- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

Dean dreams

Your editorial “Dean’s dream-destroying plan” (Oct. 23) is shortsighted. The “tax relief” I enjoyed this year actually was a loan straight out of the national debt (although it has served its purpose in making the public feel good about the overall shift of the tax burden from the wealthy onto working people). Personally, I avoid unnecessary loans, but in this case, I was given no choice. My family and I will have to pay it off eventually, with interest. This is the bottom-line fact of tax relief in the middle of a recession and a war.

The editorial raises the specter of “[t]ax-and-spend liberalism,” but I am only so old as to remember as far back as Ronald Reagan, and in my entire lifetime, only the Republicans have been truly adept at running up trillion-dollar deficits. Republicans may like to spend my tax dollars on a different set of priorities, but they can spend with the best of them.

Next year, I’ll be voting for the candidate who actually balanced a budget (in the only state where the budget does not have to be balanced), and that’s Howard Dean.

ALX DARK

Seattle

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Your editorial on Oct. 23 spoke about Howard Dean’s economic plan and the tax implications of said plan. He calls his plan Reclaiming the American Dream and pledges to spend $100 billion to create 1 million jobs.

A better idea would be simply to change his plan to the American Lotto. Instead of creating jobs for people, he could draw names from a database (illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses, welfare recipients and the unemployed) and give one lucky person $10 million each day he’s in office.

Assuming he stays for two terms, he could give the American Dream to just a few less than 3,000 individuals. Or, going with $1 million for 10 individuals each day, he could provide the dream to nearly 30,000 individuals, and they wouldn’t have to work.

Here’s the kicker: American Lotto would cost just $30 billion over eight years. Compared to the $100 billion for 1 million new jobs, this is huge savings for tax-paying Americans.

The new slogan for the Dean campaign: “Vote Dean, Win the American Dream.”

MARK HOFFMAN

Indianapolis

Attempting to regain some of the lost ground in our budget by repealing the Bush tax cuts would do far more good than giving out tax cuts paid for with borrowed money the next generation will have to pay back with interest. Every Republican president since Nixon has campaigned on reduced budgets but then driven us to the poor house after getting elected, all the time railing about tax-and-spend Democrats.

It’s a clever strategy, but it’s wearing out. You can’t fool all the people all the time.

LES MCANELLY

Hoffman Estate, Ill.6

Schiavo not ‘brain-dead’

I usually find Suzanne Fields’ columns very insightful, but she is unfortunately mistaken on the Terri Schiavo case, especially when she states that Mrs. Schiavo is “brain-dead” (“A right to live, a right to die,” Op-Ed, Monday). This is medically false and could not be further from the truth about Mrs. Schiavo’s disabilities.

As a nurse of 34 years who has witnessed the recoveries of many so-called “vegetative” patients when they are given a chance, I refuse to participate in killing any of my patients, especially the non-dying brain-injured ones like Mrs. Schiavo.

Though the public may desperately want to believe that the Schiavo case is merely about choice, medical-futility policies are quietly being adopted at hospitals throughout the country to overrule patients and families who want basic medical care when the patients are seriously disabled or terminally ill.

Rather than choice, the Schiavo case is really about medical and judicial arrogance in deciding which patients “need to die,” no matter who objects, and the lack of civil-rights protection for people with disabilities.

NANCY GUILFOY VALKO

Spokeswoman

National Association of Pro-Life Nurses

St. Louis

In Suzanne Fields’ Monday column, Mrs. Fields stated, “By most medical evaluations she [Terri Schiavo] is brain-dead, and any movement perceived by others is not directed by consciousness.” This statement is completely false.

Mrs. Schiavo is not “brain-dead.” Her subcortical structures, the midbrain, medulla and brain stem, certainly function; otherwise, she would require mechanical ventilation. There is compelling evidence that challenges the current diagnosis of persistent vegetative state, a diagnosis made, incidentally, by physicians of husband Michael Schiavo’s choosing. Because Mrs. Schiavo has received no structured rehabilitation to speak of, her degree of cortical dysfunction cannot be accurately ascertained.

In addition, Mr. Schiavo refuses to disclose the results of electroencephalographic studies performed on Mrs. Schiavo. It is my belief that, because of this fundamental uncertainty, it is incumbent upon the medical community to err on the side of life. One of the basic tenets of medicine states, “First, do no harm.”

Regardless of one’s stance on this issue, to state that Mrs. Schiavo is brain-dead is inaccurate and misleading. There is more than enough mis- and disinformation surrounding this case. Further inaccuracies only muddy the already murky waters and must be discouraged if clarity is our goal.

DENNIS R. DREYER

Rockville, Md.

The truth about thimerosal

John McCaslin’s Oct. 15 Inside the Beltway column raised the issue of the safety of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that until recently was used in some pediatric immunizations and is in some versions of the influenza shot. Mr. McCaslin reported that according to a letter that circulated recently on Capitol Hill, there is evidence of a connection between thimerosal and certain neurological disorders such as autism. However, this is an inaccurate characterization. In fact, no data link autism and thimerosal.

Because 35,000 people die from influenza each year and another 115,000 are hospitalized, physicians and nurses are concerned that if inaccurate information about the safety of this vaccine dissuades people from taking it, needless deaths and illness could result.

Although there is no evidence that thimerosal has ever caused a problem, it does contain a form of mercury. For this reason, in 1999, the Public Health Service and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that manufacturers remove thimerosal from vaccines for infants and children. The manufacturers have responded appropriately, and all the routinely recommended childhood vaccines are available in thimerosal-free versions (including the influenza vaccine) or contain only trace amounts of thimerosal. This recommendation was a precaution to reinforce public trust in vaccine safety and reduce overall exposure to mercury.

In 1999 and today, no data suggest that thimerosal in vaccines has contributed in any way to autism or other neurological disorders. Since 1999, a number of studies have been conducted to determine whether children were injured by the thimerosal in their vaccines. The result of that research is a substantial and increasing body of peer-reviewed science that has found no such link.

On Oct. 1, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a large, well-designed epidemiological study that looked at whether thimerosal in vaccines contributed to autism. The study concluded that there is no causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. This study should be very reassuring to parents who continued to have concerns about the safety of childhood immunizations.

DR. MARTIN G. MYERS

Executive director

National Network for Immunization Information

Galveston, Texas

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