'Kick them all out'
Sen. James Webb's tactic of minimum rest periods between deployments is just another congressional ruse to control the troop movements to and from Iraq ("Senate eyes Iraq pullout once again," Page 1, Wednesday). It is an asymmetrical approach to withdrawal rolled up in an iterative delaying tactic.
Rotation of deployments are a controlled cycle involving mission, end strength and logistics. Once Congress has control of the cycle, it is just a matter of increasing the time period to accommodate the withdrawal. Once again, this is a violation of the separation of powers. Congress has control of the funding; it is not the commander in chief.
The Democrats, along with the president, were handed their hats on immigration. To cover their ineptitude, they are once again diverting attention to Iraq. It's time to kick them all out.
Sifting the tea leaves
It is deeply disturbing, but not surprising, to learn from former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona's testimony before a congressional panel that his efforts to bring accurate, honest and complete reports about health matters to the public's attention were consistently stymied by the administration when what he sought to do did not comport with its political posture ("Top doctor says he was muzzled," Nation, Wednesday).
It is instructive to note that soon after Dr. Carmona issued a scathing indictment of second-hand smoke in a landmark report of June 2006, his period of service to the American people concluded, and he vanished without a trace. He was never publicly thanked for his service nor was the report on second-hand smoke even acknowledged precisely what I would expect from a president who belongs to a party that has traditionally been identified with Big Tobacco and that has accepted millions of dollars of the industry's tainted contributions. Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs by leveling with the people about the danger of exposure to second-hand smoke? Why should the president be concerned about critical public health matters that impact mortality?
It is ironic that as Dr. Carmona was being ignored as he sought to provide information to promote the health and welfare of the American people the purported goal of the surgeon general the administration found the time and devoted significant effort to the ostentatious and insulting farewell ceremony for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a position in which his influence helped to bring about the slaughter that has been inflicted on American forces and innocent Iraqis through our disastrous occupation.
With the passage of time, the American people, at long last, have come to "have the number" of this president. It is most regrettable that so many of us could not read the tea leaves before he had been elected twice and inflicted upon us one of the worst and most damaging administrations in the history of our nation.
OREN M. SPIEGLER
Upper Saint Clair, Pa.
Curb entitlement spending
The editorial "Entitlements run amok" (Wednesday) provides much-needed prominence to future-oriented measures of how large the gap is between projected federal expenditures, especially on entitlements, and available future revenues under current policies. The Social Security and Medicare trustees have been providing this information for a number of years, but it is always buried deep within the Social Security and Medicare trustees' annual reports.
Your methods for evaluating these gargantuan numbers are not necessarily incorrect, but could be improved upon. Rather than compare the 75-year entitlement imbalances of $40.6 trillion with items such as annual gross domestic product, household net worth, and so on, it would be better to compare them with the sum total of resources from which they would be paid. A standard metric is the present value of future GDP. However, as public trustee, Thomas Saving is fond of saying: "The government does not own the GDP." It has never, and won't in the future, subject all of national output to taxes. That means the imbalances are best compared with a revenue base such as future payrolls. The present value over the next 75 years of future payrolls is estimated by the Medicare trustees to equal $335.3 trillion. That yields a "policy metric" for evaluating the size of the federal entitlement imbalance: Future payroll taxes would have to be increased by another 12.1 percentage points ($40.6 trillion divided by $335.3 trillion equals 0.121, or 12.1 percent) immediately and permanently in order to avoid cutting entitlement and all other federal spending and to avoid additional debt creation. That's almost a doubling of all payroll taxes to fix the problem through the next 75 years. It bears repeating, however, that more than one-half of total entitlement imbalances (of $90 trillion) are projected to arise after the next 75 years.
The longer we wait to rectify federal fiscal imbalances, the larger would the required percentage point increase in payroll taxes have to become to balance the government's projected revenues with its spending trajectory and expenditures under present laws. Contrast the urgency of such a fiscal scenario with the current crop of politicians running for president all of whom have so far been deafeningly silent on these issues. Would we, should we, and could we increase taxes to such an extent to deal with our entitlement overstretch?
Only at our peril under today's environment of intense tax competition. And, in any case, the increased revenues are unlikely to be saved by the federal government for paying future entitlement benefits. That means the only sensible course would be is to reduce federal spending, especially on entitlements.
The high cost of baloney
Politicians seem to have a knack for suddenly finding religion, admitting "sin" and acknowledging personal responsibility for their actions once their misdeeds become public knowledge. Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican, exemplified this phenomenon regarding his interaction with the "D.C. Madam's" escort service when he apologized for "a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible" ("Sen. Vitter apologizes for link to 'D.C. Madam,'" Nation, Tuesday).
Yes, of course, Mr. Vitter is responsible because, after all, he is the one who made the initial choice to engage the service and, apparently, it is something he wanted to do. What he likely did not want is for his clandestine behavior to be leaked to the press much less anyone else and have his family and the world find out about it.
Now that the word is out, however, he is making a politically correct effort to be contrite. He claims he has asked forgiveness from God and his wife and has made amends through religion and counseling. He chooses not to elaborate and relate any details of his miscreant actions.
Mr. Vitter is no different from other politicians whose misconduct puts them in the spotlight. Once discovered, coupled with their inability to further hide behind their cloak of public service, they employ damage control. Mr. Vitter has now set the tone for others whose names may be forthcoming, giving them a heads-up to work on drafting their responses in hopes that the public will buy their baloney.
KAREN L. BUNE