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Forum: March 6: This Is the Party of Fiscal Discipline?


Monday, March 05, 2018
The Party of Fiscal Discipline?

To publish a diversity of opinions is the duty of the press. But after so many iterations over the decades, Republican boilerplate becomes most tiresome (“Here’s An Idea: Let’s Fix the Debt by Fixing Entitlements,” Feb. 15). There is also the hypocrisy of proposing (yet again) to “fix entitlements” after enacting a tax cut that benefits primarily the wealthy, and a budget that increases the already bloated “defense” budget by some $150 billion, does zippo to deal with America’s decaying infrastructure (despite President Donald Trump’s promises) and threatens to increase the overall budget deficit by a further $400 billion. This from the party of fiscal discipline?

If Republican “entitlement reformers” were honest with taxpayers, they would begin by admitting that Social Security contributes not one thin dime to the national debt. To the contrary, because Congress over the decades — and this includes Democrats with the Republicans — has been raiding the surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund, the national debt is actually understated. Any looming problem with financing Social Security can be resolved, for the most part by levying the Social Security tax on all wage income. If that does not happen, payouts will simply decline, beginning sometime in the early 2030s.

Also Social Security beneficiaries pay into the Trust Fund; that is, their benefits are earned. It is misleading, not to say an outright lie, to label this an “entitlement.”

Do Republicans want to “fix” Medicare and Medicaid the same way they keep trying to “fix” Obamacare? That would be to shift further the financial responsibility for a government that benefits increasingly the financially advantaged at the expense of the rest of us. Speaking of class warfare ...

Boris G. von York

Springfield, Vt.

Real Threat to Our Democracy

In Thomas Friedman’s recent New York Times column, he quotes Donald Trump Jr. saying in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.”

Anyone doubting President Donald Trump’s reluctance to criticize Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin, needs to think about that. Trump wants to get independent special prosecutor Robert Mueller out of the picture. I wonder why? Please hurry, Mr. Mueller. As Friedman wrote: “The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”

Nancy Parker

Lebanon

Scientists to the Rescue

Lawyers are well-suited for money grabbing, and politicians are largely graduates of the same school of thought. In these days when our spies say their Russian counterparts will be hacking our midterms, who can be trusted to safeguard the vote? Certainly not the current administration.

The people spoke loud and clear in the last election’s popular vote. Still, the system twisted the meaning. Et voilà, an example of Regulatory Capture: an agency for the public good (government) is redirected to advance the commercial or political concerns of other special interest groups. Note, it doesn’t matter if the agents of change are the Russians, the Kochs or entropy: the system is at a new equilibrium, and recapturing the old stability won’t be easy.

Neither Congress nor the White House have done anything to right the course of our ship of state. What champion can we call on to help pilot our passage?

We need people who understand systems, and who are able to create models to reality-check various scenarios. We need people who are comfortable analyzing Big Data, and comfortable writing new applications when there’s no suitable ones on the shelf. We need scientists. Are there any scientists left at NASA, the EPA or NIH? Curses to the fools who are busy privatizing the various departments of our democracy. Maybe there’s some in emeritus rattling around the dusty halls of academia.

Kate Yoder wrote on grist.org that a record number of candidates with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds are running for local and federal office in 2018. Maybe an electee will be interested in the Regulatory Capture of our electoral system. Meanwhile, it won’t hurt to ask our representatives what they think.

How else can we recapture the old stability? Our forefathers effectively ousted the maleficence infecting their government by resorting to violent revolution. I’d prefer we elect people with expertise in system analysis before bringing out the big guns.

Kevin McEvoy Leveret

White River Junction

Beware Depravity of the Heart

Unlike some other readers, I seldom if ever have a problem with Glenn McCoy’s editorial cartoons. His cartoon that accompanied the Los Angeles Times column by George Skelton (“No One Becomes a Mass Shooter Without a Mass-Shooting Gun,” Feb. 20), may have struck a chord with people of every persuasion, although each of us might interpret it differently.

An assault rifle with an extended magazine emblazoned with the words “Devaluation of Life” would surely lead many to make the NRA and the gun lobby scapegoats for the most recent mass school shooting. Whether it’s concerts in Orlando or Las Vegas, churches in Texas and South Carolina, or schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky or Florida, any such tragedy wrenches our hearts and should cause us as a nation to search our souls. However, in order for murders to be committed there must be motive, means and opportunity. Take away guns, but if the depravity of heart is still present, the killer will use a vehicle, a knife, a pressure-cooker bomb, or even push his victim into the path of a train.

You see, what we have cultivated in our nation over the last half century or so is a culture of violence and death, not of life. While we decry the Holocaust, which took the lives of 6 million Jews, we have facilitated a much greater slaughter of over 60 million preborn babies, enough to populate France. Not only have our legislators and courts sanctioned Planned Parenthood’s abortions, they’ve funded them. Generations of students have been inculcated with the awareness that they can be snuffed out in the womb if they present an inconvenience, so why should they differentiate between being wanted or unwanted once they’re born? A myriad of social ills can be traced to this. Ruth Graham once told her husband, the Rev. Billy Graham, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” This could be our judgment.

William A. Wittik

Hartford