- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

Avert CAFE catastrophe

The increase in fuel mileage limits being advanced by Sen. Tom Daschle, Sen. John Kerry and others would bring grave harm to our nation's economy at a time when the markets need to be stimulated through pro-growth initiatives ("Daschle keeps ANWR out of bill," Feb. 6).

December's unemployment rate of 5.8 percent does not at all reflect the tens of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of jobs that could be lost if American automakers were forced to comply with new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations.

That is because the technology does not yet exist to manufacture the large-cylinder engines that power sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks to function at the 40 mpg requirement being advanced by liberals in Congress.

It is estimated that the CAFE increase would add up to $2,500 to the price of a vehicle in compliance costs, which, in effect, would become a tax on Middle Americans. They are the ones who buy the minivans, sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

The lunacy of this proposal is that it will do nothing to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, which has increased by 50 percent since Congress last instituted mandatory CAFE requirements, in the late 1970s.

There is a moral issue, too. Higher prices mean people may buy smaller vehicles, which generally are less safe in crashes than larger ones. Also, larger vehicles may be made lighter, perhaps with flimsier materials, thus reducing safety. How does greater highway carnage enhance the environment?

America's economy needs to move forward with pro-growth initiatives that create jobs, lower taxes and free consumers and businesses from onerous regulations. This is especially urgent given our turbulent economic times.


New York

The author is publisher of Forbes Magazine. He was a Republican candidate for president in 1996 and 2000.

Enron-like retirement security

I am in a situation with my retirement funds similar to that of many former Enron employees.

Both I and my employer make contributions to the fund, but I am not able to diversify or control the fund. The fund also brings in only about 3 percent per year, and there are better options available in which I cannot participate.

There is ongoing talk that the fund may collapse and leave me with nothing, but I cannot opt out of the fund. Every attempt to give me more rights to control my fund is met with resistance.

Oh, by the way my fund is called Social Security.


Huntingtown, Md.

PG residents support ousting of school superintendent

I applaud the six Prince George's County school board members who voted to oust Superintendent Iris T. Metts ("PG school board protests plans to curb its authority," Metro, Feb 6). Mrs. Metts initiated pay cuts and demotions that, at Eleanor Roosevelt High School alone, caused our beloved principal, Gerald Boarman, to leave for a position in North Carolina and one-third of our teaching staff to teach in other counties.

When she came onboard, Mrs. Metts misrepresented one of her appointees, used cronyism in her staffing and gave large bonuses to her friends on staff. In addition, countywide school tests during her tenure have been consistently and dramatically lower.

I was relieved when I read that two-thirds of the county school board had voted to remove Mrs. Metts from office. These six board members spoke for many parents of children in the county school system and many of the county's teachers as well. Now, politics has reared its ugly head in the matter, and the Maryland General Assembly is threatening to oust the school board.

School board members are elected by voters. If the Maryland General Assembly makes appointments to the board or interferes with the powers of the board, as Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr. advocates, that decision will interfere with our freedom to choose our own school board.

I am hopeful that county residents will rise up and be heard on this issue, which is important to our children and the future of our school system.


Berwyn Heights

Revolving door between refugee agencies and government

Refugee advocate Lavinia Limon says she is "very afraid this country will not have the infrastructure in place to respond to future refugee emergencies in the world" ("Security leaves refugees stranded," Jan. 31).

I am afraid she is protesting too much. Refugee agencies have steadfastly refused to use their own resources to maintain the U.S. refugee resettlement "infrastructure." In fact, a program known as the Private Sector Initiative allowed sponsoring agencies to bring over refugees if the agencies were willing to cover costs of resettlement and support. It was discontinued for lack of use in the mid-1990s. Today, the agencies are opposed to diverting federal refugee dollars to overseas refugee assistance for fear it will mean fewer dollars for them.

One result is that we have a heavily welfare-dependent refugee-resettlement program. For example, 19 percent of recent refugee households have one or more household members receiving a Supplemental Security Income check. This is a lifetime cash entitlement granted upon arrival, and at a time when Americans are facing the end of benefits in other, time-limited welfare programs.

The growth of nongovernmental refugee organizations, which are little more than government contractors, is fueled by the entry of refugees into the ranks of salaried service providers and lobbyists for future generations of refugees.

Though your story quoted Miss Limon, who is the director of a nonprofit refugee agency, it neglected to mention that she formerly was the director of the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Certainly no other government-dependent industry would have gotten such light treatment by the news media for what obviously is a revolving door between the industry and the federal government.


Brentwood, Tenn.

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