When the debate is over Social Security, tax cuts, etc., can anyone truly answer why the words for labor unions and entitlement programs have become one, as in “union entitlements”?

The failure to separate the words by some politicians and lately even in the media is disturbing. When did labor unions’ benefits become synonymous with programs established by federal laws, such as unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare?

And in the extreme case, when did union rights become synonymous with food stamps, aid to poor families or Medicaid?

Union workers/members are telephone workers, electrical workers, shipbuilders, nurses, masons, carpenters, machinists, pulp and paper workers, postal workers, auto workers, truck drivers, correctional officers and many other employees including public employees (who are also nurses, accountants, truck drivers, teachers, etc.).

They, along with nonunion workers, pay taxes affecting the entitlements discussed. The average hourly nonunion employee does not pay more than a union employee toward the so-called entitlement programs,

So when did a word describing organizations representing people who normally work 40-plus hours become one and the same breath with “entitlement”?

Please explain how unions who push laws for needed regulations of working conditions (such as for miners’ safety) or 40-hour work weeks (who is willing to work 60 hours a week at straight time?) are similar to organizations responsible for the laws establishing needed social progams such as food stamps? Easy: Unions were established to represent people.

Please explain how two totally different words have became one.

Robin Upton Sukeforth


Public-sector employees (teachers, municipal employees and state workers) will see a tax increase because of the new tax bill in Washington.

That includes more than 6 million workers nationwide and more than 100,000 middle-class Maine workers!

They will lose the Make Work Pay benefit which expires on Jan. 1, and will not get the included 2 percent Social Security tax reduction. That’s because they do not pay FICA taxes but pay a comparable amount into a pension fund.

In Maine, more than 10 percent of the work force is composed of public-sector employees who will not get this tax benefit, and to date I have not heard one word from any of our senators or representatives about this.

It seems like they are going to vote like lemmings and not care about a large portion of their constituents. So many of Maine’s middle-class working class will have a tax increase while tax reductions galore are given to the rich. Why is nobody mentioning any of this?

Mike Foley


In 1814, told by British officers that the guns of hundreds of British warships would be brought to bear upon Fort McHenry guarding Baltimore Harbor, Francis Scott Key was assured by the British that all the occupants had been given an out — all they needed do was lower their flag and the bombardment would stop.

The bombardment began and continued throughout the night as Key watched from the deck of HMS Surprise. He carried reports of the battle to his friend, an American prisoner aboard who was held below decks. His friend repeatedly asked but one question: “Where is the flag?”

In the morning the flag was still there and the free and brave persons within the fort gave inspiration to Key to pen a poem: “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In the light of current shenanigans transpiring in our nation’s Capitol, I feel the strong need to ask President Obama: Where is the flag?

When the Republican side of the aisle recently held the welfare of the American people hostage to their wanton demands, the president stated to us all that he would not bargain with terrorists. Brave enough words.

Then he dishonored us all when he added the caveat, “Unless the hostage gets harmed.” so doing he refused to allow us, the American people, to do what so many brave Americans have done before us — sacrifice.

Freedom has always been expensive and still is, but Americans have always footed the bill willingly.

Now Obama, perhaps meaning well, refused us the opportunity. I am afraid, very afraid that significant damage has been done to our future.

We look and inquire: Where is our flag?

Guy Bourrie


President Obama recently acted to freeze the pay of federal workers for two years but exempted the Congress.

What’s wrong with reqiring all federal employees to rely on Social Security and Medicare like the other citizens of this great nation?

Congress has many other perks and lobbyists who assist members with money in various forms. This would really solve our problem of the deficit and be a meaningful reform.

James W. Buck


EMMC shows that it doesn’t value its nurses

As a retired registered nurse, I am concerned for Eastern Maine Medical Center. Even though I live in southern Maine, my choice would always have been EMMC because of its reputation for cutting-edge practice and excellent nursing care.

Why do patients go to the hospital except for nursing care? Most treatments are available on an outpatient basis, but when a patient is really sick — and only really sick people are in the hospital nowadays — hospitalization is required.

The nurses at EMMC are striking not for pay, but for defined nurse-patient ratios, which means the number of patients a nurse is responsible for at any given time during a 12-hour shift. Now at EMMC, they have two patients per shift in critical care areas like ICU and trauma and five patients per shift in medical-surgical areas.

Multiple studies have shown that the fewer patients a nurse is assigned, the better the patient outcome, which means less hospital-acquired infections (average cost $25,000 per case and up to a 25 percent death rate) and more patient and family support and education on their medication, disease, and lifestyle modification to prevent future hospitalizations.

Speaking of hospital-acquired infections, including those from urinary catheters, surgical wounds, respiratory, and intravenous catheters, insurance companies and Medicare will no longer reimburse for these charges; a hospital must absorb these costs itself.

Nurses care for, and care about, their patients. Job satisfaction greatly diminishes when they do not have the time to do a good job. They may burn out and leave nursing for other more lucrative, less emotionally draining work.

Just hire another nurse? Training a new nurse takes a lot of time and money. Think of all nurses need to know — physicians, policies, procedures and documentation, along with actual practice. Historically, a new graduate was assigned one less patient per shift for a year at EMMC to build confidence and competence — but no more.

I have lost a lot of respect for EMMC; it seems that they may be penny-wise, but very pound-foolish. Trained, caring nurses are rare and should be treated like treasures, not trash.

Judith Hopkins


Arizona cartoonist proves ridiculing Christians safe

With regards to David Fitzsimmons’ political cartoon in the Nov. 21 Telegram (depicting Pilgrims denigrating “pagan natives” and “atheists”), it is apparent that the editors and the cartoonist, who works for an Arizona paper, recognize that it is inherently safe to publish a cynical and sarcastic cartoon directed at Christians without any fear of reprisal by radicals.

That is very much unlike the case with the infamous Muslim cartoon controversy in Denmark in 2006.

I suggest that there is a lesson there, and that it is not found in the sophomoric perspective of the cartoonist.

Thomas Hill