- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

McCain fundraising folly

So Sen. John McCain needs to raise money to ban money in politics ("McCain calls for hard cash to fight 'soft money' battle," Jan. 30). The artificial distinction between "hard" money and "soft" money sounds sillier every day. The reality, as Mr. McCain obviously knows, is that it takes money to get out a political message. That's called freedom of speech, whether Mr. McCain does it as a fund-raising letter, which he apparently thinks is just fine, or whether an independent individual or group does it as a paid advertisement, which Mr. McCain would restrict.

Sorry to be blunt, Senator, but the American people have just as much right to express their views as you do. And as you obviously understand, that takes money.

KIM WEISSMAN

Longmeadow, Mass.

U.N. Department of Information far from 'crippled'

I am a great fan of Betsy Pisik's "The U.N. Report," but I must take issue with her reference in the Jan. 29 column to my work leading the United Nation's Department of Public Information (DPI). In the few days I have been in this job, I have seen nothing to indicate that the department is "crippled." On the contrary, there are many highly motivated, capable officers working to promote a better understanding of the United Nations' work to people around the world the department's basic mission.

Miss Pisik also has it wrong when she says DPI has "twice as many employees as the Department of Peacekeeping." In fact, DPI has 428 employees at the U.N. headquarters in New York, compared to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations' 497.

All this is not to say that there is no room for improving the way the United Nations' communications work is done there is, and we're getting right down to it.

SHASHI THAROOR

Interim head

Department of Public Information

United Nations

New York

Vouchers bring bureaucracy to private schools

Tax credits and vouchers won't reform schools. They'll just make private schools more bureaucratic ("Riders make tax credit unpalatable," Metro, Jan. 30).

Fortunately, a lot of people are beginning to realize that politicians and bureaucrats can't run schools any better than they're running the health care system. Our children are behind those of most developed countries, and our schools have tried one gimmick after another for 30 years without improving.

As Libertarians have pointed out, public schools are nothing but a welfare benefit, largely for middle-class parents. Like all welfare programs, they breed complacency and greed on the part of the recipients. A better way is to let parents pay the full cost of educating the children they chose to have and not demand that the childless support their choice.

The needs of parents, teachers and students would be better served if parents were allowed to be responsible for the education of their children. This kind of reform would re-introduce a variety of teaching styles and educational expectations not possible in a public school system and all at a lower cost.

Let's get the government out of the business of running schools except for the people who truly need welfare.

NEIL STEYSKAL

Arlington

'Secret paradise' of Belize revealed in article, television show

Many thanks for your article on and pictures of Belize ("Just give in to temptations on Belize," Travel, Jan. 27). Several years ago, my wife and I experienced this diamond in the rough, having learned that the small English-speaking Central American country was an eco-tourist's dream. Belize has fabulous white beaches for strolling or horseback riding and has tiny islands (cays) lacing offshore, protected by the world's second-longest barrier reef, with clear aquamarine waters containing beautiful coral and fish. The famous Blue Hole dive site also is there.

Now we have the Fox network's "Temptation Island," filmed at Ambergris, one of Belize's small islands. Evidently, the show's producers also appreciated the country's beauty. Belize has wonderful mountains in the north and west and more than 600 Mayan temple sites. (Caracol is a must.) It has 1,000-foot waterfalls, caves and hundreds of birds and exotic animals. My wife and I stayed at a resort in the Cayo District. We used wool blankets at night and rode horses through cool rivers to see glorious Mayan sites, forests and mountains. The world's only jaguar preserve makes a trip to southern Belize obligatory.

As your article indicated, the Belizeans are warm and friendly. We found many Americans vacationing and some who owned homes or businesses there; they regard Belize as a secret paradise. And yes, you can drink the water.

Thank you again for an excellent article.

ROBERT W. FOREMAN

McLean

Welfare reform must go beyond aims of faith-based programs

The next phase of welfare reform cannot focus solely on ways to strengthen faith-based institutions through charitable tax credits and regulatory reform ("Bush embraces faith-based help to ease social ills," Jan. 30). This is crucial, but the next phase of welfare reform also must focus on reaffirming marriage and responsible fatherhood. Children in one-parent families are 11 times more likely to experience persistent poverty than children in two-parent families. We must begin to evaluate the American welfare system by asking whether particular policies promote or weaken the institution of the family. A good place to start is with the elimination of the marriage penalty in means-tested programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The next phase of welfare reform also must acknowledge the value of work and the importance of successfully incorporating every able-bodied American into the productive sectors of society. This means strengthening work requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and rewarding states for helping people make a safe transition from welfare to work. The next phase of welfare reform likewise must embrace educational choice to make sure no child is trapped in a failing school and deprived of opportunity.

Overcoming poverty requires a comprehensive agenda that seeks to solve the deep cultural and structural problems that contribute to poverty in America. This will require a "new deal" among religious and political leaders, in which each recognizes his or her own particular strengths and limitations and does what he or she can to create genuine opportunity for people in need.

MICHAEL B. BARKEY

Policy analyst

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

Grand Rapids, Mich.

http://www.acton.org/compassion

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