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The Role of Temporary Workers and Their 'No-Frills Jobs'

July 02, 1988

Your editorial titled "The Plight of the Part-Timer" (June 27) has a glaring omission. Who is going to pay for the health insurance that you want provided "to everyone, working and non-working?" It can only be the government, using taxes. I can't support such a proposal without evidence that the nation can afford it. I doubt that it can.

It seems like folly to enact a new public-welfare benefit like health insurance. Such new benefits are much easier to start than to stop. Once in place, people quickly come to depend on them, and throwing these people back on their own resources becomes both cruel and politically impossible. We've already seen social-welfare spending become the biggest part of the federal budget in the last 30 years, and there seems to be no way to reduce it without a great deal of human suffering.

You are right to point out that part-time workers are an important part of the economy, but I think you misjudge how they should be regarded. It seems to me that they now form a pool of cheap, mobile labor that greases the economy. One of the reasons they are cheap is that employers don't need to give them health insurance. Rather than giving them insurance out of the public purse, the government should try to make sure that part-time workers are mostly those who have least need of health insurance--the young, the single, and spouses and older children bringing in extra paychecks--and not breadwinners or the elderly. Part-time jobs will then be mainly first or temporary jobs, and as people settle down and take on the responsibilities of life, they will come under the health plans of regular employers.

ROGER C. BURK

Culver City

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