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Sunday, November 14, 2010

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

The Philadelphia Inquirer

EDITORIALS Founded in 1829

Bailouts have worked

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ormer P r e s i d e n t employment could have risen as George W. Bush chuck- high as 25 percent. led when an interviewer In a new book, Bush reveals told him that half of that he decided to bail out GenerAmericans believe Pres- al Motors and Chrysler even beident Obama created the bank fore they asked for help. He bailouts. agreed to loan $17.4 billion to the “Fifty percent of the people automakers. Obama later apwere wrong, ’cause it happened proved another $60 billion, and on my watch,” Bush placed both compasaid. nies in bankruptcy Exit polls from the for restructuring. midterm election Ford, the only one showed that a signifiof the “big three” aucant number of vottomakers not to acers wanted to punish cept a federal handObama and Demoout, would have cratic candidates for been imperiled if the the bailouts. That other two firms had sentiment overlooks failed. Bush’s ecothe timing of the govnomic advisers ernment’s emergenwarned him that the cy action — Bush iniimmediate bankrupttiated the $700 bilcies of all three lion Troubled Asset could have cost anRelief Program for George W. Bush other one million Wall Street in Sepjobs, on top of a retember 2008. cession that ultimateA lot of people Voters’ anger also ly cost more than don’t seem to ignores that Bush eight million jobs. was right to take remember who Last week, GM resuch unpopular ported a third-quarcame up with steps as TARP and ter profit of $2 bilthe auto bailouts. the first bailout. lion. Chrysler is imAnd lest anyone acproving but has yet cuse this editorial to turn a net profit. page of writing positive things The auto bailout’s cost to taxpayabout Bush only after he left of- ers has fallen to about $17 billion; fice, we credited him at the time the government could recoup with taking the necessary actions more depending on how the to avoid a broader economic melt- firms’ stock performs. down. There are still huge losses to be Another fellow who supported borne by taxpayers. The insurthe bank bailout was the new pre- ance firm AIG received $40 bilsumptive House speaker, Rep. lion from the government, which John A. Boehner (R., Ohio). is unlikely to get all of that money Since autumn 2008, the econom- back. Housing-finance giants Fanic rescue plans have largely nie Mae and Freddie Mac will reproved their worth — especially quire at least $120 billion more TARP. over the next three years, which Bailing out Wall Street caused could bring the total cost of their deep public resentment, in part bailouts to more than $360 bilbecause it was viewed as reward- lion. ing reckless behavior. But in the The full cost to taxpayers for two years since, nearly all banks the banking and housing collapshave paid back the money and es can’t be fully assessed yet. But the U.S. Treasury has earned at two years later, the government’s least $25 billion on the program. frantic rescue operations look As Bloomberg reported, that’s even more necessary than they enough to cover all farm subsi- did at the time. dies nationwide for two years. Two respected economists, Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder, estimated in a study that without the Chat live about this editorial bailouts and the much-derided Monday at 1 p.m. at economic stimulus act of 2009, un- www.philly.com.

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Standing in the need

s one of the most respected and powerful voices in the African American community, the black church cannot continue to be missing in action in fighting the disproportionate impact of AIDS and HIV among blacks. That’s why it’s heartening to learn that black clergy members in and around Philadelphia are breaking their silence and joining a bold national movement to address a disease that is devastating black families, especially in Philadelphia. This refreshing and long-overdue culture shift is desperately needed. African Americans account for more than two-thirds of persons living with HIV or AIDS. (Hispanics make up 12 percent, and whites 20 percent.) About 2 percent of Philadelphia’s black population is infected. The local campaign has been spearheaded by Amy Nunn, a social-science researcher at Brown University School of Medicine, who has been in Philadelphia for months focusing on prevention strategies involving the church. Already, more than 100 houses of worship in the city — from Baptist to Muslim — have agreed to raise the issue in the coming weeks. At least 30 churches will host HIV testing on site. In addition to putting messages on donated billboards urging testing, the pastors will speak from the pulpit and initiate public conversations about a topic that has been taboo in the black church. This unconventional and provocative approach is needed, given the staggering statistics. More churches should join the program to increase awareness of a dis-

Black churches have been too quiet about the disproportionate impact of AIDS on the African American community. ease that too many have written off as a gay problem. Many heterosexuals are infected. Black clergy in Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa, and Chicago have also heeded the call. They are becoming advocates for an infected population frequently shunned by their churches. The clergy deserve credit for striving to overcome their own fears and long-held misconceptions about the disease. In the past, many were reluctant to even mention HIV/AIDS at church because of its association with homosexuality and promiscuity. The black church has gained a reputation for being homophobic. Some pastors are finding ways to incorporate a message about HIV/AIDS into their sermons, often using stories of Jesus healing the afflicted. The Rev. Kevin Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, was tested in front of his congregation. He also requires couples getting married in his church to be tested. Such straight talk about HIV/ AIDS has been a long time coming. Now, people need to listen. To find a testing center near you, call 1-800-985-AIDS.

TONY AUTH / The Philadelphia Inquirer (tauth@phillynews.com)

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Letters submitted for publication on the Editorial Page and at www.philly.com may be e-mailed to inquirer.letters@phillynews.com; faxed to 215-854-4483; or mailed to The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Limit letters to 200 words. Letters may be edited. Writers must include a home address and daytime and evening telephone numbers. For more information, call 215-854-2209.

Proud to stand on founding principles As the Republican candidate for Congress in New Jersey's First District, I was endorsed by both the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC and the West Jersey Tea Party. However, those affiliations were cited by three area newspapers as their rationale for not endorsing me in the recent election. The Inquirer was especially dismissive, accusing me of “sipping too much of the tea-party brew” (“Andrews best on issues,” Oct. 18). Only the Courier-Post took the high road, choosing to endorse me based on the strength of my economic platform. As I understand it, the tea-party movement stands for three things: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution. So my question to the news media is, how can you possibly be opposed to such things? Although I am not a member of any particular tea party group, I stand proudly with my fellow patriotic Americans on these three foundational principles. Dale Glading Barrington dale@glading2010.com

Excess of candy certainly not dandy Five hundred to two thousand dollars or more for a birthday party for a 4-year-old (“Heaps of sweets,” Wednesday)! I can only hope that it has occurred to the parents that they should balance out this overthe-top largesse with a matching donation to a children’s charity in their daughter’s name.

mongering by calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme (“Take him with a grain of it,” Wednesday.) Perhaps the governor is simply telling the American people the truth. A Ponzi scheme is one in which “payouts” to “investors” are not the fruits of legitimate investments in productive enterprises but are merely transfers of payments from new “investors.” The only difference between Social Security and a privately run Ponzi scheme is that a private scheme’s victims foolishly invest their money of their own free will; Social Security takes our money at the point of a gun. It’s about time that someone in government told the American people the truth. Patrick Barron West Chester www.patrickbarron.blogspot.com

Put tax increase toward debt, interest The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the 10-year cost of keeping the Bush tax cuts for the upper 2 percent of taxpayers — those making more that $250,000 a year — would be a whopping $700 billion. Republican lawmakers want to keep these cuts in place, without saying how they would pay for them. President Obama wants to keep current rates for the other 98 percent of taxpayers but return these higher income earners to previous rates. Obama should call the GOP’s bluff, and let cuts for the upper 2 percent lapse, with a provision that all of the estimated $700 billion this would produce would be spent to pay down the deficit. This would

Janet Summers Philadelphia

Story of sweets leaves bitter taste Recently, I sat in a class titled “The Economy of God,” where folks wrestled with the ways our monetary choices affect our world. Every day, I give tours of a small museum and explain that the origins of my denomination (Methodist) included efforts to live a simple life that reflected our values. And now I read about little girls in satin dresses scarfing down $1,900 worth of candy (“Heaps of sweets,” Wednesday). Where is the value in that story? How can you follow your series on hunger in Philadelphia with an article about disgusting excess? As schools try to get the sugar out of their lunchrooms, and the country fights obesity in children, did this article really need to get the whole top half of the “Style & Soul” section? Donna Miller Philadelphia missdonna2009@gmail.com

The truth about Social Security

have the double advantage of reducing the national debt and also the annual interest payments on the debt. How could Republicans be against that? Alison B. Graham Wynnewood

Target tax cuts to small businesses As a CEO of a small business, I could hire more workers if I paid less taxes. But most people who earn more than $250,000 a year don’t run small businesses and are not in a position to hire others. So why not just extend the tax cuts to owners of small businesses, not those who are not in a position to hire others? Vince Gallagher Philadelphia

Citizen of the Year Last year, it was Marsha Levick and Lourdes Rosado of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. Who should be the 2010 Citizen of the Year? Nominate a person who helped the city, state, or nation in an effective, creative way, while showing integrity and perseverance. E-mail a short bio and what the nominee did to psweeney@phillynews.com, with “Citizen” in the subject line. Or mail it to Citizen of the Year, The Inquirer, Box 41705, Philadelphia 19101. The deadline is Dec. 10.

FURTHERMORE…

President’s critics find proxies for their racism Just when I was consumed by feelings of voter’s remorse for switching from being left-leaning independent to Democrat in support of Barack Obama for president, my depression was lifted by watching George W. Bush on TV last week. I got my Obama poster out of the basement to have it framed. To be clear, my voter’s remorse is not the result of anything Obama did during the last two years. Tea partyers and other whiners complaining about the size of government and the economy fail to realize the economic depths this country was in when the president took office. I believe history will show that he made sound decisions that may have saved the U.S. auto industry and other sectors of the economy. The remorse is related to what I perceive to be the real problem with Obama’s election — that race relations have not matured enough in this country to accept the president. I feared that white America, especially those from blue-collar and red-state backgrounds, would unite against a black president unlike anything we have ever seen before. Now they have found comfortable proxies for racism to attack his leadership over taxes (that most of them don’t pay), the size of government (don’t cut their Medicare and Social Security), and a federal budget deficit (that most of them don’t understand). If Obama does not pull the miraculous turnaround that Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan experienced following their midterm losses, it is because this country cannot accept the president because of his African American origins.

Dana Milbank says that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is engaged in fear-

Kent D. Lollis Yardley

The Philadelphia Inquirer Gregory J. Osberg Publisher Stan Wischnowski Acting Editor Mike Leary Managing Editor Vernon Loeb, Tom McNamara Deputy Managing Editors Gabriel Escobar Metropolitan Editor Acel Moore Associate Editor Emeritus Harold Jackson Editorial Page Editor Paul Davies Deputy Editor of the Editorial Page

To find more editorials, follow the editorial board blog “Say What?”, e-mail letters to the editor, submit commentaries or responses to editorials and op-ed columns, and find archives of Tony Auth’s cartoons, go to:

www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion


Sunday, November 14, 2010

www.philly.com

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

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Commentary

Pa., suspend risky system that collects student data Jeffrey Piccola

BRYAN MOORE

Jazz pianist James “Sid” Simmons in his classic pose at the Tony Williams Labor Day Jazz Festival at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill. Simmons died Nov. 5 at age 63.

Play hard, laugh often, and no complaints

Suzanne Cloud

ance note upon note upon note until you felt your heart would is a jazz singer and executive break, anticipating the musical director of Jazz Bridge, a cascade that was sure to come nonprofit that assists crashing at the most astonishPhiladelphia-area jazz and ing moment. Sid was that good. blues musicians in crisis When Sid was still in his azz pianist Sid Sim- 20s, he quickly became part mons had the most of a coterie of fellow Philly languid walk and an musicians who would be lifeeasy-as-you-go de- long friends: violinist John meanor that would Blake, bassist Tyrone Brown, be accentuated occasionally percussionist Leonard “Doc” by a magisterially amused Gibbs, and drummer Pete smile, two eyebrows raised Vinson. This group of individin mock surprise, or both, if uals would eventually besomeone unloaded a bit of come the musical framework gossip on him or told him a upon which saxophonist familiar gig story that had Grover Washington Jr. would made the rounds around begin to build his career, and town a few times too often. they appeared on his early Unlike most in the music albums Live at the Bijou (rebusiness, Sid never felt the corded at the popular Philaslightest need to name-drop delphia club in the late or dwell on past performance 1970s) and Reed Seed. In the 1980s, Simmons beglories — his end of the musical colloquy would begin came a mainstay at TnT Monwhen he sat down at the pi- roe’s at 15th and Arch, with ano. That spot was his moun- saxophonist Bootsie Barnes, taintop, his valley, his road bassist Charles Fambrough, right into the souls of the folks and drummer Craig McIver. at the bar (usually the ones Everyone ended up there and really listening) night after many who came to play got night at Ortliebs’ JazzHaus in famous. Always, musicians Northern Liberties, where he would leave the joint imwas a member of the famous pressed with Sid, whose comhouse band along with bassist ping behind a soloist inhabitMike Boone and drummer By- ed a different place rhythmically than most pianists. No ron Landham. As the years unfolded, this one could ever predict when rhythm section acquired myth- Sid Simmons was going to ic qualities in Philadelphia jazz drop those chords in during lore — in fact, these guys were someone’s solo, but every socalled the Philly Rhythm Sec- loist would agree that the tion. If you could hang with place and time he’d drop them musically, you could pret- them would be perfectly tastety much hang with anybody. ful and absolutely surprising. They took no prisoners and I met Sid Simmons when he countenanced no showboaters. subbed for my regular pianist Those nights with Sid in his Eddie Green at a totally pedesclassic pose (head back, eyes trian gig I had at a club at closed) at that awful, slightly Penn Center. I’ll never forget out-of-tune piano we all loved the bemused look on Sid’s face to hate, bouncing off Boone’s when he walked in. His look bass lines, kicking back against said, “I wonder what I’ve gotLandham’s drum accents, were ten myself into.” By the end of magical. When his time came the night, we were fast to solo, we’d listen to Sid bal- friends, even though I wasn’t

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nearly ready for his talent at the time. Years later, I still had to hold on for dear life whenever we worked together. In 2008, I was badgering Sid about giving me a quote for a calendar I was putting together as a fund-raising tool for Jazz Bridge, a nonprofit that helps our local jazz and blues musicians in crisis. Jazz photographer Bryan Moore had taken an incredible photo of him, and I needed a heartfelt quote to go alongside it on his birth month — November. In my mid-nag, Sid broke in and said he needed some help with some surgery, minor stuff. He felt funny even asking, but he didn’t have health insurance. Could Jazz Bridge help? That question started Sid and me on a two-year infuriating dance with the country’s malevolent health-care system. Sid’s medical needs turned out to be anything but minor. He was seriously ill, but didn’t want anyone to know. He didn’t want to make a big deal of it, didn’t want one of the community’s traditional jam-session benefits. He just wanted to live and play piano. Throughout his struggle, his already tall and lean frame became noticeably thinner. Yet Sid played as much as people asked him to, working as hard as he always had — ready to laugh and without complaint. Just a few weeks ago, I asked him to play a jazz-jam fundraiser this December, and though Sid kiddingly protested about playing for singers he didn’t know, he laughed and said yes. Jazz pianist Sid Simmons died Nov. 5 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was 63 years old and one of the bravest men I’ve ever known.

standably crying foul over demands to submit personal is a Republican representing student information. When central Pennsylvania’s 15th this system was implementSenate District ed in 2009, I joined college ennsylvanians recently officials in asking how the learned of one of the data would be used, who largest security breach- would pay for its collection, es of personal health informa- and who would be liable for tion in modern history. A breaches or errors. At first, computer flash drive contain- our questions were ignored. ing the names, addresses, Then we were told, “Trust and personal health informa- us.” tion of 280,000 Philadelphiaarea Medicaid recipients was discovered missing, purportedly after a laptop was lost at a community health fair. This potential exposure of millions of pieces of sensitive data illustrates the ease with which one small oversight, or one tiny computer drive, can spell instant — and enormous — vulnerability for millions of innocent Americans. And it is this potential for identity theft, discrimination, and other abuses that explains why the Senate Education Committee and leaders in the higher education PAUL LACHINE / newsart.com community have demanded the suspension of the state’s student-data collection. Student records The Pennsylvania Informahad been deemed tion Management System (PIMS) is designed to track confidential, students from “womb to but PIMS turns workplace.” The Department of Education envisions data that protection collection three to five times on its head. a year, to include such information as name, address, Student records have tradibirth date, family income, race, gender, disability sta- tionally been deemed confitus, courses taken, counsel- dential, but PIMS turns that ing received, and grades protection on its head. The PIMS manual lists guidelines earned. In a letter to the state, offi- that are insufficient to safecials at Penn State and the guard the privacy of intimate University of Pittsburgh student data. They also fail called the scope of this data to indemnify private colleges and universities from liabilicollection “unprecedented.” While many colleges are ty resulting from disclosures willing to provide aggregate- of confidential student inforlevel data, they are under- mation. Unlike the state, pri-

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cuffed to a stifling job because they couldn’t afford to give up health-care benefits? Still, the law is so controversial that Republicans made its repeal one of the pillars of their campaign to take back Congress. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56 percent of those who cast ballots during the midterm elections favor rescinding the law. That sounds like a mandate to roll back the legislation. Here’s a prediction: Republicans won’t do it. They won’t even make a wholehearted effort because they know it’s not nearly so unpopular as that poll seems to suggest. What do polls show when Americans are asked about the changes the law actually makes? According to the same Kaiser poll, most provisions are popular; the GOP repeals them at its peril. Seventy-eight percent of Americans would keep the tax credits that would help small businesses buy insurance for their employees; 71 percent back the provision that would prohibit insurers from withholding coverage for “preexisting conditions”; 71 percent would retain the financial help so lower-wage workers can buy insurance; 54 percent would keep the provision that increases the Medicare payroll tax on affluent Americans. So what’s so unpopular? The mandate. Only 27 per-

cent of voters like the idea of requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance. Of course, it’s only in the law because it’s the glue that binds everything else: Universal coverage works only if everyone is covered, with the healthy supplementing the sick and the young helping to pay for the not-so-young. There’s one more reason that Republicans are unlikely to take apart the new law: According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, it shaves $130 billion from the deficit over 10 years, mostly through small cuts in Medicare. The GOP will keep up their political theater, agitating against reform, supporting legal challenges and holding hearings designed to showcase any poorly executed regulations. But they won’t try for wholesale repeal. When the law passed in March, conservative pundit David Frum criticized Republicans for their refusal to compromise. He hasn’t backed off, writing recently: “Republicans will fall back upon a Plan B, basically a series of stunts. ... And at the end of two years, the law will still be there, more or less intact.” Frum is right, and that’s a very good thing. Cynthia Tucker is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist. E-mail her at cynthia@ajc.com.

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Republicans will posture but won’t undo health-care reform

resident Obama has famously said he’d rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre twotermer. And he’s already achieved historic health-care legislation that has changed the country’s social and political calculus. For all the conventional wisdom that reforming health care doomed the Democrats, I’m betting the law will be popular among voters in a few years, just as a similar Massachusetts law gets high marks from voters in that state, polls show. The federal law is not perfect, but it will finally provide Americans with universal access to primary health care, something every other Western industrialized power did long ago. Eventually, health-care reform will also be regarded as a boost for the economy because it begins to separate health care from the workplace. In a globalized future where workers will move from job to job, it makes little sense to rely on employerprovided health care. How many artists and entrepreneurs have remained hand-

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vate colleges do not have legal immunity from lawsuits or criminal prosecution. Adding to cost and liability concerns are usage issues. With no clear explanation of the end use of PIMS data, it is impossible for policymakers to assess the program’s costs vs. its benefits. The system appears to be a colossal collection of “data for data’s sake.” What is being tracked or analyzed remains unknown. The state is stockpiling information now in case they want it later. Underlying this debate is yet one more basic question: Do state education officials have the authority to compile this Orwellian anthology? Based on a Senate Education Committee hearing on the system last month, I would argue that the state is overreaching. The legislature never granted the executive branch the authority to begin this massive data sweep. No single state department should have the unilateral power to impose such a far-reaching mandate and to punish those who fail to comply. I have asked that the state apply the brakes to this program. With a new governor poised to take the reins, this is a good time to step back and introduce legislation that gathers information consistent with federal mandates on data collection and federal privacy laws. Information is a valuable commodity, with significant benefits and, concurrently, significant risks. Until the risks of PIMS are addressed, the state’s cyber-spying on students should be powered “off.” We don’t need 1984 in 2010.

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Editorial Opinion Nov. 14, 2010  

Editorial-opinion entry Newspaper of the Year, Philadelphia Inquirer

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