- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2000

Columnist sells a bill of goods on PNTR to China

A former college roommate of mine regularly insists that most political pundits lack even a basic understanding of the subjects on which they comment. Normally, I disagree. After reading William Rusher's May 17 column on granting permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to China, however, I was forced to concede that my friend may have a point ("Trading up to freedom or folly?" Commentary).

For starters, Mr. Rusher says American businesses are "looking forward to flooding the American market with cheaply made goods manufactured in China." Does he have a different copy of the U.S.-China World Trade Organization (WTO) accession agreement than I do? Alas, by my reading, there's not a single provision that would give American consumers additional freedom to purchase Chinese goods.

Mr. Rusher also asserts that China will renege on its WTO obligations by "play[ing] one Western nation off against another, favoring those that turn a blind eye to their cheating." I'm puzzled how China would accomplish that feat since Washington could challenge Beijing's trade infractions in the WTO with or without European support. China will have a far harder time playing favorites as a member of the WTO an organization built around the principle of nondiscrimination than it does as an outsider.

Finally, Mr. Rusher suggests that the former presidents and secretaries of state who have endorsed PNTR have selfish motivations that cloud their policy judgment. True, it's possible that Jimmy Carter looks at China and only sees a billion peanut eaters, but it's far more likely that he sincerely believes bringing China into the world trading system would further the cause of human rights. In any case, attacking the supposed motivations of one's opponents in a debate, rather than addressing their arguments directly, is a tactic usually favored by the radical left. I would have thought Mr. Rusher to be above such nonsense.

AARON LUKAS

Analyst

Center for Trade Policy Studies

Cato Institute

Washington

Europeans not the only America-haters

According to Ben Wattenberg, the New York Times has found a bunch of people who don't like America very much ("Object of Europe's disaffection," Commentary, May 4).

According to Mr. Wattenberg, surveys have determined that Europeans "generally think Americans turn away poor people when they need medical care; that we have too many guns and use them; that we are racists; that we are ruled by profit-first laws, enforced by brutal policeman; … that we still use the barbarian death penalty … [and that] America is … far too superpowerful, and [has] set upon ruling the world by imposing its crass values upon it."

I have been painfully aware for decades that there are people who feel this way about our country, but I didn't know they were called Europeans. I thought they were called American journalists.

DAVID T. DOWS

Columbia, Md.

Feminization of VMI is diminishing number of warrior leaders

I was reading The Washington Times while having lunch. In the midst of my repast, I came across the Metropolitan section report on Laura Fairchild Brodie's recently released book on the feminization of the Virginia Military Institute ("Feminist staffer's 'warts and all' book on women's entry had VMI's blessing," May 16).

Talk about a nausea attack. This was especially true when I read Mrs. Brodie's statement, "I come to this book as a female that is inherently skeptical of what VMI does and why." Her credentials for evaluating the school are being the band director's wife, a part-time professor (discipline not mentioned) and a member of the committee that planned co-education.

I think she should be aware that for more than 150 years, VMI has been turning out warrior leaders who have been willing to kill and to die defending our country. It has only been in the past few years, after bowing to her ilk, that VMI, along with The Citadel, has allowed women to destroy the warrior ethos.

Women have a place in the military, as was amply demonstrated during World War II. However, they should be kept separate and distinct from the male units. Our continued feminization and the Clinton administration's effort to allow homosexuals in the armed forces will lead to disaster. Our young men will pay with their blood for this venture.

God help the United States.

JAMES A. KELLY

Nottingham, Md.

Social Security debate filled with demagoguery

Lawrence Kudlow is a trained economist, so when he writes economic nonsense, he must be grinding some political ax. However, this ax could be turned against conservatives ("Surging surplus of tax revenues," Commentary, April 19). Mr. Kudlow notes the rising "Social Security surplus" and wants to cut the payroll tax "right now." But there is no Social Security surplus. The system is actuarially insolvent. Your May 5 editorial "Ponzi security" says the unfunded liability is $19 trillion. And we are supposed to cut the payroll tax that supports the system?

Mr. Kudlow's prescription is the same as Ted Halstead's in The Washington Post ("The Big Tax Bite You Don't Even Think About," Outlook, April 23): Cut the payroll tax and support a lavish Social Security system with "other" tax revenues. Vice President Al Gore and Sen. John McCain have similar ideas. All of these schemes would be unjust. Social Security retirement benefits go only to those who have paid the payroll tax. That is because the payroll tax is intended to support those benefits. Many such as the chronically unemployed, the homeless and many federal and state employees pay no payroll tax and can never collect benefits. Federal and state employees pay income tax. Alcoholics on the street pay a liquor tax. Should these people's taxes be raided to prop up a system that can never benefit them? On the other hand, making all citizens fully eligible for Social Security would create a huge new unfunded liability. Redesigning this flawed system needs careful study, not demagoguery.

Too many analyses in the media contain misinformation. Sandra Butler quotes Sen. Ernest F. Hollings in her column "Social Security's requirements," (Commentary, April 27). Mr. Hollings says, "There is no trust and no fund." Miss Butler says, "Any surplus revenue is … spent… ." These statements are false, as the next sentence in the column reveals: "[T]he trust funds are issued non-marketable bonds." There is nothing wrong with that. U.S. bonds are the world's safest investment. The problem isn't that the trust fund is buying government bonds. The problem is that the trust fund isn't collecting enough money and isn't buying enough bonds to pay the promised future benefits. This isn't rocket science. If we could first bring the system into actuarial balance, then we could consider trying to raise the future payouts by dabbling in stocks. That's what many public pension systems do.

We often hear from conservatives that the "return" on Social Security is only a ridiculous 2 percent. How can that be when government bonds yield 6 percent? Aren't these propagandists ignoring the social-welfare tasks Social Security performs, such as supporting widows and orphans? A yield of more than 6 percent might be nice, but what we really need is to balance the promised benefits against the money being collected.

Politicians, and talking heads as well, are neglecting their duty to the public on the Social Security issue. Shouldn't we have an independent actuarial analysis of the Social Security system?

JAMES E. FELTEN

Greenbelt

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