No 'free lunch' solution for saving Social Security

Your Dec. 26 Editorial "Bush Returns to Social Security" mistakenly asserts that allowing "market forces to pump in additional money for retirees" could eliminate the deficit in Social Security without benefit cuts or tax increases.

Market forces don't give money away. And whatever individual-account advocates may want you to believe, money for the accounts won't come from the tooth fairy. If the money for individual accounts came from Social Security payroll tax revenues, it would require larger benefit reductions or revenue increases than otherwise. Nor could the money realistically come from the rest of the budget, given the size of projected budget deficits.

Some advocates of individual accounts have been trying to spin the media to believe in "free lunch" solutions, that individual accounts could obviate the need for benefit reductions or revenue increases, when in fact they would exacerbate the required adjustments in Social Security or the rest of the budget.

The long-term Social Security deficit cannot be eliminated painlessly. The public would be much better served by a true debate over how to reform Social Security, rather than being presented with a false choice between real reforms and snake oil.
Peter A. Diamond
Cambridge, Mass.
Professor of economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Peter R. Orszag
The Brookings Institution

Pains of growing up abroad

Regarding the Dec. 23 article "When no place feels like home": As a third-culture kid (TCK) who grew up in Papua New Guinea, I have had great difficulty learning my place in this world, and it was only through reflection and research that I gained a sense of identity. One of the biggest problems is that parents are often ill-prepared to raise a TCK. They do not realize that their child will not feel like an American (or a citizen of which ever country the parents may be from). My parents were born and raised as Americans, but I wasn't. In a sense, these types of parents have greater difficulty relating to their own children. If this single fact is realized, I believe a lot of pain could be mitigated. If parents would simply talk to their children and help them understand why they are not like their peers at school, it would help.
Nathan Barthel

Taiwan's democratic right

Regarding John Hughes's Dec. 24 Opinion column "Bush's balancing act: Taiwan and China": What we Taiwanese want is simply to be left alone to pursue our dreams. That's why it's so disheartening to hear the Bush administration and its supporters criticize our exercise of a democratic right: to hold a common-sense referendum that simply says the Chinese shouldn't aim their missiles at us. I'm surprised this position isn't US policy and is viewed as a provocation to China.
Shu-Chuan Chiu
Bloomington, Ind.

Faith-based rehabilitation works

Regarding the Dec. 24 article "Florida's new approach to inmate reform: a 'faith-based' prison": When I was chief assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, my wife and I were so appalled by the lack of true rehabilitation programs for juveniles that we started the Take-a-Brother Program of Philadelphia.

We went to high schools and recruited exemplary students to work one on one with 8- to 11-year-olds who had gotten into trouble or been arrested. With the attention and firm but loving guidance from older mentors, most of the participants eventually proceeded down the right road. We need more programs like this, as well as other Bible-based rehabilitation efforts.
Morris H. Wolff
New Orleans

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