No Free Lunch
There is no free lunch, but we all would like it served that way every day. The truth is that there is always a price tag, and sometimes we find ourselves gagging on that cost long after the free goodies are gone.
Since 1979 Baltimore City residents with Medicare cards who have been lucky enough to know about it have received totally free medical and ancillary medical services. These freebies include no deductible, no co-insurance Medicare, complete dental care including dentures, free prescriptions, discount eyeglasses and free foot care -- even non-covered services such as toenail trimming.
The harsh facts are that these freebies were never free. The American taxpayer, including, I might add, Medicare recipients who have not been aware of these free services, have always paid and continue to pay the bill. The cost? The program has cost the taxpayers so far $190 million.
What are the other costs? The communities like Highlandtown, which were targeted for these free clinics, have lost physicians, dentists, podiatrists and pharmacists over the years.
All doctors are small businessmen. When the government goes into competition with small business by giving away for free what the other business must charge for, in effect the government destroys those businesses or at least drives them away.
Some day these clinics may lose the special government subsidies. I am hopeful there will still be some medical practices left to take care of those people who continue to enjoy their free lunch.
I take issue with Peter Jay's cavalier treatment of a serious problem in "Riding Herd on the Cattle Culture" (July 12). His arguments for beef cattle farming in a world of starving people holds about as much water as the Colorado River by the time it gets to Mexico.
Much of the Colorado's water is diverted for feed grain farming. In California a third of all irrigation waters this crop. Aquifers in other Western states are falling, and in the Midwest huge beef feedlots are depleting the Ogallala aquifer.
Tropical forests in many equatorial climates have been sacrificed to cattle grazing. In Latin America since 1950, 50 million acres of rain forest have been converted to pasture, according to the Worldwatch Institute.
Often the price of grain is driven upward in these countries by cattle ranchers -- out of reach of the indigenous peoples who simply want to feed themselves and their families. Enormous projects funded by the World Bank in Africa and in Latin America have served only to widen the gap between haves and have-nots.
Strong forces contest the rights to fresh water throughout the world. Much of livestock's gain is humanity's loss.
I am writing in reference to Daniel Berger's July 4 article, "Zebra Watch at the Baltimore Zoo." Mr. Berger refers to the "careful and lush horticulture inside the fence contrasting with the ever-larger swaths of unmowed grass outside it." This statement implies that we in the Bureau of Parks are not doing our job.
In fact, we are intentionally leaving areas of Druid Hill and other parks unmowed. Our reasons are many, but the most important is to improve the environment by returning unused open areas back to forests. In some areas, this process is being hurried by the planting of tree seedlings. In others, this process is happening by natural succession.
Signs are being developed which will offer an explanation. These will be installed soon.
Calvin P. Buikema
The writer is superintendent of parks for Baltimore City.
All-Day Kindergarten -- For the Few
This letter will express my outrage at the decision made by Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, the Baltimore County Council, the Baltimore County school board, and the new school superintendent, Dr. Stuart Berger, to institute all-day kindergarten in 32 selected schools in Baltimore County.
The reason for my anger, as you may have guessed, is that the school at which my daughter will be attending kindergarten was not among this chosen few.
When I called the Baltimore County school board to protest this action, I was directed to Judy Edgar, a very nice woman who informed me that she would pass my message on to the superintendent.
She also told me that one of the reasons my daughter's school was not chosen was that it was already overcrowded, and that overcrowding was one criterion that would disqualify a school from the all-day kindergarten program. Also, they are not allowing transfers to schools with the all-day program, except for hardship cases.
A call to the county executive's office resulted in a referral to Nick Spinnato, who informed me that the executive's office supported the program.
He could not, however, tell me when the overcrowding conditions at my daughter's school would be alleviated so that we, too, could have the benefits of this program.