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Letters to the editor

April 27, 2001 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Making profits from human guinea pigs
The ugly reality of welfare "deform"
"I've seen abuse in N.Y. prisons"
Bush's voucher plan would hurt teachers and students

Washington budget crisis hits poor hardest

Dear Socialist Worker,

The state of Washington faces a budget crisis. The legislature repealed a vehicle tax that provided $800 million per year. It also gave $6 billion in tax breaks to business during the last 10 years.

Now Democratic Gov. Gary Locke and the predominantly Democratic legislature are talking about major budget cuts. State employees will only get a 2.2 percent raise under Locke's budget--less than the inflation rate of 3.7 percent. Worse yet, medical services for poor people--such as vision and dental coverage--are being drastically cut.

The cuts are cruel and shortsighted. As Joe Martin, a social worker at the Pike Market Clinic, says, "Teeth that look more like tree stumps" can be a major obstacle to finding a job. Marlene Johnson, a single mother of three, suffers from multiple sclerosis and failing eyesight. Yet she's in danger of losing vision coverage due to the cuts.

But the budget crisis is not hitting all agencies equally. Prison spending is actually going up--and so is spending for the lottery and horse-racing commissions.

Washington has one of the most discriminatory tax structures in the U.S. The poor pay a higher proportion of their income in taxes than the rich.

State employees are organizing rolling strikes against the budget--not just to get higher wages but to stop the erosion of services to the poor. They are beginning to raise the issue of taxing the rich. A successful strike could help change the priorities of state government to the benefit of all poor and working people.

Steve Leigh, Seattle

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Making profits from human guinea pigs

Dear Socialist Worker,

Not even Nobel Prize-winning doctors at world-class institutions are immune from corporate greed. Three doctors at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle carried out a study of Graft-vs.-Host Disease, an immune system reaction to bone marrow transplant operations.

The study started in 1981 and ran 12 years. First, the very basis of the study was dubious--a human subjects review board initially failed to approve it because of lack of animal testing.

Second, there was the lack of information given to patients who participated in the study. Patients weren't informed of the many risks involved nor told about more successful alternative treatments--taking place right down the hall! Lastly, patients weren't told that the Hutchinson clinic, its cofounder and two other doctors got stock options as well as lucrative consulting fees and board positions from a company that owned some antibodies used in the study.

Not one success was reported from the study. Today, 80 out of 82 people enrolled are dead. These patients were among those with the greatest chance of surviving with other treatments.

But the Hutchinson clinic and these doctors are now wealthy. Those stock options today are worth millions of dollars. In the end, corporate dollars proved more powerful then the Hippocratic oath.

Ken Matsumura, Seattle

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The ugly reality of welfare "deform"

Dear Socialist Worker,

Thank you for publishing Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review.

I am writing to you about a group of women who receive public assistance or have in the past. They are challenging the corruption of welfare "reform" and Tommy Thompson, who was recently promoted from governor of Wisconsin to Secretary of Health and Human Services.

As usual, women with a child or two are expected to conform to draconian rules and regulations in order to get a pittance, while those at the top go on their merry way. While Milwaukee's infant mortality rate among Blacks increased by 37 percent since 1997, the welfare system's top private administrators gave themselves bonuses.

William Martin, a former aide to Thompson, was paid $98,000 in bonuses over three years. In 1999 alone, Martin got more than $170,000 when you count his nearly $20,000 bonus!

This exposes the negative impact of the privatization of government services. Our objective should be the collective ownership and control of resources to satisfy the needs of people, not profit. As Marx said, "History does nothing...History is rather nothing but the activity of humanity in pursuit of its ends," and "human power is its own end."

Frank Roemhild, Bayfield, Wis.

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"I've seen abuse in N.Y. prisons"

Dear Socialist Worker,

As I was reading the Daily New Express recently, I was deeply angered at an article that described the intentional degradation of people in the criminal injustice system. Inmates at the Chantanqua County Jail have been wearing bright coveralls for years. Now prison officials want to embarrass them even more by suiting them up in black-and-white striped outfits--just like the chain gangs in the South during slavery days.

What's worse is the bad treatment, day in and day out, by correction officers at this small facility. I'm talking about daily attacks from officers who spit in your face and use you as a punching bag for the purpose of "correcting" you.

I was once incarcerated in this upstate jail, so I know what it's like. I think the public needs to know about these abuses, so people can see that prisons aren't about right or wrong but the hypocrisy of the so-called justice system.

Charles X, New York City

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Bush's voucher plan would hurt teachers and students

Dear Socialist Worker,

The wimpiness shown by the Democratic Party in opposing the backward policies of President Bush is infuriating. Many of the important things that need to be said or emphasized are neglected in their replies to Bush's attacks.

One important example is Bush's attempt to impose a school voucher system. School vouchers are a serious threat to the education of working-class children--and to the workers who provide this education.

For a moment, leave aside the fact that the voucher money will be used to subsidize the teaching of pious bigotry. Leave aside the fact that poor families who can't afford the tuition fraction that the vouchers won't cover will be left out. Leave aside the fact that the sickening standardized tests--which Bush couldn't pass himself--single out schools for voucher-led financial ruin based on race, gender and class bias.

The most basic problem is that vouchers are a non-solution to the crisis in our schools because they can't be implemented on a significant scale--and any attempt to do so would create havoc. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to envision the impossibility of absorbing into parochial schools the millions of children attending the dilapidated schools of the inner cities.

If Bush really wants to improve education, he would use the alleged budget surplus to restore funding to all the school programs that have been cut over the past two decades. Only then can we begin to correct the savage inequalities in our schools that have forced some desperate parents--many of them Black--to buy into Bush's voucher plan, charter schools and similar schemes.

Hector Reyes, Chicago

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