- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

AARP and private accounts

AARP welcomes the opportunity to clarify our perspective (“The games AARP plays,” Op-Ed, Thursday).

We are not opposed to private accounts. In fact, we strongly urge people to save for retirement by investing their money in a variety of ways — in addition to, not instead of, Social Security.

We oppose private accounts that drain money from Social Security because they put benefits at risk, incur trillions of dollars in new debt and make the solvency problem worse.

As an organization dedicated to helping all of us age with dignity and purpose, AARP supports a strong and balanced system that provides a foundation of retirement security for all generations.

JOHN ROTHER

Director of policy and strategy

AARP

Washington

Watching Big Brother

The pessimistic assessment of the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Rosenzweig that “You can’t sweep back the tide of technological development, and you can’t blink your eyes to necessity … We are in a changed circumstance today” (“Line thin between security, privacy,” Nation, Monday) does not quite hold in Virginia.

Effective this summer, all red-light surveillance cameras will be shut down permanently. Additionally, the Virginia General Assembly likely will again consider a proposal to ban the use of warrantless facial-recognition technology in public places. Today’s “camera-crazed world” begs for even more stringent restrictions on the use of video cameras in public places.

MIKE STOLLENWERK

Fairfax County Privacy Council

Kingstowne

Learning the ABCs of marriage

In a recent report on the success of welfare reform, NYU Professor Hirokazu Yoshikawa acknowledged more low-income mothers were choosing marriage, yet claimed President Bush’s welfare reform proposal “explicitly exclude(s) poverty reduction as a route to increasing marriage.” (“Welfare-reform program led moms to wed, study finds,” Nation, April 10) Far from it.

In the welfare-reform reauthorization bill before Congress, $16.7 billion in block grants would be given to states each year for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, compared with $200 million for marriage education. Since welfare rolls have fallen by 54 percent since 1996, while the annual funding has essentially remained the same, it is difficult to see how Mr. Yoshikawa could conclude that poverty reduction activities have been excluded from the overall plan.

Moreover, Mr. Yoshikawa seems content with a mere rise in marriage rates as long as mothers have “more income.” The Bush administration, on the other hand, believes that when it comes to promoting marriage among low-income couples, quality, not just quantity, matters. That is why we have put an emphasis on increasing access to marriage education where couples can learn healthy communication and conflict resolution skills, thereby reducing the risk of future domestic violence.

Offering greater access, on a voluntary basis, to marriage education services in which couples can develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy marriages is a small, yet integral, part of the president’s welfare-reform proposal. Far from sacrificing anti-poverty activities, the plan would continue to promote employment and self-sufficiency while strengthening families around the nation.

WADE F. HORN

Assistant Secretary

Administration for Children

and Families

Department of Health and Human

Services

Washington

Be kind to less fortunate

I found Rep. Ernest Istook’s opinion piece, “Changing welfare culture” (Op-Ed, Monday) difficult not to respond to.

He discusses programs that he says are supporting able-bodied citizens. I am a social worker, and I believe that the vast majority of people receiving Medicaid are in nursing homes. The payments do not go to the patients but to the nursing homes caring for them. I have visited many clients residing in these places, and I can attest to the fact that they are elderly and confined to beds or wheelchairs. The other people receiving Medicaid undergo a rigorous process to qualify for these benefits.

The vast majority of individuals receiving food stamps are working full time, and many are even working two jobs. However, when a person is only making $5.25 per hour and paying rent, utilities and transportation, there is almost nothing left over for food.

It terrifies me that there is someone this mean-spirited in Congress. Are we not taught to be kind to those less fortunate than us? I invite Mr. Istook to visit the nursing homes in his home state of Oklamoma to see the people whom he calls able-bodied.

MAGGIE BAGON

North Bend, Ore.

Modern Europe realities

Tod Lindberg’s “Europe’s ‘morale crisis’, ” (Op-Ed, Tuesday) quotes a lay Catholic thinker and writer, George Weigel, as his source in making the case that Europe will suffer “crucial … lethal consequences in public life and culture” as a result of growing secularism.

Perhaps the Europeans recognize that nationalism and religious fervor have been central to the wars they have fought and the death and destruction they have experienced for the past 500 years.

The most conspicuous sign of this moral crisis is in the declining birthrates, according to Mr. Weigel. Has Mr. Weigel not traveled throughout the world and seen poverty, starvation and infant mortality rates among deeply religious nations? Is Europe not part of a capitalist economy that requires ever more money to rear a healthy moral family? Or is his idea of family the Dickensian tale of little children begging in the streets or joining outlaws to steal what they need?

Religion as a moral concept in shaping our lives must include modern reality, not fealty to rules that haven’t changed in 1,000 years.

J. SALEMI

West Springfield

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