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Your Letters

The Real History of Tailgating at the U

After attending a football game at Nebraska, [U of U] Athletic Director Bud Jack returned home with the idea that we should have tailgating at the University of Utah.

He made this suggestion to his secretary, our dear friend Carolyn Johnson [ex’52]. She recruited her husband, Earl [BS’50], along with Tom [BS’56] and Charlene Polychronis and my wife, Rita [BS’52], and myself.

The officials reserved the front row of the southwest gate area of the parking lot of Rice Stadium [now Rice-Eccles Stadium]. Earl, Tom, and I each owned large station wagons. Mine was a new 1964 Chevrolet with a big tailgate perfect for holding a Coleman stove along with other gear.

At Carolyn’s request, Donna Morgan, food editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, published our menus to spur more interest in tailgating.

This is when and how it all began.

Ralph E. Reese BS’53
Salt Lake City, Utah

Numbers Game

I was impressed that Carl R. Summers would make a hobby out of evaluating political party performance [“A Scientist’s View of Political Party Performance,” Fall 2008]. More of us should have such a hobby. I was very surprised, however, to learn of his conclusions about taxes, spending, and unemployment. So much so, I did some of my own research.

The Tax Foundation is an independent organization that measures the number of days the average American has to work to pay federal, state, and local taxes. The date on which the last day falls has become known as “Tax Freedom Day.” I took occasion to chart how the number of days changed according to presidential administrations from Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 to the [first] administration of George W. Bush based upon data on the Foundation’s Web site. The number of days increased by 91 during this time period. It started at 22 days and ended at 113 days. Allocated to political party, Democratic administrations increased a total of 93 days. Republican administrations saved the country two days. During the [first term of] of George W. Bush, the days required to pay taxes decreased seven days.

So much of the major tax reform legislation has been the result of Republican efforts. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 (OK, introduced by two Democrats) during the Reagan Administration lowered taxes, reduced the number of brackets, and simplified many aspects of the tax system. The capping of capital gains, the child credit, the increase in the estate tax exemption—these were largely Republican efforts.

A lifetime of working with numbers has taught me to be wary of trusting them, especially when they don’t smell right. The Summers numbers don’t smell right. Something in the methodology is out of whack. For example, changes don’t occur on the first day a president takes office but often take months and even years to be realized. And, as pointed out in the article, it’s not the president, but the Congress, that introduces laws and passes legislation.

Political parties are far from perfect. Results may be evaluated in a number of ways. Rather than basing political allegiance on the interpretation of data as suggested in the article, it makes more sense to me to choose the party that teaches correct principles.

G. Preston Parker BS’68
Scottsdale, Ariz.

What About the Nurses?

The roundtable forum [“The State of Health Care Reform,” Fall 2008] was quite interesting but lacking grossly on expert knowledge. Most specifically it was lacking the voice of expert nurses. Without nurses there is no hospital, no clinic, no health care. The days are gone when nurses will stand politely as an M.D. enters the room, wear white cotton briefs—and most certainly we will not allow patient care to devolve without a fight.

When medical and ethical dilemmas result in an elaborate mess, nurses will take action. No matter what wailing and chaos surrounds a patient, we will enter into the thick of it and care for them. We advocate, we provide, and we do not let the fact that [sometimes the job] is difficult stop us from working on behalf of our patients.

One member of the forum, Brent C. James, represents clearly the biggest obstacle that patients and nurses have to overcome. Money and big business do not want to lose their current hold on the industry. James’s remarks identify with the most common arguments to [avoid changing] the current system. He judiciously employs scare tactics when he comments on entitlement programs: he wants to decrease the cost of end of life care, and he openly defends the current health care system despite the increasing numbers of uninsured people in Utah.

It was an interesting idea to invite discussion from multiple perspectives, but nursing will not stand idly by. Nursing by far makes up the largest portion of all health care workers and will ultimately define health care.

Meghann Nielsen
San Diego, Calif.

Thinking Outside the Box

Your Fall 2008 issue article “The State of Health Care Reform” and Robert Huefner’s “Mending the System” both fell short as to my understanding of the national health care problem. I don’t feel that either writing addressed any possible solutions to the system’s main problem: the inflation of health care costs.

Expanding health care coverage to the uninsured will be impossible and unsustainable unless the health care system gets a handle on cost inflation. For the last 25 years, health care inflation has exceeded the national inflation rate, at times as high as three to five times the national rate. [That is] expected to continue to 2017. We worry about a national 3% [rate of inflation while] health care is in the double digits.

It would be nice to hear these experts think “out of the box.” Do we establish free clinics with minimal service for people who can’t pay (probably heartless and unthinkable)? Do we raise the fees for transplants? Must we have legislation to minimize liability? Does the doctor really need a million-dollar home (can we cap his salary)? Do we need an army of specialists with fancy tools? When you think “out of the box” [you must] eliminate the “how much is life worth” cliché. Can the patient decide if he can afford an MRI (pay first)?

The bottom line is what specifically can be done to bring the health care inflation rate down to a respectable figure. Somehow we need to eliminate the $5 aspirin.

As far as an issue being complex, it is only as complex as the “turf” you’re protecting.

Wilfred Peters BS’57 MS’70
St. George, Utah

We’re eager to hear from you. Please send letters to editor Jason Matthew Smith,, or to 201 Presidents Circle, Room 308, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

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