December 31, 2012

Letters to the editor: Higher taxes for rich not 'theft'

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As the fiscal-cliff deadline bears down, a letter writer takes issue with another who said arguing for raising taxes on only rich people amounts to endorsing theft.

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Second, Szanton asserts that attacks on civilians living in the occupied territories violate the Geneva Conventions. According to international law, however, settlements are, in fact, illegal. So, are those settlers really "civilians" in the usual sense?

After all, they live on land stolen from Palestinians, are frequently armed and shoot at Palestinians working their own fields near Jewish settlements. They also set fire to Palestinians' olive trees, poison their wells and even open raw sewage pipes to flood Palestinian crops.

So, aren't those settlers an extension of the military machine that is brutally pushing Palestinians off their own land? Don't Palestinians have the right to defend themselves from illegal occupants?

Joel Robert Costigan

Portland

Why do we keep sending 'bozos' back to Congress?

Congress is broken and incompetent. This fall, the public gave Congress a 9 percent approval rating.

Consider the inability of Congress to deal with the current fiscal crisis. Republicans and Democrats blame each other. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear just any politician stand up and assume a smidgen of responsibility? Why do we continue to send these bozos back to office?

Most of our so-called public servants couldn't earn an honest living if their lives depended on it, yet we enhance their sense of self-importance by filling their individual pockets with an extravaganza of undeserved salaries and benefits.

The average work week in Congress is three days. In addition to their spring break, they get breaks for Presidents Day, Memorial Day, summer break, Christmas, campaign season, etc. Base salary for a congressman is $174,000.

Additionally, each senator receives $900,000 for staff salaries, $250,000 for office expenses, free mail, $500,000 to hire up to three legislative assistants, $40,000 for furniture in their home districts, etc. Representatives can carry a staff of up to 22 aides and can transfer up to $75,000 of staff funds to their own expense accounts.

There is a private gym for both the House and the Senate. Parking at the Washington airports is free, congressmen are exempt from TSA rules, benefit from taxpayer-funded health care, and have a lucrative pension plan. They receive between 28 percent and 80 percent of their salary for life after leaving office. (Twenty-eight percent of $174,000 is $48,720!)

Nearly half of the members of Congress are millionaires. They even vote themselves raises. In fact, since 2009 ("the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression"), congressional salaries rose 5 percent ($8,800). Median personal wealth also grew to $911,510.

Who's working for whom?

Richard Schoff

York

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