Budget Bunkum

Apparently Dave Barry ("All I Think Is That It's Stupid," Dec.) does not fully understand "budget cutting" in Washington. He said, "If we're spending $853 trillion on some program now, and next year we spend any less, that's 'budget cutting' to them."

He has got it all wrong! If we're spending $853 trillion on some program this year, and the agency asks for $983 trillion for that program next year, but Congress gives them only $973 trillion for that year–that is budget cutting in Washington!

Stanley A. Cohen
Bethesda, MD

Whose Body?

There's more to why radical feminists oppose reproductive technology than Wendy McElroy reported in "Breeder Reactionaries" (Dec.). In defending abortion, feminists argue that the fetus is a part of the mother's body and therefore her property. Their assertion becomes obviously false when mother and offspring are living miles apart. Today, children are conceived in vitro and kept as embryos in cold storage tanks. Artificial wombs are in the works, and if the theory is correct, men will be able to carry a child to term. One day, technology will enable a child to live outside the woman's body for the full nine months of prenatal development.

The "woman's body, woman's right" defense of the choice to kill by abortion is bound to fall as reproductive technology becomes sufficiently sophisticated. Today's feminists are well aware of their crumbling foundation.

Doris Gordon
National Coordinator
Libertarians for Life
Wheaton, MD

Presidential Prevaricators

Thomas W. Hazlett's December column "Clintonomicus" gives the mistaken impression that Clinton's economic advisers are principled individuals who stood up and voiced their concerns over Clinton's health-care price controls. Bob Woodward may have accurately described Laura Tyson and Alan Blinder's opposition to price controls during closed-door policy meetings, but after 565 economists (including Mr. Hazlett) sent President Clinton a letter in January calling on him to eliminate price controls from his health care program, Tyson and Blinder publicly denied that plan contained price controls and claimed that the economists were "misinformed" and "had not read the proposal." Ms. Tyson publicly asserted the absurd notion that there were "fundamental economic differences" between price controls and price caps.

Less than two months later, at a policy luncheon where reporters continually quoted passages from the health care bill, Tyson finally showed what the National Journal called "a glimmer of intellectual honesty…she allowed that 'there are controls' in the section of the plan that requires regional alliances to establish a fee schedule for services to patients who choose a fee-for-service insurance plan."

While it may be too much to ask that senior administration officials honestly answer questions, it would be nice if they did not actively disseminate information they knew was false.

John R. Lott Jr.
Center for the Study of the Economy and the State
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Vaccination Cure

Robert Pollock's "Shot in the Dark" (Nov.) was right on target. The Vaccines for Children Program's premises–that profiteering drug companies price families out of the vaccine market, and that government must purchase the vaccines at a forced discount–are both false.

The Center for Disease Control's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of October 7, 1994, reported on a 1991-92 series of studies on why inner-city minority children don't get vaccinated. The study found these children often don't get vaccinated because their vaccinations are not checked and updated at every visit to the doctor. This happens often enough that the program's goals can be met if health care providers give all needed shots each time they see a child.

If providers and parents change their shot-giving practices by maintaining accurate records, checking them at every doctor visit, and giving all needed vaccines simultaneously, the children will get immunized. Nothing in the current faulty practices has to do with the price of vaccines. None of the necessary changes require government intervention, theft of income from drug company shareholders, or government takeover of the health care system. All that is required is some good common sense attention by parents and doctors.

Charles K. Young
Majuro, Marshall Islands

Importing Crime?

In Virginia Postrel's editorial "Memory Lapse" (Nov.), she dismisses the problems with the prisoners and mentally ill who came over on the Mariel boats as a "myth" because there were only 5,000 prisoners or mentally ill amongst the 125,000 who came.

This may be a mere 4 percent of the total, but to me it is a very frightening figure. Five thousand criminals in a country suffering from horrific crime in the streets, and with prisons that are overflowing, are significant.

I would think that Mr. Castro would hardly liberate political prisoners, but rather the worst dregs in his prisons. Even if we get some good people (which I am sure is the case), I can't buy the logic that it's OK to accept 4 percent criminals to get the rest, since we haven't solved the problem of our own home-grown criminals.

Emanuel Batler
Toronto, Ontario

Ms. Postrel replies: Perhaps Mr. Batler wasn't surprised to find out that the infamous Mariel boatlift contained such a small percentage of bad apples. I was. Based on casual media references and political rhetoric, I had assumed at least a majority of Marielitos were prisoners or mental patients. That perception, which I believe is widespread, is the myth of Mariel.

How many Marielitos were criminals is a matter of some dispute and depends on how you define "criminal." Some of the refugees were in fact political prisoners; others had been imprisoned for petty theft or prostitution, still others for being homosexuals. The U.S. government considered all of 60 sufficiently dangerous to detain immediately. About another 2,000 have been arrested for crimes in the United States serious enough to warrant repatriation to Cuba; Cuba has taken back about 600 of them.

I refer readers who want more details on the Marielitos to Charles Oliver's well-researched article in Investor's Business Daily, September 23, 1994.

The broader point is this: It is profoundly dangerous to deny freedom to individuals by lumping them in a group and letting the government determine the worthiness of that group. It is even more dangerous to base the worthiness test on a tiny fraction of the total group. Yet this kind of guilt by association is driving the entire immigration debate (not to mention the gun-control debate).

I fully expect to wake up one morning to discover an article in the Los Angeles Times reporting that an authoritative study has shown that 35-year-old white women from the South have relatively low IQs, are less likely than average to be literate, are more likely than average to be unemployed, and cost California taxpayers more than they pay in taxes. I suspect these "findings" may in fact be true. I certainly would not want my liberties to depend on proving them false.