inion The Salina Journal Tuesday, January 14,1986 Page 4 HP1 ~te'A$'-x T 1 1 ne Journal Founded in 187! HARRIS RAYL, Editor and Publisher KAY BERENSON, Executive Editor SCOTT SEIRER, NewsEditor LARRY MATHEWS, Assistant News Editor LORI BRACK, Weekend Editor JIMHAAG, Night Editor . MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor Topeka's tasks The Legislature's opening formalities are under way. The session convened yesterday. Today Gov. John Carlin is scheduled to deliver his State of the State address and to reveal his budget proposal. Those events must be closely followed by hard work in the Legislature on the tough issues that must be decided this year. When the smoke clears this spring, legislators should have accomplished the following: •Raise the sales tax from the current 3 percent rate to 4 percent. That would bring the state about $190 million in new revenue. The money is needed to maintain current levels of state expenditures and to build programs for the future. State revenue over the next 18 months is expected to be nearly $133 million below earlier estimates. The shortfall threatens local schools; state universities and technical schools; programs for the poor, elderly and disabled; and other essential state services. The sales tax is the only practical way to raise the needed money. Unfortunately, it would also make the state tax system less fair to low- income residents. To counter the regressive nature of the sales tax, the legislation authorizing the increase should include provision for a full rebate of the tax on food for low- income Kansans. •Alleviate the problem of soaring premiums for medical malpractice insurance in the state by placing a cap on damage awards and by increasing policing of hospitals and medical professionals through the Board of Healing Arts. Placing a maximum on awards to victims in malpractice suits is troublesome. But, combined with additional restrictions on medical professionals and on the insurance industry, such a cap could hold down soaring insurance rates that otherwise might reduce health services available in rural areas. •Approve construction of a new medium-security prison in Ellsworth. The prison is needed to alleviate overcrowding in the state's prison system. Ellsworth wants it and has demonstrated that the town is a good location for it. Legislators should ignore belated howls of outrage from Wichita. •Turn down a statewide lottery. A lottery is another regressive tax. Those with below-average incomes buy an above-average share of tickets. Lotteries encourage get-rich- quick fantasies and prey on the poor and hopeless. Lotteries in some other states have been racked by scandals and tainted by links to organized crime. Once the novelty wears off, some states have found it tough to sell tickets, resorting to ever larger prizes and advertising campaigns to promote sales. That puts the state in the position of not just tolerating gambling, but encouraging it. Even when sales go well, lotteries are inefficient ways of raising revenue. Prizes and administrative costs consume at least 55 cents of every dollar collected from ticket sales in other state lotteries. Kansas needs tax money, not a lottery. Legislators should resist calls for a costly vote on the issue. •Nix legalization of pari-mutuel wagering. All the arguments against the legalized gambling of a state lottery also apply to pari-mutuel wagering. It won't solve the state's financial problems. It would create a whole new set of problems. Resolving the items listed above should be considered a minimum standard of accomplishment for legislators this session. Other issues will also need to be addressed. Chief among those is finding a tonic for the state's ailing economy, especially the agricultural and aviation sectors. The politics of an election year will make consensus difficult. But politics should not be allowed to prevent accomplishment this year. The small society You Letters Dole did a good job Kansas Sen. Bob Dole deserves our praise for getting a farm bill through Congress and signed by President Reagan. In Washington, as in Kansas, there is much diversity of opinion on what the government's agriculture policies should be. The president threatened to veto any farm bill with a price tag of more than he had budgeted. Right down to the last minute it looked as if those conflicting interests would keep any farm bill from getting through Congress in 1985. The essence of effective leadership is balancing a wide range of factions and interests. That is what Bob Dole did. He is a very effective leader and, thanks to him, we have a farm bill. -BENE.VIDRICKSEN State Senator, District 24 Salina Yes, yes To both of your editorials of Tuesday, Jan. 7, but especially to "Only name changed," I would say: "amen and amen." -AL HAVEL Belleville Watson on right track I was glad to see D.E. Watson fighting to keep the Great Plains Building. I had been wondering if anyone cares about keeping such evidence of our heritage. Through the years so many of our most beautiful buildings Quotation THE LATEST IN LIBYAN MANURE SPREADERS. Military sets alarming precedent in AIDS tests BOSTON — It was one Navy test the men hoped to flunk. But 13 seamen came up positive. Yes, they had been exposed to the AIDS virus. The men did not have AIDS itself nor will they necessarily get it. The figures are being revised, but at the moment it's estimated that less than 20 percent of those who have the antibodies will come down with the full-blown disease. But the Navy wants to discharge them anyway. The Navy claims that the 13 are guilty of something called "erroneous enlistment." According to the Pentagon guidelines the military can't kick someone out just because he has the AIDS antibodies — only if he has the actual disease — but they can keep him out. These seamen, the Navy maintains, had the "condition" before they joined up. In short, they can be discharged because they shouldn't have been admitted. Last week, a federal judge barred the Navy from acting before the dispute is resolved. That is scheduled for Jan. 17 and the verdict, I am sure, will hinge on technical matters. But to this civilian, the case has raised all sorts of questions about the use of medical screening by powers in or out of uniform. This is a test that was devised less than a year ago to help protect the nation's blood supply. It provides important information for blood transfusions, for organ transplants, even artificial insemination. People who want to know whether they've been exposed to AIDS have access to that information. Now it is being used to "protect" the armed forces. And not just from the disease. Certainly, there's as much fear among the military as among civilians about "catching AIDS." It remains constant despite the overwhelming evidence that you can't get it from casual contact. The military says re- Ellen Goodman WASHINGTON POST peatedly that they are most worried about the problem of battlefield transfusions. What they do not say is that the test may be a backdoor screen for homosexuals and drug users, both groups at high risk for AIDS and both banned from military service. But they also want to protect the armed forces from medical costs. A main motive for screening out those who have been exposed to AIDS may be money, and that is a concern that carries over into civilian life. The Centers for Disease Control now estimates that it has cost, so far, about $147,000 to care for each of the first 10,000 AIDS patients. AIDS is a break-the-bank disease. No employer, public or private, and no medical insurer would welcome such a victim on its lists. Cancer patients have enough trouble finding jobs and health insurers. The victims of AIDS are shunned. What is different about this test is that it doesn't measure past or present disease; it lays odds for the future, odds that are still in flux. The test shows only whether someone has been exposed to the virus. It doesn't say whether he or she will get the disease. Even if one out of three who have the antibodies is a future victim, do we want to screen the other seven out of work, or out of health insurance? This concern is not just limited to AIDS. We can already make modest predictions on the basis of family medical histories and we're increasingly able to test for genetic diseases like Huntington's disease. What if we can test for Alzheimer's disease or liver cancer? People who carry such risks might also become unemployable, uninsurable. Carol Levine, who spends much of her time thinking about medical ethics at the Hastings Institute, says: "The insurers would like to test you for everything. I can imagine a lot of scenarios as we gain a greater ability to predict which individuals are at risk. If it ever gets to (the) point that we can predict genetic susceptibility to workplace hazards, there will be incredible pressure to remove the person at risk instead of reducing the hazard." She asks the additional question: "Who is going to bear the cost of their not being employable?" The public will pay support, just as the public-health system takes on the burden when people cannot get private- health insurance and become paupers through illness. Some states, notably California and Wisconsin, have passed laws that ban the use of testing as a barrier to employment or health insurance. But a huge employer, the military, is setting a precedent that will be noted by anxious employers and health insurers. If the military can do it, so can the factory. In the end, the mass-screening program may become a public-health danger in itself. It turns our attention from finding a medical answer to finding a social solution. It feeds the illusion that we can segregate all the people who have been exposed to the virus. But it is not just 13 seamen who have been exposed. There are an estimated two million such people. Until we find a cure, a medical cure, they and their problems will touch us every day. Block: a good man for a hard job in bad times have been destroyed for parking lots. If something has to go, why not the row of buildings across the street west of the Great Plains Building? And also the buildings between the Great Plains Building and the NBA parking lot and/or the Boy Scout building? People would fill the Great Plains Building if they were sure they wouldn't have to move away soon. Think about it. -SYLVIA SMITH 637 N. 8th Another Dole success Once again, Sen. Bob Dole has dazzled Washington with his skills as a legislative craftsman. In the closing hours of the 1985 congressional session, the farm bill appeared to be dead in the water — but Bob Dole breathed new life into it. He managed to craft a compromise that was acceptable, thereby balancing the conflicting interests of various farm-state lawmakers, and the budget limits of the White House. -ALSCHWAN 1312MarymountRd. WASHINGTON — In the days of the Golden West, so the stories go, saloons and fancy houses hired local musical talent to amuse the customers. Oscar Wilde observed in Leadville a notice to this effect: "Don't shoot the piano player. He's doing the best he can." Last week in Washington they shot a piano player. Farewell, John Block! You done the best you could. As secretary of agriculture for the past five years, Block occupied the hottest seat in town. His resignation is a loss to the administration and to the country as a whole, but the loss was politically unavoidable. To say of Block that some anonymous "they" shot him down is not to imply a White House conspiracy of the kind that toppled Margaret Heckler and Alexander Haig. Through no fault of his own, Block had become a liability; he had come to symbolize all the grief of the Midwestern farmer. He had to go. Who ever said life is fair? Consider the unhappy record. Farm debt in 1980 was $182 billion; in 1984 it was $214 billion. In 1980 the Census Bureau counted 2,433,000 farms; over the next four years, 100,000 farms disappeared. There were 1.6 million "farm families" in 1980; there are 70,000 fewer farm families now. Farm assets, figured in constant dollars, dropped in these four years from $615 billion to $428 billion. Farm income in 1983 was half of what it was in 1979. Doonesbury James Kilpatrick UNIVERSAL PRESS A few more figures: In South Dakota, farmers have debts equal to about 28.4 percent of their assets. The ratio is 27.3 in Indiana, 24.6 in Idaho, 24 in Iowa, 23.3 in Kansas, 20 in Oklahoma. That is an awful lot of money that is owed. In each of these states a Republican senator is up for re-election in November. The angry and dispirited farmers are in a rump-kicking mood. Bend over, John. None of this can be blamed on Ronald Reagan or Secretary Block. The producers of wheat, corn and dairy products are in a bind for a combination of reasons. Fifty years of contradictory governmental policies, going back to the Depression days of Franklin Roosevelt, bear a large part of the blame. Worldwide economic forces, beyond the control of any American official, have priced domestic grain out of world markets. Bad judgment on the part of many farmers, injudicious loans by many bankers, high rates of inflation in the late '70s — all these had a hand. What the record discloses most clearly is that the trends now evident in American agriculture are nothing new. The notion that Reagan and Block somehow are responsible for "the gradual disappearance of the family farm" is preposterous. Family farms have been gradually disappearing for 50 years. No one wants to face the hard, unpalatable truth: In certain areas of American agriculture, we have too many farmers, too many farms, and more production than the market profitably will support. If supply could be brought closer to demand in these fields, food prices would go up and the surviving farmers could make a decent living. Nothing so sensible is in sight. Block did his best to draft a farm bill that would make a significant start toward a free market. At this writing, Reagan has not announced a successor. Whoever he may be, the gentleman will have smaller problems than Block had to face. The farm bill that was signed last month virtually guarantees that net farm income at least will not drop much farther. There will be more foreclosures on delinquent loans, but the worst of the farm crisis probably has passed. Those of us who have come to know Block over the past five years will wish him good fortune in private life. Given the impossible nature of his job, he was a good man in a bad time. I'm glad I don't have to explain to a man from Mars why each day I set fire to dozens of little pieces of paper, and then put them in my mouth. i — Mignon Laughlin THANKS FOR CH&X- ALMAMfflERISSTIU, 7W£ ARMPH 'OFTH5 UNIVERSE. \ WHAT ABOUT WUR POCM- MAT&? TRIPPf 7H5 TRIP? H5OWlNUeSTO FLAME INCAND&CSNTWAXOSS . HI HO! &jes$ own JOINBP!
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