- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 9, 2006

A ‘living wage’ for illegals?

Who says crime doesn’t pay? The writer of the column That’s Politics is missing a bigger story in the “Bill of rights” item (Metropolitan, Monday) about the proposed bill demanding a living wage for immigrant and illegal alien domestic workers in Montgomery County. How can the Montgomery County Council be led down the road by CASA even to think about a bill of rights for illegal aliens?

The people of Montgomery County can’t legally hire illegal aliens. All domestic workers and employers must pay part or all of Social Security, pay into the workers’ compensation fund, keep records and issue W-2 forms. Illegal aliens don’t have Social Security numbers. I can’t believe the Montgomery County Council would reward people who break the law. Let the rich of Montgomery County comply with the laws of the IRS and keep good books. Don’t spend taxpayers’ money on illegal aliens’ rights. I’m interested to see how County Council President George L. Leventhal will implement this policy.

JIM DAWSON

Clinton

Defending ‘hate speech’

In a recent letter to the editor, Stephen A. Silver writes, “In the United States, a program glorifying a child’s venomous references to any racial, ethnic, religious or other group would be universally condemned for its promotion of hate.” I beg to differ with his statement (“Scapegoating Israel,” Monday).

Progressives and liberals would fight to the death for any such program. American Civil Liberties Union lawyers would cite the freedom of speech clause of the Constitution as guaranteeing such hate speech to be acceptable discourse in the liberal-dominated society we supposedly enjoy. Hate, to the liberal mind, is as much a human trait as breathing. The “progressive” would go to any country, whether friend or foe of the United States, and defend programs designed to foster hatred for any group under the guise of speech tolerance. To the liberal: Beware what you wish for; it can bite you where you least expect it.

CHRISTOPHER KIGER

Westminster, Md.

False promises on Social Security

When David Sloane says needed reforms for Social Security and health care programs are simply “fixing a leaky sink,” he shows how far off base the AARP is when it comes to protecting our children and grandchildren from the future ravages of present-day retirement and health-care promises (“AARP’s Social Security stance,” Commentary, Sunday).

Both programs are ticking time bombs, not leaky sinks. They are built on unfillable promises by past and present politicians who immediately spent excess payroll-tax revenues on “bridges to nowhere” and other pork to stay in office without regard to what will happen when their empty promises come due for payment.

Mr. Sloane, the AARP’s government affairs director, worries that personal accounts would “divert one-third of workers’ payroll taxes each year from paying promised benefits.” However, Congress has “diverted,” and is still “diverting,” a substantial portion of those payroll taxes into the general revenue stream to pay for other current spending. Surely Mr. Sloane is aware that present payroll-tax collections are well in excess of current benefit payments and are not saved, but are put into the general spending stream to finance pork-barrel spending or to pretend to lower the deficit. The “loss of Social Security revenues” from setting up a system of personal accounts would be a loss to the pork spenders in Congress, not to retirees.

Mr. Sloane worries that personal accounts would remove Social Security income guarantees, but he knows full well that there is no guarantee those benefits will be paid and that the supposed “trust fund” is a sham. No Congress can commit a future Congress. Future benefits will be paid from future annual revenues, just as they are now, and the cost of those future benefits will continue to escalate. Collecting increased taxes now will not put more money in the till to pay future benefits.

Mr. Sloane suggests that personal accounts will require workers to take on more risk in the pension and savings areas, when actually there could be less risk. Every young person today knows the risk is very high that promised future benefits are unlikely to be there by the time he or she reaches retirement age. Today we have three workers paying for each retiree’s benefits. That tax burden will increase by 50 percent when we have just two workers paying for each retiree’s benefits. Does Mr. Sloane really believe Congress will enact, or future workers will accept, a 50 percent increase in payroll taxes when that time comes?

Rather than relying on Congress to keep increasing taxes on fewer and fewer workers to pay for increased benefits for more and more retirees, personal accounts would provide income to reduce the benefits outflow, without reducing the net benefits to each retiree. The “risk” Mr. Sloane worries about is that personal accounts might actually increase future retiree benefits.

Social Security may be “the bedrock of financial security for today’s retirees,” but it certainly will not be the bedrock of financial security for retirees beginning in 2016 or 2017 when the Wizard of Oz curtain hiding the fictitious “trust funds” begins to be pulled back for everyone to see there is nothing there.

GORDON O.F. JOHNSON

Adjunct scholar

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

Alexandria

The importance of smoke alarms

The story “Residential sprinklers prove their value” (Home Guide, July 28) would have been greatly enriched and made more accurate by including the point of view taken by all members of the fire safety community: Smoke alarms save lives.

The reason single-family homes are the “one level of occupancy” that most communities have excluded from mandatory fire-sprinkler regulations is that the first line of defense is working smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms are the most effective tool for preventing death and injury from fire because they enable residents to escape from their homes long before the sprinklers activate.

The focus of communities nationwide should be getting smoke alarms in all homes, not just sprinklers in new ones. Get Alarmed South Carolina, a smoke-alarm distribution effort, has resulted in more than a 50 percent drop in fire deaths in that state since its inception in 1988.

Preventing fires, not just suppressing fires, is the first line of defense, and home builders are working hard in this effort. Improved electrical and heating systems and better framing and fire-blocking techniques have made new homes safer than ever.

It’s also not true that “hundreds” of jurisdictions nationwide require fire sprinklers. Exactly 87 cities and counties in the United States mandate home fire sprinklers in new-home construction.

Mandating fire sprinklers in new single-family construction will quickly price thousands of potential buyers out of the American dream of homeownership and will not get us closer to eliminating deaths from house fires. Let’s fix the real problem and make sure that all existing homes have working smoke alarms.

JERRY HOWARD

Chief executive officer and

executive vice president

National Association of Home Builders

Washington

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