- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Protecting soldiers from ID theft

It’s high time that the Department of Defense end its fetish with enumerating troops and their family members with Social Security numbers (“Attacked on home front,” Nation, Monday). Every state has acted to remove Social Security numbers from driver’s licenses and other documents — why does the Department of Defense not do the same?

It’s not just a question of identity fraud risk. Soldiers are required by the Geneva Convention to disclose their military ID number to enemy troops when captured. But for captured U.S. troops, this means giving al Qaeda their confidential Social Security numbers so that terrorists can then carry out asymmetric warfare upon their finances and family. It’s time to get the Social Security numbers off military ID cards and dog tags. Now.

MIKE STOLLENWERK

Kingstowne

The asbestos trust fund

The Monday editorial, “An asbestos bust,” fails to acknowledge a few critical points regarding legislation sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, to create a trust fund that will compensate victims of asbestos exposure, while limiting the exorbitant fees currently being collected by trial lawyers through the tort system.

While the editorial contends that the fund will “go bust in a few years,” the Congressional Budget Office estimated the award value of claims to be $132 billion over the life of the fund (Table 2, CBO Cost Estimate — S. 852) meaning that the trust fund, which will consist of contributions of $140 billion, should be sufficient to cover anticipated claims.

Additionally, the argument that taxpayers might be “on the hook for huge sums of money,” is simply empty rhetoric. The funding requirements contained in the legislation are clear — contributions will come from private corporations and insurers. Taxpayers have no obligation to contribute, while small businesses are specifically excluded from having to contribute.

Finally, the editorial ignored one of the basic premises of the trust-fund legislation. In the unlikely event that claims outpace contributions and the fund becomes bankrupt, the Specter legislation requires that any existing asbestos claims revert back to the court system, eliminating the danger of a government bailout.

The trust-fund solution is the only way to ensure that the true victims of asbestos exposure receive the compensation they deserve and to prevent trial lawyers from making millions by taking advantage of victims.

KEN BOEHM

Chairman

National Legal and Policy Center

Falls Church

Subsidizing French mothers

Let me make sure I have this right: In France, the government, headed by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, has decided to provide an incentive to middle-class and upper-class women in order to encourage them to have more children (“Having a third baby really pays off for French women,” Page 1, Sept. 21).

However, this monetary incentive will not be based in any way on financial need. Actually, quite the opposite, as the figure, which will “be set at up to $1,250 a month for women with three children, double the present maximum,” will also “be set according to the woman’s salary.” It is ridiculous to make the financial incentive proportionate to a woman’s salary for numerous reasons:

First, this is an amoral form of social engineering, which appears to rely on the premise that the children of well-off women are somehow more valuable to French society than the children of women of lesser means.

It also is based on the assumption that the children of legal immigrants, primarily Muslim, to France are also worth less, as the goal of this policy is to raise the fertility rate of native-born French women to a level that is closer to that of legal Muslim immigrants. While I am in favor of tax breaks and other similar financial incentives for all legal mothers of children under 18, these incentives should be based on the number of children the women have, not on the size of the women’s salary before the child is born. Women with the highest incomes should get the smallest amount of aid, due to the fact that they need it the least.

Second, this policy assumes that women with well-paying jobs have fewer children because they do not have enough money. As the article states, there are plenty of women in France, as well as the United States, who have only one or two children because they simply did not want more or they were more interested in their careers, at least initially, and then ran out of time.

Raising children full time does seem not seem to appeal to a large proportion of women in both the United States and in Europe. However, unlike Corinne Baconnet, the French surgeon who is in favor of this new policy which would reward the most money to highly paid women like herself, I believe that there are plenty of women for whom staying at home and raising their children themselves provides a great deal of fulfillment and joy and for whom a financial incentive is not necessary. I also believe that it is better for children to be raised full time by one of their parents, rather than what usually amounts to substandard outsourcing.

In short, while encouraging mothers to be at home with their children for one year is one good aspect of this policy, I would be against a policy similar to the French model. A policy that benefits well-off mothers more than mothers in a low-income bracket is both unfair and elitist.

It also would encourage women to only raise their children full time for one year, which is not in the best interest of young children. Unlike Dr. Baconnet, who remarks that she is “from a generation of women for whom just staying at home was never an option,” I am from the same generation of women and was both able financially (with some penny pinching) and more than willing to take the option of raising my children myself; I would also never consider myself to be “just” staying home, a phrase which is insulting to full-time moms today and generations past.

JENNIFER WOLFF

Bowie

Promises alone do not make fiscal conservatives

As a fiscally conservative Republican for more than 50 years, I found Texas Rep. Tom DeLay’s attempt to obfuscate his party’s lack of fiscal responsibility (“Republicans will defend taxpayers,” Op-Ed, Monday) to be extremely offensive.

Even before the disasters due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mr. DeLay and his colleagues have shown no attempt to stop or even slow the growth of government. Witness the pork-laden transportation bill and the massive extension of entitlements in the Medicare prescription drug bill.

With the advent of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, his cavalier attempt to show some responsibility is laughable.

Talk is cheap, Mr. DeLay. If we are going to have profligate government spending, we just may as well vote for Democrats. At least then we can blame them.

JOHN BILLING

Ocean Pines

A new ‘lead agency’ for disasters

The front page Monday reports that “Bush offers Pentagon as ‘lead agency’ in disasters.” I would go one step further: Put the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the Department of Defense. As my wife and I participated in the Freedom Walk from the Pentagon to the Mall on September 11th, we could not help but notice how meticulously well-organized this event was.

FEMA obviously needs to be prepared to deal with a dirty bomb in Los Angeles International Airport or downtown Washington, and let’s hope it is, but in the event of a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster, let’s have FEMA operationally reporting to the right place: the Department of Defense.

ROBERT VAUGHAN

Towson


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