Why does the Washington Post continue to pay Robert Samuelson to write the same simple-minded rant over and over? He thinks the budget problems all boil down to promising too much to the elderly in Social Security and Medicare and his solution is equally simplistic: Break those promises.
He admits to having trouble understanding the reluctance of the public, according to the polls, to agree with him. He seems unaware that the wealthy elderly will soon be handing off their accumulated wealth to the next generation (if someone doesn't pick their pockets before then). Junior knows what Samuelson doesn't: that money the government takes from Grandpa today means less money for Junior tomorrow.
Social Security and Medicare may be the biggest parts of the budget problem, but they are not the only parts of the problem, nor is decimating them the only solution. The government, for example, never took money from the oil companies in exchange for solemn promises of eternal subsidies. And why is it "class warfare" to point out that very wealthy people and corporations pay taxes at a lower rate than the rest of us, but it is not class warfare to insist that the better-off elderly be "means-tested" and double-charged for Medicare or double-taxed for their Social Security?
No one mentioned those possibilities to them during those decades when they were paying into the system more than the system actually needed, when the Social Security surplus (their money) was being siphoned off for other government purposes, such as hiding the actual extent of the deficit.
We just had a big imbroglio in Washington about the debt ceiling, and it was broadly agreed that it would violate both our national honor and our national interest to fail to repay debts to creditors such as the Chinese. What would it say about the national honor and what message would it send to future generations of Americans if we settle our budget problems by singling out the elderly to bear the burden of debt reduction? Rob Grandpa to pay the Chinese?
Richard Long, Temple Terrace
Follow the money
First, it is false to blame the debt problem on Social Security, which is solvent until 2037, and subsequently could be fixed by raising the cap on incomes from which Social Security taxes are deducted.
Second, while it is true that Medicare costs are up, let's first cut the corporate welfare out of it. We know that Medicare Advantage, the privatized plans, cost the government 120 percent of traditional Medicare. Medicare Part D for prescription drugs contains substantial advantages for pharmaceutical companies.
Our neighbors in Canada pay dramatically less for health care. There the government can negotiate with suppliers. Why can't our government negotiate drug rates for Medicare?
Before we start blaming the elderly for our fiscal problems, let's take a closer look at where the money is going.
K.A. Knop, St. Pete Beach
Don't blame the elderly
I am one of those elderly people referred to in this column. How dare Robert Samuelson imply that this economy is all our fault?
My husband and I both worked all our lives until his death. Then I continued to work until I was almost 70. I now live in subsidized housing. I live on less than a prisoner lives on, and I am sure they eat better than I do. My $16 a month for food stamps doesn't go very far.
This man really needs to apologize to the elderly people who have very little to live on.
Betty Hover, Dunedin
Voters are split, too
American voters are a puzzling lot. They re-elect their politicians at a rate of over 90 percent, then complain bitterly what fools and scoundrels politicians are. The exception is, of course, their own personally re-elected politician. Then, when American voters finally decide to throw the rascals out and bring in new politicians, the new politicians horrify the American voter by doing pretty much what the new politicians said they would do.
Why is it any mystery that our elected politicians are deadlocked in Washington over whom to tax and what to spend when we, the electorate, are pretty much split 50-50 on the same issue?
Marshall Craig, St. Petersburg
Upending the balance
For all the tea party allusions to the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, the actual founders would surely be aghast at the Republican Party's usurpation of balanced government.
The idea that a single legislative branch would use a procedural vote as a Sword of Damocles over the nation was beyond the founders' imagination. In the 18th century, it was monarchy and the prospect of mob rule that were perceived as prime threats — not duly elected officials who were constrained, at least in theory, by "checks and balances."
A vile precedent has been established. These zealots will certainly try the same maneuver again. Former President Bill Clinton asserted that he would have invoked the 14th Amendment rather than succumb to this form of blackmail. I also doubt that Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, Harry Truman or Franklin Roosevelt would have sought "compromise" under similar circumstances.
Unfortunately, our current chief executive, a man of otherwise considerable talent, seems unwilling to confront this appalling threat to democracy.
C.S. Monaco, Micanopy
The price for civilization
What happened to "taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society"? Our taxes pay for all the little luxuries we have grown accustomed to. Luxuries like roads, bridges, military, air traffic control, national weather service, Food and Drug Administration, and, on a local level, fire departments, police, sanitation, libraries, schools, teachers, parks.
If we could not pay our bills, my husband and I would cut our spending and work extra hours or find another job. We would not turn off the electricity and water, which is what the tea party seems to want to do with their insistence on not raising taxes on the wealthy or cutting corporate loopholes.
Nancy Parker, St. Petersburg
Obama's credibility lost
I worked for and voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but he has lost his credibility, and once it's lost you can't get it back. The health bill, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, the debt ceiling, tax loopholes — his heart is in the right place but his performance speaks to a different agenda.
Compromise is not a virtue in the face of intolerance.
Thomas Kavunedus, Belleair Bluffs
What they're saying on the debt ceiling deal Aug. 2
A matter of arithmetic
Rep. Allen West seems confused as to who is in certain federal government jobs, or else he can't count. He says, "Consider what would have happened if Pelosi, Reid and Obama were still in control." Two out of three is a majority and in a democracy the majority controls — at least theoretically.
Jack Wilhite, Clearwater
No deal to end FAA stalemate | Aug. 3
Not helping the economy
As the saga of the national debt continues, it becomes more and more clear major changes need to be made with our representatives.
How can Congress take its August vacation before solving a partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration that means the government can't collect ticket taxes?
Not only is there a major loss of income, but approximately 4,000 FAA employees have been laid off and stop-work orders were issued for more than 200 construction projects.
Please help me to understand how that can help our economy.
Politicians are not interested in serving the American people. They are interested only in serving themselves by keeping their pensions and health plans intact.
If taxes can't be raised, at least the reduced taxes for the rich should be stopped. Also, more emphasis should be placed on fraud and loopholes in collecting taxes from big corporations that outsource.
Lois D. Hawkins, Dunedin
Screens for ads planned at TIA | July 30
Don't ruin airport with ads
Please do not ruin Tampa International Airport with this ridiculous advertising idea. It's bad enough to go to a gas station and have a distracting TV on while filling up the gas tank, or TVs in banks, or sandwich signs promoting a sale when drivers need to concentrate on driving.
I have lived in the Tampa Bay area most of the time since 1992 and have always told people that one of the best things about Tampa is the airport. This advertising gimmick would create distractions and destroy the ease of getting around. It would also destroy the quiet so passengers can talk to each other. Change for the sake of change doesn't mean it's right.
Shelley Kinser, Tampa