Monday, May 1, 2006

Plan, park and pray

Regarding your article “Churches win reprieve on parking” (Page 1, April 24) on Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ response to the planned elimination of illegal parking on Sundays by certain churchgoers in Northwest, I have the following comments:

I applaud the mayor’s action to suspend the planned enforcement of double-parking by D.C. churchgoers. As a former resident of Northwest, I believe that the churchgoers have been parking illegally here for more than 40 years because of the unavailability of nearby parking in these neighborhoods. There is no question in my mind that the motive for this current perceived public intolerance is the insurgence of new, predominantly white, residents to this area as part of the gentrification that D.C. is currently experiencing.

My first reaction was that these newcomers can’t dictate or demand change. However, my cooler head recognizes that this probably is a big inconvenience and certainly a safety matter when patrons block fire hydrants. But it’s sad that we as a nation are not more tolerant of our brethren who are trying to worship and have enjoyed this “perk” for many decades. Nonetheless, I suppose the constituency of newcomers have made enough noise of late that change will have to come by citing violations of the coded parking laws and public safety issues that can no longer be ignored.

I am sympathetic to the churchgoers and wish that change did not have to occur, but it must. However, I am not in agreement with some of the proposed remedies that suggest churchgoers — many of them elderly — park at remote sites, walk a half mile or more to their places of worship and risk becoming victims of crime or of fatigue. I would hope that a more practical approach such as a gradual schedule of removing double-parking be implemented over a period of perhaps a year or two to allow the churchgoers to establish alternative remedies, such as car pools or church vans to better accommodate worshipers.

Whatever decision is made by city officials, let’s pray that the concerns and sensitivities of all impacted players are fully weighed, planned for and accommodated as best possible.


Alexandria, VA.

‘F’ is for faulty

In response to Carl DeMaio’s Thursday Commentary column, “What our tax dollars pay for,” Mr. DeMaio seems to be uninformed when it comes to the Perkins Loan program. His entire article is based on a faulty 2003 evaluation of which he quotes the misleading summary, apparently without reading the report.

It is wrong to state that the Federal Perkins Loan program is failing. To the millions of students who would be unable to cover books, tuition or other fees without their Perkins Loans, this program is an essential part of their financial aid without which they would be unable to stay in school.

Mr. DeMaio’s comments are based on an inappropriate and unfair evaluation by the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). A careful reading of the 27 questions and answers that make up the Perkins Loan program evaluation reveals that the whole program is rated “ineffective” because it is measured the wrong way. At least 22 of the 27 questions have nothing to do with whether the program effectively helps students, only with bureaucratic reporting and self-evaluation mechanisms.

The Perkins Loan program is a federal-state-private partnership operated by colleges and universities that PART judges as if it were a federal credit program instead of a formula-grant program. As a result, OMB wants the Department of Education to change its procedures for analyzing the program.

That has not yet happened, so PART gives the Perkins Loan program an “I” for ineffective. Amazingly, calls for elimination of Perkins Loans are not based on findings of waste or fraud, but on bureaucratic infighting. The future of a program created in 1958 that funds 700,000 students a year should not be based on a one-word conclusion of a terribly flawed analysis.



Coalition of Higher Education

Assistance Organizations


The party is over

In your editorial “Puerto Rico and statehood” (Sunday) you wonder why Republican Washington is disenchanted with Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status and is “strangely flirting with Puerto Rican statehood” while financial chaos is unfolding in San Juan because of a $738 million deficit in the commonwealth budget.

The answer is clear: Republicans have correctly identified commonwealth status as the root of this financial disaster. Puerto Rico can no longer depend on the largess of the federal government that existed during the Cold War. The party is over.

The people of Puerto Rico also are increasingly aware of their need to assume the full responsibilities of U.S. citizenship in order to share in all of its benefits. Statehood will give Puerto Rico the political stability needed to attract investors, provide real jobs and thus end its dependence on federal government handouts. Furthermore, history points to the fact that the economy of all of our previous territories had an accelerated improvement by converging into the national economy through statehood.

Your editors ignore that Puerto Rico is represented in Congress by one non-voting representative, the very capable Luis Fortuno who, contrary to your predictions of a solid Democratic 51st state, happens to be a conservative Republican highly regarded by our congressional GOP leadership.

Republicans are for statehood for the right reasons. Democracy requires that we end the 108-year history of colonialism in Puerto Rico and allow this disenfranchised U.S. territory the full political power of first-class U.S. citizenship.



Where’s America’s muscle?

I was happy to read J.T. Young’s Sunday Commentary column, “Our internal competitiveness,” especially from someone who worked at the Treasury Department, where this issue has not gotten much attention.

Mr. Young is right that America’s “unnatural” position of industrial dominance after World War II made us complacent about rivals. England was in the same situation after the Napoleonic Wars when it led the Industrial Revolution.

Indeed, much of classical economic theory took hold during this unique period. It was naively thought that the “invisible hand” would always wave the Union Jack, so a laissez-faire policy would suffice. However, by 1886, the prominent commercial lawyer Lord Penzance was warning, “Where we used to find customers, we now find rivals… prudence demands a dispassionate inquiry into the course we are pursuing, in place of a blind adhesion to a discredited theory.” Unfortunately, London did not make such an inquiry for some decades and went into long-term economic decline.

It was not until after World War I that England abandoned free trade to concentrate on developing the economic strength of its empire, but it was too late. Germany introduced industrial protection in 1879, becoming the leading European economy in a generation, with major geopolitical consequences. The United States adopted the McKinley Tariff in 1890. By 1913, the United States had become the world’s leading economy. It used its vast internal market and the energy of its entrepreneurs to create a secure foundation from which to expand into overseas markets.

The normal pattern of managed trade and national development is reasserting itself. The European Union, China, India, Japan and the United States will be the main competitors, using their home markets as their base, then battling each other in the less developed regions of the world for additional gains. U.S. policy must aim to take back what it has lost to foreign rivals at home, ending the massive import-induced trade deficit, if it is to have the strength for this crucial global struggle.


Senior fellow

U.S. Business and Industry Council


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