- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2001

'Cleaning out' State Department won't help Colombia

I am writing in response to your March 16 editorial "Clean the State Department house," in which you call on President Bush to fire Anne W. Patterson, U.S. ambassador to Colombia, and Rand Beers, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement.

Although I have sometimes criticized aspects of U.S. policy toward Colombia and the Department of State's handling of specific issues, I do not understand why your newspaper undertook this personal attack on these individuals. I believe that both under trying circumstances have acted to carry out a bipartisan policy on which Congress and the Clinton administration agreed and which enjoys continued support from the Bush administration.

By and large, our policy in Colombia is working. In the wake of the recent aerial eradication campaign, it is increasingly clear that we are turning the corner and should stay the course. There certainly is room for honest disagreements over the implementation of our policy in Colombia. There ought not be any room, however, for the sort of one-sided, ad hominem bad-mouthing contained in your editorial.

Having conducted a number of oversight trips to Colombia, I can tell you that Mrs. Patterson has done an outstanding job as the president's personal representative to that troubled Andean nation. She has undertaken serious efforts to improve the operations of our embassy and has added new vigor to the prosecution of the drug war. In fact, Mrs. Patterson has led the way in the ongoing coca crop eradication efforts, which resulted in the destruction of thousands of acres of coca. Mrs. Patterson is tough and dedicated; she is the right person to fill one of the world's most difficult posts.

The situation in Colombia is as complex and dire as any I have ever known in all my years in Congress. The consensus that backs our policy is delicate. We must act responsibly to invigorate our national resolve to oppose illegal drugs. Calling for heads to roll does not help. Summarily removing Mr. Beers and Mrs. Patterson, as you suggest, would loudly and clearly send the wrong signal to the drug traffickers.

I invite you to join me, instead, in calling on our leaders, including President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and my own colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, to work together to pursue a sustained strategy that will lead to victory over the drug lords who peddle their poison to our young people.

CASS BALLENGER

Chairman

Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere

Committee on International Relations

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington

Wrong crowd steered drug education policy astray

The article "America is losing drug war, poll finds" stated that the demand for drugs is so high it will be impossible to stop their use (March 22). White House spokesman Scott McClellan was quoted as saying the Bush administration favors "a balanced approach to combat drugs based on education, treatment and law enforcement."

I couldn't agree more with that approach, but I wish to point out that the weakest leg in that triangle is education.

A major contributing factor to the tolerance of illicit drugs and narcotics in America is that our schools have been sending out weak and confusing messages. Since the early 1970s, educators have been brainwashed by permissive pundits and curriculum developers to believe scare tactics and facts about drugs are counterproductive and that the solution to the drug abuse problem for students is to use a values-clarification approach, apply compassion, give counseling, set up hot lines and at all costs avoid using the word "don't" when discussing drugs.

The fashionable approach in drug education has been to let the children examine all aspects of their feelings, attitudes, values and societal pressures and then make their own decisions about whether to use drugs.

Until our schools change their pitch, illicit drugs will continue to be a tragic part of our culture.

MALCOLM LAWRENCE

Chevy Chase

Tax-cut 'trigger' leaves money in the hands of congressional spendaholics

That Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley has resigned himself to the idea of a "trigger," tying tax relief to future surpluses, is a sign that the conservative renaissance in Washington is in a fragile condition ("Grassley supports trigger in tax-cut bill," March 23). Never mind the smoke and mirrors about larger short-term tax cuts. The trigger concession signals that the Senate is still controlled by spending addicts.

The trigger makes future tax relief dependent on surpluses acquired through overtaxation. In principle, therefore, it is absurd. Moreover, with the trigger in place, the government can reduce or eliminate tax cuts, even retroactively, simply by spending more. Congress has perfected the art of wasting tax revenue. The trigger would give even more of an incentive to spend.

Perhaps it is time to ask the compassionate question: Why should congressional spending addicts and big-government junkies be deprived of the care and support available to other types of addicts? Twelve-step programs, accountability groups, talk therapy and other treatments are effective in helping addicts overcome all sorts of dependency disorders. Yet those who suffer from a compulsion to spend taxpayer money have nowhere to turn.

Republican senators who go along with the trigger e.g., Olympia J. Snowe, John McCain, Arlen Specter and now Mr. Grassley are what is known in addiction-recovery parlance as "enablers." These are the folks who intervene to protect addicts from the natural consequences of their destructive ways. Regardless of their good intentions, enablers actually reduce the chances that their colleagues will ever overcome the spending dependency.

Confronting reality is the only real hope for recovery. Rather than the trigger, which lets addicts get their fix under the guise of tax relief, an inverse trigger should be proposed: A taxpayer will pay income tax only if he has a personal surplus after meeting his own spending needs. Liberals inevitably would object that people could avoid taxes simply by spending, illuminating the folly of their own trigger.

A similar opening occurs when liberals claim that no responsible American family would spend money without first establishing a budget. The point should be made that no family would plan a budget without first subtracting taxes from gross income. Liberals need to see the surplus for what it is: the government's tax liability to the people (incurred by overtaxation), which must be deducted from the U.S. Treasury's gross revenue before consideration of a detailed budget. In other words, just as President Bush proposed, tax cut first, budget later.

Those liberated from the tax-and-spend fixation are best regarded as recovering spendaholics. To leave excess tax revenue in Washington is morally equivalent to leaving a martini in the hand of an alcoholic. Returning the money to the people, in contrast, would be an act of compassion on many levels.

ROGER BANKS

Fairfax


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