Free to respect flag - or not

While I respect the right of all Americans to fly and honor the American flag, I do not condone President-elect Trump's and others' assertions that respect for the flag and allegiance to it as a symbol of what America stands for should be required, with punishment when one does otherwise ("In criticizing flag-burning, Trump reassures his base," Nov. 30).

Nazi Germany required such allegiance to a symbol and punished those who refused to display and respect it. Is this what Americans have fought for throughout history? Must we pledge and demonstrate allegiance to a symbol regardless of the policies of our country, right or wrong? Using the flag as a symbol to protest bad policies and practices that become entangled in our "way of life" does not trivialize anyone's sacrifice to make America a better place. It is only with the freedom of expression that we can protest wrongs to push our country along the path of greatness.

Rather than criticize those who expose and protest our country's failings by refusing to bow to a symbol, we should be thankful for such citizens.

|Gloria Finkle, Philadelphia, gfinkle@comcast.net

Obamacare can be fixed

A commentary suggested an Affordable Care Act fix ("How Trump handles ACA will set presidency's course," Dec. 1). After mischaracterizing the law's birth and current problems, the commentary outlined solutions. Here's my take on them:

1. Terminate the mandate and tax penalties. This would remove healthy younger people from the insurance pool, making the covered group older, sicker, and more expensive to cover.

2. Abolish the crumbling exchanges. In other words, stop depending on free-market competition to set prices with a little help from Uncle Sam.

3. Sell insurance across state lines. Been there, done that. Heard of Blue Cross, Humana, Aetna? It's in the ACA already?

4. Enact tort reform. Great, but it will only save 2 percent of the costs and take away the states' control of their courts.

5. Don't let insurance companies deny coverage because of preexisting conditions. So the uninsured can buy insurance only when they are diagnosed with some costly medical disaster?

6. Deem everyone else Medicaid eligible. What's this, single-payer lite?

Bottom line - fix it; it isn't that difficult.

|Howard Brooks, D.O., Philadelphia

A long way from Pearl Harbor

Many Americans associate Pearl Harbor with individual acts of courage exemplified by people such as Dorie Miller, an African American messman on the USS West Virginia when it was attacked. Miller helped the fatally wounded captain and then manned an antiaircraft gun despite having no training. When the ship started to sink, he helped save several sailors.

Secretary of the Navy Franklin Knox felt that Miller merited only a letter of commendation, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the awarding of the Navy Cross. Miller subsequently was depicted on a poster used to sell war bonds and recruit black soldiers. He was assigned to kitchen duties aboard the USS Liscome Bay and died with more than 600 crewmen when a torpedo sunk his ship.

Only by understanding our past can we appreciate the present and the changes that 75 years have wrought in today's military, where men and women are judged on their abilities and not prejudged by the color of their skin or their religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

|Paul L. Newman, Merion Station

Probe Republicans' role in sting

We are fortunate to find what everyone already knew ("Agent: GOP was protected in sting," Sunday). There was a reason Democrats were disproportionately discovered with their hands in the cookie jar by the sting run by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. Perhaps, the Republican administration of former Attorney General and Gov. Tom Corbett made corrupt use of state resources to pursue partisan vendettas, now denied by its perpetrators, but supported by the testimony of an FBI agent. I hope that there is enough evidence for Attorney General Josh Shapiro to use in providing a fair and nonpartisan resolution of this mess.

|Ben Burrows, Elkins Park

It's all about cost vs. benefit

The statement by commentary writers Anthony Davies and James Harrigan that "supply and demand also apply to necessities" is shocking to a trained economist ("The inconsistency of 'cafeteria economists,' " Thursday). In the Economics 101 courses I have taught and in economics textbooks, there is full recognition that the respective roles of government and the private sector are made by cost-benefit analysis. We opt for a government role in medical care for the indigent, allocation of scarce organs for transplants, garbage collection in large cities, and insurance protection for private atomic energy plans by figuring out the net benefit.

We need the efficiencies of the private market - who sees Hamilton on Broadway, the dress I am buying - but need the oversight that ensures that they work properly. The economists denigrated by the term "cafeteria" are the ones who assure that our human values are protected.

Judgments should be made by determining the net benefits, not by global judgments of hating or loving government.

|Anita A. Summers, Gladwyne, summers@wharton.upenn.edu