- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

Private businesses, associations are best hope for reform in Russia

The picture Ariel Cohen painted of the former Soviet countries in his Aug. 21 Op-Ed column, "Remember communism? Still dealing with the consequences," is painfully accurate. Throughout the former Soviet Union, the transition to a free-market democracy has left ordinary citizens despondent. Reform efforts undertaken during the past decade have failed to build strong market institutions, establish the rule of law, curtail rampant corruption or instill in the public perception a belief that the emerging system is better than the old one.

There are some bright spots in this otherwise dark landscape, however, especially among small business associations and think tanks. In Murmansk, Russia, the North Chamber of Commerce and Industry has established a coalition of regional business associations that actively participates in the policymaking process with local governments and agencies. In Ukraine, the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research played an important role in the recent enactment of a simplified tax law that significantly reduced both tax burdens and government red tape.

These are just two of literally hundreds of private business and professional associations and think tanks that have sprouted up in the former Soviet Union in just the past 10 years. Membership in some of these associations has grown 40 percent just in the past year, a testament to the value of their work. The Center for International Private Enterprise, with grants from National Endowment for Democracy, has worked with several of these, and they very well may represent the region's best hope for economic and political reform and the long-term stability of democratic institutions.


Program Officer, Eurasia

Center for International Private Enterprise


Socialism - alive and well in America

I applaud William H. Peterson for his book review supporting the elimination of the inefficient and stifling modern welfare state, the tactic described by "liberty under law" advocate Sheldon Richman in "Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State" ("Abolish the welfare state," Op-Ed, Aug. 21).
Nowhere are the coercive and seductive forces of socialism more prevalent than in the Medicare system. Long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the socialist mind-set is alive and well threatening to undermine the quality of health care available to our nation's elderly.
In an effort to provide all seniors not just the poor, but also the middle- and upper-income with equal health care benefits, our government has succeeded only in promoting assembly-line medicine. This has degraded the value of the personal relationship between doctors and patients and debased the purchasing power of those who can well afford to pay for their own treatment.
If we fail to adopt necessary reforms, the approaching retirement of the bulging baby-boom generation most certainly will intensify our reliance on Medicare. Blinded by the pursuit of more and more medical "freebies," America will remain vulnerable to the creeping socialism that slowly is reducing one of the world's finest health care systems to that of a collectivist Third World state.

Institute for SocioEconomic Studies
White Plains, N.Y.

Pew Forum doesn't advocate position on faith-based initiative

In the Aug. 17 front-page story "Religious groups get little funding," which covered the release of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiative's report on the status of religious groups and federal funding, my comments were misrepresented.
As I mentioned at the Brookings Institution event, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life takes no position on President Bush's faith-based initiative, but serves to bring people of diverse perspectives together for discussion of this and other issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.
My questions to the White House presenters at the Brookings Institution event illustrated some of the areas of the debate, but did not take a position of agreement or disagreement with the initiative itself. According to the transcript of the Brookings Institution event, I stated: "some might ask, well, is it appropriate then to understand why bureaucrats at times might not be moving to that bright line that's described in the White House report. In other words, might the bureaucrats have some well-placed concerns that this debate over constitutional principles is still in play."
I would appreciate it if The Washington Times would clarify this matter for its readers.

Executive Director
Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

ID cards for D.C. schoolkids not yet law

The Aug. 17 Op-Ed column "Apartheid on the Potomac," by Deputy Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons, regarding the proposal to establish identification cards for District students, is unnecessarily alarmist and full of inaccuracies and misinformation.
To quote the opening sentence, "D.C. Council recently passed a resolution that will likely take effect next week because there is no one to block it." Three inaccuracies lie within that one sentence. First of all, the council has not passed the resolution. The resolution was introduced on July 10. The column does correctly point out that I introduced the resolution at the request of the mayor. As council chairman, I must introduce to the council any legislation the mayor introduces and sends forward. Whether or not I support the particular piece of legislation is a different matter.
The column makes no mention of the fact that the proposal calls for voluntary participation on the part of parents and students. The column compares the proposal to odious actions that were imposed by governments to mark people belonging to an outcast racial, religious or ethnic group for purposes of subjugation. That is hardly the intent of a voluntary program in the District's public elementary and junior high schools.
A review of the facts would have shown that the council has scheduled a hearing on the resolution, PR-14-262, for Oct. 3 at 2 p.m. at 1 Judiciary Square. The legislation cannot move forward while the council is considering it. Furthermore, to misreport that the action could go into effect next week is a real disservice to the readership of The Washington Times. The earliest this action could take effect without council action would be Nov. 16. The council has 45 days to act on the resolution. That 45-day period does not include weekends, holidays or recess.
Therefore, there is no chance that it could go into effect next week. The council will consider the various aspects of this proposal. There obviously are issues of concern for many District residents, and the council would like to give all sides the opportunity to share their views and concerns regarding this controversial resolution proposed by the mayor.

Council of the District of Columbia

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