Giving the package a chanceThe thing that...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Giving the package a chance

The thing that worries me more than anything else is not whether the Clinton economic package will work, but whether it will ever get a chance to work.

The way the merchants of special interests are behaving it looks like the general good is being betrayed by Congress once again.

Numerous powerful senators and representatives are already demonstrating the look of someone being led around by the ring of political expediency in their collective noses.

Opposition, stoked by special interest fears, has risen like cream in unhomogenized milk.

We've heard about Sen. Daniel Moynihan's resistance to suspension of social security cost of living allowances, Sen. Sam Nunn's stance on defense cuts, others who say the cuts are not enough and yet others who say the increase in taxes is too severe.

One unwelcome voice added to this dismal display of congressional myopia is that of Maryland's own, Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

As a constituent, I have a question for the venerable Mr. Sarbanes: When will he start standing for the good of all the people of this state and stop pandering to special interests?

Federal employees have long been paid much better than their counterparts in state and private employment. Even with a pay freeze, they will still be well ahead of most other workers in take-home pay. There should be no sacred cows, Mr. Sarbanes.

Why can't we enact the president's proposed legislation and see how it works? It's the first time in generations that any American chief executive has seriously looked at the deficit with an eye to reversing a deadly pattern.

Give it a chance to work.

Donald Klein

Baltimore

Clinton's con

I believe that President Clinton's new economic plan is the PTC greatest con game to be foisted upon the American people since the last one in 1990 (George Bush's and Congress' "budget-balancing" act). What worries me the most is the apparent gullibility of the American people in falling for this latest deception.

In simplified terms, here's what's really happening:

1. Clinton has proposed spending cuts of $247 billion and new taxes of $246 billion.

2. But we must subtract his additional spending increases of $178 billion (including the "stimulus") to get net spending cuts, which gives us a temporary balance of $69 billion.

3. Then we must move $21 billion of the spending cuts which are actually new taxes to the new taxes total, yielding balances of only $48 billion in spending cuts and $267 billion in new taxes.

4. Of course, keep in mind that $77 billion of his original spending cuts came from defense, leaving an actual non-defense spending increase, not a net spending cut at all.

So it's the same old "tax and spend" economics, only camouflaged as "fair" and as a "one-for-one" ratio of cuts to taxes, and any "sacrificing" to go toward any deficit reduction will come from tax increases and defense cuts.

What we really need from Clinton is not another economic plan, but merely adherence to the truth in packaging laws.

Lowell T. Wrucke

Columbia

Headline goof

Regarding your headline "Women at home with kids found to be most depressed" (Feb. 15), you goofed.

The very last paragraph of the story said that, "most depressed of all, slightly edging out stay-at-home mothers, were mothers who work but have a hard time getting child care and get little help from their husbands."

That sounds like the majority of working mothers. It also directly contradicts your headline.

Concerning the study referred to in the article, all it really shows is that the small minority of working mothers who have good child care and helpful husbands were happier, on the average, than stay-at-home mothers in all circumstances, including welfare mothers.

The vast majority of working mothers still can't get good child care and have less than helpful husbands -- and therefore belong in "most depressed" group in the study.

Check those articles a little more carefully before you print those headlines.

K. Kolarik

Millers

Students' rights

Patrick Ercolano broadly misses the point in his Feb. 6 column, "For Students to Find Their Strengths."

His caustic remark that kids describe their classes as involuntary servitude was unnecessary and unconstructive. The point is that students do have rights, and those rights ought to be protected.

Students rightfully should protest against the 75 hours of required community service. We cannot teach the tenets of democracy in the classroom if we disregard its principles when making decisions that directly impact on their lives.

Mr. Ercolano seems to argue that democracy is all right, but if someone more enlightened can decide what is good for you, then democratic principles should be compromised.

What our students have learned in their social studies classes is that our country's Constitution guarantees protection of their basic rights, but these rights have to be jealously guarded or people will take them away -- even people like the government of Maryland.

All of this is part of a larger, more serious problem. The Maryland legislature and the state Board of Education have for the last several years been unfocused and has mismanaged education in Maryland.

Pierced by the sword of public criticism, state government and the Board of Education have rampaged like a mad bull, wreaking havoc and breaking things that should not have been broken.

While Maryland government continues to mandate programs without providing adequate funding or developing the infrastructure necessary to implement those programs, local school officials have had to scramble and disrupt existing programs that are effective.

What Mr. Ercolano does not understand is that our Maryland school systems are loaded with thousands of dedicated professionals who know their business and are doing an effective job of reaching their students.

If the state government could find its way to support those efforts and restrain themselves from forcing on our students and school systems "sounds good innovative educational mandates," our teachers, administrators and students could make some pretty heady progress.

Robert J. Latham

Ellicott City

Greek drama at Shock Trauma center

Starting in the late 1960s, Dr. R A. Cowley built a model trauma system for the Baltimore region. His organizational skills were nationally recognized.

However, there were some significant weaknesses in the program. Pre-hospital care did not meet state-of-the-art levels, which was not a fault of the personnel but a deficiency in their training and pre-hospital care standards.

(For example, the esophageal obturator airway, which is not optimal, was being used until very recently. The gold standard is endotracheal intubation, but this was not part of the training for the Emergency Medical Systems personnel).

The hospital care of patients was recognized by trauma surgeons outside the system to be inconsistent, failing to meet standards established by the American College of Surgeons or norms in the surgical literature for mortality and morbidity.

Most important, the peer-reviewed quality assurance programs within the Shock Trauma unit were not being entered into a national registry, nor were they being compared to national norms.

Almost two years ago, Dr. Kimball Maull was jointly recruited by Dr. Morton Rapaport and Dr. Erroll Reese to put the recognized deficiencies within Emergency Medical Systems and Shock Trauma right.

Having two bosses is difficult at best, but it is even more awkward when these individuals do not support the necessary changes to improve patient care in the pre-hospital system and within the Shock Trauma unit.

This Greek tragedy has now played out to the final act, where Dr. Maull has been wrongly dismissed and other sharks are circling. Dr. James D'Orta, who is chairman of the Governor's EMS Commission, is now positioning himself to take EMS out from under the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems. Part of the positive organizational structure that Dr. Cowley had established is at risk of being dismantled.

Some of the positive changes that Dr. Maull made in improving relationships between the University of Maryland and Shock Trauma in order to strengthen research and education programs are also in jeopardy.

A skillful, well-informed governor or chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical System could have mitigated the finality of this drama.

From this outside viewer's perspective it seems that the best intermediate solution for the citizens of Baltimore and surrounding region would be to have an outside review of Shock Trauma, the pre-hospital system and the relationships with the various governmental and university players.

Donald Trunkey, M.D.

Portland, Ore.

The writer is chairman of the Department of Surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University.

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