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A4 SUNDAY. JANUARY 21, 1996 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor . Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. : To join the ; conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS ; 67402 : Fax: (913) 827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal ©aol.com Quote of the day "Literally, God knows, God listens. We are responsible to think before we speak and to use words very, very carefully." Sen. Richard Lugar Republican presidential candidate f BY GEORGE By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Nothing, or nowhere, to hide THE ISSUE The War on Drugs IHESBBUMENT Our constitutional rights are being trampled "If you don't have drugs, you don't have to worry about your rights." — Salina Police Chief Jim Hill I t would be much too harsh to call the police chiefs statement, made last week in defense of his department's drug detection efforts, a lie. But it is unquestionably false. The fact that a dedicated champion of law and order holds such an attitude should cause us all great concern. Hill was referring to a recent arrest made when h|s department's drug-sniffing dog detected what turned out to be a 30-pound brick of marijuana in the trunk of a car parked at a local motel. Apparently, having the dog sniff parked cars is standard procedure for the local police, even if the car presents no particular cause for suspicion. Hill says it should not bother you to have a strange dog sniffing around your car unless you have something to hide. But it would very much bother the people who founded this nation, and it should bother us, too. Because we do have to worry about our rights, all the time, or we will surely lose them. If there are no drugs in your car, the police chief says, there is no reason why our dog should not sniff at it. Well, then, if there are no dead bodies in your back yard, there is no reason why the police should not dig it up. If you have not embezzled from your boss, there is no reason why the police should not peruse your bank records. The implication of Hill's attitude is that if you oppose any of these unreasonable searches, you must have something to hide. You must be a crook. That is always the attitude of those who would put security ahead of freedom. During the McCarthy era, anyone who dared speak up for the constitutional rights of communists or suspected communists was labeled a communist. The War on Drugs is the McCarthyism of the '90s, used to justify the unjustifiable in an effort to stamp out something that, while admittedly evil, is not so evil as the approach used against it. Salina's chief of police knows how to catch crooks. He needs a refresher course in the Bill of Rights. Tax plans demean work GEORGE B. PYLE The Salina Journal If interest income shouldn't be taxed, neither should wages S ay you and I are in business together. You do the work, tote the barges, lift the bales, keep the books. I put up the money. Every so often, you get some money in return for your contribution. That is called your wages. ^ Less often, I get some money in return for my contribution. That is called my dividend. You pay taxes on the money you get. I don't. Sound fair? Steve Forbes, Republican presidential candidate, thinks so, and so does the GOP commission on tax reform that released its report last week. Don't let all this appealing flat- tax talk fool you. The desire to speed the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich is the core of this drive to can the old, and justly maligned, Internal Revenue Code in favor of a simple, single tax rate for everyone. Not that the proposals don't have their good points. For one thing, most of the flat-tax plans out there would exempt the first, say, $36,000 of family income from taxation, meaning everyone who qualifies as working poor, and a large chunk of those who work, would pay little or no income tax. ; For another, the GOP tax report says working stiffs should be able to write off the money they pay in Social Security taxes on their forms 1040, or whatever replaces them. That is a good idea, and a realization by Republicans that even their much-worshipped Reagan tax cuts didn't help most working people because their share of keeping Social Security afloat keeps going up. But all that pales next to the Trojan Horse of the flat-tax plans — exempting investment income from all taxes. Backers of the idea — every one of them filthy rich — say the fact that they pay taxes on investment income discourages them from making investments, discourages everyone from saving. So? If they think that taxing investment income discourages savings, why aren't they arguing that taxing wages discourages work? Because they think working people are stupid, that's why. Stupid, or at least too busy doing the real work of this country to notice the fundamental unfairness of such a plan. The idle rich, of course, have plenty of time to cook the tax code in their favor — even, sometimes, to run for president. It is not necessary to make a moral distinction between those who lift and sweat and those who sit and collect to see that capital and labor are equally necessary for the engine of the free market to run. To tax the fruits of one while exempting the other is not only unfair, it deprives the government of money it fairly needs to operate. The businesses, banks and such that pay dividends also pay taxes on their profits, hence the Republican argument that to tax those who receive the interest — theoretically reduced because of the businesses* need to pay taxes — amounts to double taxation. Maybe. But, again, if it is double taxation to tax the company's profits and then tax the investors' dividends, then it is also double taxation to tax the company's profits and then tax the workers' wages. A flat tax that treated wages and interest income the same might indeed be a fair and, just as important, simple way to fund the government. A flat tax that takes working people for chumps while winking at coupon-clippers would be a crime. And Republicans wonder whatever happened to the work ethic in this country. THE ARE AND THE POOR GETTING T TORY NOTIONS The bad side of the good life So many Americans have received so much, they just keep wanting more and more I n 1930 in America average life expectancy at birth was 58 years for men, 61 for women. By 1990 it was 71 and 79 respectively. Until the 1930s the average manufacturing worker toiled nearly 50 hours a week with few rights or benefits. In 1996 about 8.0 percent of all workers have employer-paid health insurance. In 1940 most Americans were renters, most households had neither a refrigerator nor cen- GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post tral heating, 30 percent lacked inside running water, coal fueled most furnaces and stoves, wood was the second most- used fuel. More than a fifth 6f Americans lived on farms, less than a third of which had electric lights and only a tenth had flush toilets. In 1940 one in 20 Americans had a college degree; 50 years later, one in five did. In 1945 most households did not have a telephone. In 1994 (when the typical new home was 40 percent larger than its 1970 counterpart), 81 percent of households had VCRs, 37 percent had personal computers. As late as 1948 retirement was no certainty: about half the men over 65 worked. In 1995, after decades of supposed "deindustrialization," industrial production was 40 percent higher than in 1980,90 percent higher than in 1970,350 percent higher than in 1950. In 1964 there were fewer than 100 black elected officials nationwide; by the early 1990s there were about 7,000. Between 1929 and 1933 output declined almost 25 percent. In the worst postwar recessions (1973-75 and 1981-82) output V SUNDAY FUNNIES declined just 4.9 and 3 percent respectively. In 1976 the average supermarket offered 9,000 products; 15 years later it offered 30,000. We are richer, freer, healthier and work at less exhausting jobs than ever before. So why during this epoch of unprecedented achievement has America become preoccupied with perceived failure? That question is subtly answered in Robert Samuelson's new book "The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, 1945-1995." Samuelson, the Newsweek and Washington Post columnist, should have Secret Service protection because if anything happens to him, we are sunk. He says postwar progress bred an entitlement mentality which in turn bred disappointment that the nation was not living up to unattainable promises. The belief was that we were entitled to whatever is possible; that a rapid, uninterrupted and painless increase in prosperity is possible, and that such prosperity would banish most social ills. Samuelson says this "almost dreamlike concept of progress" was accompanied by a decline in the sense of responsibility. Samuelson believes that the mobilization of society for the Second World War blurred the distinction between governmental and private responsibilities. The postwar agenda of unide- ological "problem-solving" politics erased the distinction between problems that can be solved and conditions that must be endured. For example, in 1970 the man who had been Lyndon Johnson's chief economic adviser said recessions are "fundamentally preventable, like airplane crashes and unlike hurricanes." Thus did economics, once the "dismal science" that explained costs and limits, become the "cheery science," encouraging the delusion that proper politics is (like another postwar chimera, the "science of management") merely a matter of experts' techniques. Such "pragmatism" became embittering: All prob- lems were considered solvable, so enduring problems must be explained in terms of someone's incompetence or wickedness. As Samuelson says, "Good was no longer good enough." As Lyndon Johnson said, it had to be a Great Society. And why not, John Kennedy having said, "Man holds in his hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty." The illusion that government is the source of economic growth and is responsible for the "fair" allocation of wealth encouraged a sensibility demanding the ultimate entitlements — to security and peace of mind. The premise was that social conflict and personal discon-. tent arise from material scarcities. But economics, far from being a "hard" science, like physics, has more accurately been called a "science of single instances" — hardly a science. The hubris of economists professing competence to control America's complex modern economy, combined with democracy's disposition to spend avidly and tax reluctantly, produced inflations that only recessions could quell. "Compassionate" postwar capitalism featured giant corporations happily serving as welfare states, promising job security and other benefits, and not attending to competitiveness until jobs had to be shed by the tens of thousands. "Compassionate" government, encouraging the expression of personal desires as group grievances, generated public distrust by becoming a fountain of synthetic, and meaningless, "rights," such as the right to "educational equality." Education and health care were, Samuelson notes, more "equal" when there was a lot less of each. If the electorate can be inoculated with Samuelson's thesis — that "we need to curb our casual use of government" and "either we reconstitute our expectations, or we condemn ourselves to perpetual disappointment" — his book can elevate this year's political argument. Now, really, this won't hurt a bit DAVE BARRY The Miami Herald Television shows like 'EFT do nothing to restore my faith in medical science I will frankly admit that I am afraid of medical care. I trace this fear to my childhood, when as far as I could tell, the medical profession's reaction to every physical problem I developed, including nearsightedness, was to give me a tetanus shot. Not only that, but the medical professionals would always lie about it. "You'll hardly feel it!" they'd say, coming at me with a needle the size of a harpoon. As a child, I was more afraid of tetanus shots than, for example, Dracula. Granted, Dracula would come into your room at night and bite into your neck and suck out all your blood, but there was a positive side to ~ » this: namely, you could turn into a bat and stay out all night. Wheras I could see no pluses with the tetanus shot. Of course I no longer have this childish phobia, because, as a mature adult, I can lie. "I just had a tetanus shot this morning!" I can say, if the issue ever arises. "Eight of them, in fact." But I'm still afraid of medical care. And I'm not encouraged by TV medical dramas such as "ER" If you watch these shows, you've probably noticed that whatever some pathetic civilian gets wheeled into the hospital emergency room on a stretcher, he or she is immediately pounced upon by enough medical personnel to form a hospital softball league, all competing to see who can do the scariest thing to the victim. Apparently there's a clause in the standard Television Performers' Contract stating that every character in a medical drama gets to take a crack at emergency patients: FIRST DOCTOR: I'll give him a shot! SECOND DOCTOR: I'll pound on his chest! THIRD DOCTOR: I'll stick a tube way up his nose! FOURTH DOCTOR: I'll find an unoccupied section of his body and cut it open for no good reason! JANITOR: I'll wash his mouth out with a toilet brush! Now you're probably saying: "Dave, you big baby, those are just TV SHOWS. In real life, bad things do not happen to people who fall into the hands of medical care." Excuse me for one second while I laugh so hard that my keyboard is short-circuited by drool. Because I happen to be holding in my hand a bulletin-board notice that was sent to me by a Vermont orthopedic surgeon named either "David H. Bahnson M.D." or "Oee Bali," depending on whether you're reading his letterhead or his signature. Dr. Bahnson told me, in a phone interview, that he found this notice over the "scrub sink," which is the place where doctors wash their hands after they operate so that they won't get flecks of your vital organs on then- Lexus upholstery. No, seriously, the scrub sink is where they wash their hands BEFORE operating, and Dr. Bahnson said that this notice had been prominently displayed there for several months. It is entitled — I am not making this up — "EMERGENCY PROCEDURE; FIGHTING FIRE ON THE SURGICAL PATIENT." Yes, you read that correctly. Dr. Bahnson told me that, although it has not happened to him, fires sometimes break out on patients during surgery, particularly when hot medical implements accidentally come into contact with surgical drapes. The bulletin-board notice discusses two types of situations: "small fire on the patient" and "large fire on the patient." There are step- by-step instructions for dealing with both of these; Step 3 under "large fire on the patient," for example, is: "Care for the patient." I was surprised that the procedure was so definite. You'd think that, what with all these medical lawsuits, the instructions would call for more caution on the part of the doctors. ("Mrs. Dweemer, we think you might be on fire but we won't know for sure until we have a specialist fly in from Switzerland to take a look.") Now, before I get a lot of irate mail from the medical community, let me stress that not all surgical patients catch on fire. Some of them also explode. I am referring here to a November article from The Medical Post, sent in by alert reader Lauren Leighton, headlined: "BEWARE EXPLODING PATIENTS." This article states that nitrous oxide — which is sometimes used as an anesthetic in stomach surgery — can get mixed up with intestinal gases, which have been proven to be highly combustible in countless scientific experiments conducted in fraternity houses. If this mixture is ignited by a spark from a surgical implement such as an electric cautery, the result can be what the article refers to as "intra- abdominal fires." In what could be the single most remarkable statement that I have ever read in a medical article, one expert is quoted as saying — I swear this is a real quote — "Patients aren't exploding aU over, but there is the potential for it." Ha ha! I certainly am feeling reassured! No, really, I'm sure we're talking about a very small number of patients exploding or catching on fire. So if you, personally, are scheduled to undergo surgery, you needn't give this matter another thought, assuming that you have taken the basic precaution of having a personal sprinkler system installed on your body. No, seriously, I'm sure your operation will go just fine. And. even in the unlikely event that you do explode, you may rest assured that, no matter how many pieces you wind up in, every one of those pieces willl, in accordance with modern medical standards, receive a tetanus shot.