Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

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- February 28th, 2011
Snyder’s tax increase
Governor Snyder’s budget sent to the State Legislature would balance the state’s budget by imposing massive tax increases on the most vulnerable people, the elderly and the poor.
Taxing pensions at 4.5% is a tax increase. Eliminating or reducing the Homestead Property Tax Exemption for seniors is a tax increase. Eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor is a tax increase. Each of these proposed tax increases will hit the populations of our state least able to bear the brunt of the change.
As an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer, I see first-hand how little many of our seniors make and scrape by on. They can ill afford to suddenly have their pension income reduced by 4.5%, giving them less spending money to pay for necessary medical costs and living expenses.
The worth of a society is measured in how it takes care of the least of its citizens. If these tax increases are enacted, our society isn’t worth much.

Charles N Godbout • Empire

Pensions in peril
The anger and fear exhibited by public employees in Wisconsin about their pensions resembles the fear retirees in private pension plans have experienced for many years. Pensions — public and private — could once be counted on by retirees. Today, they fear the rug will be pulled out from under them.
The resemblance stops there, because there is a stark difference between public and private plans. Private sector retirees and older workers have seen companies steadily renege on promises for earned retiree health and pension benefits -- with the government doing little to stop the trend.
Millions of retirees in private plans have already had the rug pulled out from under them by companies using pension assets for restructuring purposes at the expense of retirees, all with the full knowledge of the courts and the federal government.
These “back door reversions” leave private pension assets vulnerable to market downturns, and leave taxpayers vulnerable to pick up the tab at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Unlike public plans, once a company goes bankrupt, there are no revenue-raising options such as taxation that can help private pensioners recoup their losses.
Retirees in private plans feel as strongly as those in public plans, and are asking Congress to prohibit these reversions unless the plan is sufficiently funded. It’s a budget-neutral solution to protect private pension assets that both Republicans and Democrats should enact now before the anger and fear of retirement insecurity spreads from state capitols to the U.S. Capitol.

Chris Voydanoff Jr. • Mio

Say yes to wind power
I’ve lived, worked and enjoyed this area for the entirety of my life. I’ve always known it to be a place of great beauty populated by generous and hardworking people. But in light of the developing wind energy project in Benzie County, I find myself disappointed by the short sightedness and contentiousness of a number of our citizens.
This is a project that should come to pass for it represents an elegant though certainly modest enough beginning to our country’s withdrawal from dependence on foreign oil. I see this endeavor as one that the community could be proud of and something to be embraced.
When driving out of Benzonia, I glance at the ridges to the south and I can easily visualize a graceful line of wind turbines turning with the wind. When I see these structures in other locales I never fail to be charmed. And, while it’s no secret that we landowners who have involved ourselves in this project have a significant monetary interest in its success, I would ask that you not fault us for this. Supporting large tracts of land is often a more daunting and expensive responsibility than one might think. Look about you to the previously family-owned open country and farms that have fallen to the developers.
That being said, the truth here is that all of our citizens have a stake in this and whatever action is taken; no single interest should run roughshod over another. But it’s not enough for people to simply say no without providing a real alternative. It’s plain that we’re a society hopelessly addicted to energy use. What options do we have: coal plants, biomass incinerators, nuclear reactors, brownouts, rationing? We in America need something to produce the energy we need. If we can’t decide on a solution, that need will certainly provide the decision for us.
If people are truly concerned about the quality of life in this area I would ask them to please support our local conservancies and parks; help keep our beaches clean, become stewards of our natural places. These are the things that are our treasures. These are the things that keep people coming here and wanting to make this place their home; not whether or not there are windmills in Joyfield Township.
So to wind energy I say yes. Yes in my backyard.

Thomas Hart • Benzonia

Snyder’s Gateway gaff
Greetings from a retired State employee!
Am I the only person who failed to catch the full history of Gov. Snyder’s long term relationship with Gateway Computers?
For example, I don’t recall ever hearing about Gateway and their bankruptcy. I also had been given the impression that he was the “brains” (the one tough nerd) behind the whole operation, not just the financial and a hedge fund manager.
Mr. Snyder and a handful of other Gateway managers shipped pretty much the entire company‘s labor operation over to China while keeping billions of dollars of profit in their own pockets. So much so, in fact, that a full accounting of his own personal worth (see Forbes magazine), would reveal Mr. Snyder as being able to practically pay off the state debt from his personal checking account and still keep his Gulfstream in the air..
So, in a magnanimous but actually empty gesture, our new Governor donates back to the Treasury his own salary ($170,000 and change) while proposing that the elderly and fixed income retirees cough up as much as $2,000 a year! (Probably close to what it costs to feed, house and lobby our still full-time legislature.) Bosh!
To all my Demophobic Michigander friends, all I can say is you gets whats you pays for. Welcome to the Brave New World, Michigan.

Bill Brown • TC
Lewis Black wore grey
As some of Lewis Black’s greatest fans, my wife and I were ready to laugh. So we decided to forego two weeks of groceries and use that money instead to buy tickets to see him perform at the Traverse City Opera House.
Lewis Black did not perform. Some caricature that looked like him was there. It sounded like him – lots of ‘f’ bombs. But, he did not pass the smell test.
Lewis gave us “cell phone” and “airport” jokes, dissed Detroit, and was completely apolitical. He gave us no material on current events whatsoever. He threw the audience a couple of bones – “Democrats and Republicans never agree,” abortion and Sarah Palin. Like Pavlov’s dogs the audience reacted with laughter.
Lewis did remind us he is Jewish (and I thought Lenny Bruce died for sins of comedians).
The audience was ready – “You’re all we’ve got!” exclaimed a gentlemen at the start of Lewis’ performance – but evidently Lewis decided we were not a crowd that would get his political humor.
Disappointed in “In God We Rust”... whatever that means.

Bob Borey • Elk Rapids

Rising inequality
In the United States, the top 1% of the population has doubled its share of the national income from around 8% to almost 16% in the last 30 years. This eerily replicates the situation that existed just prior to the crash of 1929, when the share of the top 1% reached its previous high mark.
Just like in our Great Depression, rising income inequality preceded our financial crisis. What does this mean? Such enormous wealth was not used for consumption, but rather created a huge pool of available financial capital. Individuals with such wealth did not invest the money themselves, but rather through intermediaries in the financial sector.
Overwhelmed by such large amounts of capital and enticed by large fees attending each transaction, the financial sector became more and more reckless and eventually exceeded the available safe and profitable investments.
The increased wealth at the top occurred along with an absence of real economic growth in the middle. The problem for both political parties was stagnant middle income growth.
A way to make it seem that the middle class was earning more than it did was to increase its purchasing power through more accessible credit. People began to live by accumulating ever-rising debt via credit cards or equity loans as the price of housing keep rising. Thus was born the great American consumption binge that saw the household debt increase from 48% of GDP in the early 1980s to 100% of GDP before the recent crisis.
Once the middle class began defaulting on its debt, the dream collapsed. The cause of the crisis is not only the recklessness of the bankers. Lastly, the political decision to cover-up stagnant middle-income growth with loose credit all led to the economic collapse.

Ronald Marshall • Petoskey
Unfair immigration
I am responding to an article on migrant worker Serafin Mendoza (2/14).
Here is case where someone tried multiple times to do the right thing toward becoming a legal citizen while working and supporting a family, yet suffering at the hands of greedy so-called immigration lawyers.
I have a family member who unknowingly and unintentionally ended up in the U.S. illegally due to unfulfilled promises of a supposed sponsor. Fortunately she had better resources with which to correct the situation, followed ultimately by attaining citizenship.
Our immigration process is complex and fraught with challenges. In the Mendoza case, multiple lives are being impacted by the decisions that are in your hands. Please give this man and his family every consideration possible when deciding his fate.

Jane A. Miller • TC
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