Don’t cut the budgets for troops’ healthcare, weapons

A real world analysis of potential threats should precede any cuts to defense. Instead of allowing a trillion in budget cuts to automatically hit our military, one can only hope that Congress and the administration listen to real-world defense experts who will trim the fat, not the meat. That means taking the time to get cuts right instead of allowing the supercommittee trigger to carry on auto-pilot straight into the heart of our armed forces.


Those are cuts we simply cannot afford. While China and Russia have recently launched new stealth jets, Congress has been paring back our advanced fighter program year after year. Iran is building missiles to threaten Israel and Europe, while we underfund missile defense. Terror cells are spreading to Yemen, Somalia and around the world, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says these cuts would put an end to satellites and drones our military needs to find and eliminate the threats. We all know budgets are tight, and I am a conservative who strongly supports cutting spending in Washington, including defense spending. But spending cuts should focus on what we really need to defend this country’s interests and allies, not yanking away the healthcare we owe our troops or defunding the modern weapons they depend on to do their jobs and make it home alive. 

Washington, D.C.

Focus on the patient

From Jack Lewin, chief executive officer, American College of Cardiology

The recent departure of Donald Berwick from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services marks the loss of one of the best hopes for resolving this country’s growing healthcare costs and growing deficit. As The Hill’s Healthwatch blog noted, Dr. Berwick got the ball rolling on accountable care organizations, and listened to physicians and other stakeholders to improve the proposed implementation rules. 

More importantly, Dr. Berwick is an advocate for a system that measures and rewards quality healthcare. This is an approach that has been shown within cardiology and within certain health systems to improve health outcomes at a lower cost. While we’re disappointed that politics kept Dr. Berwick from carrying out this vision, we hope his ideas will live on. 

Dr. Berwick is not alone in understanding that quality healthcare can actually cost less in a system that rewards value over volume. This is an idea that has been gathering momentum within the healthcare community for many years and has been tested and shown to work in a variety of settings. In cardiology, clinical registries identified a delay in initiation of treatment of heart attack patients and were the basis for a successful campaign to reduce time to treatment to within guideline recommendations — a change that saves lives, shortens hospital stays and saves money.

Instead of reverting to a system of across-the-board cuts that won’t serve anyone well, we hope Medicare will continue down the path that Dr. Berwick established toward a system focused on the patient and value.

Washington, D.C.

The real Christmas spirit

From Tim Monroe Bledsoe

I cannot help but wonder which country keeps and honors Christmas in the most fitting way. Is it the United States? Is it the fact that we have 9 percent unemployment, due in part to the fact that so many of our Christmas gifts come from other countries? Is it that our very own government cannot agree that all Americans need health insurance? Is it the fact that U.S. troops are fighting and dying in two countries with governments rumored to be very corrupt? Is it the fact that after more than 200 years as a nation, we still have bigotry and prejudice?

It is not too late to make the answers more positive for the sake of our future! We have got to come to some understanding that we cannot continue to purchase almost everything that is made in other countries. We have to understand that U.S. troops are also moms, dads, sons and daughters. Our U.S. troops need to be brought home now. 

As for the bigotry and the denial of health insurance, I believe these go hand in hand. How can a society claim to be civilized when so many millions of our citizens are without the very necessary safety net of health insurance? If we all truly understand the real meaning of Christmas, we can change things for the better.

North Augusta, S.C.

We need labor unions

From Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director, American Rights at Work

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is right about one thing: The landmark deal reached between Boeing and its union machinists is a win-win for both parties. However, Issa fails to recognize that this agreement, which ensures family-supporting pay for thousands of workers and settles the National Labor Relations Board’s complaint against the company, is a testament to the need for collective bargaining in today’s workplaces — not the impetus for more attacks on the NLRB (“Issa: NLRB withdrawal a ‘victory,’ but investigation will continue,” Dec. 9). 


In fact, the settlement is proof that right-wing lawmakers’ unprecedented interference with the agency for its investigation of the Boeing dispute wasn’t just unethical, it was a complete waste of time. It’s clear now that the war on the NLRB was about scoring political points, and had nothing to do with creating jobs or reaching a timely, mutually beneficial resolution for Boeing and its workers. 

So the next time Issa or his colleagues stir up controversy about the NLRB, no one in the Beltway should be fooled. These attacks won’t help companies and their employees work together for a brighter future — and they certainly won’t create any jobs.  

Washington, D.C.