Regarding "General Motors: back in high gear" (June 19): GM's progress must be put in perspective. Things are better at GM than at Ford or German-owned Chrysler. Yet that's not saying much.
I'm a GM credit-card user with over $3,200 in accumulated credits that I can use to buy any Chevy, Pontiac, Olds, Buick, or Cadillac. But after months of looking over dozens of GM models, there's nothing I want. GM cars are often ugly (Pontiac Aztek), perform poorly in crash tests (Chevy Venture, Olds Intrigue), have uncomfortable seats (Buick LeSabre), use ergonomics out of the '70s (Chevy Impala), display shabby quality (GMC Sierra), roll over too easily (Chevy Blazer), or look as if they were designed by a teenager (Pontiac Bonneville).
Recently, GM surveyed its credit-card holders to ask which qualities we ranked most important in cars. Among the choices, as I recall, were reliability, style, price, comfort, and safety. What a question! Buyers want them all. Would I want a stylish car that was not safe? Get with it, GM. Give us something as reliable, safe, affordable, and stylish as the Toyota Camry, and you'll sell millions.
Regarding "Social Security Stumped" (June 11, Editorial): You suggest that Democrats are eager to engage in a national debate on Social Security and will criticize Republican proposals to "privatize" the system.
Reform should achieve three goals. First, Social Security's promise to seniors and near-seniors should be kept by not cutting benefits or changing the current system in any way. Second, any reform plan should be voluntary for younger Americans. Finally, every worker should be guaranteed benefits that are never less than the current program, regardless of what happens to their personal accounts.
House majority leader Dick Armey (R) of Texas and I have sponsored legislation to achieve these goals: the Social Security Ownership and Guarantee Act. The bill guarantees benefits promised to seniors without increasing taxes. Our plan creates generous voluntary personal accounts within the Social Security system for younger workers that will gradually transform Social Security from a mere political promise to a fully owned, legally binding guarantee. The current safety net of Social Security will stay intact: No privatization!
I agree that Americans will benefit from a clear debate on the future of Social Security. Unfortunately, that debate has not been conducted fairly. Democrats should offer their own plans or constructively work with Republicans on their proposals without resorting to mischaracterization.
Rep. Jim DeMint (R)
Given the smoke-and-mirrors game that the Republicans in Congress and the White House are playing with tax cuts, particularly the estate tax, it's not surprising that the automatic reaction may well be cynicism.
Trying to follow just what Congress and the White House are doing reminds one of the Abbott and Costello routine, "Who's on first?" Repeal or no? Which taxes? If there were no war on and no urgent domestic priorities, one could dismiss this silliness as Washington fever. But we need billions to get poor mothers off welfare. And we need more to fund the other parts of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program such as child care, training, and education.
Will the tax-cut-happy Congress be ready to fund these and other domestic programs? I wouldn't bet on it. Congress needs to take a hard look at the funding needed and repeal last year's ill-advised tax cut.
Kenneth J. Rummenie
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