- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2004

Honoring the National Guard

I was very pleased to read the Feb. 11 letter from retired Air Force Col. William Campenni, ” ‘Bush and I were lieutenants.’” I commend the colonel for helping set the record straight with regard to the president’s military service. The integrity and capability of any person should not be based solely on his or her military service, and I think Americans need to remember that.

There is another reason why the colonel’s letter is important. America’s military might is composed of men and women serving in the active and Reserve Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard. The success of any operation is achieved by the individual strength of all branches. The National Guard is as vital to the military as any other branch of service.

To date, 188,000 Reservists and Guardsmen units have been called to active duty; 6,301 of that number are from my state, Florida. Despite that deployment, there are still Guard and Reserve forces keeping Americans safe at home, and sadly, some have sacrificed their lives in that effort. No longer can the Guard be considered “weekend warriors” who only serve occasionally. Many of these men and women have full-time jobs in addition to maintaining a regular training schedule and periods of active duty. They have the same worries, concerns and fears as any other members of our military family.

I am hopeful the issue of the president’s honorable military service will be put to rest. I believe it is more important for us to recognize and support all Americans who are bravely fighting the battle against terrorism in so many parts of the world. Our prayers will continue to be with them until they are all safely home.

REP. MARK A. FOLEY

Deputy majority whip

Washington

Dishonoring the National Guard

In President Bush’s interview on “Meet the Press” (“Iraq war worth cost, Bush says,” Nation, Feb. 8), he repeatedly referred to the fact that his is a “wartime presidency,” and he acknowledged the significant and substantial sacrifices of National Guardsmen routinely ordered into harm’s way in the post-Vietnam military. Yet, while claiming to honor their sacrifices, this wartime president has dishonored them by prosecuting a National Guard member who, in a truly unfortunate and honest accident of war, killed coalition soldiers from Canada. That the prosecution is a policy and political decision is not in doubt because the president’s Secretary of the Air Force personally signed the documents that recalled Maj. Harry M. Schmidt, whom I represent as an attorney, to active duty for purposes of prosecution.

The prosecution of a decorated combat pilot makes Mr. Bush’s lack of combat experience relevant in evaluating his performance as president. Respectfully, unless you have faced hostile fire, it is difficult to appreciate the stress and pressure of such a situation.

For the many men and women who are daily putting their lives on the line and for those at home supporting their warriors, the Bush administration’s decision to prosecute a combat accident provides a yardstick against which to measurethepresident’s wartime leadership.

A different policy by a thoughtful candidate with a combat record would be a reason to vote for an alternative to President Bush. Sen. John Kerry should unambiguously condemn the Bush administration’s prosecution of Maj. Schmidt and pledge that, if elected, he would pardon the major.

CHARLES W. GITTINS

Middletown, Va.

How to break the gridlock

Ed Feulner is correct that reauthorization of the Federal Highway Bill could be hazardous to taxpayers, especially if spending is higher than President Bush’s proposal of $256 billion over six years and gas taxes are raised or indexed to inflation (“A brake for highway spending,” Commentary, Feb. 9). However, instead of continuing to pour billions of dollars annually into a transportation funding system that clearly is broken, Congress should be busy searching for more efficient alternatives.

Rep. Jeff Flake has introduced innovative legislation called the Transportation Empowerment Act that would restore transportation policy-making to its proper place — the 50 states. Rather than funneling money through Washington for redistribution, the bill would largely eliminate the federal gas tax, and states would be given the power and the responsibility to build, maintain and pay for road networks by increasing their own gas taxes to make up for lost federal revenues or making more innovative use of public-private partnerships. Either way, federalism would promote competition among the states, thus spurring innovation.

Critics might say that handing over transportation to state bureaucracies will not make transportation spending more efficient. The fact is, however, that taxpayers are saddled with a corruption-inducing monopoly that stifles innovation and turns the 50 states into welfare recipients and lobbyists for federal pork. Changing the system to foster competition is bound to break through the gridlock — on the roads as well as in Congress.

PAUL J. GESSING

Director of government affairs

National Taxpayers Union

Alexandria

Terrorists can’t be bargained with

Paul Craig Roberts, in his Feb. 13 column, “No easy solutions,” writes: “Terrorism requires that grievances be acknowledged and addressed. This requires humility.”

This is Euro-cowardly twaddle. Name one single instance, Mr. Roberts, in which terrorism has been negotiated into oblivion. Just one, please.

Herbert Borkland

Columbia, Md.

Pumped-up Social Security reform

Patrice Hill’s Feb. 10 Page One article, “Bush Seeks $1 trillion debt boost,” misrepresents what happens when reform changes Social Security from an unfunded pay-as-you-go system to a fully funded system based on personal retirement accounts. In proposing such a change, President Bush is not boosting the debt one cent. He is simply explicitly recognizing money that is implicitly owed to future retirees. The annual deficit — the difference between what the government receives from taxes in a fiscal year and what it spends — may temporarily increase as the old system is phased out, but not the debt, the total amount owed by the government.

In fact, shifting to personal retirement accounts would result in the largest government debt reduction in the history of the world. The unfunded liability of Social Security is $10.5 trillion — the sum of the promises made to current and future retirees. This number will continue to grow and be an increasingly heavy burden on future generations unless we allow for personal retirement accounts. Under such reform, the government will pay off already made promises but will not add any more as workers opt to divert their payroll tax dollars into accounts they would own and control and use to fund their retirements.

In calling for personal retirement accounts, Mr. Bush is saying Social Security should no longer be based on wimpy economics: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

MAX PAPPAS

Policy analyst

Citizens for a Sound Economy

Washington

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