Honor and Credibility
August 28, 2001
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The "Reckonings" columnist on the op-ed page of today's New York Times gets himself all worked into a lather about George W. Bush's "dishonesty" and "deceptions."
"The important point for now involves honor and credibility," the columnist sermonizes. Mr. Bush "lied," the columnist says. "The administration is still lying."
Well, look who's talking. The letters to the editor section of today's New York Times carries a letter from the director of the Congressional Budget Office responding to the August 21 Reckonings column. That August 21 column claimed: "Managing millions of small individual accounts would be very expensive. That last point is important. A forthcoming study by the Congressional Budget Office suggests that as much as 30 percent of the value of private accounts would end up consumed by administrative costs. This compares with costs that are less than 1 percent of benefits in today's Social Security system."
Smartertimes.com pegged that claim as highly questionable back on August 21. But now the director of the Congressional Budget Office writes to set the record straight: "The figure is from a 1999 draft study . . . . Not surprisingly, some design choices could imply high administrative costs. Other design choices could dramatically lower cumulative administrative costs to as little as 1 percent of an average account's value at retirement. The number Mr. Krugman cites is at one end of a range and is not the C.B.O.'s estimate of the likely administrative costs of private accounts."
Now, if one wanted to be nasty, one could say this reflects on the "honor and credibility" of the Reckonings columnist, and one could assert that the columnist had engaged in "dishonesty" and "deceptions." But Smartertimes.com believes in changing the tone in Washington.
Chainsaw Massacre: In an editorial that really has to be read to be believed, today's New York Times urges President Bush to wear a "protective helmet and Kevlar logging chaps" as well as a "wraparound mesh face-mask" and "more aggressive hearing protection" while using a chainsaw on his ranch. The Times points out that "the number of chain saw users who require hospitalization annually exceeds 44,000, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission." The newspaper cites the Forest Service Health and Safety Handbook for these recommendations, and asserts, "This is how the real pros dress, the ones that work with chain saws all the time."
But a part-time weekend chainsaw operator clearing light brush doesn't need to dress like a professional logger felling huge trees, any more than a weekend home chef needs to wear steel-toe cook's shoes and a fireproof kitchen uniform. The people who work full-time on airport runways wear aggressive hearing protection, but when a passenger walks off a plane onto the tarmac, his ears go unprotected.
A recent front-page New York Times article reported that wearing bicycle helmets may encourage more dangerous behavior and promote accidents by engendering a false sense of security in the bike-rider. The chainsaw safety gear may have the same effect.
A "wraparound mesh face-mask" could also impair the vision of the chainsaw operator.
None of this is to suggest that chainsaws aren't dangerous, but there are lots of dangerous things running around New York City, too, and most New Yorkers haven't yet resorted to walking around in Kevlar logging chaps.
The real laugher is the Times claim that "the number of chain saw users who require hospitalization annually exceeds 44,000, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission." Well, the number of Times readers who require hospitalization annually also probably exceeds 44,000, which tells you virtually nothing about how dangerous the Times is or what protective gear ought to be worn while reading it. If what the newspaper is trying to communicate is that there were 44,000 chainsaw accidents last year that required hospitalization, it should say so. The way the sentence is currently phrased, it reads as if it were written by someone who was typing while wearing a protective helmet, aggressive hearing protection and a wraparound mesh face mask.
Sharpton: The New York Times today gives ridiculously prominent front-page placement to the endorsement of mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer by the Rev. Al Sharpton. Mayoral endorsements in this race by David Dinkins, Ed Koch, Floyd Flake and Daniel Patrick Moynihan didn't make it onto the front page -- and, unlike Rev. Sharpton, those politicians have all won elections. The endorsement was already widely expected.
Median Income: An article in the metro section of today's New York Times, about a city council race in Queens, reports that the median income of the council district is "43%." Huh?
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