S.C. editorial roundup: Friday, Aug. 28, 2020


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Times and Democrat

Aug. 25

Courts are right to rule on side of the Constitution

The July decision by the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reaffirmed the system used by South Carolina in appointing presidential electors to the Electoral College.

Under South Carolina law, the state appoints all nine presidential electors based on the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in a statewide election.

To date, courts also have rejected similar challenges in other states. Gov. Henry McMaster has said of the decisions: "This 'winner-take-all' approach dates back to the first presidential election and is currently used by 48 states and the District of Columbia."

Critics argue the practice of assigning all of a state's Electoral College votes to the winner of a state's popular vote disenfranchises those who voted for the losing candidate and puts too much weight in the votes of those who live in a few key battleground states.

But in a 2018 decision upholding Massachusetts' winner-take-all system, Chief U.S. District Judge Patti Saris said the system is constitutional because it doesn't treat any set of voters differently from another.

"In short, this system complies with equal protection because it does not inherently favor or disfavor a particular group of voters," Saris wrote.

The founding fathers saw the Electoral College as a tool in balancing federalism with the rights of the people in individual states.

It's not the total popular vote that elects the president. Each individual state holds an election, with the winner in the state, whether by one vote or 1 million, getting all of a state's electoral votes - except in Nebraska and Maine. The number of electoral votes is based on the total of a state's U.S. senators and congressmen.

The system is designed to prevent a nationalization of the government, giving to each state a measure of power in electing the president. In a raw count of total votes, larger states would literally get all the attention - during elections and between them.

The debacle that was the election of 2000 prompted much debate about the Electoral College. The 2016 election intensified the debate.

Amid efforts in the courtroom and by leaders in other states to change the way electoral votes are allocated, the courts are right to weigh in on the side of the Constitution.

The Post and Courier

Aug. 24

The opioid crisis and manufacturers being accountable

The federal government recently added its claim to the bankruptcy proceedings against Purdue Pharma, the company that manufactured the opioid OxyContin. It is seeking up to $18 billion to settle criminal and civil charges, a forceful action that could deter destructive conduct from drug manufacturers, bring a measure of justice to those whose lives have been broken and reimburse state and local governments that were left to clean up the carnage.

It makes sense to hold corporations accountable for their role in sparking and perpetuating the opioid epidemic. But it's important that the headline-grabbing action doesn't obscure the fact that the prescription-opioid crisis has become a fentanyl crisis, one driven largely by the deadly illegal substance that's smuggled into the country through the southern border or by mail, primarily from China and Mexico.

While deaths from prescription painkillers thankfully had begun to decline due to tighter restrictions and expanded treatment and awareness programs, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids claimed increasingly more lives in South Carolina and across the United States. Sadly, the country's overdose problem in general, including from drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, has worsened amid the loneliness and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must not lose sight of this serious problem before us today.

The claims against Purdue Pharma are prospective because the various Justice Department suits against the company have yet to go to trial. And they come on top of a multibillion-dollar agreement by the company to recompense states and localities for the harm done by its aggressive - and the Justice Department alleges, illegal - marketing of OxyContin. The federal claim will complicate that settlement, which might have to be revised.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson last year joined 23 other states and five territories in an agreement, subject to approval by a federal judge, that would recompense states for costs in dealing with the opioid epidemic. The agreement would put aside numerous state and federal suits against the company in the interests of saving the costs of litigation. It includes an offer by the owners of Purdue, the Sackler family, to kick in $3 billion of their personal fortunes.

The company says it did nothing wrong, but evidence gathered over a decade by federal prosecutors shows an alleged pattern of illegal kickbacks to doctors prescribing the addictive painkiller, illegal misbranding, false claims of low addiction risk and hiding cash from creditors, including $10.4 billion transferred out of the company in recent years, a large part directly to the Sackler family.

While the manufacture of painkillers was highly profitable for Purdue, the abuse was dramatically costly to the U.S. economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2018 that the total economic burden of prescription opioid abuse was $78.5 billion a year, including lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice costs.

Those costs will never be recovered. But the Sacklers' fortunes, created by pushing highly addictive drugs, could be a source of some financial compensation and justice.

In pursuing these cases, governments also must be cautious that they don't lose focus on the current causes of the nation's overdose crisis.

The State

Aug. 24

ACC, SEC athletic conferences still plan to play this fall

The ACC and SEC athletic conferences - which have Clemson and South Carolina, respectively, as members - are going ahead with plans to play college football this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a bad idea.



The list of reasons is both long and damning.


- Several college programs have already had numerous football players test positive for COVID-19 - including an SEC member, Vanderbilt, which has just halted practice sessions because of a coronavirus outbreak. And this is happening even before a single college football game has been played between two teams with scores of players coming into intense and continuous physical contact with each other.

- Only two major sports have been able to play games without being forced to cancel some due to positive COVID-19 tests - and that's because they're competing in bio-secure bubbles.

- A 2020 college football season won't be a truly legitimate one - not when two major conferences, the Big 10 and PAC-12, have wisely decided to postpone play until next spring.

Indeed, even legendary former Clemson head coach Danny Ford recently suggested that any national champion crowned during a fall 2020 season will have an "asterisk" next to its accomplishment.

If it's not possible to have all of the best teams playing in a competition, there's little point in carrying out a hollow shell of season full of "Yeah ... but" results and debates.

- Neither the SEC nor ACC has offered compelling evidence that football can be played in consistently safe fashion this fall - not unless you consider vague optimism and blustering comments by pandering politicians in states with ACC or SEC schools to be "compelling evidence."

- The medical community has largely scoffed at the dubious theory that college football players have lower odds of contracting COVID-19 than other college students.

- The callous "Oh, it's just like getting the flu" crowd is flat-out wrong when it contends that if a college football player does contract COVID-19, he'll quickly recover because of his elite physical condition.

There is plenty of powerful testimony to suggest otherwise - and it comes from the multitude of college players who are still struggling to regain full health after catching COVID-19.


The above list of reasons are all facts.

How can anyone objectively look at them and still make a persuasive case that it makes sense for the ACC and SEC to blindly plunge into a fall football season while COVID-19 remains a lethal threat?

Well, they can't.

Nor can they offer a good answer to this simple question:

What irreversible harm would occur if the ACC and SEC joined many of their peers and just put off football for a few more months?

Yes, Gov. Henry McMaster has said that it's "very important" for college football to be played in South Carolina.

But would college football in this state lose any importance, significance or economic value if it was played in January 2021 instead of next month?


Would there really be long-lasting, transformational damage done to college football's place in South Carolina if we delayed it for four months - and bought more breathing space for both our state and country as we continue to fight a respiratory-based killer virus?


So why not just wait?


While the ACC and SEC remain fixated on starting their football seasons late next month, there is still time for them to abandon an undertaking so poorly reasoned that it takes one's breath away.

But they need to use that rapidly dwindling time in a wise way.

They should ponder the very serious potential consequences of playing football this fall - and call off their unwise plans to do so.