Social Security at the tipping point | March 25
Lift the cap on taxable wages
This problem could be fixed very easily, and the fix would benefit the majority of wage earners.
Currently Social Security tax is withheld on up to $106,800 in wages. So while the majority of wage earners pay 6.2 percent of their wages, someone with a million-dollar salary pays only 0.66 percent of their wages.
If Social Security tax was instead withheld on all wages, the monetary problem would be eliminated. In addition, if the withholding was unlimited as to the amount of wages, the percentage could be reduced, thereby lowering taxes on the majority of workers. Since businesses match Social Security tax withheld, most businesses would also see a lowering of taxes.
The problem now is that even though with this plan the majority of wage earners and many businesses would see a decrease in tax, the Republicans would use their usual scare tactic of yelling over and over that it's a Democratic tax increase.
And then the Democrats would do their usual caving in to the Republican nonsense and not follow through on what would benefit a large majority.
It's a shame that politics in the United States is such a shambles, but the fix is easy if we have any politicians with guts who care about the majority of taxpayers, not just the large contributors.
Dan Favero, St. Petersburg
There are only IOUs
Folks, it is a whole lot worse than you think. As your article points out, "the system's accumulated revenues are placed in Treasury securities." In plain English, that means that the current "balance … of $2.5 trillion" was loaned to the U.S. government in exchange for IOUs.
For those of us who still believe in double-entry bookkeeping, that means that the entire "surplus" in the U.S. Social Security Trust Fund consists of money that the U.S. government has borrowed from itself to spend — but must somehow repay in order to meet the payments due to Social Security recipients.
In other words, the U.S. government has written IOUs to itself, and claims that those IOUs represent real assets that support the Social Security system.
And we thought Bernie Madoff was a scoundrel.
Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg
State pension in the red | March 24, story
Don't cut pensions
How sad when things go wrong to immediately look at deducting funds from those who have worked many years in the public interest and who have earned this retirement funding. Pensioners and those coming up to retirement in the near future need their pensions to fulfill financial obligations. These are the funds we look forward to using to help us when we do retire.
Please remember, pensions help keep people out of other government funded services when they get older. Public employees have always been some of the lowest paid employees, and one of the only reasons they stay with their public employer is for the benefits they are promised.
State employees have seen no pay increases for the past five years. It is always easier to poke a finger at the least liked people (state employees) and feel good that they will have to give up funds, but these are the same people who have helped to keep your services running whether you appreciate it or not.
And school employees are also part of this pension fund. Cut pensions to teachers and see what caliber of people you keep in the classroom.
The individuals who are playing footsie with the funds in Tallahassee need to find other ways to fund these pensions.
Lynne Reedman, St. Petersburg
State pension in the red | March 24, story
Poor money management
How did the state pension fund lose $23.6 billion in one year? Was this loss due to the shift to riskier investments that Dennis MacKee says the State Board of Administration has been doing in an attempt to "diversify" the portfolio?
How can the SBA justify taking these risks with the state employees' pensions and the taxpayers dollars? Why are the SBAs money managers not investing in stocks that offer a 6-8 percent dividend yield and corporate bonds that offer similar returns? As has been pointed out by a number of people who are running for higher office, we need an oversight board for the state pension program.
Frank J. Rief, III, Tampa
Quote of the day | March 25
State Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, referring to a possible tax on bottled water, said that "a lot people … probably don't know whether it's taxed or not."
Speak for yourself, dude. It's not nice to imply that people are ignorant about taxes and really don't know how much they're spending on items or if they're being taxed for them.
Perhaps Sen. Justice doesn't know whether or not he's being taxed on bottled water at a 7-Eleven, but that doesn't mean I don't know or others don't know. Although, with a Senate committee okaying a 6 percent tax on bottled water, we may soon be paying that tax for the first time. Especially during these tough economic times, we should all be aware of how our money is spent. And don't forget to check your receipts. Because, it's your money.
JoAnn Lee Frank, Clearwater
A land-line bias
Many political polls have purported to reflect the views of "the American people," but most polls are conducted by telephone. At 63, I'm certainly not at the technological forefront, but, like many others, have dropped my land line in favor of a cell phone.
I have never been polled on my cell. Are polls really reflective of the true public, or of a shrinking population of land-line users who may not reflect most of the American universe?
Mardy Abrath, Seminole
Bibi's tense time-out | March 18, Maureen Dowd column
No way to treat a friend
I love the short-term memory of Maureen Dowd and Jeffrey Goldberg, whose article and blog Dowd extensively quotes. To use the remarks of Prince Saud al-Faisal saying that Israel's ultrareligious groups were "killing every option that comes out that has peace in its objective" is to rely on Orwellian doublespeak. While the timing of the announcement on housing was a political blunder, remember that ever since Oslo, it has been the Palestinians and their Arab brethren who have not missed an opportunity to kill peace.
Dowd, of all people, does not need to remind Israel or Netanyahu "that the two most important things to Israel should be a security doctrine to prevent an adversary from getting a nuclear weapon and cherishing the relationship with America …"
For example, Israel is the country that sat back while it was shelled during the Iraq War and did not respond, at the request of its good friend, the United States. What other country would do such a thing?
What the Obama administration does not want to understand is that Israel is fighting daily for its very existence. Israelis do not understand a "friend" that praises its mortal enemies, overlooks the daily incitement to hatred, jihad, martyrdom, and calls for the extinction of the Jewish state.
Posturing over towns and cities that the media persists in calling settlements that were never part of the giveback is a foolish waste of time and misleading to the American public. Good friends always have each other's backs even when small mistakes are made. They don't take that as an opportunity for "smackdowns."
Susan Segal, Palm Harbor
Put the pressure on | March 18, letter
A valuable ally
The letter writer suggested that the United States threaten to cut off the nearly $3 billion in aid we give to Israel.
The money is a grant used to purchase goods made in America, creating jobs here. In this relationship the United States is getting a great ally. Israel is the only place in the Middle East that the Navy's 6th Fleet can dock in complete safety (remember the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen?).
The United States has never had to commit troops to protect Israel. Israel is a bargain as our only dependable ally in the region that shares our values and democracy.
Meg Moskovitz, Tampa