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Can Democrats show grit in controlling entitlements?

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Posted: Friday, January 26, 2007 10:00 pm

Will Democrats show some grit? Most headlines on President Bush's State of the Union speech screamed about his Iraqi troop surge or health care proposal.

His comments on Social Security reform were relegated to the oratorical back burner.

That's a shame, because putting a clamp on the soaring costs of Social Security (and that other benevolent, billion-dollar runaway train, Medicare) is essential if we are to preserve such programs for our kids and grandkids.

Fact: In 2017, the government will begin to pay out more in Social Security benefits than it collects in payroll taxes - and shortfalls then will grow larger with each passing year.

Fact: Medicare will gobble up 24 percent of all federal income taxes by 2019 and 51 percent of all federal income taxes by 2042.

This was the take of Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, when he spoke to federal lawmakers about entitlement reform earlier this month:

"The longer we wait, the more severe, the more draconian, the more difficult the adjustment is going to be."

He's right. So is Mr. Bush.

We must act to control this spending, or it will control us.

The president's earlier attempts to tame Social Security were pummelled (most aggressively by Democrats) into political paralysis.

For new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats, entitlement reform is a chance to prove their collective mettle.

Are they willing to act - or just twiddle their thumbs and let this runaway train gain more speed?

Club sports: Burden or blessing?

We're proud of the job done by Ted Mero of our sports department in exploring the world of club sports.

It's a trend that involves many Lodi youth playing sports more intensively and often year 'round.

Club sports help local atheletes become even more skilled and savvy. For those young men and women with exceptional kicking or dribbling or spiking ability, the club competition can even prove to be a springboard to a college scholarship.

Yet our own take is a mixture of enthusiasm and caution.

Club sports can be a constructive activity leading to wonderful successes and friendships.

But those hoped-for scholarships are relatively rare - and the sacrifices a family makes in terms of time, money and a narrowing of activities are abundant.

Many a parent of teen athletes has sent them off to college wondering whey they don't have more photos of family fishing, skiing or sightseeing together.

Young parents, when it comes to the immersive experience of club sports, it is worth weighing both the pros and cons for the long haul.

Is toting your own wine into a restaurant rude?

Not at all, according to our recent Lodi Living feature on the growing trend of corkage in local dining spots.

We sympathize with local restaurateurs who take pains to assemble and pour a custom wine list only to see customers lugging their own vino to the table.

We'd bet, though, that for some Lodians corkage is a matter of both cost and quality.

Somehow, it seems a bottle of wine that might retail for $15 at a local liquor store becomes - voila - $35 when served over a white tableclotch.

Even with a corkage fee, a top-notch wine purchased at retail is likely to be less than a lower-class vintage sold from a restaurant's wine list.

The upshot: Restaurants hoping to sell more bottles and charge less in corkage might do well to keep that wine list reasonably priced.

Lodi News-Sentinel

First published: Saturday, January 27, 2007

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