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Letters to the editor

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Giuliani's health plan

The Washington Times deserves to be commended for drawing attention to the yawning credibility gap between the Republicans and Democrats regarding meaningful health care reform ("All buzz, no math, from Giuliani," Editorial, Saturday). Conservative think thanks brag of leading the fight against "socialized health care" while offering no meaningful alternative. A $15,000 tax deduction for families, proposed by Rudolph W. Giuliani, does not address the absurdity of why a middle-class family should have to pay that cut of its modest budget. Even blindly standing against the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion is borderline political suicide, especially among pivotal independent voters.

The Republicans believe parents making a certain amount should be able to afford private insurance for their families. Maybe, but the fact is, millions of children still are uninsured. This is politically untenable, as about 11 percent are crying out for relief and coverage security. Health care reform is in the inevitable march of events.

The honest critique of Mr. Giuliani's plan gives him a chance to reassess, to get out in front of the health-care debate and to show real leadership. Health-care reform is not a business decision; it is a moral one and one that is on the right side of history.

KEN BALDWIN

Ellicott City, Md.

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The Washington Times misses the mark with its criticism of Rudolph W. Giuliani's bold, free-market ideas for improving America's health care system.

Mr. Giuliani's approach to reform — rooted in individual empowerment and competition — takes us in the opposite direction of the government mandate-based plans of other candidates running for president. With the latest of his 12 Commitments to the American People, the former New York City mayor has now set out his markers for how he'd like to increase the quality, affordability and portability of health care using consumer-driven solutions.

Mr. Giuliani delivered the first of his health-care speeches emphasizing that the United States needed a new framework for health-care financing that builds on the successes of the current medical system by utilizing the free-market system more and not less as proposed by the major Democratic candidates. His plan wisely starts with principles, since more money badly invested in the current system will produce substantial harm.

He suggests that families should have more, not less authority. This can be done in part through a new tax-free income exclusion, free from income tax and payroll taxes, of up to $15,000 for Americans without employer-based coverage.

After buying coverage, Americans could fund a tax-free health savings account with more flexibility and less regulations than ever before. He also proposed other substantial reforms, including that states give citizens the right to buy policies with Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program financing, and refundable health-care tax credits targeted to those most in need, the previously ignored two-thirds of the uninsured comprising low income workers.

These new reforms would help create powerful incentives for more Americans to shop for private portable health insurance, driving competitive markets for cheaper and more tailored insurance products, increasing consumer choices and reducing dependency on employers for coverage.

Mr. Giuliani did something that no other candidate has yet done: He laid out bold principles to get affordable coverage for all Americans, and that coverage would offer what that they actually want, rather than what government decrees for them.

This philosophical framework offers innovative American solutions to reforming health care, while the plans of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards offer only steps toward socialism. As P.J. O'Rourke once said, "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."

Mr. Giuliani underscores the obvious: only the innovation of the private sector and competitive pressures exerted by individual customers will cure what ails the health care system.

SCOTT W. ATLAS

Senior adviser, Giuliani Presidential Campaign

Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Professor, Stanford University

School of Medicine

Stanford, Calif.

Drug legalization

Paul Kengor's commentary "A conservative take on drugs" (Forum, Sunday) is atypically bad. His take on those of us who oppose the war on drugs, also known as Prohibition II, is wrong in many ways. Primarily, his notion that legalization advocacy is solely a libertarian view is absurd.

I would point to former Secretary of State George Shultz, the late economist Milton Friedman and a man Mr. Kengor quotes, William F. Buckley, as non-libertarians against the drug war. The good professor should know that Mr. Buckley was friends with Peter McWilliams, a man whose death still lays at the feet of Prohibitionists. Mr. McWilliams' death is one of the saddest examples of our present-day Prohibition's errant ways, and Mr. Buckley is no friend of the drug war.

Even former Rep. Bob Barr, who almost a decade ago held Washington voters' ballots hostage for nearly a year because of the medical cannabis (Measure 59) issue, is supporting the Marijuana Policy Project.

ALLAN ERICKSON

Drug Policy Forum of Oregon

Eugene, Ore.

Bracing Kosovo

Janusz Bugajski's fuzzy characterizations of Russia's position on Kosovo "the Kremlin can claim," "Russia is posing," "Moscow is posturing" mask the fact that, on this issue, the Russians hold the high ground in defense of the accepted principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity ("Kosovo as part of Russia's design," Commentary, Friday).

Nothing in the rules of the international system to which all member states have committed themselves under the United Nations Charter allows the ripping away of any country's territory without its consent.

As someone with a long history of anti-Communist activism and service in both the executive and legislative branches, I think it's a sad day when an accusing finger accurately can be pointed at the United States for trying to violate one of the most fundamental obligations of a responsible national government.

Rather than speculate about how Russia might view its policy on Kosovo as an occasion to flex its muscles, Mr. Bugajski might better ask why America should force a confrontation with Moscow and throw our European allies into an impossible quandary to achieve an objective that is not in the interest of the United States in the first place.

An independent Kosovo hardly would be a positive model for Muslims in the former Soviet Union, as Mr. Bugajski suggests. It would be a disaster for human rights and religious freedom. Two-thirds of the Serbian Christians already have been terrorized from the province, and the rest are in peril. There is a nonviable economy whose only functional sectors are international largesse and organized crime (drugs, slaves, weapons); and independence would be a stimulus for renewed irredentist violence in nearby areas.

Perhaps worst of all, imposed excision of Kosovo from Serbia would show every separatist minority in the world that it only needs to be sufficiently violent, intolerant and intransigent, and it, too, can get its own state. If only the Russians are concerned about this kind of "model," we're in bigger trouble than I thought.

Rather than seeing Moscow's objections to the forced and illegal partition of Serbia as an obstacle to be overcome by resorting to an end-run of the UN Security Council, as Mr. Bugajski advises, Washington should welcome the current impasse as an occasion to re-examine the faulty assumptions that have brought us to this point. A just and sustainable Kosovo solution should be based on respect for legal norms and compromise between the parties.

JAMES GEORGE JATRAS

Director

American Council for Kosovo

Washington