- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

Applauding Bank of America

We are writing in response to your report that Bank of America is offering credit cards to individuals with no Social Security card or credit history (“Bank of America,” Editorial, Friday). We are very excited about the bank’s progressive action, which will create a stronger and more diverse economy in the United States.

However, we strongly caution consumers to make informed decisions when pursuing these opportunities. Bank of America should openly communicate and educate about the fees and interest rates of their cards and provide adequate financial literacy education to consumers. We also implore the financial sector to continue seeking alternative credit evaluation criteria that go beyond credit score, in order to set interest rates that more accurately reflect the real risk of serving clients with no mainstream credit history.

We applaud Bank of America’s commitment to making credit, and therefore personal financial growth, more accessible to all consumers. Ultimately, this will help immigrants to our country integrate themselves into the formal economy, stimulating new job creation and economic growth.

But the bank should also assume partial responsibility for consumers’ financial security. It is vitally important that financial literacy education accompany these credit opportunities. The population that Bank of America’s program targets is one with limited knowledge of the credit system in the United States. Without being educated about the risks they assume with a credit card and the importance of timely repayment, consumers can easily become trapped in a cycle of debt that will prevent them from making a measurable contribution to our economy.

Bank of America has before it an opportunity to help people stabilize and secure their finances so they can plan for expenses like groceries, medical costs and college tuition, instead of managing them as they arise, which can result in high interest fees and a ruined credit history.

We hope that banks in the Washington area follow this lead and that Bank of America will keep the financial security of its clients in mind and provide the proper amount of education, in the languages best understood by its clients so people can build wealth for their families.

MANUEL HIDALGO

Executive Director

Latino Economic Development

Corporation

Washington

Health insurance for children

We should be embarrassed that in this wealthiest nation we have more than 9 million children without regular health-care access (“U.S., Britain rank the lowest in child welfare,” World, Thursday). Most are in families in which at least one parent is working. Two-thirds of these children are eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), but are not enrolled because the program is underfunded.

Our children do not have health insurance. We set criteria for eligibility to insure them and then we do not fund the program. This is cynicism at its worst.

DR. L. R. DONOHUE

Palm Springs, Calif.

The NFLand the Border Patrol ad

Regarding Diana West’s column Friday (“What didn’t happen at the Super Bowl,” Op-Ed), we have absolutely no problem taking advertising from the Department of Homeland Security or the Border Patrol, just as we have taken ads from the armed services for many years.

In fact, we already have contacted the Department of Homeland Security and offered to take an ad for the Border Patrol in next year’s Super Bowl program.

What happened this year is that we suggested some relatively minor modifications in the text of the ad, which is common practice, and never heard back from our ad sales representatives. Had there been further dialogue with our office about the ad, we are sure that we would have quickly resolved these minor language issues. We have great respect for the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol and the important work done by each.

We look forward to the opportunity to work with them in the future.

GREG AIELLO

Vice President of Public Relations

National Football League

New York

Mandating the HPV vaccine

Last month, an article in The Washington Times last month sounded a warning about how politicians in several states and the District might abuse citizens’ rights in mandating a new vaccine to protect against HPV (human papillomavirus) (“Socializing sexual risk,” Commentary, Jan. 19).

While most of us have welcomed the HPV vaccine as a tool to mitigate the effects of a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer, we must also recognize that vaccine mandates hold the potential for undermining civil rights, and parental rights in particular. That’s why readers should take note that the Virginia Senate is considering a bill (SB 1230) to mandate the new HPV vaccine for Virginia’s sixth-graders — boys as well as girls — by September 2008.

Arguments in favor of mandating any vaccine include setting into motion policies and programs that can make the vaccine more accessible to underserved populations. These anticipated benefits must be carefully weighed, however, against the vaccine’s record of performance and risks, as well as the crucially important rights of parents. As the Supreme Court noted in a landmark 1963 decision in Sherbert v. Verner, the onus regarding vaccine mandates is on the state — not on parents.

A bill similar to the Virginia Senate version has already passed the House and includes a provision for parents to opt out — but only if the vaccine “conflicts with his religious tenets or practices.” What about conscientious objections on non-religious grounds, or on the basis of a review of the health data?

The House bill allows that objecting parents “may elect, on an appropriate form prescribed by the [State Board of Health Regulations for the Immunization of School Children], for his child not to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine.” Anyone who has ever prepared a tax return knows how easily bureaucratic forms can translate into unreasonable burdens on citizens.

In the House legislation, parents have to prove to the state that they have read state-provided material “describing the link between the human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.” Yet nothing in the bill requires balanced and objective treatment of the vaccine’s risks as well as benefits, so the material could conceivably amount to pharmaceutical propaganda.

Parents, who have the right to control the health care of their children, should not have to prove to the state that they have read the state’s incomplete explanation about the vaccine in order to opt out of a vaccine mandate. In those rare cases where voluntary vaccination will not suffice and a vaccine mandate is deemed essential in the interest of public health, any opt-out should be extremely simple to minimize the potential for violating individual civil rights.

The health data so far indicate that the HPV vaccine appears to be an effective option for preventing cervical cancer. Let’s make sure our legislators keep it that way.

JONATHAN IMBODY

Senior Policy Analyst

Christian Medical Association, Washington Office

Ashburn, Va.

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