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Letters to the Editors

Debt reduction is more sensible than a tax cut

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 1999


Re: Getting a handle on our debt, by David S. Broder, Feb. 7.

As a registered Republican, I am deeply bothered by the conservative wing of the party's insistence on a tax cut as the main, if not the only, platform that they can espouse.

My background includes a degree in economics from Princeton, where Paul Volcker was a classmate. At that time, the principle of compound interest was so simple and well-understood that I never remember it being a topic of serious discussion. I have noted over the intervening years that a great number of citizens have become aware of the power of this simple tool.

While David Broder does not use the term "compound interest" in his article about reducing our debt, it is but a simple manipulation of the concept to apply it to compound debt reduction. For every dollar we reduce the national debt, we free up another nickel or so in the next year for debt reduction. Compounded over a few years, this multiplier becomes a powerful force.

This would reverse Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's idea of geometrically rising interest costs to the much more conservative idea of geometrically declining interest costs. Doing so might ultimately lead to a real opportunity to reduce taxes or increase programs.

I will admit to using the word "conservative" above because I strongly believe that today's so-called conservatives do not really understand the meaning of the word. Their real concern is to conserve what they have, and the country be damned. I myself would like to conserve this wonderful country of ours for those who will come after us.
-- Samuel E. Englehart (professor emeritus, Department
of Business Technologies, Dutchess Community College,
State University of New York), Clearwater

A 10 percent cut helps everyone

Shame on those rascally Republicans! They've got the liberals all in a tizzy again over their 10 percent across-the-board tax-cut proposal.

For instance, Bill Press of CNN's Crossfire recently displayed an exhibit showing that the 10 percent tax cut would grant, on average, only a $99 tax reduction to average taxpayers with income under $38,000. But -- horrors! -- taxpayers who reported over $300,000 income would have an average tax reduction of $20,000.

Press condemned this "inequity" as "welfare for the rich."

Of course, if a 10 percent tax cut for those families earning under $38,000 averages only $99, then the average tax paid by those families is only $990. On the other hand, if taxpayers earning over $300,000 would get a $20,000 tax cut, this means that those taxpayers paid an average of $200,000 in taxes.

A 10 percent cut for the goose is also a 10 percent cut for the gander.

Socialists evidently think that the average $38,000 taxpayer who now pays $990 in taxes should receive not the 10 percent of the amount he paid, or $99, but the 10 percent tax cut due those who have been paying an average of $200,000 in taxes. Conversely, those taxpayers who have been paying that $200,000 in taxes should receive not their 10 percent tax cut but only $99. It's only "fair"!

Democrats have problems not only with the truth and justice but with math. In actuality, most Democrats feel that no one deserves to keep any more of his hard-earned money.
-- Vernon D. Andrews, Spring Hill

A sad commentary

Re: 3 GOP senators support acquittal, Feb. 11.

The blurb under this headline said: "The defections suggest that one or perhaps both articles of impeachment will not garner a simple majority."

What a sad day for the citizens of this great country, and what a sad commentary on the moral character of senators who believe that lying under oath and inducing others to lie to cover up lies are acceptable behaviors for the president of the United States.

And how can the people who participate in those polls showing they support President Clinton and want him to remain in office square this belief with the violation of his solemn oath to uphold and enforce the laws of the nation? What remains of our justice system when witnesses -- especially the president -- can appear in our courts and, under oath, deliberately lie?

Bill Clinton is a man who according to reliable and responsible researchers has, along with his wife, lived on the edge of the law for most of his adult life. Considering his known background, one has to wonder if those who voted for him have ever read the newspapers or the many published reports of the shenanigans connected with the Clintons in Arkansas. This pattern of lies, obfuscation -- and, yes, arrogance -- has continued during his presidential administration.

If this behavior is condoned, the office of the presidency will have been dealt a mortal blow.
-- Raymond P. Warrell, St. Petersburg

A mockery of a trial

Re: President Clinton's trial.

Congratulations to the U.S. Senate. The senators have managed to make a mockery of the trial process by not calling live witnesses for both sides so that they could be questioned and cross-examined.

At the beginning of this trial, all the senators signed an oath book, promising to act as impartial jurors. Instead they chose to act as partisan politicians, ignoring the spirit of the Constitution.
-- David F. Neil, Clearwater

A lynch job

Well, finally this travesty of justice, this impeachment trial, is coming to an end. Let me tell you, the next election will definitely be my time.

If the American public has ever witnessed an absolute lynch job, this was it.

Wake up, America. We need people in elective office who refuse to be political puppets. Partisanship be damned.
-- G.R. Sweeney, Holiday

Physicians were treated unjustly

Re: Doctors agree to settle managed-care lawsuit.

This article by Larry Dougherty in the Jan. 27 St. Petersburg Times regarding Tampa surgeons accused of anti-trust violations in dealings with managed care firms fails to tell the correct story. This courageous group of 29 physicians actually responded to a unilateral, arbitrary change in their contracts by managed care companies, which reduced their rate of reimbursement. The terms of the contracts were so repressive that they had individually elected to resign.

Physicians have no bargaining power with managed care contracting. They are routinely forced to "take it or leave it" and, in this instance, they elected to leave it. All physicians have the right to resign from exceedingly bad contracts, and this is what happened with the Federation of Certified Surgeons.

These billion-dollar managed care companies have huge advantages over physicians. They control and market through exclusive contracting, and they have access to expensive legal advice. When they fail to control a physician's practice, the next step is to misuse anti-trust laws and manipulate the Justice Department to bludgeon doctors into submission. The very anti-trust laws originally enacted to protect individual consumers against monopolistic firms, such as Standard Oil and U.S. Steel, are now being used by insurance companies to intimidate individual practitioners. Independent physicians, or a small group of physicians, simply do not have the financial resources to seek justice. The Justice Department acts as prosecutor, jury and judge, guaranteeing that there is no justice.

These physicians did not receive increased payments in 1997. They simply refused to accept decreased reimbursement. It is alleged that employers had to pay higher rates to cover this non-existent increase in reimbursement. It is a fact that Florida has the lowest rates of reimbursement for physicians in the country and, at the same time, has the highest rates of premium costs. Therefore, there is obviously no relationship between physician reimbursement and the rates of health care insurance. These rates are set by managed care companies to guarantee excess profits which are often used to pay obscene CEO salaries, topped off by Steve Wiggins, the CEO of the failed Oxford Health Care Plan, who received $29-million in compensation for 1996.

In order to have a fair and equitable playing field, it is necessary to support legislation, such as the Norwood and Campbell bills, which are being introduced in Congress to correct the abuses of managed care.
-- Michael A. Wasylik, M.D., vice president, Hillsborough
County Medical Association, Tampa

A questionable Medicare reform idea

Re: Medicare reform has a sound model, by Robert Moffit, Jan. 30.

This column supported the Medicare commission's proposal for reforming Medicare by making it a program similar to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

It is apparently believed that having the government pay up to 75 percent of the premium cost for one out of as many as 24 private plans selected by the beneficiaries will make that possible. This may not be as practical a solution as the commission is inclined to believe.

For example, under the provisions of the 1997 balanced budget legislation, Medicare beneficiaries -- many of whom barely understand the basics of the "old" system -- have just been introduced to some dramatic changes that give them six different options. And now there could be 24?

In an editorial some six to seven months ago, you wrote that the trustees of the Medicare trust fund said that at least 20 percent of Medicare subscribers have Alzheimer's disease or other mental disabilities that make it difficult for them to even understand these six new options. In addition, the editorial further stated that surveys by the U.S, Department of Education have estimated that another 40 percent of the nation's senior citizens have a limited ability to read or understand written materials.

This means that the remaining 40 percent are expected to be able to make sense out of what you have described as the "unintelligible gibberish" in the so-called Medicare guide book.

Two questions that logically arise are: 1. Is the commission, whose assignment is nearing completion, in tune with reality and 2. for whose benefit has its proposal been designed?

And these two are only for openers!
-- Nathan L. Belkin, Clearwater

Hopes dashed by her HMO

It's wonderful that there is a new drug available for those of us who suffer every day with arthritis and joint pain, a drug that comes without the side effects of stomach inflammation.

But, don't get your hopes up if you are enrolled in an HMO. My doctor gave me a prescription for it. I rushed to the pharmacy, could hardly wait to get it, and guess what?

My HMO wouldn't pay for it. Aren't HMOs great! It seems to me that no matter what medication your doctor prescribes for you, your HMO has the final say as to whether you can have it or not.
-- Linda Gavel, Palm Harbor

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