August 24, 2008

Lowering drinking age bad for public health

The Baltimore Sun has it right, and I had it wrong.

The Baltimore Sun editorialized on Wednesday that "the legal drinking age of 21 should remain" ("Binge drinking challenge," Aug. 20). As a legislator in the 1970s and 1980s, I supported the drinking age of 18.

In the 1970s, the argument persuading legislators to lower the drinking age to 18 was the slaughter in Vietnam. Children were being drafted to fight for their country. How could you tell them they are old enough to die but not old enough to drink?

In the 1980s, the argument for raising the age came largely from high school educators who reasoned that high school drinking is better controlled with the higher age.

A 21-year-old is out of the high school scene and is less likely than an 18-year-old to be purchasing alcohol for younger people.

Well, here we are in 2008 and some college educators seem to want to send the drinking problem back to high school ("Drinking age call draws outrage," Aug. 20).

They have it wrong. Since the votes on the drinking age in the 1970s and 1980s, things have changed. And there is now indisputable evidence that a higher drinking age cuts the rate of death and injury on the highways.

Binge drinking is a suicidal, individual choice whose impact falls on the individual.

Drunken driving is a societal problem that puts everyone using the highways at risk.

I call upon these college educators to join me in admitting they were wrong and to try strategies other than raising the drinking age to solve binge drinking.

Theodore Levin, Pikesville

The writer is a former member of the House of Delegates.

'Outrage' over proposal curbs healthy debate

The Baltimore Su n's article "Drinking age call draws outrage" (Aug. 20), which reports on a proposal by some university administrators to consider repealing the law that allows Congress to penalize states for setting the legal drinking age at less than 21, quotes Dr. Henry Wechsler's claim that the effort is simply an attempt to rid themselves of a "nuisance."

The editorial "Binge drinking challenge" (Aug. 20) called that effort a "facile dodge."

This bunch of facile dodgers now includes 107 college and university presidents, including those of Colgate University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Tufts University and the Johns Hopkins University. Why all this "outrage" over college presidents simply proposing a public debate about a solution to a serious problem?

Outrage is often a reaction without reflection, a shortcut that bypasses thought.

Let's have the debate, and do something more than just question the motives and sincerity of the people who back the proposal.

Jeffry D. Mueller, Eldersburg

Pay scale for executives spins way out of control

One need to look no further than the chart published with the article "Top-paid executives" (Aug. 17) to see that our economic system has run amok.

The obscene earnings of these businessmen show that the drumbeat heard since the Reagan administration - deregulation is good and the free market will cure all ills - is wrong.

Regulation, particularly of public utilities, is absolutely essential to making capitalism a system that works for everyone.

Susan Detwiler, Baltimore

Insulting the disabled is simply unacceptable

The film Tropic Thunder features a character named "Simple Jack" who has an intellectual disability and because of it is an object of derision throughout the film ("Protesters aim anger at war farce," Aug. 14). As someone who has worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for more than 40 years, I take this degrading depiction to heart.

The use of terms such as "retard," "imbecile" and "moron" and the use of caricature in the depiction of an individual with intellectual disabilities are simply unacceptable.

The portrayal of "Simple Jack" simply serves to perpetuate stereotypes and further stigmatize people with intellectual disabilities.

It will make it even more difficult for them to secure housing, employment and the other fundamentals they need to live life to the fullest of their ability.

Stephen H. Morgan, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Arc of Baltimore.

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