- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Reform would palliate paperwork problem

The Dec. 9 Op-Ed column written by Rep. Nancy Johnson, Connecticut Republican, "Prioritizing patients over paperwork," correctly argues that for the benefit of patient and health care provider alike, it's essential the Senate follow the lead of the House of Representatives and pass the Medicare Regulatory and Contracting Reform Act of 2001.

As we see on the front lines of care every day, Mrs. Johnson notes, "Health care providers are faced with a monstrous government bureaucracy that second-guesses their medical decisions with heavy-handed oversight."

To best serve our patients, we need the latitude to do our jobs and to make appropriate medical decisions. We're not asking for smaller government or less regulation. We're simply asking for smarter government. We need an oversight system that moves us toward a more sensible and collaborative partnership between health care providers and the government. Mrs. Johnson's bill will help us do just that so that we can focus on serving patients not filling out paperwork. The Senate should move forward and pass this bill.


President and CEO

American Health Care Association


Subsidizing bridges counts for more than peanuts

At the end of Sen. Zell Miller's Dec. 14 Op-Ed column concerning the elimination of peanut subsidies, he asks why building a bridge in New York is applauded as an investment while keeping a farm in business in Georgia is denounced as a subsidy ("Eliminate peanut quotas"). Because I assume the question was not asked with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I find it frightening that an individual with so much to say about how our tax dollars are spent does not know the difference between the two.

One, whether situated in New York or elsewhere, builds or enhances infrastructure, thus promoting economic growth to the benefit of many (and, coincidentally, increasing tax receipts with which people like Mr. Miller can indulge themselves). The other redistributes income from one group of Americans to another, uncompetitive group and in the process reduces the amount of income the first group can spend on products made by competitive industries that otherwise could grow more rapidly, to the benefit of many. Though there may be social-policy reasons for subsidies (not that I would agree with them), clearly there are different economic implications of the two uses of public funds.


New York

Smoke over lawsuit could signal a motive

Damon B. Ansell and Emily Sedwick of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) seem a little too vehement in denouncing the "frivolous" lawsuit the Department of Justice has pending against the tobacco industry ("Secondhand Justice," Op-Ed, Dec. 13).

When the government filed the lawsuit in September 1999 on behalf of American taxpayers, Philip Morris attorney Gregory Little stated, "We will defend this case vigorously, and we expect it to be thrown out promptly." Well, more than two years later, it hasn't been thrown out.

In fact, that's why Big Tobacco is so worried. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler noted in September 2000 that the extent of the tobacco industry's potential liability "remains, in the estimation of both parties, in the billions of dollars." Just last month, the Justice Department filed with the court hundreds of pages of written testimony from expert witnesses who described how the tobacco industry used deceptive marketing practices to make itself rich to the tune of billions of dollars over the past half-century at the expense of smokers who became addicted to cigarettes in their youth.

Why would two writers from an organization with such a pro-taxpayer-sounding name seek to have this lawsuit dismissed before trial, thereby depriving American taxpayers of their day in court? Could it be because their organization received $685,000 from Philip Morris in 1999, making the tobacco giant the single biggest donor to ATR during the same year the Justice Department's lawsuit was filed?


Senior attorney

Tobacco Control Resource Center


Keeping Klingle Road closed won't divide the District

The story about Mayor Anthony A. Williams' decision to close Klingle Road to automobiles and transform it into an environmentally friendly hiking and biking trail noted that pro-road advocates hold that the decision will "further [divide] the city along racial and socioeconomic lines" ("Mayor risks keeping Klingle closed," Dec. 14). This reckless and unsupported charge has for years been the desperate refuge of supporters of repairing and reopening the road, suggesting that they have no substantive arguments to support their desire to restore this road. It's time for news coverage that includes this inflammatory assertion to start insisting on some evidence that this accusation has some factual basis.

Road supporters claim that park supporters are a small elite group of homeowners who live near the closed portion of Klingle and want to maintain their own private park and enhance their property values. They claim to speak for the multitudes of regular people whose right to drive on the road, they say, has been infringed upon. From this, somehow they conclude that closing the road plays a role in dividing the city racially.

In reality, however, park supporters are more likely to live in neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park (Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights) where car-ownership rates are the lowest in the District. We have gotten overwhelming support from residents in these communities for keeping the road closed and preserving the land as a park. We know exactly who the pro-road leaders are, and they are no different racially or socioeconomically from us pro-park folks. No residences are accessible along the closed portion of Klingle, so no one is enjoying a private park. Klingle Valley is open to all, and pro-park groups are working to increase access to the area. Those pro-park supporters who happen to live close to the road would seem to be in the same boat as the road supporters with regard to any additional traffic on their streets resulting from Klingle Road's closure. The idea that we make racial separation worse by changing a road for cars into a bike and pedestrian path is valid only if one accepts the absurd notions that people only travel outside their communities by car, that there are no alternative roads available that cross Rock Creek Park and that people are more likely to interact with people of other races and ethnicities driving on the same road than they might on foot or on bike.



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