- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

‘Social insurance’ myths

Robert Lerman attempts to point out the fine line between social insurance and welfare and make a case for an ownership society reducing the need for both (“Social Security reform” Op-Ed, yesterday).

He points out that Franklin D. Roosevelt might favor the shift from social insurance to ownership. However, what he misses is that what FDR created was one of the most effective insurance myths of the 20th century.

I’ll bet that 99 percent of the work force could not define the philosophical debate surrounding “social insurance” as distinct from what is commonly referred to as insurance. The basic structure of Social Security — a flat tax to resemble insurance premiums; trust funds; trustees; actuaries; OASDI (“I” is for insurance), as opposed to merely Old-Age Assistance in the original 1935 Act — is deliberately intended to reinforce the insurance myth.

This myth has turned a large segment of the population into the “I am going to get mine because I paid into it” crowd.

Ownership means nothing to this group; after all, they were sold insurance by FDR. Politicians are still banking political capital off of this myth, but eventually economics and demographics will force them to deal with the deception.

My guess is the “get mine” crowd will not take it very well.

SAMUEL BURKEEN

Reston

Illegal aliens and special interests

The article “Senate opens door to alien amnesty” (Page 1, Friday) describes how some politicians care more about special interests and illegal aliens than about their own constituents.

The majority of Americans oppose any sort of amnesty for illegal aliens. Yet many senators are supporting the “Ag-jobs” amnesty cleverly being attached to the Iraq supplemental spending bill. It would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.

In a true democracy, elected officials are supposed to represent the voice of the people, not their own self-interest. The Ag-jobs amendment is the latter.

President Bush has stated over and over again that he does not support amnesty for illegal aliens. Let’s see if he will use some of his “political capital” and oppose the Ag-jobs amnesty amendment, preserving jobs for the millions of Americans, including legal immigrants, who work in the agricultural industry.

BOB ALLAN

Rochester Hills, Mich.

China a threat to India, too

The title of Brahma Chellaney’s excellent article “India, China mend fences” (World, Saturday) is misleading. Mr. Chellaney has convincingly demonstrated that it is more a case of China virtually taking all and giving little in return to India rather than mutual compromises on a level playing field.

It seems a salient point made by Mr. Chellaney that Pakistan’s Gwadar deep-sea port near the Gulf of Oman would facilitate Chinese submarines’ access to the Gulf has been surprisingly overlooked by the Bush administration. China has consistently played the Pakistan card to minimize India’s challenge to China’s power in Asia. Further, U.S. tactical objectives enhance military-ruled Pakistan’s capacity to endanger democratic India’s vital interests.

Unfortunately the actions of the United States and the European Union also favor China, a strategic competitor to America, against India when it comes to supplying civilian nuclear plants or trade and investment concessions, further accentuating China’s advantage.

Now India’s basic instinct is to have a highly developed, multifaceted relationship with the United States in the greater interest of free and open democratic societies.

What many pro-Western democrats in India are afraid of is that in the absence of clear, present and continuing U.S. policies supporting India’s political, economic and military power, India could be forced to accept China’s supremacy in Asia in exchange for India’s distinct but limited sphere of influence in Asia and a Chinese guarantee of India’s territorial integrity. This would be against India’s strategic interests as well as those of the United States.

VIPUL THAKORE

London

Berger deserves a harsher penalty

When I read about Samuel R. Berger’s plea agreement (“Berger pleads guilty to theft of classified Archives papers,” Page 1, Saturday) I had one response: “OK, where’s the bridge?”

This very well-educated man would have us believe that he accidentally stole documents from the National Archives, some of which were classified. We are now to believe that stealing such classified documents, ones that actually pertained to terrorism, at a time when this nation is involved in a global war against terrorism, should only be a misdemeanor whose maximum penalty is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. After stories like this usually come: “and I have a bridge that I’ll sell you cheap.”

Mr. Berger got a slap on the wrist. As your story reports, the plea agreement is much lighter than the maximum: No jail time, a $10,000 fine and three-year suspension of his security clearance. Mr. Berger will never face a prison term. And he can pay the fine with the change he shakes out of his sofa cushions.

If in fact it is merely a misdemeanor to steal classified documents while the nation is at war, particularly when those documents deal with the subject of that war, we certainly need to address this. There is something odorous about this, very odorous.

BOB DI STEFANO

Abingdon

Let me see if I have this straight. Samuel R. Berger steals classified documents from the National Archives. First he denies it, then says it was a mistake, then admits it. His penalty? A $10,000 fine. Ah, yes, and his security clearance is suspended but can be reinstated after three years. Can anyone tell me under what circumstances Mr. Berger, the national security adviser during a period of such flawed policies, would require a clearance other than for professional gain? His motivation was surely self-serving rather than treasonous. But his action was an arrogant betrayal of trust. If this case illustrates our “new” standards, I’m glad I am no longer part of the intelligence community.

ANNE ALLEN

Former intelligence officer

Washington

This is yet more evidence that Republicans lack the fortitude to play politics. Samuel R. Berger attempted to rewrite history by destroying critical documents, and the Bush administration not only lets him off the hook with a plea bargain, but they do it while Terri Schiavo and the pope’s death are dominating the news. The mainstream media will ignore this story, and the Republicans will let Mr. Berger off scot-free in a way that would be unimaginable if the tables were turned. If the media were as biased to the conservative side as they are to liberalism, this story would be turned into Bill Clinton’s Watergate after the fact.

As far as President Bush goes, making deals with traitors is really a form of tyranny.

MARTIN HUTCHISON

Nulato, Alaska

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