Board members didn't cause S&L failuresYour Dec. 15...


December 25, 1996

Board members didn't cause S&L failures

Your Dec. 15 article about my battle with the Resolution Trust Corp. ("Squeezed in S&L vise") missed the most important point. You implied that the failure of Baltimore Federal Financial was because of poor management and the lack of financial acumen on the part of its directors, notably me.

You failed to even mention the countless reports, including one by a presidential commission, which have concluded that the main reason for the failure of more than 2,000 savings and loans in the United States was the misguided policies of the federal government and the incompetence of federal agencies.

This is what the battle was about. Indeed, experts now conclude that if the S&Ls had been left alone most would have worked their way out of the perverse environment created by politicians and bureaucrats.

Why didn't your article mention these facts, or that this subject was so politically sensitive that important elected and appointed officials who helped create the mess (namely Sen. Donald W. Riegle Jr., D-Mich., Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md.) would not even respond to letters or calls concerning this case?

The primary fault was not with the three-hours-per-month directors or with the Bob Hechts (chairman and chief executive officer of Baltimore Federal) and other professionals who were -- mistakenly tarred with the criminal brush of a Charles Keating or Jeffrey A. Levitt. No court has concluded otherwise. At Baltimore Federal there was not a hint of fraud or self-dealing, and no depositor lost a nickel. The entire bill for this national debacle was paid by the taxpayers.

Because of the failure of the media to clarify this issue, 15,000 to 20,000 directors and staff across the country, virtually all of whom were otherwise considered conscientious citizens in their communities, continue to be judged irresponsible by many of the general public.

James L. Fisher


The writer is a former president of Towson State University and former board member of Baltimore Federal Financial.

Welfare reform and safety net

James L. Payne's Dec. 11 article shows he and the Heritage Foundation want to keep us from hearing that welfare reform, as presently constituted, will have unacceptable consequences for children and families throughout Maryland and the country.

It won't be the fault of "indolent poor people" or "mollycoddling social workers" but of our economy which, even when healthy, doesn't provide enough living-wage jobs.

Economists insist we need at least 5.5 percent unemployment to prevent inflation. With an ever smaller supply of full-time jobs and increasing numbers of people laid off, welfare reform will remove the safety net to catch those who -- despite their own best efforts and their caseworkers' -- will not find adequate jobs.

The National Association of Social Workers has championed the critical need for jobs with living wages for decades.

We hail the efforts of social worker Kerry Miciotto and officials at the Industrial Areas Foundation and BUILD, a church-based community group, which have resulted in a living wage for nearly 4,000 employees in Baltimore without hurting the economy. However, with 9 percent unemployment in the city and higher unemployment in rural parts of the state, even a living wage won't help those thousands who cannot find jobs.

Mr. Payne's characterizations of professional social workers are way off the mark. Professional social workers do not undergo four-to-eight years of advanced education to provide handouts to the poor -- they are charged to help people help themselves to responsible independence, which includes finding and holding a job.

Meg McKeon


The writer is president of the National Association of Social Workers, Maryland.

Tuition vouchers would help all

I write in support of tuition vouchers for private education, wondering if those who oppose this idea are either misinformed or have another agenda in mind.

Those taxpayers who now take their children out of the public school system, for whatever reason, are in effect paying twice for education. A few can afford it, the others make great sacrifice for their children.

If, for instance, they received back some fraction of the $4,500-to-$6,000 the state allocates for public education per student, for example $2,500, the state gets a real bargain: a residual $2,000-to-$3,500 per student.

It is argued that the best students will exit the system, leaving the lower rated or most incorrigible ones behind. This may happen, but the school system can benefit from competition and improve its performance, especially with the financial bonus that each departing student leaves behind.

By most measures the private schools do a better job of educating, and a program that enhances their enrollment can be expected to increase the average level of academic competence in our graduates and thus our next generation.

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