Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES II • August 19, 2009 Stalin Pact will tend to believe that if you supported Finland against Russia or wanted an independent Poland and a unified Germany without the Berlin Wall, you do not believe in national health care. Wrong, in my case. I most emphatically belong in some form of national health care, just as I believe that the minimum wage, as paid to adults and not kids in high school, is about half what it should be. These are no-brainers. Nobody should be allowed to suffer because he or she cannot afford basic health care, and nobody who is trying to support a family should be asked to work for $7 an hour. Here is the problem: Some jobs are not worth much more than $7 an hour, and some people have medical needs they bring on themselves by reckless living. Should the taxpayers be fleeced to cover these people? Some kid who is working for a prom bid is not in the same boat as the guy who is trying to pay rent and feed his family. Is there such a thing as need-based wages? There used to be such a thing when people put their religious views into practice in everyday life, but a decision to focus entirely on the bottom line has undermined concern for building a healthy town or a healthy nation by allowing productive workers to support themselves and their families. We can always outsource useful labor and make more for the stockholders while American workers sink deeper into poverty. When you were the only tailor, shoemaker, or blacksmith in town, you could insist on getting a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work and most people who had to look you in the eye, whether in church or in the saloon, would pay if the work was good and the price was reasonable. The destruction of that relationship by the railroads and industrialization led to an increasingly mean-spirited ambiance in American life. The man whose picture is on the dollar bill – the man who turned down a chance to become King of America at Newburgh at the end of the American Revolutionary War – warned against two evils: entangling alliances, and “factions,” by which he meant partisan politics of any kind. What political party did George Washington belong to? None. He hated the idea of political parties. Taking sides often involved taking leave of your senses, he thought. So let it be with the minimum wage. Let it be based not on the level of formal education – a great money-waster in some cases – but of actual skills. You get past the first level when you demonstrate basic literacy, the second when you develop aptitude in higher math or a major foreign language in addition to English, and the third when you show you have trade or craft skills. No wage level should be as low as it is now. None should be as high as some people in the public sector pull down purely by seniority. Why should a skilled typist or computer operator or heavy equipment operator new to the job make one-third the wages of somebody who does not do anything, but has a recession-proof job? National health care should also have parameters. Trauma should be free. We all know that if you get hit by a car, the police and EMTs are not going to leave you lying in the street unless you can prove you are not poor. That is common sense and common decency. Both still exist to some degree. I think the government should also pay for eyeglasses, basic dental care, and treatment for life-threatening medical problems not of the patients’ own making. I do not think the government should pay for cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, or long-term psychiatric care for people who are vaguely unhappy and not dangerous or dysfunctional. Now we advance into deeper, darker waters. How fair is it to ask taxpayers to fund expensive treatment for lung cancer when most people no longer smoke and the Surgeon General has warned us for the last 50 years that smoking causes cancer? Should taxpayers plunk down for liver or kidney transplants brought on by the excessive consumption of distilled spirits. Most people know you can add years to your life and your vitality by eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and maybe by skipping red meat entirely, or reducing consumption. Some vegetarians might balk at subsidizing quadruple bypass surgery for people who eat meat three times a day. Should people who stay active and watch their weight have to pay for liposuction or other procedures for people who do not exercise, do not work, and just cannot put down that knife and fork? Here is the real corker: life support. Medical technology can sustain heartbeat and respiration in people who are brain dead. Right now, this tends to be a bankruptcy issue for families who never expected someone’s body to outlive their mind by years, maybe decades. Do we let people go broke, or do we undermine the spending power of all the taxpayers to keep people alive when they are functionally defunct? I do not know the answer to any of these questions. If I did, I am pretty sure nobody would listen to me in any case, but I think we should start to ask, because the export of most of our industrial base is rapidly turning us into an upscale Third World country. We have to decide before the luxury liner finally sinks just how many appurtenances we can afford to put in the lifeboat. I recently got into my first computer debate with some people who could not decide whether Budd Schulberg was a great writer or a miserable traitor. Schulberg, who died earlier this month at 95, was praised by some for his skill in depicting Hollywood as its shabbiest, and for the work he did in writing “On the Waterfront,” directed by Elia Kazan. Schulberg and Kazan had something else in common: They both testified against communists in the entertainment industry, reportedly to save their own necks. The schools have convinced a whole generation of Americans that Joseph McCarthy invented the threat of internal communist subversion in some sort of drunken delusion and that the people who were brought up on charges and sometimes blacklisted were innocent, or at least harmless. The schools were wrong. Decoding of Soviet messages between their own version of the Central Intelligence Agency, variously known as the Cheka, the NKVD, and most famously as the KGB, has shown that most of the people charged as communist spies were – how embarrassing – communist spies. Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, and the Rosenbergs really were spies. So was I.F. Stone, who was hailed by some of my senior mentors 40 years ago as a journalist we were all supposed to love and admire. I always thought Stone was a con artist. I remember reading one story he wrote where he cleverly tried to show that North Vietnam was not really supplying communists in South Vietnam because when the U.S. Navy intercepted a sampan loaded with machine guns and ammunition, there was only enough ammunition to keep each machine gun for 40 minutes, so what good was that? I had to explain to my colleagues, most of them Ivy League, none of them former soldiers, that you do not fire an air-cooled machine gun for 40 minutes at a time because you will burn the barrel out in a lot less time than that. I don’t think they got it. None of the campus revolutionaries I worked with had ever seen a machine gun up close, much less knew how to load and fire one. Mortars were an absolute mystery to them. Why would you want a little cannon that shoots up in the air? Sure enough, the decoded Soviet messages confirmed that Stone was a paid Soviet agent. I’m glad I never liked him. A significant number of people in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration were genuine agents of Moscow. When some well-meaning person wrote in to say the communists in America had all bolted the party at the time of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, I had to differ with him. It is a matter of record that a great many of them did not, and that Hiss and White kept on spying for Uncle Joe Stalin whether Stalin regarded Hitler as a friend or foe. When Harry Truman spoke with Stalin after FDR died, he found that Stalin knew more about the atomic bomb than he did. This is not a good way to run a government. Somehow, the dialogue developed to “national health care,” formerly known as socialized medicine. People who believe there were no U.S. communists after the Hitler- Where the line has to be drawn Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: I don’t mean to sound rude, but in response to a letter from Trish Manzo (Letters to the Editor, Aug. 12), who wrote that she is offended when the Ridgewood Chamber president wishes everyone happy holidays and not Merry Christmas, I would simply say, “Get over it.” Ms. Manzo writes that “joining the multiple religious celebrations as a way of honoring all” somehow “degrades our culture.” I am sure that Ms. Manzo receives many Christmas well-wishes from family, friends, neighbors and fellow church members, and can enjoy and celebrate Christmas just fine, thank you, without public comment from local officials. I commend Ridgewood and other local communities for making the holiday season an inclusive one and urge them to ignore the protestations of people who cannot seem to grasp the concept of inclusiveness and separation of church and state. Regarding the latter point, Ms. Manzo should be thankful the town has a Christmas tree on display at all since one could argue that it is not appropriate to place religious symbols of any kind -- whether they are Christmas trees, menorahs, or whatever -- on public property. Mark Braff Glen Rock Appreciates inclusive approach Dear Editor: In response to Trish Manzo’s letter and her challenge to Councilman Patrick Mancuso to “listen to the neighbors” in the Aug. 12 edition of The Ridgewood TIMES, I would like to voice my whole-hearted support not only for decorating a permanent, live tree in Van Neste Square during the winter holiday season, but also for more widespread use of the “happy holiday” greeting. These two relatively new traditions are very much in keeping with the original Christmas message of promoting peace and goodwill on earth. Now, just to set the facts straight: fewer than 70 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christian, not 90 percent. As for holding on to tradition, if tradition never changed we would still be hanging fir trees upside down from the ceiling at Christmas, as was the custom in the 12th century. Furthermore, as a life-long Christian, I have never felt any disrespect when someone wishes me “happy holidays.” Quite the contrary, I feel the phrase sincerely honors my tradition and invites me to join in the celebrations of other traditions. What could be more wonderful? Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace, love, harmony, acceptance. Please, Ms. Manzo, search your heart and try to find the real Christmas. Janice Gannon Ridgewood Likes ‘happy holidays’ greeting