Privatize Social Security before cutting taxes

Regarding David Francis's Jan. 3 column, "Bush's choice": Given the size of projected budget surpluses, it is not clear that President-elect George W. Bush must choose between a tax cut and Social Security privatization, as Mr. Francis asserts. But Mr. Bush's political capital will surely be more limited than his fiscal capital, so he may have to choose which issue to truly fight for. That issue should be Social Security.

Politically speaking, personal accounts would empower low-income workers, including the many African-Americans who opposed Bush. In contrast to what will surely be portrayed as a tax break for the rich, personal accounts build wealth in communities where it hasn't previously existed. Finally, by dedicating funds to Social Security, the Democrats' favorite program, Bush may be able to move more government money into the private sector than with a tax cut that is sure to be opposed by most Democrats.

Andrew G. Biggs Washington Social Security analyst, The Cato Institute

More rights for students

The Jan. 2 opinion piece by teacher Jeanne Etkins, "When students are unteachable," reflects the despair that many well-intentioned educators have while trying to work within the impossibly centralized, authoritarian public-school system.

The decline in relations between teachers, parents, and children stems from this troubled factory-style system. Students lack responsibility because they are not given it, nor are they respected for their individual gifts when they are assertive in the classroom.

Ms. Etkins states that students have a right to be educated and concludes that perhaps this right should have conditions. As far as I have observed, students have barely any rights at all once they are in a classroom. They cannot even leave to use the restroom without permission. Our public-school systems will continue to be tested so long as we invoke the democratic ideals of this country while denying a child's right to make choices and learn responsibly.

Angela Sevin Concord, Calif.

I hope George W. Bush reads Jeanne Etkins's opinion piece. She very clearly describes one of the major problems in schools today.

I think parents have become increasingly lazy since the early '60s. They are working harder and doing more things, but they are not setting aside the time that is still required to teach children basic social skills like manners, reasonable respect for authority, and the importance of a basic education. These are prerequisites for attending school.

President-elect Bush needs to find ways to give support to concerned teachers like Robert Miles ("Teaching is no cushy job," Readers Write, Jan 2). Why is it that so many people can see the problem but nothing improves?

Terry Zaccone Saratoga, Calif.

Don't call it an art museum

Three cheers for Christopher Knight, art critic of the Los Angeles Times, and his comments you quote in your Dec. 29 article "What is art?" As art museums slide toward the "lowest common denominator" approach in their exhibits, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is only the latest to lose its grip on remaining a true museum of art. (Remember the Oct. 26 opinion piece "Fashion as the high art of fantasy"?)

There is certainly nothing wrong with exhibiting contemporary culture, but if an art museum wants to broaden its coverage beyond art it should change its name to "culture" or "history" museum.

Rich Hart Watsonville, Calif.

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