Jewish World Review August 15, 2002 / 7 Elul, 5761

Edward I. Koch

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Consumer Reports

My potpourri | U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli, (D-NJ), who was "severely admonished" by the Senate Ethics Committee, got off much too easy.

The Committee, and earlier U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, generally refused to rely on the testimony of David Chang, because his "credibility has been called into question." But they relied on Chang's allegations that he gave Torricelli, and the Senator accepted, gifts which "led to violations of the Senate Rules and related statutes." The committee made no reference to the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea complaining of Torricelli's impropriety in bringing Chang to a meeting with South Korea's prime minister. Much worse was Torricelli's denying any knowledge of how Chang got there.

The voters of New Jersey are now the judge of Torricelli's fitness to represent them. I believe they should throw him out this fall. His carefully-staged television commercial, intended as an apology, is a joke.

Six years ago, Senators Kennedy and Kassenbaum passed historic legislation enabling those who lose their jobs to keep their medical insurance by paying premiums directly to the insurance companies.

Regrettably, the legislation had one glaring omission: It contained no limitation on the premiums to be charged, and the insurance companies promptly priced millions of laid-off workers right out of the health insurance market.

There are currently 39 million medically-uninsured workers, many of whom were formerly insured. Their numbers are expected to grow by millions in the next several years. According to a New York Times report, employers in large numbers are shifting medical premiums, previously paid by them, to their employees.

It is time for a bipartisan group of experts to fashion a comprehensive national health plan. The time is also ripe for a bipartisan coalition to urge casting your vote against anyone running for national office who won't publicly support the proposed legislation.

Argentina today is steadily decling into a kind of Weimar Republic. Riots are common and a return to Peronism is a serious danger. In the memories of most Argentines, Eva Peron is a saint. They seem to have blocked out memories of fascism, torture, repression and the "disappeared ones" who opposed Peron and her husband. That could all return if Argentina is permitted to sink in a sea of debt.

America bailed out Mexican and American millionaires in our bail-out loan to Mexico under President Clinton. We should be among those providing an economic life raft to Argentina.

Robert Rubin will go down in history as a great Secretary of the Treasury. Undoubtedly, he will be pressed to run for elective office -- mayor, senator or governor. He should be interrogated by the Senate Committee investigating Enron and asked about his call to Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher. That call was described in The New York Times as follows:

"This is probably a bad idea, Mr. Rubin said he told Mr. Fisher, broaching the suggestion that a Treasury official ask credit-rating agencies to give Enron -- and its lenders -- a break. But on the other hand, we had a concern that the energy markets could be severely disrupted. In the context of what we knew then, I thought there was some chance that the banks might put up additional funds and you could stave off the bankruptcy."

When Rubin was asked if he regretted making the call, he replied, "I would do it again." Surely the arrogance of a billionaire.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch