confidence.

Moreover, the amendment would change the power of Congress and the government to manage the economy even in a responsible way....

Despite its name, this was not just a simple little plan to balance the budget. It established a permanent formula for government spending and debt that would have tied the hands of future governments for eternity.

Politicians do not score easy points by voting against popular whims. But they do occasionally protect the country from being panicked into alluring mistakes.

This was one of those times.

Tulsa (Okla.) World

Peacekeeping aftermath in Somalia

IT is feared that the power vacuum created by the peacekeepers' withdrawal [from Somalia] after March 25 will cause widespread violence unless a political agreement among different factions is reached....

If the Somali factions escalate their fighting once again, it will be difficult to contain it this time. With that, freelance banditry will return once again to Mogadishu and other Somali cities.

The faction leaders don't have enough influence over many of the unemployed youngsters who roam the streets armed to the hilt. The United Nations could not offer them any new opportunities or alternatives. Somalia's future depends on political reconciliation, and the key player in any settlement remains Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed....

Western UN peacekeepers are leaving a Somalia which is in no better shape than it was when they arrived there a year ago. Peacekeeping in Somalia is now in the hands of a UN force numbering about 20,000 men, all from third-world countries like Malaysia, India, and Pakistan. They will guard ports, airports and other security zones.

Aideed and other Somali faction leaders should concentrate on creating a national government by the time the United States forces complete their withdrawal. Also by that time a better relationship should emerge between the UN peacekeepers and the Somali factions, particularly General Aideed's men.

Gulf Times, Doha, Qatar

Hope in El Salvador's elections

THE importance of the elections in El Salvador transcend the results themselves. Beyond the votes won by each party or coalition, what's crucial is that a country torn apart by 12 years of civil war, rife with violence of every stripe, and run by an oligarchic-military coalition has seen how farcical elections turn out - and how people can actually vote freely, without pressure or exclusion.

One only needs [to] remember the murder of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero (1980) and the killings of the six Jesuits and two women at the Catholic University (1989) to recall just what the recent past was like.

With so many countries going through situations comparable to El Salvador's, the case of this small Central American country and its escape from disaster generates hope.

El Periodico de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

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