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December 21, 2012

The Associated Press

Congress and the White House hope to agree on a plan to avoid automatic tax increases and government spending cuts.

Letters to the editor: Doing the math on proposed tax hikes

Regarding Monday's Another View by David Gray ("Tax hike on highest earners would not hurt small business," Dec. 17):

In his editorial, he attempts to make the point that allowing the tax rates on the "wealthy" (those earning more than $250,000 per year) to return to the Clinton-era rates "would raise a trillion dollars over the next decade, money that could be used to not only pay down debt but to strengthen Medicare," etc. This is pure "Obamatalk."

Does Mr. Gray (and the staff at the Portland Press Herald) realize that a trillion dollars over a decade is only $100 billion annually? Even if Congress gave Obama 100 percent of the $1.6 trillion tax increase he's asking for, that's only $160 billion annually.

We have a federal government that has been running an annual budget deficit of between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion under Obama. (It's difficult to be precise on this, as the president and his Senate haven't even presented a budget to Congress in the last four years -- which they are required to do by the Constitution.)

So if the feds are (and have been) running annual budget deficits of $1.2 trillion-plus, how in the world do you conclude that raising taxes on the "wealthy" by $160 billion annually (if you gave Obama 100 percent of the tax increase he's asking for) will provide us with "money that could be used to not only pay down debt but to strengthen Medicare," etc.?

Looks to me like the annual deficit would simply fall to $1.040 trillion ($1.2 trillion less $160 billion), and the national debt would continue to grow by at least that amount until the Saudis and/or the Chinese simply decide they don't want any more U.S. debt. (Welcome to Greece.)

Houston, the U.S. has a spending problem! (Which dwarfs the tax increase that Obama presents as the answer to our dire situation.)

Jim Burke

Cumberland

In response to the letter titled "Increase in tax revenues won't stop excess spending," Dec. 6:

James Waterhouse wrote that with taxes reinstated to pre-Bush era tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent of the population, President Obama will still be spending more than "$1 trillion next year and every year of his term to continue the spending he wants." He offers no sources or specific spending items in his argument.

President Obama is indeed seeking to cut spending to go along with increased revenue.

According to The New York Times, online version, Dec. 6, Obama's proposal "includes $580 billion in adjustments to health and entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid." The administration also "counts a savings of $1.1 trillion from the ending of the American combat mission in Iraq and the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan."

There is more cutting on the table to be discussed, but to characterize the president as being a spendthrift, willing to send the country "on a course of a death spiral for our economy, jobs and, thus, our nation," is ridiculous.

Warren Buffett, a U.S. citizen and one of the wealthiest men in the world, believes the United States should further regulate Wall Street, increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, eliminate many tax loopholes and bring to ground much of the offshore hiding of American corporate taxable profits.

The reiterating of right-wing media talking points without fact or reasoning is becoming very dangerous to the well-being of our middle class-based economy.

Like it or not, neither the budget nor the deficit has been balanced since the Clinton years. Look it up at www.factcheck.org/2008/02/the-budget-and-deficit-under-clinton/

Mike Foley

Portland

Best gift to ill, homebound: time with the ones they love

I am a home health aide who provides personal care to clients in their homes. One thing that I've really found to be true for almost every one of my clients is that they really love time spent with their family. It is really what matters most to these folks: being with the ones they love and who love them.

They don't really need any "things," but they really need some time with their kids, grandkids, friends and other loved ones. It's kind of like what kids need most. They don't need more toys, or more things -- what they really need is time with those who love them.

If you have a loved one who is in a long-term care setting or is living alone, please consider making time to see them. Make a regular schedule, it becomes easier when it's part of your routine.

Not everyone is comfortable visiting a hospital or nursing home or assisted living facility, but I can tell you from experience it gets easier the more you do it. And when you know how much it means to the one you are visiting, it makes it 10 times easier -- plus you leave feeling good about yourself.

Consider giving the greatest gift you can this holiday season -- the gift of you.

Your presence to someone who is ill, lonely, homebound or in a facility will be the highlight of their day, week or month.

Martha O'Connor

Westbrook

Fossil fuel stock divestiture sets example for rest of us

Kudos to Unity College and its trustees and president, Stephen Mulkey, for divesting their investments in the fossil fuel industry (www.unity.edu/focus-faculty/fossil-fuel-divestment).

It is a step all organizations should take. Investments are supposed to ensure the future health of an organization, so it makes no sense to invest in companies whose business plans ensure that we have no future.

According to the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative, composed of financial analysts and environmentalists, the fossil fuel industry already has five times the amount of reserves on hand to warm the earth by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

That is the amount that nations that attended the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change in 2009 agreed would be the tipping point beyond which the Earth's climate could not recover.

Many believe that 2 degrees is too conservative. We are already seeing devastating effects of climate change: record temperatures, drought and crop failures, wildfires, multiple tornadoes, more powerful hurricanes -- and that is just in our part of the world.

Wild weather is becoming the norm worldwide, thanks to all the CO2 the fossil fuel industry is pushing into our atmosphere.

It is time to take action and follow in the footsteps of Unity College. Divestiture worked to end apartheid. It should also work to save our planet.

Lynda L. Sudlow

Parsonsfield





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