Pensions are just as sacred as foreign debtSocial Security...

the Forum

November 03, 1993

Pensions are just as sacred as foreign debt

Social Security and civil service retirement pensions have been classified as "entitlements" along with other congressionally mandated payments.

I would suggest that these programs, as well as any other that people have contributed to on promise of future payment, should properly be classified as "obligations."

The integrity of this government demands that when it promises to pay in return for the use of one's money -- whether to a Japanese bondholder or to a U.S. citizen whose vote a representative has bought -- that debt must be honored.

If it chooses to renege on one, it should renege on all. Why should interest payments to foreign investors be any more sacred than pension payments to our own citizenry?

To maintain Uncle Sam's credit rating? Sooner or later the outside investor will wise up, too, as have most of us about loaning our hard-earned money to the Washington elite.

While on my soapbox, I note that Bill Clinton's latest tactic on health security is to shed long-term care and mental health benefits to assure passage of the plan. You've got it all wrong!

Those elements are precisely the coverage that government should be helping with, not the mundane office visits to doctor a common cold or even a routine appendectomy.

Most people can cope with those expenses, but they cannot cope with a parent who has Alzheimer's disease or a child who needs continual trips to a psychiatrist, along with expensive medications to control rage or depression.

This is one Republican who is willing to support programs that cover the gaps in our system that cannot be taken care of effectively by private means -- but not a socialistic system that seeks only to reduce us all to the least common denominator.

Lloyd W. Wood

Columbia

The real world

The discovery of wonder drugs in the '50s led to the belief that the mentally ill could be released from institutions into the real world. These newly released individuals would lead happy lives and become productive, taxpaying citizens. Over the years, this policy has come to be known as deinstitutionalization.

Overall, this policy has not worked for several reasons.

First, the federal government has been shifting the responsibility for the care of released individuals to the states without providing adequate funding.

Many times, patients are released without a proper treatment plan or adequate follow-up procedures. Many of those who are released wind up on the streets or in jail as they have nowhere else to go.

Many released individuals find themselves on a merry-go-round of release, admission and release from the same institution over and over again. Public indifference to the plight of the mentally ill contributes to the magnification of the problem.

Whoever possible, the mentally ill should be treated in the community. Steps must be taken to ensure that this problem is dealt with. There must be a treatment plan in place prior to a person's release. There must be a support system set up to ensure that this plan is followed, and that it can be modified.

There must be adequate housing assistance, life training courses and job training designed for the special needs of the mentally ill.

A way must be found to fund needed programs without placing an undue burden on the American taxpayer.

Finally, there must be some sort of community interaction. This would benefit the mentally ill as they would gain confidence through working with others.

The public would benefit as they would come to know the mentally ill as someone worth knowing.

Christine Barth

Pasadena

Vicious cycling

I ride a bicycle several thousand miles a year, mostly about Lake Montebello, so you can be certain that I have nothing against bicyclists per se. Nor do I have any objections to bicycle races, though I never participate.

However, I do object most strenuously to irresponsible bicyclists who endanger the lives and safety of others by wantonly violating the most fundamental safety precaution. Maryland law requires bicyclists to ride on the right side of the street, in the same direction as motor traffic, and, of course, to obey one-way signs.

But far, far worse are irresponsible bicycle race officials who believe they have a God-given right to hold bicycle races on public property, i.e. around Lake Montebello, but have a public-be-damned attitude and absolutely refuse to make the least attempt to ensure public safety by requiring race participants to obey safety precautions.

When I attempt to remonstrate with these officials, while dozens of cyclists not engaged in a particular race illegally scoot around the lake in the wrong direction, I get a fast brush-off with the intimation that I am nothing but an officious, nit-picking crank.

Lake Montebello is probably the most dangerous place in Baltimore, mostly because of irresponsible bicyclists who, riding in the wrong direction, have had dozens of head-on collisions with other bicyclists and a few pedestrians.

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