US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Grand rhetoric, smaller ideas (Washington Post)

State of the Union speech is full of soaring rhetoric but skips over some major challenges, says this editorial.

2. State of the Union: Mixing politics and policy (Los Angeles Times)

Obama offers economic fixes -- and previews his 2012 campaign -- in his State of the Union speech, according to this editorial.

3. Romney's Fair Share (Wall Street Journal)

The candidate's tax return is an argument for tax reform, argues this editorial.

4. A test for Egypt: hearing all voices (New York Times)

Egypt won't be a full democracy until its people value the lonely defiance of a man like Maikel Nabil, argues Michael Wahid Hanna.

5. Republicans and the constitution (Chicago Tribune)

The Republican presidential candidates talk a lot about amending the constitution, but they don't mean it, writes Steve Chapman.

6. Defence cuts and America's outdate miltary (Wall Street Journal)

Yes, the US spent more after 9/11 -- but in ways that impeded modernization, writes Mackenzie Eaglen.

7. Central America's free-fire zone (Miami Herald)

Dramatic crisis in Honduras demands action, argues this editorial.

8. Obama's common touch (Los Angeles Times)

It was a blue-collar State of the Union speech, aimed at the swing voters the president needs to woo, writes Doyle McManus.

9. A way to make people buy homes again (New York Times)

There is a way to buy a home with less risk to one's hard-earned cash: a down-payment protection plan.

10. Now, GOP ought to be licking its chops (New York Post)

Barack Obama doesn't have his mojo back, writes John Podhoretz.

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This is a refugee crisis, and it has always been a refugee crisis

If your country is in flames and your life is at risk, boarding a rickety, dangerous boat is a rational decision. We need to provide safer choices and better routes.

Even those of us all too familiar with the human cost of the present refugee crisis were stopped in our tracks by the profoundly disturbing images of the dead toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. Whatever our personal view about the ethics of displaying the photographs, one thing is clear: the refugee crisis on our doorstep can no longer be denied or ignored.

For far too long the political conversation in the UK has avoided facing up to the obvious conclusion that the UK must provide protection to more refugees in this country. Ministers have responded to calls to do more by talking about the aid we are providing to help refugees in the region, by blaming other European Governments who are hosting more refugees than we are, and also accusing refugees themselves by claiming the desperate people forced into boarding unsafe boats in the Mediterranean were chancers and adventurers, out for an easier life.

These latest images have blown all that away and revealed the shaming truth. This is a refugee crisis and has always been a refugee crisis. When the Refugee Council wrote to the prime minister in 2013 to call for the UK to lead on resettling Syrian refugees displaced by a war that was already two years old, it was a refugee crisis in the making.

Many people struggle to comprehend why refugees would pay smugglers large sums of money to be piled into a rickety boat in the hope of reaching the shores in Europe. The simple answer is that for these individuals, there is no other choice. If your country is in flames and your life is at risk, boarding that boat is a rational decision. There has been much vitriol aimed at smugglers who are trading in human misery, but European governments could put them out of business if they created alternative, legal routes for refugees to reach our shores.

There are clear steps that European governments, including our own, can take to help prevent people having to risk their lives. We need to offer more resettlement places so that people can be brought directly to countries of safety. We also need to make it easier for refugees to reunite with their relatives already living in safety in the UK. Under current rules, refugees are only allowed to bring their husband or wife and dependant children under the age of 18. Those that do qualify for family reunion often face long delays living apart, with usually the women and children surviving in desperate conditions while they wait for a decision on their application. Sometimes they are refused because they cannot provide the right documentation. If you had bombs raining down on your house, would you think to pick up your marriage certificate?

The time to act is well overdue, but the tide of public opinion seems to be turning – especially since the release of the photographs. We urgently need David Cameron to show political leadership and help us live up to the proud tradition of protecting refugees that he often refers to. That tradition is meaningless if people cannot reach us, if they are dying in the attempt. It is a shame that it had to take such a tragic image to shake people into calling for action, but for many it means that the crisis is no longer out of sight and out of mind.

Maurice Wren is the chief executive of the Refugee Council