All employers should share health costs
I am writing in support of mandatory employer coverage of health insurance.
Our business in Baltimore County, of which I am chief executive officer, offers such coverage for our employees on a cost-sharing basis. I believe that the cost of health insurance is part of the cost of doing business and should be the responsibility of the employer.
Businesses that fail to provide health coverage to their employees hurt those of us who act responsibly by shifting health costs to our businesses. They then add insult to injury by undercutting our prices in the marketplace because their costs are lower.
Some small businesses claim that mandatory employer health insurance will increase their costs and therefore drive them out of business or force employee layoffs.
This makes little sense since they will be able to raise prices to offset higher costs at little penalty because their competitors, being in the same boat, will also be raising prices.
The only fair and responsible policy is to require all employers, large and small, to provide health insurance coverage to their workers on a cost-sharing basis.
The writer is chairman and CEO of KCI Technologies, Inc.
Bed and breakfast
If Baltimore is to be downgraded by the powers-that-be from a hard-working factory town to some exotic tourist attraction, then we had better find some better ways for us "natives" to share in the tourist dollars -- short of diving for coins off the pier.
BUILD (Baltimore United in Leadership Training) already has a leg up on the situation by its campaign to raise hotel workers' wages above poverty levels.
I've got another suggestion. Lots of city dwellers have an extra bedroom or comfortable cellar that is not in use most of the time.
Why not inspect and register such sleeping facilities with a resuscitated and expanded Baltimore City Tourist Bureau? Such a computerized central office equipped with a toll-free 800 line could make credit-card reservations for an out-of-towner of any economic level to much more affordable housing.
Decades back, I could afford to visit Atlantic City because the guest houses were so affordable. I haven't been there since the big hotels squeezed them out and jacked up the rates. And look at the terrible price "non-boardwalk" Atlantic City paid for its glitzy hotels.
Such Baltimore "guest houses," "tourist houses" and "bed and breakfasts" directly obtaining those much needed tourist dollars could begin to put the "home" back in "home industry."
Hosts could squeeze additional dollars out of guests through optional meals, tourist guiding, transportation and pottering.
Tourists could have a wider choice to save money. More tourists would visit -- resulting in more real money for more real Baltimoreans.
The entire project could easily pay for itself (and then some) through a local tax added to the tourist's room charge. We could even extend the courtesy to surrounding counties -- for a slightly higher tax, of course.
When Baltimore pioneers in this effort, other cities will inevitably return the compliment and develop their own local "home" industry, thus making it possible for Baltimoreans of any income level to travel again.
A. Robert Kaufman
Haiti and U.S.
When it comes to distinguishing between international problems Congress has the agility and response rate of a tree stump.
No one in Congress reacted when the U.N. mission in Somalia shifted from feeding the starving to dangerous "nation building," and now many in Congress are over-reacting to implementing the Governor's Island Agreement, signed earlier this year by the U.S. and the various Haitian parties.
Unlike Somalia or Bosnia, Haiti is within our sphere of influence. We are directly impacted by what occurs next on this small island 500 miles off our coast.
About 75 percent of the Haitians voted for Jean-Beltrand Aristide, but the other 25 percent had guns. An oil embargo and economic sanctions finally caused the military, who overthrew Aristide, to agree to restore him to office on Oct. 30 of this yar.
If the U.N. and U.S. fail to live up to their agreement to help democracy survive, nothing can stop the tidal wave of refugees that will flood our shores. And Haiti will then become a major drug distribution force in our hemisphere.
The U.S. and U.N. commitment involves helping rebuild infrastructure, such as roads and schools, and retraining a brutal and repressive police force.
Haiti is neither Vietnam nor Somalia. It is closer than Panama, where many congressmen applauded our disarming of a foreign army and the capture of a foreign leader.
To now allow a gang of sadistic thugs in a nearby city to intimidate us into abandoning our commitments to democracy and the Haitian people would be both tragic and dangerous.
Roger C. Kostmayer
Martin Luther, right and wrong
Your front page story (Oct. 13) on Martin Luther and his horrendous and disgusting anti-Semitic statements requires a response from the Lutheran bishop.
First the story is accurately reported. Thank you for a job well done.
I'd amplify at a few points. First, we Lutherans love brother Martin. We know him to have written some of the most incisive and some of the most beautiful words in Christian literature.
To me, his explanation of the third article of the creed is second only to the words of scripture. His Christmas sermons will bring tears to my eyes. His hymns fill me with the strength of God.
But second, that love of Luther never reaches the level of worship. Luther never would want that. In that excessive language he could be given to, he referred to himself, "Who is Luther? This filthy bag of worms!" We recognize, and always have, that Luther, true to his own teaching, was a sinner.
Third, specific to the anti-Semitic statements, the repudiation of these is nothing new to us. As soon as they appeared in print, some of Luther's closest associates repudiated them and urged Luther to recant them. But, stubborn old man that he had become, he would not.
Fourth, in his defense, not that defense of those words is possible, Luther was reacting to some particularly libelous, vitriolic and appallingly false stories about Jews that had been circulating at the time.
In an age when there was little possibility of investigating such charges, Luther, like many, believed them. He should not have, but he did.
Fifth, I don't think we Lutherans have kept this a secret. We have been deeply embarrassed by those words, to be sure, and in that embarrassment we probably have chosen to relegate them to that bin in which we place quite a bit of Luther's literary production which is not worth attention or remembering.
So, we have tried to bury them, that also is probably true. They deserve to be buried, and this we desire to do.
We are now exposing them to the air so that we can hasten their complete and total decomposition. They deserve that.
It is in that spirit and with that goal, that we have chosen to bring them to the light.
Sixth, I am also sure that from his present perspective from the other side of the Jordan, Luther himself nods in approval.
I can hear him saying, "Thank you, my brothers and sisters for doing this. I myself repent those words, and beg the forgiveness of all. Those words were wrong. I repent all the wrong to which they may have contributed. I was a stubborn old man.
"I pray that as you repudiate my words, you may experience that new age also. Next year in Jerusalem. Maranatha."
That is the Luther we Lutherans love.
Finally, that is the healing and the peace which, with repentance, we seek with our Jewish sisters and brothers. May that peace come.
If there is something else we can do to bring it, tell us, and we will work on it.
George Paul Mocko
The writer is bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.