Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Attitudinal Change

Police Chief Edward Flynn's article was a welcome and timely reminder of what's right in Milwaukee ("The Milwaukee Plan: Reducing Crime to Improve Neighborhoods," October 2008). Statistics about lower crime are nice but only tell one part of this exciting story. The real heart of the change Chief Flynn has brought is attitudinal - and that is the reason Milwaukee can have legitimate hope for a brighter future.

First, Chief Flynn is correctly beginning from the premise that crime causes poverty, and not vice versa. For too long our leaders, social planners and even law enforcement had this exactly backward, with predictable negative results.
If Milwaukee can gain a reputation as a safe, orderly and law-abiding city, business investment and jobs will follow. If Milwaukee is perceived as dangerous, investment and jobs will stay away, and no amount of government good intentions, subsidy or charity will change that.

Second, the chief correctly focuses on the grassroots law enforcement presence necessary to restore our marginal neighborhoods. Getting the "bad guys" off the streets is one critical part of restoring neighborhoods. Equally important, however, is creating an atmosphere where the "good guys" feel safe enough to come out from cover and take their streets back.

Chief Flynn's commitment to putting "boots on the ground" in neighborhoods on the edge provides that safe space for neighborhoods to reestablish themselves and determine their own safe and productive futures.

Wayne L. Staats, Chief executive officer
eSupport Solutions and eMapping Solutions

Reasonable Approach

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan identified the pressing problems that our policymakers in Washington, D.C., have simply failed to address for years ("Carrying Wisconsin's Torch of Reform," October 2008). The time for action is now, and I commend Ryan for touching on issues that are difficult to solve politically, and that would require statesmanship to achieve.

Our entitlement culture doesn't make fiscal sense. It doesn't even make common sense. We continue to pay out benefits in our Social Security and Medicare programs that dramatically exceed the revenues that we are collecting to finance the system. It doesn't take a genius to figure out we are on a collision course and need change.
The sooner we step up to it, the sooner we relieve our children and grandchildren of the irresponsible legacy we have created.

On health care, I am baffled as to why supporters of national health care desire to dismantle the world's best health care system for political expediency. Yes, costs are high, and there are those who are living without health care, and we need to help them as well. But creating a national health care system, displacing all private providers and vendors, and creating the associated unintended consequences is a huge risk to all Americans who use our current health care system.

Let's try incentivizing health care costs through the tax system, work to make sure all our citizens have access to coverage and proactively encourage our citizens to adopt more healthy lifestyles in order to manage costs.

Ryan has laid out a reasonable approach for solutions to some of our most intractable problems. Don't we owe it to the next generation to at least give these ideas a look to see if they will help? That's the true Wisconsin Progressive tradition.

Mark D.Bugher, Director
University Research Park, Madison

Reform Roadmap

Your two articles on Paul Ryan's health care reform roadmap - one by Ryan, the other by Michael Meulemans ("Paul Ryan's Health Care Roadmap: No More Small Steps," October 2008) reveal the extent to which conservatives and progressives have converged on the problem of health care hyperinflation.

Ryan agrees with progressives that skyrocketing health care costs are unsustainable and that we need fundamental reform. This is a sharp break from our last national health care reform debate in 1993, when conservatives defended the status quo.
However, Ryan's roadmap reveals a sharp divergence between conservatives and progressives on solutions, with the conservative Ryan ironically taking a much more radical approach. His roadmap is a drastic departure from the traditional conservatism of Edmund Burke.

Ryan proposes dismantling the current employer-based health insurance system (where most get health coverage today) and replacing it with a system where workers are given modest tax credits to buy their own unregulated health insurance.
The premise of Ryan's scheme is that individual consumers, armed with a tax credit and greater transparency, will be able to accomplish what business has failed to do: place downward pressure on health insurance costs. This flies in the face of the cardinal economic principle that the greatest bargaining power is held by larger economic actors who have market leverage. Ryan's scheme also runs counter to the nature of insurance, which spreads risk across large numbers of healthy people to pay for those who are sick.

By creating a more fragmented and unregulated individual market, Ryan would create even greater market incentives for insurance companies to cover healthy people and discriminate against those at higher risk.

Fortunately, his scheme faces an uphill battle, as there are few things the public fears more than being left on their own to negotiate with the health insurance industry.

Robert Kraig, Program director
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Madison

To submit a letter to the editor, send an e-mail to letters@wpri.org .