2 The writer is president of the Pakistan Forum.
Term Limits Would Give Legislators Courage
Paul O'Brien's letter "Will's Stand on Term Limits" (June 10) makes several factual errors which distort the meaning and intention of George F. Will's argument advocating term limits.
And in the process of obfuscating Mr. Will's position, Mr. O'Brien both misinterprets the purposes term limits are supposed to serve and counters with his own arguments that are simplistic at best.
For example, Mr. O'Brien purports that "term limits are inherently anti-democratic." He does this without providing any premises to support his conclusion.
This omission precludes him from understanding the obvious: If term limits are anti-democratic because they violate the people's right to vote for the candidate of their choice, then so, too, is the present qualifications clause in the Constitution anti-democratic.
For instance, the Constitution explicitly states that the people can only vote for a senator who is at least 30 years of age. This prerequisite undeniably limits a voter's choice.
What if the people wanted to vote for a senator who is 28 years old? They can't because of the age limit. Is this a violation of their rights? No. Is this anti-democratic?
Answering "yes" to this question would be the equivalent to saying that every law that limits the people's liberty is anti-democratic. Therefore, the law that forces me to drive 55 miles per hour on I-83 is a violation of my rights.
Moreover, following Mr. O'Brien's absurd logic, the First Amendment is anti-democratic.
The First Amendment prohibits the people's will from democratically passing laws to abolish the freedom of speech. The people's freedom to do this is therefore infringed.
If term limits are anti-democratic because it takes power away from the people, then so too is the First Amendment anti-democratic.
It is ironic that Mr. O'Brien asks the rhetorical question, "Why should we trust the people when they won't trust themselves?", because this is exactly one of the concerns the people cite as their reason for supporting term limits.
It has become known as the "stop me before I vote for them again" motivation. Nonetheless, this rhetorical question is the centerpiece for Will's argument in favor of term limits.
Instead of supporting term limits for the weak and popular reasons that they will "dislodge incumbents" and will bring congressmen closer to the people, Mr. Will claims that term limits are efficacious because they provide a constitutional distance between the elected and the electorate; thereby insulating Congress for that necessary ingredient for republican government, deliberation.
Since the inception of the welfare state and the institutionalization of Congress (in the past 50 years), a dynamic relationship between congressmen and voters has developed.
This relationship is characterized by congressmen seeking to make legislating a career and constituents wanting more and more benefits from the federal government. Hence, congressmen overabundantely satisfy their constituents in order to secure re-election.
This formula has proven deadly to the fiscal health of the federal government; i.e., a $4.8 trillion deficit and $250 billion annual interest payments on that deficit.
Mr. Will argues that careerism has made legislators too sensitive to every convulsion and tumult expressed by the people.
This quest to look good to the voters has rendered the professional political class unwilling to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions -- the only important kind.
According to political scientist Douglas Arnold, in his book "The Logic of Congressional Action," "This is why Congress approves so many proposals laden with geographic benefits. Legislators have discovered that obtaining benefits for their districts creates opportunities for free publicity and credit-claiming, and both are valuable in the quest for re-election."
Term limits would end this anomaly by instilling legislators with a sense of courage and national purpose. As a result, this would persuade congressmen to not merely be a conduit of their constituents; insatiable requests, but as a filter.
James Madison described the purpose of Congress as ". . . a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interests of their country and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations."
The indefinite tenure presently enjoyed by congressmen is neither conducive to nor welcome by Madison's statement. Needless to say, Madison would not be happy at the present state of affairs.
Brian D. Hicks
Not Fighting Crime
After enjoying myself at an Orioles afternoon game on June 8, I returned to my car, parked on a side street just outside the stadium parking, to find that a rock had been thrown through my window and several items stolen.
Mine was not the only car that had been vandalized.
A police officer arrived at about the same time I discovered the damage to my car. The lack of enthusiasm or concern shown by this officer was amazing.
He told me that I didn't need to report the crime because I would have to pay for the damage anyway. I insisted that the crime be reported, and the officer, finally, took down the information.
When I asked what would be done to catch the people who had committed this crime, he told me that they couldn't be caught and that even if they were they would be out on bail in a matter of hours and repeating their crime spree. According to the officer, this happens every game day in Baltimore.
The officer was so defeated, I found myself -- the victim -- giving him a pep talk.
I agreed with him that there are problems with the criminal justice system, but I reminded him that his job to stop and catch criminals does not change whether the criminals are out in a matter of hours or not.
I finally asked him why he was a police officer. His answer: "It pays the bills.'
I hope this officer is not representative of the entire Police Department. If those hired to fight crime believe they cannot win, then tax dollars are not well spent.
How can any person be effective at a job he feels he cannot do? The criminal must know his resistance is weak, and those the city seeks to attract will also eventually know.
I know my trip to Baltimore cost me much more than I bargained for, a cost I will take into consideration before my next visit.
Incidentally, the officer did finally show his first glimpse of enthusiasm when I told him the Orioles had beaten the Mariners, 8 to 2.
Stephanie R. Darr
Who Will Control Health Care?
Sun articles, commentary, letters and cartoons, such as: "Patients and Profits" by Sara Engram (March 5), Michele Rosenberg's Opinion*Commentary article on medical pricing (May 24), the business section story "Hospitals in feeding frenzy for doctors" by John Fairhall (May 28) and Don Wasserman's guest editorial page cartoon (May 30) are narrowing in on the core issue, which is: Who is going to control the business of health care? Will it be the insurance companies and corporations, the health care professionals or the patients?
The plain and simple fact is that the insurance companies and other corporate entities are attempting to take control of 14 percent of the U.S. economy.
They spend millions of dollars advertising in the name of cost control, but they don't tell you that their real business is making money by restricting consumer choice.
Who owns the insurance companies? Stockholders? CEOs? Certainly the patient is not served when the company must answer to its shareholders.
Why are HMOs and medical insurance some of the hottest stocks on Wall Street today? Is it because investors are stupid, or is it because they smell profits?
How can Blue Cross of Maryland report a 40 percent rise in profits when its enrollment dropped 3 percent, its revenue dropped 2.4 percent and its administrative costs rose 3 percent (The Sun, March 2)?
Did the patients get more coverage for less money? No! Did the employers get some reduced premiums, in return for restricting patient choice? You bet!
Are stockholders making a lot of money from "managed care"? What do you think? Blue Cross is not a stockholder-owned company (but it wants to be one), but a lot of other HMO and managed care companies are.
As Ms. Engram points out in her article, one HMO is ". . . one of the hottest stocks in Maryland . . . Curiously enough, as its pre-tax income rises, its medical expenses are falling by about the same percentage."
Currently, there is a national trend involving the sale of physician practices to business corporations and hospitals.
Physical therapy and other allied health practices are also being bought up.
In some states this is legal, and in others there is a strict prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine.
Most states have similar prohibitions involving law, accounting and other professions.
The prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine is an old one and is based upon the state's power to police public safety, which historically has included the state's power to license and regulate these professions.
The provision of health care services is one of the fundamental areas of public safety, and in most states only individuals or entities licensed by the state (individual doctors, dentists, physical therapists, hospitals, clinics, etc.) may provide medical treatment.
Licensed providers may incorporate for tax purposes but may not avoid personal liability for their acts and must comply with the professional corporation, partnership and limited liability laws the state.
In states having a ban on the corporate practice of medicine, business corporations which are not licensed to do so may not provide medical services to the public, nor may they employ licensed practitioners to do so.
These laws are designed to assure that medical decisions are made by licensed medical professionals and to prevent interference by lay persons in medical judgments or the provision of medical care.
Do we have these laws in Maryland? Are they being enforced? These are issues to which the paper should direct its attention.
One final question we should ask: Can we expect our allied health professionals to show true fidelity to us as patients, if they must also answer to their stockholders?
. Richard Piet