A4 SUNDAY, MAY 11, 1997 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 Sallna, KS 67402 Fax: (913)827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of , the day : "It's my opinion that a wife should : stay at home for - the most part, not , at work and not ; in spaceflight. Thafsmy opinion." Valeri : Ryumen Russian ~ cosmonaut whose '. wife, Elena * Kondakova, will « fly on this week's « shuttle mission "' that will visit the * Soviet space 4 station Mir OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salinn Journal Paying protection THE ISSUE Kansas insurance laws THE ARGUMENT Some gains, more to go W hile most folks who watch the Kansas Legislature were focused on how much of our tax money it was going to spend, lawmakers were making decisions about something that is just about as important — and more expensive. Insurance. Kansans pay some $6.2 billion a year in insurance premiums. Add up all the state income taxes, state sales taxes, state and local property taxes — even throw in the Kansas Lottery — and you barely top $5.5 billion. To taxpayers, lawmakers have a few things to brag about. To premium payers, legislators don't have quite as much to show for their efforts. But lobbyists for the insurance industry should feel good about the $20,000 they spent in March alone to sidetrack a reform that should have been passed. Lawmakers did approve, at the last minute, a bill that would make it illegal for health maintenance organizations to threaten or bribe doctors into steering their patients away from the treatment they need in order to cut costs. Banning this abominable practice should have been a no-brainer. The fact that it took until the last weekend of the session is a heavy hlack mark on the Legislature's report card. Worse was that the Legislature caved in to the insurance industry by keeping the state's high risk health insurance pool. That means that, even though the federal Kassebaum-Kennedy reforms require that insurance be available to everyone, Kansans with health problems can still be turned down by insurance companies and left with only one choice, the state pool. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius fought the good fight on this one, and lost. She'll be back. Sebelius knows it is wrong for the industry to seek healthy customers to suck premiums from while refusing to cover people who actually have claims. Sebelius also knows it is wrong for a candidate for her job to accept money from the industry she regulates. But, despite her urging, lawmakers refused to pass a bill banning gifts from insurance agents and companies to insurance commissioner candidates. Sebelius doesn't take such contributions. But if the Legislature refuses to ban them for all candidates for that office, Sebelius' high ethical standards will leave her with a low bank account when re-election time comes. Sebelius wants people to be able to buy insurance, not buy insurance commissioners. Next year, the Legislature should show it wants the same. POINT OF VIEW letter to the children THE 19705 •• WE /MFLATfO/VARV SHARON RANDALL Scipps Howard News Service Thank you, kids, for giving me all the things I needed E very Mother's Day, I tell my children that they've given me more than I ever expected and I don't want them to waste money on an expensive gift. It's one of the few things I've ever told them that they actually seemed to hear. In truth, they are kind, thoughtful, generous souls, who would insist, no doubt, on spoiling me rotten, if only they weren't so broke. The youngest, when he was 6, gave me an IOU -4 for Mother's Day: "Dear Mom, this is good for two billion bucks and kisses. You can have the bucks when I get rich. You can have the kisses any time." ! For Mother's Day, I've decided to write about some of the things they've given me, and to thank them for making me a mom. To my three children, who aren't children any more: Your first gift to me was intimacy. I carried you inside my body, birthed you into the world, nursed you at my breast until you thrived. That may sound gross to you now, but trust me, you loved it, almost as much as 1 did. You let me change your diapers, walk the floor with you when you couldn't sleep, hover by your side to keep you breathing. Jesus said, to be great we need to be servants. You made me feel like the greatest servant ever, Mother Teresa in faded jeans. It was my hand you clung to when you took your first step, got your first stitches and fought back tears, yours and mine, the first day of school. You let me sell hot dogs at your Little League games, sit through field hockey matches in the rain and learn more about basketball than the head coach himself, as I often explained to him at dinner. You locked in my memory my favorite smells — baby powder, gym socks, Play Doh, wet dogs and the napes of your necks. Speaking of dogs, thanks for Maggie and Tuff. And for Fluffy the hamster, Rocky the cat and Clancy the iguana, each an education in itself. Thanks for curing me of my squeamishness for lizards, tide pool creatures, heavy metal and the sight of blood. All those trips to the ER and the principal's office made me a wiser, if older woman, taught me to be strong under fire and not fall apart until the flames were out. Thanks for never seeming to notice that Halloween costumes I made were tacky, cookies I baked were burnt or that you never won a prize for selling candy because I wouldn't go door to door. Thanks for always giving me an excuse to read to you or watch you play or take you to the beach, when I could have been doing the laundry. Thanks for making me an expert on childhood diseases, California history, science projects and stain removal. Thanks for always being what I needed. For making me proud and keeping me humble. For showing me there are some things I can fix and a lot of things I can't. Thanks for becoming who you are, both because and in spite of me. It's the only gift I need this Mother's Day. But is it too much to expect a card? /A/H.ATV0MARV V CAN SHE SAY THAT? Ruled by the party of Big Money MOLLY IVINS Port Worth Star-Telegram We're redistributing wealth all right, redistributing it to people who are already rich O f all the stunning moments reported in Bob Reich's new book, "Locked in the Cabinet," perhaps the saddest is an observation made in 1993 by Rep. Marty Sabo of Minnesota, then chairman of the House Budget Committee. Asked why the Democrats in Congress wouldn't fight for working people, Sabo replied: "We're owned by them. Business. That's where the campaign money comes from now. In the 1980s, we gave up on the little guys. We started drinking from the same trough as the Republicans. We figured business would have to pay up because we had the power on the Hill. "We were right. But we didn't realize we were giving them ^ power over us. And now we have both branches of government, and they have even more power. It's too late now." The party of Big Money in Washington — that being both of them — has reached a deal on the budget that gives tax cuts to the richest people in the country and cuts programs for the poorest people. This is the famous "redistribution of wealth" about which the Republicans are always complaining. Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and hand out $135 billion over five years in capital gains tax cuts, estate tax cuts and a tax credit for families with children. The only means testing they propose is that elderly people with incomes under about $30,000 won't have to pay the increased premium for Medicare. Good news, eh? All this is in aid of achieving a balanced budget by 2002 — a goal that even Republicans are now willing to sacrifice in order to cut taxes for the rich. The deficit has already shrunk to T SUNDAY FUNNIES Who will figh Not my generation, we're totally occupied applying skin moisturizers M embers of the Class of 1997, as I stand before you to deliver your commencement address, I am reminded of a humorous story. Unfortunately, I can't tell it, because it's dirty. It's the one about the two guys who are golfing, and one gets bitten by a snake. Ha ha! That's a good one! But seriously, you are about to leave this high school or university and enter into a new era — an era that, if current trends continue, will be: the future. Speaking of the future, I am reminded of a. quotation by Steve Miller, who wrote: "Some people call me Maurice, because 1 speak of the pompa- tus of love." No, sorry, wrong Steve Miller quotation. I meant this one: "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future." How true, true, true, young people! But by the same token, you must not forget another very important part of your lives: the past. As students, you have spent the past in school, memorising facts such as who was the ninth president of the United States, and what percentage of the atmosphere is nitrogen. Many times you have said to yourself: "What good will these facts do me in the real world?" Young people, you'll find that the things a mere $75 billion simply because the economy is growing so fast. That's still a nice chunk of change, but it's the lowest it's been since Jimmy Carter was president and is under 1 percent of the total economy, less than a third of what most economists figure is an acceptable level. Last week, Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers described cutting estate taxes as "pure selfishness," whereupon the Republicans had a hissy fit and made him retract the remark. Beats me why he did — it is pure selfishness. Estate taxes don't even apply to anyone who leaves less than $600,000, and now they're going to raise that to $1.2 million. As Summers pointed out, only 30,000 Americans a year pay any inheritance taxes, but they bring billions into the Treasury. The median income in this country is a little over $30,000 a year for a family of four. Takes a long time to save $600,000 on a salary like that. I'm sure we'd all like to leave our estates to Junior and Sis, but they can limp along with only $600,000 to give them a start in life, plus a fat cut of whatever you manage to make over that. Meanwhile, our man Sen. Phil Gramm is unhappy because the budget deal doesn't reduce government enough. President Clinton got some new spending for health-care insurance for children, student loan programs and restoration of some welfare benefits for legal immigrants. That's the list that caused Gramm to compare the budget deal to a dead fish. "You set it on the table for three or four days, and it will begin to stink." As has often been documented, Phil Gramm had his health care covered by the government; Phil Gramm had his education paid for by the government right through his Ph.D. in economics; Phil Gramm has never worked for anybody but the government; Phil Gramm's mama is being taken care of by the government — and all that was paid in part by now-elderly legal immigrants who worked hard and paid taxes for decades so Phil Gramm could get the education that made him what he is today. You show me someone who claims to be "a self-made man," and I'll show you an ungrateful toad. So how'd we get into this pickle, with the Money Party running everything in Washington? Just like Sabo said: Big money bought it. All the R's who have been reveling in Clinton's Asian money connection will want to take a look at the May 5 issue of Time magazine for the details of a money channel running from China to Hong Kong to the Republicans' national headquarters. The Republicans' Lippo is a Chinese businessman named Ambrous Tung Young, who managed to give $2.2 million to the Republicans. Naturally, they wanted to be sure this was legal, so they had the money funneled through Young Bros. Development-USA, a real American corporation. Except that its only asset is an apartment in Georgetown and its only corporate officials are also Republican Party honchos. Now here's an interesting exercise for all you folks who hate the liberal media. Start counting now the number of stories, in inches and minutes, you see about Ambrous Tung Young and his $2.2 million loan, which the Republican National Committee decided not to pay off. Nope, Young never got to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom, but Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour personally escorted'him around Washington and introduced him 1 to Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. Barbour went to China; Young introduced him to the foreign minister of the People's Republic. Young is very big in Asian aerospace circles, with an interest in supplying commercial aircraft to China and military jets to Taiwan. Mr. Lippo and his interests have been on every front page in the country. Seen Mr. Young there yet? • Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. You can write to her in care of Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd. Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. OAVE BARRY 'the Miami Herald ^ you learned in school will be vitally important to your success, provided that you are a contestant on "Jeopardy." Otherwise they're useless. In the real world, there are few occasions when your boss rushes up to you and says: "Tell me what percentage of the atmosphere is nitrogen right now or we'll lose the Winkersnood contract!" In the real world, it's much more helpful to know things like what the area code for Fort Lauderdale is. The answer, I am outraged to report, is "954." What kind of area code is that? You are too young to remember this, but there was a time when there were only about five area codes in the entire world, and they all had either a "1" or a "0" in the middle, the way the Good Lord intended area codes to be, as in "212," an area code that came over on the Mayflower. But in this "anything-goes" era of drugs and crime and inter-league baseball, any random three-digit number can be an area code, arid the phone companies, which are all run by Candice Bergen, are adding mutant new ones at the rate of hundreds per day. Do you want to know why the phone companies are so eager to get your long-distance business? Because pretty soon every call you make will be to a different area code, including calls to other rooms in your own house, that's why. Who is going to fight this injustice? Not my generation. My generation is currently occupied full time with applying skin moisturizers. No, it is up to you, the Class of 1997, to take on the telephone companies, and also the companies that make the cardboard food packages that have the little dotted-line semi-circles that say "PRESS TO OPEN." Let me ask you, the Class of 1997, a question: Have you ever been able to open a package by pressing that little semi-circle? I didn't think so. Those semi-circles are reinforced at the package factory with titanium; they can easily deflect bullets. NASA pastes those semi-circles on the nose of the Space Shuttle to protect it during re-entry. Let me ask you another question: Have you ever tried to wrap leftover food in clear plastic wrap? Have you ever tried to tear off a piec$ of that wrap using the so-called "cutting edge"? If so, did you get a nice, square piece, like the one the cheerful homemaker always gets in the commercial? Don't make me laugh until saliva dribbles onto my commencement robe. What you got was a golf-ball-sized wad tjiat looks like a dead jellyfish. The "cutting edge" cuts nothing, young people! Fact: For every leftover food item that American consumers are able to successfully wrap, they waste mpre than 37 square miles of plastic — enough; to cover all of Manhattan Island, or the late pr- son Welles. And what is the Scientific Community doing about these problems, young people? They're cloning sheep. Great! Just what we need! Sheep that look more alike than they already do! Thanks a lot, Scientific Community! Oh, I could go on, members of the Class of 1997, but I see that the man with the tranquilizer-dart gun is here. So let me just close hire with some inspirational words from the ni&th president of the United States, Steve Miller, who said, and I quote: "Jungle love, it's drivin' me mad, it's makin' me crazy." I blame all this nitrogen.
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