On What Grounds Can We Remove Bad Rulers?
I am disturbed by the opinion-page column "Saddam Must Go," Feb. 21, in which the author lays out his own reasons for recommending the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. No one can quibble about the fact that Saddam Hussein is an undesirable leader, to put it mildly. The question has been asked before, but I ask it again: Is this man any worse today than he was during the war against Iran when he used chemical weapons against the Iranians and against his own population? Was he so nice that he became eligible to buy military equipment from the US? No calls for action were heard then - even after a UN investigating committee confirmed the massacre of Iraqi Kurds. Overnigh t, an acceptable trading partner became the new Hitler.
What the author seems to suggest is a loosely defined principle which sanctions the forced removal of persons from leadership positions if they fail to pass some yet to be defined test of acceptability to the international community - or to segments of it.
Let us consider what would have been our reaction back in the days when our government was systematically massacring the American Indians and stealing their land if at that time some European leader had decided the American president should be "removed."
Ruth F. Wilson New Rochelle, N.Y.
Schools and indoctrination
I read with interest the article "Programs Burgeon in US Cities," Feb. 21, dealing with programs to guide young African-Americans. Dr. Wade Nobles brings out several key points to the success of African-Americans. First is the importance of focusing on the many strengths of the African-American culture. And most importantly, he says that the primary responsibility lies with the black family.
I disagree, however, with his assertion that "more schools need an Afro-centered curriculum." As writer Walter Williams of the Sacramento Union states, "Schools must be seen as places of learning rather than places to solve society's ills." I agree.
As a parent of a first grader, I have found my recent involvement in his public school education disappointing, to say the least, due to numerous "indoctrination" programs dealing with multiculturalism, human relations, self-esteem, and health. I have seen an overemphasis on the cultures of minorities and little, and in some cases negative, emphasis on my son's own Anglo-Saxon culture. It's time our education system gets back to basics and begins giving all young people the education they so deserve.
Diane Mutchler Davis, Calif.
Seniors and Social Security The opinion-page article "Affluent Seniors Should Pay for Medicare Benefits," Feb. 21, raises some interesting questions, but is marred by some technical errors and some significant omissions.
The article says the absolute maximum amount that would be deducted for Social Security for a person working from 1937 to 1980 is $1,790.94. This is off by a considerable amount.
Not mentioned in the article is the equal amount which is contributed by one's employer, which doubles the amount contributed to Social Security on the employee's behalf. As a direct labor expense for the employer, this should be included in any discussion of the employee's vested interest.
Also omitted is the value the fund would attain had the monies been invested elsewhere at a conservative 10 percent rate. At the rate of increase in Social Security deductions since 1949, one might expect to be a multimillionaire by 1980 had the same contributions been made to a private retirement plan.
As to the question of taxing Social Security benefits, this is a philosophical and technical question which might best be answered in the way that the government has already answered it for private-sector pension plans.
Government regulations are very specific as to which are pretax and which are posttax contributions to a retirement plan, and the monthly pension check is taxed accordingly. There is no logical reason why this same standard should not be applied to all government pension plans, including Social Security.
H. A. Gardner Goleta, Calif.
[Editor's note: In our Feb. 21 article a digit was inadvertently dropped from the figure for the maximum possible Social Security deduction from 1937 to 1980. The correct figure is $12,790.94.]