LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
**Past Published Letters to the Editor**
Hedge Fund and Private Equity...
In the early 2000's, Wilbur Ross, known as the king of bankruptcies, purchased steel companies through his private equity group. Among others, Bethlehem Steel and Weirton Steel were included in these transactions. Ross then sold them to an Indian company and made $2 billion. In the process, our steel industry collapsed and 190,000 workers lost their jobs. They also lost their healthcare and pensions that they had contributed to for many years. In this wake, the taxpayer was left with the bill for cleaning up the environment and covering the worker's healthcare cost and their pension, which ended up being a fraction of the contractual obligation. Since that time hedge funds and private equity have utilized this playbook on many of our businesses. They are now into healthcare and newspapers. These hedge funds and private equity groups have one objective, to make money. They are not interested in improving the company or product, being fair to the employees, customers, and stockholders or the health of the environment and the local community. Their aim is to make money by any means necessary. They have destroyed untold number of companies and jobs. Their greed is insatiable.
This is vulture capitalism, redistributing wealth upwards, and socialism for the upper-wealthy at its worst. We must insist that our government protect the middle class against the greed of the one percent by enacting laws to prevent this predatory behavior.
First Hydroxychloroquine, now Ivermectin...
First it was hydroxychloroquine and now it is ivermectin. People all over this country, particularly those in red states, are taking this livestock medicine to ward off Covid-19 and poisoning themselves in the process.
Thousands of our fellow Americans acting on the advice of right wing media and politicians, are exposing themselves to illness and death. As mentioned in your May 3 article, "Carlson's disgusting new low", some on Fox news deliberately lie "just to get people fired up, angry and afraid". We find ourselves in a position where some of our news sources and some politicians lie to us while profiting from it. However, we have the power to change this situation. We can demand that our politicians and our news media, whether print, airways, cable, satellite or internet, use due diligence in checking the accuracy of their statements. This in no way infringes on our First Amendment rights. We have the right to free speech. We do not have the right to lie. We should not tolerate politicians and news media who lie to us. There should be consequences for those who do. We must bring the old fashion virtue of honesty back into our discourse. Honesty, integrity and character should be more important than money and power. Without truth we will not only lose our democracy, we will be pushed into another dark ages.
This election of 2020 was secure and verified. Masks and vaccinations saves lives. Man made climate change has happened. These three things are facts. There are no alternative facts or different opinions. They are undeniable facts.
It is puzzling that our Republican leaders continue to deny these three facts. We can see and feel climate change all around us. Refusing to take corrective action is killing our planet. Refusing to acknowledge that masks and vaccinations work is killing our people. And saying the election was fraudulent without proof is killing our democracy. The Republican leaders seem to care about their wealth and power more than our planet, our people, our democracy. Stand up!! Speak out! Do not let their destruction succeed.
Is This Your Personal Freedom?...
Personal freedom from the tyranny of a fascist or totalitarian government is what we all desire. However, the word freedom is sometimes used incorrectly. What has happened in Texas is a textbook example. The government of Texas wanted freedom from wearing masks and getting vaccinated. So Covid cases spiked, sickening and killing many, overwhelming the healthcare system, and putting many at unnecessary risk. Of course, the federal government came to the rescue using federal government manpower and tax dollars, our tax dollars, to assist the citizens of Texas.
Another example of the misuse of the word freedom is what happened in Texas in February. Because Texas wanted freedom from regulations, they established an independent grid system not prepared for severe weather. The energy grid collapsed during a winter snow storm and cold snap which in turn caused water system failure. Again, many Texans died, and many suffered extreme hardships. Yet again, federal resources and money had to be used in the rescue operation.
These two disasters did not need to happen. They were caused by people in power bastardizing the word freedom. Going against medical advice is irrational not freedom. Going without regulations for monetary gain is corruption not freedom. It is not acceptable when personal freedom results in death and destruction to others.
Pat Buchanan's comparison of 1/6 to 9/11, (Why left can't let go of 1/6," 7/28/21,Trib) is a good example of turning the facts upside down. January 6 was not "just a protest, a riot, a shameful disgrace." Most sources say it was an act of domestic terrorism, a violent insurrection. I would add that it clearly was a fascist attempt to destroy our democracy. Comparing January 6 to mass shootings is a false equivalency. The loss of life and bodily harm done to our police by our own citizens was tragic.
I see so many of my Republican neighbors displaying their "support the blue" signs, but they clearly support their Republican legislatures who choose to not support the Capitol Police in their search for the truth. A sad and disgraceful reaction, clearly Un-American.
The mob, thinking it had the right to nullify the election and hang Mike Pence, is incomprehensible!
Who is responsible for that angry mob? Which government official planned, encouraged, and participated in their actions? I think there is a good case to be made that those officials are traitors. Buchanan's concern should not be the slap on the wrist the foot soldiers received, but what accountability there will be for the instigators. Will we have two systems of justice, one for the foot soldiers and one for the rich and powerful? Or will we demand that justice be applied to all, based on their role on that tragic day, regardless of their position of power.
THE FALLOUT FROM A RIGHT WING COURT
The Republican party has allowed the Federalist Society to pack the Supreme Court with radical far right activist judges. The result is a court that is pro-corporation, anti-worker, and anti-voting rights. Bush vs. Gore, Citizens United, and the 2013 Shelby County decisions, all from the twenty-first century, have the dubious distinction of being included in Time magazine's list of all-time worst Supreme Court decisions. And, coincidentally, all three limit voting rights. Bush V. Gore was a precedent-setting political decision the court had no jurisdiction to make. In Citizens United the court limited the voter's right to not be lied to by allowing corporations and rich individuals plow as much money into false political advertising as they want. Shelby County put the onus on the voter to fight for their rights. With the recent court decisions upholding Arizona voting restrictions and halting California collecting names of big donors (Friday, 7/2, Trib), the Roberts Court further limited voting rights. In his majority opinion Justice Samuel Alito, without any real justification, gave states the ability to ignore the Voting Rights Act.
When you have the Supreme Court rewriting laws and making decisions along party lines, the system is broken.
For The People...
On this July 4th, it seems fitting to write about our "Rights" as derived from the Declaration of Independence. "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the CONSENT of the governed", (Trib, 7/4/21). We the people decide the laws and rules of our government. Yet, our Pennsylvania legislature is working to deprive us of those rights. They continue to promote the Big Lie that our elections are not secure. Even though there is no evidence of voter fraud, they promote a remedy for a problem that does not exist. They have even convinced people there is a problem by repeating the lie over and over. They demean the thousands of Americans who work tirelessly to ensure our elections are safe and secure.
The reason for their effort is obvious. They want to take away our voting rights. That is why they are promoting gerrymandering and voter restriction. That is why they want voting rules in the hands of state legislators. They want election audits to be in their control. They want to throw out our votes and place a person in power that they, not we the people, choose.
Do not let them get away with their undemocratic effort to interfere in our election process. We do not want to go the way of Turkey, Hungary, and India by losing our rights and freedoms as a result of giving election control to state legislators. Let's not politicize our election process.
Our state legislators seem more interested in expanding their power than in. working for the good of their constituents.
By Mary Hofford
WHY IS TRUMP NOT IN JAIL...?
Why is Donald Trump not in jail? Mueller said, "If Trump were not president, I would indict him for obstruction of justice." He is no longer president. Since his first days in office, Trump trashed the Constitution by ignoring the emolument clause. He cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by using his property for retreats. He cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans by lying about the covid virus. He extorted the President of Ukraine. He incited the January 6 riot in an attempt to stop our election process. He colluded with Putin in plain sight by trying to eliminate sanctions, weakening NATO, divulging classified information, trying to get Putin back in the G7 and tearing up notes of their private meetings. He ran our government as a criminal enterprise by placing people in positions, judged by their loyalty not competency. Many of our government departments, the IRS, Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Postal Service, etc. were decimated due to his deliberate destruction. His abuse of power is legendary: pardoning his criminal cronies, while firing and trash-talking those courageous enough to speak truth to power.
Let's not forget his efforts to bankrupt us with his obscene tax cuts for the wealthy. One thing Trump knows how to do is go bankrupt.
Let's make certain that never again will a person lacking in character and integrity be elected to a position of such power.
PENNSYLVANIA SHOULD JOIN THE RGGI...
In the past, coal and natural gas helped Pennsylvania economically, but now they are declining industries. We must look for new energy sources for the 21st century, while helping workers shift from old to new energy industries. RGGI, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, will help us do both. The 11 northeast states from Maine to Virginia that are participating in RGGI have reduced their carbon emissions by 47% while increasing GDP growth rate by 31%. This is a win, win situation. Joining RGGI will bolster our economy and create good paying jobs in the commonwealth. It will lower the cost of electricity and help in fighting climate change.
A September poll from Yale found 72% of Pennsylvania residents support our state joining the RGGI. Business and industry leaders, as well as medical professionals, support this move. Farmers, who see up close the devastation caused by climate change, also support this initiative.
Unfortunately our state legislatures do not agree with 72% of us. They are attempting to sabotage the will of the people. Pay attention to what they do. Will they be on the side of their constituents or on the side of their fossil fuel donors?
THE WEALTHY SHOULD PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE
Your AP article "The Tax Man Cometh", 6/13 Trib, highlights our growing wealth inequality. The fact that the richest 25 people in the U.S. have paid very little income tax illustrates our failed tax system. ProPublica also mentioned the fact that 55 of the largest corporations in the U.S. paid no federal corporate income taxes last year but spent nearly $450 million on lobbying. These companies even received $3.5 billion in rebates from the Treasury Department. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not create many jobs but it did create a windfall for the wealthy few. We must demand an end to the 2017 Act. Additionally, the government should tax capitol gains at the same rate as earned income, tax inherited capitol gains, institute a 2% wealth tax and a minimum corporate tax, to help equalize our tax system. These are all ideas supported by the democrats and the Biden administration but the GOP is adamant in its opposition to raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy few. Do not let the GOP perpetuate a tax system where the wealthy few do not pay their fair share. Corporations and the wealthy few use government services just like me and you, and should also pay their fair share of taxes.
A LIVABLE WAGE...
Governor Wolf's budget contains a golden nugget: a raise in the minimum wage. This would improve the lives of 1.6 million Pennsylvania workers. It would be our shot in the arm for 27.5 % of our workforce. With our ridiculous wage inequality this increase is essential for the well-being of our workers. We know that improving the salaries of our lowest paid workers does not hurt, but helps the economy. Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce have opposed increasing wages for years and still promote their outdated checklist. They have a hidden agenda: they are on the side of big business. Our surrounding states have already raised their minimum wage. It is time for our state to do so. The majority of us favor this action. Call your state lawmakers. Urge them to listen to the will of their constituents. It is vital for our for our workers. (Welfare vs. wages, 6/4. Trib)
UPMC NON-PROFIT PAYS CEO $9.5 MILLION...
Three separate but related thoughts came to mind as I read the May 15, Trib article, "UPMC paid CEO $9.5 Million". The first was our growing income inequality and the damage it does to our society. Executive compensation of $9.5 million is excessive when you consider that 50% of our work force makes less than $35,000 a year. The CEO of UPMC earns 270 times the amount of income of many Americans. Such a discrepancy is difficult to justify.
The second thought was the high cost of health care. At a time when many of us are struggling to pay our healthcare bills, when two out of three bankruptcies are due to medical debt, paying almost $10 million a year to one person seems exorbitant. The customers using UPMC health care are paying for that oversized salary. It does make you wonder if it is time for a change in our healthcare system.
The third thought concerns non-profit organizations. With the recent high profile scandals around non-profits, it is time to re-think the tax structure of these organizations. When a company has great wealth, they should pay a fair share of income tax, not be exempt. After all, they use the protection and services of our government, too.
FOR THE SAFETY OF YOUR LOVED ONES
For developed countries life expectancy has been increasing with one exception, the American white male. In studying this phenomenon researchers found a correlation between their decrease in life expectancy and an increase in suicide rates. In the U.S. suicides outnumber homicides almost 2 to 1. The increase in suicide rate was noticeable only for U.S. white males. Suicidal thoughts are mostly temporary. It is an impulsive act in a moment of panic or despair. 9 out of 10 people who survive suicidal attempts never take their lives. However, when a gun is used, the attempt is fatal 85% of the time. The use of guns in suicide deaths also correlates to state gun laws. For U.S. white males there is a relationship between suicide rate, gun ownership and lax gun laws.
For the safety of your loved ones dispose of your firearms, or keep them locked away, or store them outside the home. And urge our state legislators to enact sensible gun safety laws.
Over 200 years ago, our ancestors fought a revolution over taxation without representation, they fought a revolution for the right to create a democracy and as a result, the United States of America was born. But to this day, the residents of Washington D.C., our nations's capital, are denied a vote in Congress. They are denied the right of full representation and participation in our government despite paying more total federal income taxes than residents of 22 states. This is the essence of taxation without representation, and it is going on in OUR country, in 2021. D.C. residents pay their share of federal taxes and have given their sons and daughters to defend and protect the very rights that they themselves have been denied for so long.
Our representatives must act now to give the 712,000 residents of D.C. (more than the 600,000 population of Hawaii when it was admitted as a state) th e right to fully participate in our democracy. It is time to right a wrong, and stand for the values upon which we as a nation were founded. Help us all live up to the ideals of democracy and to evidence true and just equality by voting now for D.C. Statehood.
AT THE VERY LEAST, A LIVING WAGE
The article "The mildly encouraging minimum-wage debate", (Trib, 3/4) deals with the danger of raising the wage of workers. George Will argues that raising wages kills jobs and slows economic growth. I believe there is ample evidence to suggest the exact opposite. A 1994 Princeton study compared the results of New Jersey raising the minimum-wage while Pennsylvania did not. The study found an increase in employment in New Jersey, but not in Pennsylvania. Twenty plus years of research confirms the Princeton findings. An increase in wages for those making minimum wage results in an increase in spending which in a consumption-driven economy stimulates economic growth. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, every $1 per hour in wage increase for a minimum wage worker results in a $3,500 yearly increase in their spending. Through the decades we have learned that trickle down and austerity during an economic downturn does not improve the situation, but stimulating growth does. We also know if minimum wage had kept pace with gains in productivity-as it did from 1938 to 1968- minimum wage would be $24 an hour. Minimum wage needs to be increased now.
VOTE NO ON THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS (QUESTIONS 1 & 2) ON EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS
In the movie "Horsefeathers" Groucho Marx sings, "I don't know what they have to say; It makes no difference anyway; Whatever it is, I'm against it; No matter what it is or who commenced it, I'm against it."
The GOP's proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution are proof they have adopted in full this (Groucho) Marxist folly as their approach to handling the pandemic, as if their approach to it in the past 13 months wasn't enough proof of that!! The amendments they offer the voters supposedly "limit" the governor's constitutional powers to handle emergencies and disasters.
In fact, they totally negate any attempt by any governor to keep Pennsylvania safe from a future dire, long-term and state-wide emergency. The two amendments transfer the power to handle ongoing emergencies from the governor to the 253 person legislature, regardless of whether it is something that happens occasionally such as flooding, or something that happens once in a generation such as COVID. As we have seen during the pandemic, some emergencies and disasters don't have a time limit and can be so widespread that their scope is practically unlimited in terns of the impact on the entire state.
The folly of these proposed amendments can be seen in Michigan, where the Michigan Supreme Court ruled as a matter of the Michigan Constitution that the governor could not extend the COVID related emergency declarations. While there are many reasons for the spike in Michigan, politically that ruling, which negated any ability to have a coherent response to COVID, certainly contributed to the frequent public displays of safety and common sense that helped spur Michigan's spike.