DENNIS KUCINICH--BOY WONDER
I just finished Studs Terkel's valentine to Dennis Kucinich ["Kucinich
Is the One," May 6]. In the '60s I was on the copy desk of the
Cleveland Plain Dealer, back when you edited with a thick black
pencil and would cut and paste copy, literally, using big shears to cut
and goo in a white coffee mug to paste. Dennis was a copy boy back then.
He was a smartass--my emphasis is on "smart." Anyone with an ounce of
brains could see that he was destined to be much more than a factory
worker or, worse, a Midwestern newspaperman. Studs, I'm with you. I'd
love to see Dennis debate Dubya. Go, Dennis, go.
ROBERT J. HAVEL
In his admirable eloquence espousing Dennis Kucinich for national
office, Studs Terkel says that three Ohioans became President after
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81): William McKinley (elected in 1896),
William Howard Taft (1908) and Warren G. Harding (1920). There's one
more: James Garfield, elected in 1880 but assassinated only months after
I have long admired Kucinich. If there's a bandwagon for his national
ambitions, I'd like to know where to sign up. Here in Minnesota, where
Paul Wellstone has his hands full this year against a slippery
Republican, I'm looking for a national progressive leader, and Kucinich
just might be that person.
Sunset Beach, Calif.
Kucinich for President? Sounds better than condemning Congress to
pruning the Shrub for four more years. But why not go all out? Put Jim
Hightower on the ticket with him. Then Dubya just might not be able to
take Texas for granted. And if you think a Kucinich-Bush debate would be
a first round knockout, how would you classify Hightower-Cheney?
$OCIAL $ECURITY FIX: HR 3315
I agree with many points made by former Senator Paul Simon ["Social
Security Fixes," April 29]. While Social Security is projected to face
modest financial challenges in several decades, it is emphatically
not in crisis. And I agree that privatization will make Social
Security's shortfall much worse.
However, I strongly dissent from Senator Simon's support for reducing
cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). I also want to build on the point
Simon raised about the cap on wages subject to the Social Security
I have introduced legislation, HR 3315, the Social Security
Stabilization and Enhancement Act, that has been certified by the Social
Security actuaries as restoring seventy-five-year solvency to the
program (for more information, see www.house.gov/defazio). HR 3315
includes a provision to eliminate the cap on wages (currently $84,900)
subject to the Social Security payroll tax, as Simon suggests. All wages
are already subject to the Medicare payroll tax. It only makes sense to
do the same for Social Security. However, my legislation does retain the
cap for determining benefit calculations, which makes it much more
progressive and still entitles all contributors to a benefit. These
changes equal 2.13 percent of payroll, more than enough to solve the
projected Social Security financing deficit of 1.87 percent of payroll.
My legislation also exempts the first $4,000 in wages from the Social
Security payroll tax, but not from calculation of benefits, so there's
no benefit cut. The bottom line is that 95 percent of Americans would
get a payroll tax cut.
HR 3315 also includes a provision allowing aggregate investment of a
portion of the Social Security Trust Fund in equities other than
government debt, to increase the rate of return received by the Trust
Fund without the individual risk and administrative complexity of
privatization. Unfortunately, while the response from Oregonians about
HR 3315 has been overwhelmingly positive, it has been tough to interest
progressives inside the Beltway.
I encourage Senator Simon to reconsider his support for lowering the CPI
and thus reducing the COLAs of Social Security beneficiaries. The
current CPI does a poor job of measuring inflation faced by seniors.
Because seniors spend much of their money on healthcare, they are
especially vulnerable to the annual increases in the medical costs,
which run far above the rate of inflation. Rather than lowering COLAs
for seniors because some economists argue the CPI overstates inflation
for the general population, it makes more sense for the Bureau of Labor
Statistics to calculate a separate CPI for seniors. In fact, the BLS
has calculated an experimental index based on seniors'
consumption habits since 1984. It shows that seniors face an average
inflation rate 0.4 percent higher than the general population. That
argues for increasing seniors' COLAs, not lowering them.
Member of Congress, 4th District, Oregon
Peter DeFazio is an excellent Congressman, and his proposal is an
improvement over where we are now. The actuaries disagree with his
conclusion that we face "modest financial challenges in several
decades." DeFazio may be correct, but when it comes to the basic income
of so many millions of Americans I would err on the side of caution. His
proposal to eliminate the cap but retain the ceiling on benefits is
good. Exempting the first $4,000 of income makes our tax system more
progressive, which I like, but reduces the long-term benefits of
buttressing the system, which I do not like. The CPI should be accurate,
and recent increases in healthcare costs for seniors may offset the
failures to consider substitution, generic drugs and other factors that
also must be calculated. But accuracy should be the goal, and that may
involve a slight slowing of growth of benefits.
Director, Public Policy Institute
STATES LEAD US TO CLEAN ELECTIONS
Is John Nichols ["Campaign Finance: The Sequel," April 29] unaware
that, in addition to Maine, Arizona and Massachusetts, Vermont has an
effective Clean Elections law? The 2000 gubernatorial campaign of
Progressive Party candidate Anthony Pollina under that law came within
one percentage point of forcing the election to be decided by the
Vermont legislature. Nichols's reference to clean money election
roadblocks erected by Massachusetts House speaker Tom Finneran begs
amplification. Finneran's demagoguery, like that of Tom DeLay in
Washington, defines the clean money struggle. The problem is not the
buying of favors but politicians extracting money to maintain their
abusive and undemocratic power.
Nichols correctly concludes that McCain-Feingold falls far short of
reform, as will any such window-dressing initiative in Congress. Change,
as Pollina said during his campaign, will have to come from the states,
and it's time other states join these four, which have set this country
on a historic course of true reform.
Oakland, Calif.; Boston
John Nichols is correct to highlight a new "sense of possibility"
since the passage of McCain-Feingold. Campaign finance reform finally
does have the public's attention, and full public funding is on the
horizon. Equally important, the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, the
Greenlining Institute and others have done the critical work of
redefining campaign reform as a civil rights issue. Still, the movement
has been missing an important element, present in most other successful
US movements for justice: the creative grassroots action of college
students. Democracy Matters is a new campus-based organization that is
mobilizing popular pressure from college students to get private money
out of politics (www.democracymatters.org).
ADONAL FOYLE, CHRIS VAETH
PACIFICA LICKS ITS WOUNDS
Susan Douglas's "Is There a Future for Pacifica?" [April 15] posits
two polarized factions at war over the Pacifica Foundation radio
network, then reasonably urges us to bring a unified Pacifica to bear
upon common foes. In fact, people from all sides of the recent disputes
are now working together to advance its mission for antiwar,
cross-cultural, community-based free-speech programming. Why the unity?
Magnanimity and openness. This is the first transition of power in
Pacifica's fifty-three years that has not resulted in a purge. Some have
left, but nobody's been fired, and the few who left got agreeable
severance packages. Those remaining enjoy the rejuvenated community
But there are lessons. Many who haughtily "avoided the fray" carefully
protected their own personal privilege and airtime, even while the
foundation's coffers were being openly looted. Conversely, others
sacrificed jobs, money and personal privilege to gain broader community
control over Pacifica. Equating these two cheapens the sacrifices of
some and unfairly assuages the guilt of others. But that's history to
learn from, not to relive.
The issue now is not who did more but who is doing anything now and what
still needs to be done. So instead of staying above the fray, those
interested in Pacifica should jump in with both feet and help realize
its potential. Unlike our predecessors, we welcome all who support
Pacifica's mission, even those who once barred us from entering the
Interim Pacifica Advisory Board;
KPFK local advisory board
Your magazine is thin enough. Please don't waste any more space on
NATION 'SLAMS' FEMINISTS
In her review of my book Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of
the Slut ["The Fishnet Fallacy," April 15], Elaine Blair accuses me
of neglecting to talk about "what the rest of the school is thinking"
when spreading rumors about these girls. In her reading (skimming?)
Blair seems to have missed entire sections dedicated to the stories of
kids who spread rumors. In fact, the whole book is built around my own
memory of spreading rumors. While Blair wants to know what the kids were
"thinking," the point of Fast Girls is that they weren't
thinking--which is why I use words like "irrational" and "unconscious"
throughout the book. Blair ends her slam by launching into her own
memory of a girl who fit the "slut story." While this memory was clearly
triggered by my book, and while Blair even borrows my language to fill
it out ("the site of the slut's continuous re-creation, the high school
hallways"), she still insists I haven't done my job.
It's interesting to consider Blair's review alongside other slams of
feminist writing in The Nation (Katha Pollitt on Carol Gilligan,
Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels on Naomi Wolf). Maybe it's a vast
left-wing conspiracy: It seems whenever a feminist writes a book, The
Nation runs a review that says she shouldn't have.