- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 17, 2005

Federal loans and taxpayer money

Stephen Moore hammers the Federal Direct Loan Program (“Direct loan taxpayer ripoff,” Commentary, April 11), but the only accurate point he makes is that the program is traditionally associated with Democrats.

Mr. Moore asserts that the program is losing money, but President Bush’s 2006 budget points out that the alternative to the Direct Loan Program, the Federal Family Education Loan, costs taxpayers more than 10 times as much — most of which comes in form of subsidies to the lending industry. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office have also found that switching to direct loans would save billions of dollars.

Mr. Moore also tries the philosophical approach and suggests that the Direct Loan Program supports “privatization in reverse,” despite the fact that private agencies manage the lending.

Here’s the president on FFEL: “Specifically, the Federal Government assumes almost all of the risk for the loans, while Federal subsidies to intermediaries — lenders and guaranty agencies — are set high enough to allow the less efficient ones to generate a profit.” Not exactly the picture of free-market efficiency Mr. Moore alludes to.

Finally, Mr. Moore goes after a plan to give schools incentives to save taxpayer money by using the Direct Loan Program. The bipartisan STAR Act introduced in the Senate allows schools to use a portion of the savings from switching to the Direct Loan Program on grant aid for needy students.

The logic of the STAR Act, reducing subsidies to lenders and using the savings on grant aid, is the same foundation on which Mr. Bush bases his proposed increased in Pell Grant funding.

These varied forms of reducing subsidies to lenders while helping qualified students afford college are hardly the result of a left-wing conspiracy; they come from a recognition by the White House and on both sides of the aisle in Congress that we should put students ahead of the loan industry.

Mr. Moore knows this, but he’s more interested in mocking Democrats than in giving an honest appraisal of a program that can save taxpayers billions of dollars. As Mr. Moore writes, I hope “conservatives will recognize a scam when they see one.”

EARL HADLEY

Education coordinator

Campaign for America’s Future

Washington

More visas for Muslim students

Arnaud de Borchgrave’s “Blighting the message” (Commentary, Friday) is sad but true. In the Muslim world, America is seen through Internet pornography, the “Howard Stern Show,” “Baywatch,” “Desperate Housewives,” sleazy MTV videos, sexual acts at Abu Ghraib and spectacular bombings in Baghdad. Last September, I visited Pakistan. There, the majority of the young people, except those who have visited America, think that Americans are physically fit, sex-crazed and ready to bomb Muslim countries. This twisted perception of Americans can be changed by giving more student visas to Pakistanis who want to study in U.S. universities. Many of these international students would become ambassadors for America, telling the truth to the Muslims of Pakistan about hard-working, overweight and modest Americans and their boring daily lives. We have a long way to go to win Muslim hearts and minds.

DAVID KHAN

Juneau, Alaska

CAIR, Islam and free speech

In a recent column by Diana West (“Preserve free speech,” Op-Ed, April 8) and in a follow-up letter to the editor (“More scrutiny for Islam, Islamists,” Monday), a number of distortions, half-truths and smears targeting Islam and the Council on American-Islamic Relations were published.

CAIR is the nation’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, representing the interests of about 7 million American Muslims. Since 1994, CAIR has worked with local and national elected officials (including presidents from both political parties), promoted interfaith harmony and helped enhance knowledge of Islam and Muslims.

CAIR’s long-term vision is to be a leading advocate for justice and mutual understanding. If carrying out that vision makes us “controversial” in Miss West’s perception, so be it.

In her defense of virulent attacks on Islam, she decided to focus on the National Review’s removal of two Islamophobic books from its online shelves. These books drip hatred for Islam as a religion in a style reminiscent of the anti-Semitism contained in the forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” (When an Arab-American newspaper once printed excerpts from the “Protocols,” CAIR supported a call for an apology from the editors.)

Needless to say, the American Muslim community was disappointed that a publication such as National Review would promote anti-Muslim bigotry. The books, in fact, are available on many Internet hate sites.

We challenged National Review’s promotion of the books precisely because the magazine portrays itself as a credible media outlet. Its credibility, and that of its advertisers, could only suffer when associated with rank religious bigotry.

Miss West stooped to using anti-Muslim smears when she compared the Prophet Muhammad and Islam to Karl Marx and communism. Her claim that the prophet and Islam animate terrorism is deeply offensive to every Muslim.

Perhaps Miss West failed to read CAIR’s “Not in the Name of Islam” online petition, which states: “No injustice done to Muslims can ever justify the massacre of innocent people, and no act of terror will ever serve the cause of Islam… We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.”

Some commentators seem to believe that the First Amendment is a one-way street and that they control the flow of traffic. They decry incitement of religious hatred in the rest of the world while encouraging it here at home.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR

National legal director

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Washington

A God kidnapped

I am so thankful to have read the column “Angst from the bench critics,” by Bruce Fein (Commentary, April 12). After viewing the proceedings of the conference sponsored by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration earlier this month, I was sure the media would be all over this story. If ever an event deserved a reaction of outrage, this was the one.

My anxiety turned into pure dread when I saw that these proceedings were, for the most part, covered only in brief and with little indication that the huge significance of their rhetoric was being grasped. At least Mr. Fein saw that what was being proposed was the destruction of our government.

It seemed that their ultimate goal was to replace our democracy with a theocracy, and a very narrowly interpreted one at that. Not satisfied with dismantling an independent judiciary with impeachments and dismissals, panelist Edwin Vieira invoked the homicidal methods of Josef Stalin as a possible role model for getting rid of judges who won’t toe their line. I was sure there would be a groundswell of revulsion to that, seeing that Stalin was the very top communist, the supposed archenemy of the religious. Unfortunately, no major reaction is to be discerned.

If this were a group of white supremacists (or another group of obscure extremists), I could at least hope that our government agencies would keep an eye on them in the hope of preventing any violence.

On the contrary, in view of the televised presence of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, it seems as if this group had the blessing of powerful people in our government itself. A representative of government associating with people who recommend violence? Would Mr. DeLay actually condone it?

To even consider such a possibility is nightmarish. But I noticed that during the Terri Schiavo hysteria, he never expressed concern for the safety of the judge in the case, who, along with his family, had to be put under police protection.

These people have kidnapped my God to re-create him in their own hate-filled image. What we need so badly is for religious leaders of conscience to speak up publicly in order to reclaim our God of compassion and love.

AUSMA CERNOKS

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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