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Member Questions of the Week of Sept. 6, 2010

William Hollingsworth of Gainesville, GA asks: “What is the Heritage Foundation’s policy formulation toward the very real and serious threat that both China and Iran pose against the security and future of the United States of America?”
OUR ANSWER: The cause for worry about China and Iran is real. China’s military is muscling up, and the daily news emerging from Iran — whether about human rights abuses or nuclear weapons programs — is grim. In the face of an ever-growing Chinese military, it’s more important than ever that the U.S. sustain current military capabilities, support future military development, uphold American commitments abroad and maintain watch on Chinese military capabilities, writes Heritage fellow Dean Cheng. To promote liberty in Iran, the U.S. should, among other things, impose and enforce the strongest sanctions to penalize the Iranian regime for its continued aid to terrorist groups, its illicit nuclear weapons program and its gross violations of human rights. The president should also end his opposition to U.S. gasoline sanctions. To read more practical policy suggestions for the United States’ relationship with Iran, check out this WebMemo by Heritage experts James Phillips, Helle Dale and Janice Smith.

Susan Cerniglia of Rockville, MD asks: “Where’s the best starting place for correcting problems with elementary and high school education?”
OUR ANSWER: As Heritage education policy analyst Lindsey Burke writes, “Real reforms empower parents, not federal mediocrity.” Instead of promoting national standards, then, the Obama administration ought to strengthen state-based accountability. National standards are unlikely to produce a minimum high bar of excellence for all students, Burke writes. That’s because national standards and tests will fall prey to the same political pressures that led to “dumbing down” state standards, she explains. Those pressures include demands from teachers’ unions and other interest groups and a federal bureaucracy that funds schools instead of individual children’s education at a school of their choice. Stronger accountability at the state level, however, could lead to excellence — as evidenced by the examples of states like Virginia and Massachusetts. The federal government should also detail school performance and allow parents to act in their children’s best interests. That is, parents should have access to details of school performance and be free to choose where to enroll their kids based on that information.

Scott Whimpey of Heber City, UT asks: “My wife is six months away from applying for Medicare. How will the new health care program affect her?”
OUR ANSWER: According to this WebMemo, the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) makes statutory changes to Medicare that could challenge the autonomy of physicians to treat patients as they think best, undercut the freedom of physicians to remain in private practice and threaten the continuation of fee-for-service medicine regardless of the preferences of doctors and patients. But that’s not all: The new health care bill also means fewer plan choices, decreased access to physicians, more Medicare payment cuts and higher taxes for Medicare enrollees. And while PPACA is projected to the Medicare program $575 billion, the solvency of the program will continue to weaken unless savings are reinvested in the Medicare program — and, right now, the law does not provide for that.

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