The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on September 27, 1996 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, September 27, 1996
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Page 12
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B2 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2.7, 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 "I'm happier today than the day I won the lottery." William "Bud" Post whose debts led him to sell future lottery payments of $4.9 million to the highest bidder By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Two more years THE ISSUE Education and jobs THE ARGUMENT High school can't be enough any more I t was a difficult time for the working class. Technology was changing the way business worked. The old skills just did not cut it any more — for the worker or for his boss. So the private sector turned to the government for a solution. And they found it. It was called high school. The time was the turn of the century, the 20th Century. Homes were wired for the newest technological miracle — electricity — followed quickly by the telephone. Labor once needed on the farm, then in the textile mills, moved to the manufacturing plants that made cars and radios. Work stopped being the province of the strong arms and required more of a sharp mind. Office work, once the realm of a mostly male elite of bookkeepers, demanded more bodies trained, or trainable, to run newfangled devices such as typewriters and adding machines. In the last century, only a few people completed 12 grades of formal education. The eighth grade was considered enough for just about anyone who was not planning to go to college, and most people were not. That changed with the 20th Century. It became clear that, in order to deal with new technology and all the paperwork that went with it, a high school diploma was the minimum requirement for a decent job. And it eventually became clear to everybody that this level of education was the responsibility of the public schools. That lasted for a long time. Nearly a century, in fact. Now it is time to again increase the minimum amount of formal education for the vast majority of Americans. Soon, very soon, we will have to consider two years of post-high school education — at a vocational school or community college — as the . minimum for self-sufficiency, just as a high school diploma was considered the underpinning of success for much of this century. Two University of Kansas business professors Tuesday told a committee of the Legislature that job training is a crucial need for the state if it is to be competitive in attracting and holding new business. President Clinton has made a centerpiece of his re-election campaign the idea that two more years of education beyond the high-school level should be made as common, and as accessible, as a high school education used to be. Clinton wants to give tax credits for those pursuing vocational or community college programs. Others envision public-private partnerships where industries and vo-techs work together to train the workers business needs. However we accomplish this goal, we must accomplish it. Workers need the jobs, and business needs the workers. — Background information for this opinion came from a series of reports in the Minneapolis (Minn.) Star Tribune. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL P.O. BOX 740, SALINA, KANSAS 67402 Illiteracy harms the whole of America Because of the magnitude of the problem of illiteracy, September has been proclaimed by Gov. Bill Graves to be "Kansas Literacy Month." For most of us, reading, writing and basic computation are skills we use every day. We take for granted that everyone else has these same skills. They don't. Millions of Americans are func> tionally illiterate. They cannot read well enough to understand job applications, work instructions, traffic signs or even the label on a tube of toothpaste. Estimates show that one in five Americans is functionally illiterate. Their personal tragedy is everyone's loss. The estimated cost of illiteracy to businesses and taxpayers is $20 billion dollars per year. Correlations with illiteracy are seen in unemployment, crime, social support and poor industrial productivity. Little House is an adult learning program where people can brush up on basic skills, life skills or English as a second language, and study for the GED or citizenship. We currently have a wonderful core of volunteer tutors who have joined us in our fight against illiteracy. Unfortunately, the demand for tutors is high, the supply low. By becoming a literacy volunteer tutor, you can help an adult learn to read or speak English, to share a book with his child, to be able to work at a job effectively, to achieve self-respect. Interested individuals should contact me at 826-4625. Together, we can make a difference. — MARSHA WHITEHAIR Salina • Marsha Whitehair is volunteer coordinator at the Little House Adult Learning Center, Salina. Why another study? In the Sept. 22 Salina Journal, it says the Salina City Commission will take action on an agreement with Wilson & Co. for design of streets and drainage improvements to Magnolia Street from South Ninth to Belmont streets. What is wrong with the study that Bucher & Willis did in the 1980s for the drainage on Magnolia? Could it not be used for this purpose? Should it be that, because of new development in that area, the officials of the city of Salina have been telling us that the developer pays for the cost of new development. The developer is also supposed to take care of any additional water runoff caused by the new development. Why, then, should the taxpayers of the Salina pay $12,000 for new studies when they have already paid for many studies that have not been followed? — DONALD F. DARLING Sr. Salina T TORY NOTIONS Clinton lacks popularity he hungers for Voters seem in a mood to re-elect Clinton, and the GOP Congress to limit him D ole's campaign would be investing inordinate amounts of money and hope in its "Sure, if I could" ad if the ad's point were really just about drugs. The ad features the MTV clip of candidate Clinton in 1992, grinning like a nervously ingratiating freshman during fraternity rush week. He is asked, "If you had it to do all over again, would you inhale?" and he responds, "Sure, if I could. I tried before." The ad is supposed to buttress Dole's contention that inadequate president "leadership" explains the surge in drug use among young people in the last four years. However, it is hard to convince this common-sensical country that presidents, by their rhetorical cues, have large consequences, particularly among young people, for many of whom the existence of a president is only a vague rumor. This president, on another MTV appearance, unhesitatingly — not to mention inverte- brately — answered an ill-mannered young woman's impertinent question about his preference, boxers or briefs, in underwear. (Characteristically, he semi-endorsed both by answering "usually briefs.") What both MTV appearances, particularly the one in the Dole drug ad, really illustrate is Clinton's (to borrow Jefferson's acid words about Lafayette) "canine appetite for popularity." T IN KANSAS GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post One of the few encouraging thoughts for Republicans is that Clinton, his standing in polls notwithstanding, enjoys little genuine popularity, partly because people who so ravenously drool for it rarely get it. Because there is such a small reservoir of real affection for him, Republicans can hope that a potentially election-swinging number of voters have not "come to closure" for Clinton. Many Republican leaders believe that more and more voters are m'aking up their minds later and later. Undecided or lightly committed voters, if asked by a poll taker to state a preference, are apt to do so, but they are apt to remain undecided or lightly committed. Many Republican leaders also believe that the compression of the news cycle stimulates volatility in the electorate. Thirty years ago, it could take days, sometimes weeks, to turn public attention from one topic to another. Today, with CNN, C-SPAN and MSNBC and other journalistic hypodermics for political junkies, the conversation of the country can be changed in a few hours by grabbing the attention of an influential minority of voters. Of course Clinton, sitting on his lead, wants to run out the clock without volatility. Hence his continuing mimicking of Republicanism. In 1956 in San Francisco, comedian Mort Sahl regaled nightclub audiences by saying, "Eisenhower stands for 'gradualism.' Stevenson stands for 'moderation.' Between these two extremes, we the people must choose!" Today Clinton wants a similarly soft-edged choice. While he warns against the "extremism" of the Republican-controlled Congress, Republicans are chewing their carpets in their anger over his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, in which he essentially took credit for 13 actions of that Congress — seven of them from the Republican Contract. Republicans can take cold comfort from the fact that the blurriness Clinton wants will minimize his coattails. Presidential landslides are more likely to pull along congressional candidates when the election involves clear differentiations. And it is arguable — with a large caveat — that if by mid-October Dole's weakness convinces the country that the presidential outcome is obvious, that will improve Republican chances of not merely holding control of Congress, but of enlarging their majorities in both houses. Peter Hart, a Democrat who does polling for The Wall Street Journal and NBC, finds that when people are asked if they would prefer Republicans or Democrats to control Congress, the result is a statistical dead heat. However, when voters are asked to assume Clinton is re-elected and to choose between a Republican Congress to restrain him or a Democratic Congress to implement his agenda, they favor the Republicans, 53-39. The caveat is that Dole's weakness could depress Republican turnout, thereby defeating some congressional candidates. Which makes Republicans wish they had a Democratic version of the "Gingrich card" they could play — some fright figure to energize their base and lure wavering voters. They do. In Kansas, two Senate seats are at stake because of two Republican retirements — Dole's and Nancy Kassebaum's. Republican Rep. Sam Brownback, running for Dole's seat, warns audiences that if Democrats control the Senate, the committee Kassebaum chaired — Labor and Human Resources — would be chaired by ... Ted Kennedy. Audible gasps. Women with the vapors. Urgent calls to travel agents to book one-way tickets to Australia. Republicans may spend October playing the Kennedy card. Looking for ways to make crime pay The economic development crowd just loves to build those prisons O dd as it seems, we continue to read the occasional story about the joy that prisons bring to a community. These accounts are popular with the economic development crowd, who point to the jobs, the money, the new life that prison means to a struggling town. The latest testimonial came by way of the Kansas City Star under a front-page headline that said, "Crime actually pays in Missouri towns." A new high security addition will open in a few months at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, 50 miles north of Kansas City. With the expanded facility, prison inmates will count for * nearly 75 percent of the town's population of 8,000 by the end of the year. In four other rural Missouri communities, new prisons have been built to absorb the state's growing number of convicted felons, now at more than 20,000 and on the rise. Crime pays big dividends for these towns. JOHN MARSHALL Harris News Service They may annex the prisons and count the inmates as residents. Thus they can benefit from various government handouts based on population, including an increased share of Missouri's 17-cent state gasoline tax. And the jobs: First are the crews that build the prisons, then the staffs hired to operate and maintain them. Up and running, a prison in Missouri creates one job for every three inmates. In Kansas, with a prison population of about 7,500, the ratio is about the same — one job for every three inmates. These are state jobs, of course. On the one hand we seem to demand the streamlining, the downsizing of government. On the other, a prison is economic development. Kansas has no new prisons now in the works, but Gov. Bill Graves has at times campaigned for them. There are even theories that new prisons might be operated by private corporations, as though the cost of them would somehow be more acceptable if sluiced through the free enterprise system, much as The Pentagon, our national model of privatization, funnels money to defense contractors. And what of the Kansas costs? Of this state's nine prisons, four have opened in the past nine years. These compounds now house 2,100 inmates, nearly a third of Kansas's total convict population. Three of them — Ellsworth (1988), El Dorado (1991) and Larned (1992) — were built from DOONESBURY scratch at a total cost of $94 million. The prison at Norton, opened in 1987, was converted from the former Norton State Hospital with a branch prison at Stockton that opened in 1988. It costs more than $103 million a year to operate the state prisons at Lansing, Hutchinson, El Dorado, Topeka, Norton, Ellsworth, Winfield, Wichita and Larned. In 1987, before we began building and opening the new prisons, the budget had been $52 million a year. Although some of this spending comes back in wages and profits to local labor and industry, nothing that it produces is useful. To build and operate a prison is to make nothing that we can eat, wear, drink, drive, play with or otherwise use. To spend this way, adding nothing to goods and services that consumers want, is ultimately a classic inflation cause. Consider the facilities themselves, the festering compounds, their fences and wire and towers. And within them are the guards who fear disorder and death, the sullen inmates who feel, at least fleetingly, that they have a foot in a faraway street. Prisons are horribly expensive to build and maintain and fearful to run. They exist because of crime, its victims. The demand, even the acclaim for prisons, is evidence that something has gone wrong in our society and that we still don't know why, or much care. We would rather have the jobs. By G.B. TRUDEAU DENT? YOU GOT A MINU7&? SIR, YOU MAYHAV& NO- PZOPte HAV& AIJ&AW 0&5UN TALKING M& UP ^-\ FOR.ABIPIN200O.* KNOW I AM NOT AMONG THEM. IAMTWALWK>~ THANK, ij ITHINKNetV 'iOU.AL, / HAMPSHIRE r... ft \couu? use ooo nitj a,;;

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