- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Military memorials and religious symbols

In “Aggression against military memorials” (Commentary, Sunday) the American Legion’s national commander pulls the wool over the eyes of the public.

Paul Morin makes much of the American Civil Liberties Union’s effort to move the Mount Soledad Latin cross from government property overlooking San Diego, but he noticeably fails to mention the inconvenient truth that the plaintiffs are the Jewish War Veterans. So, does the American Legion believe Jewish War Veterans don’t count as Americans or religious or veterans?

For some unknown reason, he believes the government should decide which religious symbols should be supported at taxpayers’ expense. He does not argue that all religious symbols should be treated equally or fairly. The only symbol he promotes is the cross, which is sacred to many Americans but not all of them.

Mr. Morin wants the government to favor a religious symbol that excludes Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, nonbelievers and all Christians who believe in rendering to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.

T. JEREMY GUNN

Director

American Civil Liberties Union

Program on Freedom of

Religion and Belief

New York

Food safety

This letter is in response to Steve Chapman’s column “Food poisoning for profit” (Commentary, Sunday).

I recently had the opportunity to inform a meeting of the American Trucking Association’s Security Council in Orlando, Fla., that growing concern about food safety and security will speed up demands by members of Congress for fail-safe inspections to detect and prevent contamination in the nation’s food supply.

Serious concerns about food safety and security from “farm to fork” are expected to result in new laws and regulations that will affect how commercial agricultural and food transporters move, process and distribute all food products throughout the United States.

The transportation of agricultural and food products in the face of a continuing threat of contamination of America’s food supply is a challenge that will confront both business and government for a very long time. Recent recalls of contaminated pet food, outbreaks from E. coli because of contaminated spinach in California and peanut butter recalls have brought this issue to the forefront. Yet it is good to remember that the United States has the safest food-supply chain in the world.

The need to guarantee safe food in an interdependent global trading environment will speed up action by members of Congress to examine additional ways to prevent contamination of the nation’s food supply. Congressional hearings, which already have begun, can be expected to result in new laws and regulations regarding the transportation, processing and distribution of all food products and will affect all businesses and industries associated with this critical sector of the U.S. economy.

However, more government intervention and reorganization or mergers of federal agencies will never ensure total food security. I can recall growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1950s and ‘60s, when growers, packers and transporters assumed the major roles in food security from farm to fork, with much less federal government intervention, guidelines and regulations. The local county health departments were the overseers of food safety and security, proving that government closest to the people generally works best, at less cost and with greater efficiency. I believe that is still the case if commonsense approaches are developed at all levels of government.

FLETCHER HALL

President

F.R. Hall and Associates

Potomac

Insuring kids with tax dollars

A recent report by the Congressional Budget Office stated that 50 percent to 75 percent of the dollars spent on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) went to covering uninsured children, not privately insured children, as Devon Herrick’s column “Put the children back in SCHIP,” suggests (Commentary, Thursday).

Moreover, before blasting Minnesota for having 87 percent of its SCHIP enrollees as adults, the author might remember that Minnesota couldn’t use its dollars to cover children because under SCHIP, the state already covered children up to 275 percent of the federal poverty line under their Medicaid program. Minnesota had two options to use SCHIP dollars: cover children at higher incomes (and potentially crowd out private coverage) or cover the parents of Medicaid-eligible children. It seems Minnesota chose the option that would support working families the most by covering low-income parents, of whom 38 percent are uninsured nationwide.

LISA DUBAY

Associate professor

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Silver Spring

The column “Put the children back in SCHIP” had a headline that did not fit the text because the author was not simply proposing that children be added to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Instead, he proposed cutting hundreds of thousands of children off SCHIP despite the fact that it has successfully provided cost-effective health insurance coverage to more than 6 million children across the nation this year.

In fact, while Devon Herrick strangely calls for throwing hundreds of thousands of children and their parents out of this successful program and further increasing the uninsured rate in our nation, 84 percent of Americans think otherwise and strongly support increased investments in children’s health insurance coverage, according to a national poll conducted earlier this year. Another poll found that 96 percent of Georgians agree that all children should have the health care they need and just 17 percent support cutting it for other priorities.

The American people clearly understand that we all benefit when children have dependable health coverage. Children with health insurance are healthier and do better in school than those who are not.

The author proposed instead to encourage states to reduce current insurance protections that states have, such as requirements that insurance provide newborn babies with well-child visits or immunizations or a child with leukemia with lifesaving chemotherapy as a way somehow to make private health insurance affordable. Is underinsurance really the best we can provide our nation’s children? The American people clearly don’t think so.

Instead, the nation’s children deserve much better. Though SCHIP and Medicaid have reduced the number of uninsured in our nation by one-third over the past 10 years, the number of uninsured adults has increased dramatically. We should finish the job of providing reliable, affordable and cost-effective health coverage for all of America’s children.

This includes conducting outreach and simplifying enrollment for the 6 million to 7 million children in our nation who are eligible but unenrolled. President Bush, when running for president, campaigned on that very notion when he said, “America’s children must also have a healthy start in life. In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government’s health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need.”

Mr. Bush has a unique opportunity to work with the Democrat-led Congress, just as a Republican-led Congress did with President Clinton 10 years ago, and stand as true partners with both Republican and Democratic governors across the country working to build upon and improve SCHIP’s strong track record of success.

Children represent one-fourth of our current population but all of our future. We should strive to make sure all of our nation’s children have the health care they need to thrive and grow.

BRUCE LESLEY

President

First Focus

Alexandria

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