- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Social Security’s advantages

I have “back engineered” the calculations to see how John Templeton Jr. could come to his conclusion that a private account of 6.2 percent of a $30,000 wage could provide the splendid retirement results he claims in “Are reform accounts too small?” (Commentary, Sunday).

My trusty Excel spreadsheet assures me that yearly payments of $1,860, invested at 6 percent, would indeed produce a total of $287,857 after 40 years, and this could finance an annuity paying $25,097 each year for 20 years — if taxes, fees and inflation are all conveniently ignored.

However, if taxes, fees and inflation are factored in, the nominal 6 percent shrinks to an effective interest rate of about 2 percent, and at 2 percent, the resulting $112,348 accumulation would pay for an annuity income of just $9,795 in real value. This also could be drastically reduced to a net loss if we go through an extended bear market.

The advantage of the present transfer system over the investment concept is that the system is not directly affected by inflation or by bear markets. We can fix the system simply by adjusting the retirement age as needed to keep the number of recipients in reasonable proportion to the number of wage taxpayers.

CARL OCKERT

Vienna

Reagan and the art of diplomacy

Editor’s note: The following letter originally ran in our April 11 editions. Due to an editing error, key information was deleted. The letter runs today in its entirety.

Arnaud de Borchgrave wrote in a recent column (“Time of assassins,” Commentary, Tuesday) that for diplomatic reasons President Reagan and CIA Director William Casey “played down the Soviet link” to the assassination attempt on the pope.

Quite the opposite is true. Mr. Reagan over some internal objections and at a particularly sensitive time in U.S.-USSR relations, went out of his way to publicly raise the issue in a Feb 18, 1983, Washington address. He spoke directly to the claim the United States was nervous about an investigation that might turn up Bulgarian-Soviet connection.

“Now, it would be also unconscionable during any discussion of the need for candor in our foreign policy not to mention here the tragic event that last year shocked the world — the attack on His Holiness, Pope John Paul II — an act of unspeakable evil, an assault on man and God. It was an international outrage and merits the fullest possible investigation. Tonight, I want to take this opportunity to applaud the courage and resourcefulness of the government of Italy in bringing this matter to the attention of the world. And, contrary to what some have suggested, you can depend on it, there is no one on our side that is acting embarrassed or feeling embarrassed because they’re going ahead with that investigation. We mean to help them.”

My recollection is that the last two sentences here were an ad-lib and meant to stress Mr. Reagan’s determination to see the matter pursued. Incidentally, this caused just the sort of diplomatic stir Mr. Reagan was warned against.

I also spoke repeatedly with Mr. Casey (to whom I had been an assistant in the 1980 campaign) about the assassination attempt. He knew of my own interest as a former investigative reporter in the work of Claire Sterling of the Readers Digest and in the later reports by Nick Gage of the New York Times. He was deeply concerned about possible KGB involvement and ordered the CIA to investigate. It is also my recollection that on at least one occasion he took disciplinary action against a CIA official who refused to act promptly and investigate vigorously.

I should also mention that I spoke once about the importance of a full investigation while lunching with a high CIA official in the executive dining room, not long after the Sterling articles came out. This official became quite incensed that anyone could think the KGB would be so ruthless or daring as to rupture some sort of gentlemen’s agreement against assassination that the CIA and KGB had with each other. This led to a lively exchange between us and a little bit of anger on his part toward the end.

I mentioned this to Mr. Casey, who was fairly appalled but not surprised. Both of us liked and admired this official, but we also knew that he and others in the intelligence and diplomatic community thought the use of the word “evil” jejune in a foreign policy context and never quite understood the lengths to which those who have given themselves over to habitual criminality are willing to go.

ANTHONY R. DOLAN

Special adviser

Secretary of Defense

Alexandria

Yemen’s free press

The article claiming a series of ominous signs in connection with press freedoms in Yemen makes two significant errors of fact (“Press limits taint Yemeni reforms,” World, March 30).

First, reporter Peter Willems writes that a journalist at the center of this controversy, Abdul Karim al-Khaiwani, was tried without benefit of a lawyer. This is false. He was tried in a San’a Superior Court; his attorneys were Mohammed Naji Allow, one of the most prominent human rights lawyers in Yemen, and Jamal Ajobi, also a well- known lawyer in San’a.

Second, Mr. Willems writes that Mr. al-Khaiwani was denied an appeal. This is also false. My newspaper, the Yemen Observer, reported extensively on Mr. al-Khaiwani’s appeal, as did many other newspapers here. Last month, after the completion of the appeals process, Mr. al-Khaiwani was granted presidential clemency.

The larger point that the article makes is that journalists live in fear in Yemen. This is simply contrary to the facts. We have more than 160 publications in Yemen and thousands of journalists writing thousands of articles every day.

A university professor is quoted in your article to the effect that a free press is the cornerstone of democracy. If this is so, then anyone who makes a visit to a newsstand throughout Yemen will see a very strong cornerstone, indeed.

The newsstands overflow with voices; some represent the Ba’athists, some the communists, some the extreme Islamists, some the liberals, and the list goes on.

As a newspaper editor, I can assure you that I print what I like, when I like, provided it is true and newsworthy.

MOHAMMED AL-KIBSI

Senior editor

Yemen Observer

San’a, Yemen

Cutting deals at the top

As one who has worked professionally in classified areas holding very high clearances, I couldn’t agree more with the authors of the letters appearing April 4 condemning the ridiculously light punishment meted out to Samuel “Sandy” Berger, who committed egregious and felonious breaches of the espionage laws.

I also agree wholeheartedly with David Limbaugh, who points out the damage done to national security when laws are violated with impunity by high government officials (“The Berger wrist slap,” Commentary, Wednesday).

Mr. Limbaugh seems puzzled about why the Justice Department is satisfied with such leniency. It seems plain to me. A deal probably was cut at the highest levels, most likely in the Senate. Democrats allow Alberto Gonzales to be confirmed as attorney general, and Republicans let Mr. Berger off the hook. I suspect such underhanded agreements happen all the time on Capitol Hill and the public is never aware. That unfortunately is how politics works.

JOHN D. S. MUHLENBERG

Vienna

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