- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

U.N. reform in U.S. interest

I always enjoy reading Frank Gaffney, but his view of how multilateral politics are conducted distorts reality (“U.N. ‘AmBush,’” Commentary, Tuesday). The negotiations surrounding the Draft Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit have stirred intense debate among 191 member states for several months.

As a key member state and a permanent member of the Security Council, the United States has played a critical role, one that we fully expect to continue under the leadership of Ambassador John Bolton. We at the United Nations are confident that the United States will contribute to building consensus among different groups of member states rather than unraveling the progress already made.

Secretary-GeneralKofi Annan has proposed a landmark blueprint for reform, aimed at a fundamental transformation and renewal of our 60-year-old organization to ensure that the United Nations meets the global challenges of the 21st century. Mr. Gaffney seems unaware that the United States has taken the lead in proposing or supporting many of the key reform ideas under consideration by member states:

• A Democracy Fund, inspired by an idea put forward by President Bush, to advance democracy-building around the world.

• A Peace-building Commission to save countries from slipping into post-conflict misery and lawlessness and build sustainable peace.

• A Human Rights Council, radically revamping the United Nations’ overly politicized human rights machinery.

• A root-and-branch reform of management to promote accountability and transparency, overhauling how the organization is run by introducing revamped codes of conduct, a new ethics policy, protection for whistleblowers as well as a sweeping review of procurement procedures.

These far-reaching changes are hardly “cosmetic” or secret, nor are they contrary to U.S. interests. Mr. Gaffney’s dismissiveness is therefore unfortunate and does a disservice to his readers.

So does the misrepresentation of a couple of other ideas being discussed. Financing development worldwide by identifying alternative sources of aid is not a U.N. attempt to introduce “globotaxes,” but a concept strongly supported by the United States in the 2002 Monterrey Consensus. No taxes of any sort are under discussion as part of this summit. Similarly, suggestions in the Draft Outcome Document on the Kyoto Protocol (under which the United States has no obligations or commitments so long as it has not ratified the document), on capping an arms race in outer space, and on promoting a comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty have been discussed amongst member states for years and remain the subject of intense negotiation.

The summit is not an attempt to ambush anybody. It is a historic opportunity to help make a better United Nations for today’s world. We hope thoughtful Americans, who see both the promise and the limitations of the United Nations, would want to see that common ground is achieved in support of genuine reform.



Communications and public information

United Nations

New York

Kilgore victim of ‘unwarranted political attacks’

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore has become the victim of unwarranted political attacks by Democratic politicians (“Kilgore sticking to gang concern,” Metropolitan, Tuesday). Mr. Kilgore is being bashed for his contention that the MS-13 gang may be targeted by al Qaeda. His view has been supported by recent reports in various newspapers.

The press conference call that was set up by a campaign arm of the Democratic Party of Virginia in which Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Trodden and Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel criticized Mr. Kilgore smacks of a partisan ploy analogous to a boxer in the ring throwing a punch at the opposing side. It is particularly interesting to note Mr. Trodden’s present interest in the gang issue.

When I worked in his office as a victim specialist, Mr. Kilgore — Attorney General of Virginia at the time — selected me to participate on the statewide Anti-Gang Task Force that he established about two years ago. Upon receipt of his invitation, I was honored and willing to participate. I was prohibited from doing so, however, by Mr. Trodden, who corresponded to Mr. Kilgore that he could not spare me from the office, when, in fact, he could have. Mr. Trodden’s action was an obvious and distinct insult to the attorney general, and it also suggested his unwillingness, at the time, to lend bipartisan cooperation to the gang fighting effort in Virginia.

Now that Mr. Kilgore has entered the governor’s race, Mr. Trodden appears to be using this opportunity to cast aspersions at Mr. Kilgore. Mr. Trodden stated, “My gut reaction is that gangs are unfortunately a hot button issue these days.” Historically, Mr. Kilgore has been keenly aware that gangs are a “hot button issue,” and he has been continually cognizant of the critical issues concerning gang violence and the impact of criminal victimization on communities. He has been proactive in his efforts to combat the problem. For Mr. Trodden, the bell seems now only beginning to toll.

The criticism being hurled at Mr. Kilgore is a low-blow attempt to deflect attention from Mr. Kilgore’s expertise and ability to effectively perform as governor. Broad-minded citizens with an objective focus should possess the ability to see the obvious.



The differences between Social Security and insurance

Perhaps it is just a testament to the misunderstandings involved in Social Security, but unfortunatelyPamelaMercer’s argument (“Social Security is as balanced as any insurance,” Letters, Monday) manages to miss the point of “What do you mean ‘we’ ” (Commentary, Aug. 18). She argues that Social Security is “as fair as any insurance system could be.” However, fair insurance would require that a group’s premiums cover the benefits paid to that group. And that is not even remotely true of Social Security.

Older generations got far more in benefits than they paid. Older Americans may feel that such a subsidized deal for them is perfectly fair. But my point was that in a world where there are no free lunches, that “fair” deal must be massively unfair to younger generations who are forced to pick up the multi trillion-dollar unpaid “balance” necessary to make program promises good.

In fact, rather than being insurance, this aspect of Social Security acts more like reverse life insurance. In normal life insurance, people pay so that they will leave more for those who outlive them; but Social Security has given more money to those older at the expense of their heirs.


Professor of economics

Pepperdine University

Malibu, Calif.

Pamela Mercer’s Monday letter concerning Gary Galles’ commenatry argues that those who pay higher Social Security taxes subsidize those who pay less and highlights the dire need for more facts and less spin.

The argument that Social Security is like auto or health insurance is well off the mark. Here’s an example of how insurance works: Everyone who drives a car must have insurance. If 5 percent wreck their cars, insurance guarantees they’ll not be burdened with paying 100 percent of costs. The other 95 percent spread the risk of costs incurred by these 5 percent across a large population resulting in reasonably low insurance premiums.

Imagine how high auto insurance premiums would be if you were guaranteed to be paid for your car after… oh… say six years, regardless of its condition. Imagine if that guarantee was for a brand-new car, not “actual cash value” for your old one. Now that’s how Social Security works.

All participants are paid when they reach retirement age regardless of financial need. Tomorrow’s benefit recipients are paid based on future inflation and wage-growth rates, not on the amount that they paid in today and yesterday.

In support of Mr. Galles’ commentary, with auto or health insurance the amount of coverage received is generally directly related to the premium paid. If I want more, I pay more.

If I wreck my car the insurance company does not give me more because I paid less in premiums. They’d go out of business if they did… and that’s what will happen to Social Security unless we change it.


California, Md.

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