Editor: Your editorial June 4, "Jobless Benefits Standoff," was probably considered not very amusing by Maryland workers who live on a week-to-week basis because of low incomes. The suggestion that the jobless and their hungry children should wait four weeks before becoming eligible for insurance benefits is surely on a par with Jonathan Swift's proposal that the English working men should survive the hard times by eating their babies. At least, he was ironical, whereas you seem to be serious.
Maryland, like most states, has gutted the unemployment insurance law by reducing the employers' tax almost to zero and disqualifying two-thirds of the unemployed. National reform of the law which would apply to all states is desperately needed and needed now. Rep. Thomas Downey's bill would do the job and should be enacted.
Philip H. Van Gelder.
The writer is chairman of the Maryland AFL-CIO Unemployment Committee.
Editor: Regarding your letter from a Penn State nuclear engineer about the improved safety record of nuclear power plants and their environmental advantages over fossil fuels, will someone please tell me what is to be done with the tons of highly radioactive waste, deadly for thousands of years, that these "safe" nuclear power plants generate and store on-site every year.
I have heard shooting it up in rockets toward the sun (recall the Challenger), burying it in salt mines (we can design containment canisters that salt will not corrode even after thousands of years), and making pellets and entombing them in concrete. No one in the industry or Congress has shown the courage to face the question of nuclear waste disposal. No one had the courage to face the S & L crisis until it was too late and guess who's paying to bail them out. Guess who's paying right now to clean up Rocky Flats, Hanford and Savannah River nuclear waste dumps. Guess who's going to pay to clean up Calvert Cliffs' on-site nuclear waste storage area.
Editor: In George Will's column of May 30, "The Poor Need Uplift, Not Excuse," the "uplift" prescribed by Will for the non-working poor includes "restoration of the moral environment which the poor live; a program to energize the passive, dysfunctional poor to take responsibility for themselves -- to work, marry, obey the law; the enforcement of values; strict child support, codes of conduct for occupants of public housing, authoritarian schools that stress discipline, even dress codes, and high expectations rather than claims of victimization; work requirements for welfare recipients." Will says we need "paternalistic policies" to practice on behalf of the non-working poor. The liberal or maternal approach, he concludes, has been not only ineffectual, but also corruptive because it causes and perpetuates dependency, demoralization and irresponsibility.
Assuming, arguendo, that Will's argument has some merit, we ** must then ask whether the state could successfully use its power to inculcate these values by means of the paternalistic or punitive approach. Would such an approach cause the nonworking poor to shape up, move into the work force and become responsible? The answer might be yes, if they did not rebel and retaliate; if they had the education, training and ability; if racial discrimination were eliminated; and if the job and commensurate wage opportunities were available. But Will is not interested in these "ifs."
Lawrence B. Coshnear.
Fans as Owners
Editor: Why don't baseball fans in Maryland buy the Baltimore Orioles? Imagine the fun we could have and the pride we could help restore to the team if we took charge of the fate of our favorite summer diversion. The organization's general management could hardly be worse off.
Do we need to depend on the governor and another short-term owner to negotiate a sale to make another rich person richer? Why don't we enrich ourselves and make the Orioles truly a family affair? If there is insufficient support in the Free State, we could extend the range of ownership to Virginia, Delaware and the Susquehanna region of Pennsylvania. Fifteen million people live in the watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay.
If necessary, we could find a bank to help finance this new state and regional project and to provide the necessary financial expertise. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was built that way. How about an imaginative 20th-century enterprise to match that 19th-century effort.
Why not build a real "field of dreams?" Frostburg State University was started through small donations from western Maryland coal miners. Let's take a lesson from that grass roots effort and pledge $50 or more to rebuild something else of great state value.
John B. Wiseman.
Editor: I enjoyed Daniel Berger's May 25 Opinion * Commentary column, "What Schools Don't Need Is Another Revolution." The recitation of the many experiments and tinkering by the educational bureaucracy at taxpayers' expense makes me wonder if they haven't been attempting to deal with the symptoms rather than the "disease."
It occurs to me that to do the latter, we need to go back to the fundamental question of whose responsibility it is to educate a child. Certainly in the Soviet Union I would expect the answer to be the state, but hardly in America.
This country was founded on the ideal of individual rights and responsibilities, so the answer for us is not the state but the child's parents. True, a democracy's existence depends on citizens fulfilling their responsibilities in every area, particularly the education of their young. But properly it is an individual's responsibility, not his or her government's.
Starting from that premise, it seems evident to me that there is a fundamental structural contradiction in the government actually running schools (as opposed to requiring that education occur). It is a far cry from requiring that citizens be educated to actually running school systems.
For one thing, if the government was purely in a regulatory mode, it could hold parents accountable for non-educated children much more readily than it can now when its role is confused by being both regulator and deliverer of educational services.
Not only is it terribly inefficient but it intrudes on a responsibility that is actually private (particularly if you believe that education and value formation in the very young are inseparable sides of the same coin).
The "disease" then is that government-run schools are no better at delivering an educational product which reflects the cultural diversity and pluralistic value systems of a democracy than government-run farms have been in delivering goods to the Russian people. What schools don't need is that which they already have -- a socialistic educational system.
Let the taxpayers build the facilities. Let the government set minimum standards of educational achievement and insure that tuition rates are so regulated as to not outstrip the public funds made available to the poor through the welfare system for education. But let the parents and the teachers in the classrooms run the schools.
John D. Schiavone.
Editor: May I suggest the following ad be placed in the classified section of The Sun:
FOR SALE: Major league baseball franchise. Great investment opportunity -- Guaranteed profits. Includes two stadiums with sky boxes for presidents, queens and selected Washington celebrities -- all expenses paid by Baltimore taxpayers.
AFranchise also includes budget-minded front office, consisting of trained young professionals, with expertise in floppy hat and seat cushion promotions. Team need not be competitive -- low salary requirements.
Full cooperation of governor and state legislature regarding all owner demands. When ready to sell, full marketing assistance provided by commissioner of baseball.
Over two million loyal fans, easily intimidated, willing to pay exorbitant ticket and concession prices. Relocation threats allowed. Full media cooperation.
Owner must sell. Serious books to read.
Editor: After years of hearing city buses' brakes screech when stopping at the traffic light on North Charles Street at Franklin Street, I am still wondering if all buses have this problem, or does the city have to pay extra for this feature?