- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

There are better solutions to Social Security problem than privatization

Op-Ed columnists Tim Penny and William Frenzel, members of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, are correct to say that many opponents of privatization would rather "do nothing" than pursue a policy they believe is wrong ("The empty lock box," Aug. 22). Recent projections from the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, a technical adviser to the commission, show that partial privatization would worsen the financial pressures facing the program and hasten its insolvency date.
Without speaking for others who oppose privatization, we believe there are many moderate and incremental steps that would extend the solvency of the program. These include:
Supplementing payroll taxes with general revenues.
Increasing the maximum wage base on which Social Security taxes are paid.
Expanding coverage by including newly hired state and local workers.
Having the government invest a portion of the trust-fund reserves in broadly indexed equities funds.
Social Security is a reward for individual effort and, at the same time, perhaps our strongest expression of family values. Instead of eroding Social Security's basic protections, we should strengthen and fine-tune the system so that it continues to provide a safety net for retirees, workers who become disabled and individuals who lose a close family member.

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

Taking congestion pricing to the road

Esteemed Cornell University professor Alfred E. Kahn's cogent plea for efficient pricing of airport runways applies also to congested roads ("Congestion pricing next step in air travel deregulation," Letters, Sept. 4).
"We have no hesitation in other markets," Mr. Kahn wrote, "about letting price rise to equate supply and demand of scarce goods. Why should scarce runway capacity be any different?" Why indeed? And why should scarce highway capacity be different?
High prices are used in free societies to restrict demand for scarce resources, but they also stimulate supply. "The airports would and should be required to use the revenues from elevated landing charges at times and places of congestion to expand capacity, as in any other competitive industry, and should correspondingly reduce landing fees when and where capacity is ample," Mr. Kahn wrote. The same principles should be applied to roads. Might the Los Angeles freeway system be the first candidate?
Most governments have been unable to deal effectively with traffic congestion. Maybe it is time for them to apply to roads the tools of the market economy.

Chevy Chase

Gabriel Roth is the author of "Roads in a Market Economy."

Extinguishing pro-choice rhetoric

Your exclusive reports about women in the D.C. Fire and Emergency Services Department being forced to have abortions to keep their jobs are a fitting retort to the Aug. 31 letter to the editor from Anika Rahman, director of the international program, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy ("Fearing loss of job, woman has abortion," Aug. 30; "Union backs 4 women who claim abortions out of fear," Aug. 31; "CRLP fights Bush administration's 'global gag rule' against NGOs," Letters, Aug. 31). Ms. Rahman takes the absurd position that U.S. citizens must pay to advance abortion abroad.
Wherever abortion is legal, women are abused and pressured to have abortions. Forced abortion (and the infanticide it precipitates) are common in communist China. In addition, author David C. Reardon, in his book "Making Abortion Rare," says his research shows that more than 60 percent of American women who have abortions feel "forced" to do so by others or by circumstances.
Ms. Rahman calls President Bush's cutoff of federal funds to promote abortion overseas a "global gag rule." This is just more pro-abortion propaganda and distortion, which are the foundation and lifeblood of the pro-abortion movement.
For example, pro-abortionists falsely claimed that 10,000 women died annually from illegal abortions in the U.S before Roe vs. Wade. Actually, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, 39 women died from illegal abortions in 1972, the year before abortion was legalized. In the first two years of legalized abortion, 35 and 37 women died, respectively. Now Ms. Rahman says there are 78,000 maternal deaths abroad annually. Why should anyone believe her?
Ms. Rahman would have us believe that if only Mr. Bush would turn on the money faucet, 78,000 women would be saved from death in illegal abortions. But in many countries the medical facilities don't exist to do the risky blind surgery of abortion, so many women would die even if abortion were legal. Also, many women would deliver their babies if they had the resources to care for them.
In his weekly briefing of Aug. 22, Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, presented the results of a survey done in Ghana on health care services. The survey showed the people's highest priority was for malaria treatment and eradication. The second most pressing need was for information about natural family planning. The very last need cited was for "reproductive health" contraception, sterilization and abortion. It was even ranked below the nonspecific "Other Programs".
All the federal money for "reproductive health" should be redirected for basic health care abroad what the people want and need.


Teddy Roosevelt wasn't fond of free-trade foolishness

In his Aug. 31 Commentary piece, "Fast tumble into hypocrisy," my old friend Ed Feulner lacerates Democrats for not embracing President Bush's "free trade agenda," including trade-promotion authority.
This is "about money," Ed writes, "money that could be in the pockets of Americans." The United States "had an agricultural trade surplus of $12 billion with the rest of the world last year. …Think how much bigger the wealth pie would be if the United States could trade freely with more countries."
Well, last year's $12 billion agricultural surplus is impressive, but it looks a little anemic alongside the $324 billion trade deficit the United States ran in trade in manufactured goods and somewhat pitiful alongside the $450 billion merchandise trade deficit the United States ran in all goods in 2000.
Ed urges Democrats to show the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. Probably not the best example. The future Rough Rider, in his letter to Henry Cabot Lodge in 1895, declared: "Thank God I am not a free trader. … Pernicious indulgence in the doctrine of free trade seems inevitably to produce fatty degeneration of the moral fibre."
Roosevelt had no use for think-tank free traders. Experience had not shown, he said, "that we could afford … to follow those professional counselors who have confined themselves to study in the closet; for the actual working of the tariff has emphatically contradicted their theories."
Roosevelt's 1904 platform read: "Protection, which guards and develops our industries, is a cardinal policy of the Republican Party. The measure of protection should always at least equal the difference in the cost of production at home and abroad."
If Teddy is the wrong Roosevelt to cite, Ed certainly could reference Eleanor or Franklin. Both were liberal free traders, big time.


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