I have had allergies since my 20s. In my 40s, the doctor told me I had exercise-induced asthma, caused by playing tennis during the summer months on hot days.

What does it mean for me to have asthma? It means that I have to take a lot of medicine. It also means I can’t go outside on warm sunny days and work in my garden or play with my grandchildren.

When I am struggling to breathe, my body gets very tired and many times I have to go into my air-conditioned bedroom to rest. And when I am struggling to breathe, I have to use a nebulizer to stay out of the hospital.

Ozone is the culprit on those beautiful summer days. Ozone is also known as “smog,” and it is created in the atmosphere when gases that come out of smokestacks and tailpipes mix with warm air and sunshine and arrive here in Maine on our west wind. It leads to respiratory discomfort, asthma attacks, hospital admission and even death.

Current trends show our air quality is getting worse, not better. Some areas are just barely in compliance with the existing (and outdated) ozone standard. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s proposal to weaken Maine’s ozone controls takes us in the wrong direction.

For the sake of Maine families and businesses, decrease the amount of smog that comes into Maine. Save our children from having to live in an air-conditioned bubble. Thank you.

Mary R. Trescot

Damariscotta

Social Security, Medicare are on a path to insolvency

Again the rich and the not-so-rich are looked upon to bail out the bankrupt Social Security system. The system is indeed technically insolvent, with an asset base that is insufficient to meet future liabilities.

If Social Security were a private enterprise run by a life insurance company, every insurance commissioner in the nation would have seized the operation long ago, taking steps to protect current policyholders.

Reader Jeff Ritter of Boothbay Harbor (“Letters to the editor: Social Security benefits should be based on need,” Nov. 27) makes the case that Social Security “does not and cannot add to the deficit.” He will be proven wrong when the fund runs out of cash and Congress has to dig into Treasury’s pocket to cover the deficiency.

Mr. Ritter further proposes that these dire consequences can be headed off simply by denying benefits to those with “sufficient assets” and retirement income.

What a lesson for our children: Be thrifty and save for your retirement, and get cheated out of Social Security; or spend willy-nilly and collect your benefits from the government when you retire.

Over a career, I paid tens of thousands of dollars into Social Security. The return I am getting is a fraction of what I could have gotten had I been able to put my money into a private fund offered by any of hundreds of life insurance companies.

President Bush recognized this and proposed a system of individual accounts that would ease the fund’s deficit and improve benefits available to retirees. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives shot this down.

Asked what her solution might be, Ms. Pelosi stated that the Democrats did not need to offer an alternative, that all they had to do was deny that there was a crisis in the system.

Mr. Ritter’s suggestion that Medicare is well-run is simply laughable! From a financial standpoint, Medicare is in worse fiscal shape than Social Security.

Michael A. Smith

Wells

Youthful shooting victim deserved better treatment

I just read the story of 18-year-old James Reynolds (“Gunshots fired in West Paris changed lives,” Dec. 8). The first thing that came to my mind was that the state of Maine and the powers that be in Augusta should be ashamed of themselves.

This young man and his family have been looking for help for years, with none to be found. Whatever happened to “Charity begins at home”?

Instead of bringing in people from other countries and helping them, we should be helping our own here at home.

Mary Dow

Scarborough

Exaggerating Iran danger brings U.S. closer to war

While I agree with James Smith’s argument that we need to learn from history, he quickly succumbs to alarmist hyperbole that has little resemblance to reality (“Letters to the editor: Nuclear pact with Iran nothing to cheer about,” Dec. 1).

In this case, Mr. Smith has decided that Iran is Nazi Germany, and its ayatollahs are Hitler. (You’ll recall 20 years ago it was Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein who were labeled as “the new Hitlers” in the run-up to war on their nations. See a pattern yet?)

The differences between the Iran 2013 and Germany 1938 are legion, but I’ll point out a few of the most glaring examples in the hopes of dialing down the hysteria.

Germany in the late 1930s was gobbling up entire countries and parts of countries in order to be appeased. For there to be an apt comparison to today, Iran would have to be demanding Kuwait or Qatar in exchange for nuclear cooperation. Nothing like that is happening.

Nazi Germany had an elite military machine, a crack air force, an unrivaled industrial base, a rebounding economy, powerful allies, and a long history of military aggression against its neighbors.

Iran has a third-rate military decimated by decades of sanctions and an economy teetering on collapse. Its only allies are a devastated Iraq, the nearly toppled Syrian regime and the Shia militia in Lebanon. Not exactly Mussolini and the Empire of Japan.

Most importantly, the Iranian regime, despite bellicose rhetoric, has no record of attacking its neighbors.

It’s easy to dismiss the Iran-Germany comparison as harmless rhetoric meant to excite, but there is a greater danger.

After all, 10 years ago it was much the same rhetoric peddled by many of the same ideologues and profiteers that incited us into the ruinous, bankrupting, bloody debacle in Iraq.

Don’t let them fool us again.

Jeremy Smith

Old Orchard Beach

Unemployment benefits better spent on job creation

Many are advocating turning the unemployment compensation program into a guaranteed income program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that spending $26 billion will result in the creation of 200,000 jobs. That’s a rate of $150,000 each.

Leaving that amount in the private economy at $55,000 a year per person plus benefits equals more than 400,000 jobs.

Don’t minimize the disincentives involved. All rational job seekers weigh a $10-an-hour opportunity against $7.50-an-hour “unemployment” as a real $2.50-an-hour opportunity. They will more often walk the other way.

My father, my uncles, my friends and I have all lived through those choices – but for a maximum of 26 weeks.

Tom Zimmerman

Casco

Too much incompetence in LePage administration

I read with total agreement your editorial Dec. 6 regarding Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s speech (“Our View: DHHS chief’s speech failed to cover agency mistakes”).

It’s hard to understand why she and Gov. LePage still have a job. She should go back to a public relations job, and LePage should go back to his job at Mardens.

Whoever was responsible for making sure the MaineCare rides system had a bond should either be fired or demoted to a custodial job.

There appears to be an overabundance of the Peter Principle in the higher-up jobs in Augusta: that being, promote everyone beyond their capabilities. Enough is enough.

Buck Buchanan

Parsonsfield