Perot forces tough look at U.S. debtWhatever...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Perot forces tough look at U.S. debt

Whatever you may think of Ross Perot, whatever may be his fate in this very uniquely different election year, one thing has to be agreed to by all.

His presence has forced our pseudo public servants to address an issue (our national debt and deficit budget) that is political suicide.

He has also forced the American public to take a good hard look at what it means to perpetually spend more money than we take in. It is not pleasant, and should we continue along the lines of deficit spending, it is not difficult to imagine us going from the debtor status we unfortunately find ourselves in today to a pauper nation.

If we don't take the bull by the horns now, in a non-partisan effort, all of us may be gored in the not too distant future.

By forcing us into self-evaluation, regardless of how difficult the necessary solutions and medicine may be to various groups and the public in general, Mr. Perot has made us aware that the answer to our problems begins with individual and collective self-discipline and that we must all begin down the road to national salvation, a balanced yearly budget and reduction of our national debt.

We cannot do less. The alternative is to saddle future generations with an obscene debt, not of their making, that is spiraling out of control.

Personally, I don't believe that Mr. Perot has the temperament or the character to be an effective president. Certainly he has some very useful and valid ideas. However, I seriously question his ability to work with others in a non-partisan effort to seriously work out differences. I think it will be his way or the highway.

Aside from that, we owe Mr. Perot a debt of gratitude for making us all face the hard realities of a fiscal policy based on not living within our means. I think he has already accomplished his initial self-appointed challenge and mission, which was not to become president, but to get our fearless leaders to face up to and begin to resolve the issue of our national debt.

He may never be an elected public servant, but whoever said that all public servants must be elected?

Fred Tepper

Randallstown

Health care costs

Revelations about the salaries, bonuses and perks awarded to Maryland Blue Cross and Blue Shield CEO Carl Sardegna and his top executives make Canada's government-run health insurance system look very appealing by comparison.

You can bet Mr. Sardegna's counterparts in Canada do not make $850,000 a year. Nor do they enjoy $300,000 sky boxes, company-paid memberships in private golf clubs or all-expenses-paid vacation packages to the Olympic games.

Mr. Sardegna claims that rising health care costs are "extremely disturbing" to him, an utterance so preposterous as to belong in a Kafka novel.

In the past three years, during which Blue Cross subscriber rates have increased almost 100 percent, Mr. Sardegna has been taking $500 limousine trips between Baltimore and Washington.

Given the difficult times in which we live, with millions of Americans and thousands of Marylanders lacking the most basic health coverage, these frivolous self-indulgences are nothing less than a moral obscenity.

Do these people have any sense of reality at all? Is there any point beyond which they might be expected to exercise a little self-restraint? Apparently not.

What is most disturbing of all is that these profligacies have been rubber-stamped by the board of directors, which is a virtual "Who's Who" among Maryland's business elite.

It is hard to believe these presumably prudent business types would ever have tolerated such excesses in their own companies; yet they had no compunction whatsoever about doing so when it came to Blue Cross. Their betrayal of the public trust is every bit as egregious as Mr. Sardegna's.

Canada's system for financing health care cannot possibly be any worse than this.

Howard Bluth

Baltimore

Let Marylanders see the Columbus exhibit

We met a tourist from California near the childhood home of Cristopher Columbus in Genoa, Italy, this summer.

She was not impressed by the narrow two-story house and complained that for an exorbitant fee all you could do was step inside, look around, then step out again.

But she exclaimed, "You will be so proud to be from Baltimore when you visit the U.S. display" at the Christopher Columbus international exhibition. "It's all about Baltimore's harbor and the Chesapeake Bay!"

Genoa's year-long celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by the great navigator included the international expo from April 15 to Aug. 15. Forty countries participated, furnishing their pavilions with examples of their contributions and voyages of discovery.

The U.S. exhibit included a multi-image slide projection, "Beyond the Horizon." Coastal waterways, Baltimore's harbor and the beauty of our river systems were illustrated, with the dangers of pollution a theme. Baltimoreans would enjoy seeing this show. I hope it will be made available to large numbers of our citizens in public festivities or, perhaps, at the next Maryland State Fair.

The Italian exhibit included a new aquarium, designed by the Cambridge Seven, whose work is familiar to us in our National Aquarium in Baltimore. Although, not completed for the expo, it will be Europe's largest aquarium, with 150 species of fish swimming in 4.5 million liters of water.

Other tourist attractions in the historical port area are the restored Banco San Giorgio (the first bank in the world), churches with black and white striped facades, and palaces housing art exhibits. Medieval arcades border the Piazza Caricamento (literally, "unloading place") and narrow, winding streets pass between ancient gates to the historical center of the city.

The parallels between the resurgence of Genoa's old port as a tourist attraction and the rebirth of the Inner Harbor in her sister city of Baltimore are startling.

I wonder why we haven't heard more about the energy with which the people of Genoa have attempted to improve their economy and develop the tourism industry in their city.

When I called the offices of our state representatives for further information about the regional theme expressed in the U.S. exhibit, they were not aware of the expo.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke's and maestro David Zinman's portraits were included in the display, appearing as our ambassadors before millions of visitors from every continent. Shouldn't more of us in Baltimore have been aware of our contribution to the international community?

Joyce D. Holmes

Hunt Valley

City flight

Your news article on Sept. 29 "City pinched as its citizens' incomes drop" makes my blood pressure rise.

I am no economist, but in the past four or five years I have known of many families that work in the city who move to the county once their children are of school age.

This is no accident. This city needs to wake up to the fact that our schools could become "calling cards" for residents with very taxable incomes.

You do not mention the schools as one of the reasons for flight from the city.

I think it is a big one.

I dream of the day that my county friends can say, "We're moving back to the city for the schools." And along with them will come their taxable salaries.

Regina Franco

Baltimore

Clearing the air

George Bush has a lot of nerve planning to visit Baltimore to dedicate a veterans' hospital. I'm not surprised he chickened out.

As a veteran who suffers from respiratory illness, I am tired of Mr. Bush's empty promises to clean up air pollution. The only thing he cares about is kowtowing to the irresponsible polluters who give him big campaign contributions.

Even when the weather is nice and the pollution is not so bad, I have a hard time getting my breath sometimes. In the summer, with the heat and humidity and pollution, I can barely catch my breath.

George Bush has done nothing for me and everything for the polluters. On Nov. 3, I'm voting for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. I believe the Clinton-Gore team will help all of us breathe a little easier.

John C. Houser Jr.

Baltimore

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