Grassroot Perspective – June 30, 2003-Lifetime Social Security and Medicare Benefits; Medicare Reform, French Style; A New Consensus For NHS Reform; The Causes of Wrongful Conviction

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“Dick Rowland Image”

”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Lifetime Social Security and Medicare Benefits

By Eugene Steuerle and Adam Carasso

Source: Urban Institute 3/03

Eugene Steuerle and Adam Carasso of the Urban Institute examine the value of lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits promised under current law. They argue that “a lifetime approach reflects both the growth in annual costs and number of years of benefit receipt [which] gives the most comprehensive picture of what government is being asked to provide.” The authors find the value of lifetime Medicare benefits for an average-wage worker and low-wage spouse would be $490,000 if they retired in 2030. But the couple will have paid only about one-fifth of their benefits in payroll taxes over their lifetime. “While a shifting of tax burdens to future generations is possible for a very long time, it is not sustainable — hence the call for reform,” conclude Steuerle and Carasso. Full text:

A separate analysis of the 2003 Medicare Trustees Report by Matt Moore of the National Center for Policy Analysis also discourages the concept of the intergenerational transfer. “When today’s workers retire, their benefits will be paid only if the next generation of workers agrees to pay even higher taxes,” said Moore. Full text:

– Medicare Reform, French Style

Author: Robert Goldberg

Source: The Washington Times, 4/30/03

Tom Scully, the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), could hinder President Bush’s plan to improve Medicare because “rather than finding important ways to move Medicare into the marketplace, he is adopting the French method of cost containment called reference pricing,” says the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Goldberg. In an effort to control costs, Scully’s method of “functional equivalence” extends rationing and price controls to prescription drugs. “But in the weird science of Mr. Scully’s ‘functional equivalence,’ lawyers, not doctors, lobbyists, not scientists, politicians, not patients, determine what drugs are used and paid for,” says Goldberg. Full text:

– A New Consensus For NHS Reform

Source: UK Health Policy Consensus Group, 5/2/03

The UK Consensus Group, consisting of experts from prominent Labour party members to representatives of market-oriented think tanks, has issued its final report on how best to reform the British National Health Service. They recommend four possible funding solutions: 1) evolutionary reform of primary care trusts; 2) a tax-funded core-service with treatment vouchers and top-up insurance; 3) social insurance with individual payment, and; 4) social insurance with consumer health purchasing co-operatives, modeled after the United States’ Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. The group also recommends converting all government-owned hospitals into independent foundation hospitals “at the earliest possible date.” Full text:

Above articles are quoted from Galen Institute, Health Policy Matters May 2, 2003

– The Causes of Wrongful Conviction

Several recent news stories, aided by the same forensic science that has made CBS’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “CSI: Miami” hit television shows, have exposed the ugly underbelly of the criminal justice system — wrongful convictions.

Although the most dramatic examples of wrongful convictions have come from the exoneration of former inmates serving long prison terms — or sitting on Death Row — overzealous government prosecutors have also wrongly convicted many of white-collar crimes.

How to solve the problem of wrongful convictions? First we must examine the incentives that police and prosecutors face. This is necessary but not sufficient, according to Paul Craig Roberts, research fellow at the Independent Institute.

To get to the root problem, we must reverse the trend of allowing the legal theories of nineteenth century utilitarian reformer Jeremy Bentham to replace the jurisprudence of William Blackstone, Roberts argues in the spring issue of THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, and in recent syndicated columns.

“Blackstone conceived of law as the people’s shield,” writes Roberts. “It is better, he said, for ten guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted. In contrast, Bentham viewed the law as a weapon the government wields to punish criminals or anyone else in the name of the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Roberts illustrates several instances in which federal and local prosecutors have acted on the Benthamite “greatest good” premise — in defiance of the common-sense, Blackstonian view of justice.

The law firm representing former Lincoln Savings and Loan president Charles Keating, for example, had to pay $41 million to settle an indictment by the Justice Department as an “abettor of crime.” It had not divulged information about its client because “Keating’s crime had not been established at the time of the law firm’s indictment.” Years later, a federal judge overturned Keating’s conviction “as a violation of mens rea and the constitutional prohibition of ex post facto law,” but the law firm was still out $41 million.

This kind of intimidation is just one example of violating justice to pursue a presumably Benthamite end. Plea bargaining is another, but Roberts exposes other abused prosecutorial tactics, as well.

“The problem of wrongful conviction is much larger than many of its antagonists appreciate. We will spin our wheels expending vast energies in freeing a few innocent people, and we must do what we can. But we also must gird for battle and restore the lost law. Once the ‘Rights of Englishmen’ are no longer even a memory, justice will be gone as well.”

See “The Causes of Wrongful Conviction,” by Paul Craig Roberts (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Spring 2003)

Above article is quoted from The Independent Institute, The Lighthouse May 12, 2003

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

The Supreme Court ruled last summer that the school-choice program in Cleveland is constitutional. This is a great victory for America’s children, especially those children from poor and minority backgrounds who benefit the most from school choice. But while we chalk one up for freedom, we should not forget how hard the struggle has been and how many people have helped bring about this victory.

When the contemporary school-choice movement started a dozen or so years ago, its leading protagonists probably could have met comfortably in a telephone booth. In an amazingly short period, it has grown into one of the most sophisticated, passionate, and ecumenical movements in American history.

I’ve never encountered a group of people — activists, philanthropists, public officials, clergy, lawyers, parents — so motivated by good faith, willing to put aside ideological differences in pursuit of a common cause, even at enormous personal sacrifice. That is probably why the movement has come so far, so fast; and it is essential that we replicate that type of effort wherever we seek to expand freedom.

The school-choice struggle has been fought on many fronts. The decisive battles have come in the courtroom. Yet whatever the legal issues in a particular lawsuit, our core argument throughout has been that parents, not government, should have the primary responsibility and power to determine where and how their children should be educated. That we ever should have had to fight so long and so hard to establish such a basic principle is a testament to the determination and ferocity of the powerful reactionary forces dedicated to the status quo.

The education establishment, and particularly the teachers unions, are the most powerful special-interest group in America. At the national level, they essentially own the Democratic party; at the state level, they wield enormous influence over elected officials in both parties; at the local level, they frequently control school boards (which is why the nostalgic cry among some conservatives for “local control” is a self-defeating goal). The education establishment has dedicated itself and all the resources at its disposal to defeating meaningful school choice anywhere and everywhere it presents itself — as if its own pathetic existence depends on it. With luck, it does.

The enemies of school choice have fought freedom from the beginning. It started after, as one of a team of lawyers at the Landmark Legal Foundation, I first contacted Wisconsin State Rep. Polly Williams following the enactment of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program in spring 1990. Since that conversation, my colleagues and I have litigated 16 school-choice cases from California to Puerto Rico (I left the Landmark Legal Foundation in 1991 to cofound the Institute for Justice but remained on the Milwaukee case).

With the first case, in Wisconsin, Polly Williams and the schools agreed to send a bus of parents and children to Madison. I flew directly to Madison so I could prepare. I would share argument time with the state’s lawyer, Warren Weinstein, and intended to hit hard on the equities.

The argument finally was held on a clear fall day in October 1992. I arrived early to take my place at counsel table alongside our local counsel, Anne Sulton. Polly was in the gallery, as were Dan Schmidt and Hillel Fradkin from the Bradley Foundation, my partner Chip, and other well-wishers. But the parents and children from Milwaukee hadn’t yet arrived, and the seats were filling rapidly. Unbeknownst to me, the bus had broken down en route.

Weinstein rose to argue and was instantly interrupted by questions from all sides, particularly Justices Bablitch and Abrahamson. My adrenaline was pumping. Though I had been an insecure advocate earlier in my career, I had come to absolutely love oral argument, and I couldn’t wait for my turn. Finally it came. As I walked to the podium, I glanced back to the rear of the courtroom and saw that the children had arrived. But there were no seats in the courtroom, so instead I saw a row of noses pressed against the glass doors to the courtroom. I smiled and thought to myself: what a metaphor, those kids on the outside looking in. The image was the most potent fuel imaginable.

In my argument, I attempted to blend legal and equitable arguments. What this program was about was a transfer of power from bureaucrats — I gestured to the lawyers at the opposing counsel’s table — to parents, gesturing to the back of the room. The plaintiffs, I declared, wanted to wrench low income children out of the only good schools they had ever known; and nothing in the Wisconsin constitution — which itself, after all, guaranteed equal educational opportunities — would compel such an unjust result. Was there any principle that would limit the program to the special circumstances in Milwaukee, Justice Abrahamson wanted to know. The program was created as a tool for addressing the unique problems of large urban school districts, I replied, but there was no constitutional limitation. The Constitution obligated the state to provide a uniform system of public schools, I said, but it was free to go beyond that.

The court ruled in our favor. But it wasn’t over. There would be appeals. And there was more litigation to come. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Cleveland case gives us great hope. But there is more to do. The stakes are enormous. For the education establishment, the cause is about jobs and power. For the parents– and for society — the stakes are much, much higher. Nearly a half century after Brown v. Board of Education, nearly half of all black and Hispanic children do not graduate from high school. Poor children in inner-city schools have much greater likelihood of winding up on welfare or in jail than going on to college or productive livelihoods. That is because our K