Short takes on issues
Inadequate moderation • Utah high school-age youth are less inclined to drink alcohol, but of those who do imbibe, more go about it in a dangerous way. Binge drinking â five or more drinks in quick succession among Utah teens who say they are drinkers is substantially higher than among their peers nationwide. That behavior is often tied to other risk-taking, such as experimenting with sex and/or drugs. Utah's culture, heavily influenced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is generally anti-alcohol, and that is partly why binge drinking might be viewed as a way to rebel against society's dictates. Especially the dictates of a particular society that include such oddities as building Zion curtains to keep bartending out of sight. Whatever the reason, these young drinkers need to learn more about the dangers of excessive alcohol intake, and perhaps also about the wisdom of moderation.
Catching fire • Two wildfires, both believed caused by human activity, should remind all Utahns that the tinder-dry vegetation surrounding all communities in the Beehive State is unforgiving of careless and illegal use of fireworks or even simple negligence. This year, if you play with fire in any way, you could easily put lives and property in danger in a short time. A fast-moving brush fire that blackened 15 acres near the University of Utah Medical Center is believed to have been ignited by fireworks. Luckily, crews managed to douse that fire, but another near Tremonton grew in a matter of hours from 20 acres to 1,100.
Improving pension plans • Sen. Orrin Hatch's proposal to privatize pensions for government employees may be well-intentioned, but it's not in the best interests of those people who spend their working lives in service to taxpayers. Hatch wants to involve private life-insurance companies in what should be a public responsibility: to adequately compensate employees who work for the government. Under the Hatch plan, federal tax laws would change to allow states to contract with life-insurance companies to provide workers with an annual annuity for retirement. When workers retire, they would combine the annual annuities into one that provides a monthly benefit for life. It could offer more security than the 401(k) plans that Utah legislators adopted for state employees. But Hatch's idea inserts private companies between the state and its employee benefit plan, and those companies would need to make money on the deal. A better way to reduce the expense of pensions would be to close "double-dip" loopholes, as Utah has done, and prevent public employees from milking the system to get heftier benefits.
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