The myth of the 'standard' drink
Consumers deserve to have accurate information when making important choices about drinking responsibly ("Driving blind, drinking blind," Commentary, Wednesday). That's why the Beer Institute supports the addition of straightforward nutritional information and alcohol content on all beverage labels. That's why we also support listing the alcohol content of beverages by volume of alcohol.
However, a misguided approach advocated in an April 30 Commentary column threatens to mislead consumers. The authors, George McGovern, a former Democratic presidential candidate, and Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader, contend that all "drinks" contain a "standard" amount of alcohol and that this information should be featured on beverage labels. Apparently, the authors are not cocktail drinkers.
As common sense tells us, there is no such standard. The amount of alcohol poured in a single hard-liquor drink can vary from drinking establishment to drinking establishment and from consumer to consumer. As a result, drinks vary considerably in size and strength. The idea of a standard drink is hard to swallow for another reason. It goes against the results of consumer surveys and studies on other food and beverage labeling. The data clearly shows that consumers make the best choices when presented with clear, accurate, commonsense information about a product.
The Beer Institute strongly supports pro-consumer labeling changes, including the addition of a statement of the percentage of alcohol by volume in a visible location on the label. Labeling a beverage's alcohol by volume arms consumers with useful information to make important choices. The same approach has been used for years in other food products and over-the-counter medications.
The Beer Institute isn't alone in advocating a straightforward approach to labeling alcoholic beverages. In fact, more than 110 members of the House and Senate supported an effort led by the Beer Institute to persuade the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) — the regulatory agency considering the label changes — to reject label proposals that contain misleading information about alcohol content or "standard drinks."
We urge TTB to resist the disingenuous arguments of the hard-liquor industry, which would like consumers to believe that all alcoholic beverages are the same. Instead, TTB should make labeling changes that give consumers the right information to make the right decisions about drinking.
The Wright stuff
Up until now, I never considered Sen. Barack Obama to be a real candidate ("Can't get it Wright," Commentary, Friday). Just five years ago no one knew who he was. But now his old friend, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is stabbing him in the back, taking advantage of their relationship for personal gain. The Clintons have had their friends stab them in the back for years. Up until now, Mr. Obama hasn't been important enough to stab in the back. I suppose now, however, Mr. Obama has arrived. Welcome to the real world of political success.
San Bruno, Calif.
Rights here, rights there
In the story "Thousands rally for U.S. immigration reform" (Nation, Friday), an illegal alien in Chicago by the name of Eric Molina is quoted as saying, "We have rights."
Could an American illegally or legally entering Mexico publicly assert the same? In Mexico, even naturalized Mexican citizens may not demonstrate against the government. You must be born in Mexico to demonstrate. In Tucson, Ariz., a march organizer named Margot Veranes blames low turnout on aggressive enforcement by the Border Patrol and police — as though that is a bad thing.
What these people and their compatriots are really saying is, "The United States has no right to enforce its security, sovereignty and territorial integrity."
They would not be the first to assert that the foreign nations from which they illegally emigrated to the United States have every right to such enforcement as well as the right to have Spanish as their official language. Yet they and their amnesty/open-borders lobbyists and representatives rail against the United States' right to enforce its borders and make English its official language.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent CNN a letter trying to use political intimidation against Lou Dobbs' First Amendment right to keep the American public informed about illegal aliens. Such political intimidation won't work here. Viva the First Amendment!
JOSEPH R. FARRELL
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt describes Medicare as "unlimited health care" ("Leavitt sees generation split on Medicare," Nation, April 25). I think his characterization is misleading. Medicare certainly is not unlimited if he is referring to long-term care. Medicare does not pay for unlimited long-term care. Medicare is not unlimited if he is referring to prescription medications. Ask anyone who has encountered the "doughnut hole."
Perhaps he is describing the wide disparity in Medicare costs among regions. If so, I agree with him. Medicare spending is two or three times more in some regions than in others. Does Mr. Leavitt have suggestions on how to reduce these discrepancies? A workable solution could save taxpayers a lot of money and reduce the risk of generational warfare.
Another explosive cost is Medicare Advantage. Does Mr. Leavitt have suggestions on how to reduce the amount of money taxpayers pay for Medicare Advantage?
To date, both Congress and the president seem oblivious to the high cost of Medicare Advantage. MedPAC has long recommended that Medicare Advantage be paid no more than regular Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Medicare Advantage will increase spending by $149 billion over from 2009 to 2017. CBO also estimates that Medicare Advantage will shorten the solvency of the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund by two years. These warnings seem to fall on deaf ears.
Medicare Advantage is the private-sector alternative to regular Medicare. I understand Mr. Leavitt's initial support for this option, but it is not working. Originally, Medicare Advantage would have been paid less than regular Medicare. The ceiling was 95 percent of regular Medicare. That did not work. Today, Medicare Advantage is paid 13 to 19 percent more than regular Medicare. How can Mr. Leavitt continue to be enthusiastic about a program that costs taxpayers so much more money, especially when he worries about generational conflicts over cost?
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