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Letters 1/26/09

- January 26th, 2009
Runaway spending
To young taxpayers: say no to new spending and debt!
Just a few months ago, Treasury Secretary Paulson abandoned his plan for how best to distribute the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds. Instead of holding “reverse auctions” intended to eliminate toxic assets from banks’ balance sheets, Paulson switched to plan B. He, along with Fed Chief Bernanke, “offered” nine U.S. banks $125 billion in bailout funds in exchange for government (taxpayer) stakes in the companies.
Despite uneasiness from relatively healthy institutions, such as Wells Fargo, Paulson essentially strong-armed these banks to accept funds in order to restore public confidence in the banking sector. As Paulson put it, “The system needs more money, and all of you will be better off if there’s more capital in the system.”
If there was ever such a thing as inefficient allocation of resources, this has to be it. At a time when businesses and consumers alike are struggling to obtain credit, the central bank and Treasury decided to channel new capital into companies that didn’t necessarily want or need it!
Now, three months and $350 billion dollars later, confidence is still lacking. Citigroup received $25 billion last year, along with Bank of America. Both these companies are posting huge losses, and Bank of America is staged for yet another capital injection from TARP part 2.
As a young taxpayer, who will live with the consequences of these decisions for the next 50 years or so, I am growing increasingly concerned.
Even as budget deficits recently hit a record $485.2 billion in the first quarter alone, it seems no one in Congress or the Treasury is too concerned with the cost of TARP, or other ensuing Obama spending programs.
Why is it assumed that extravagant spending equals economic health? Remember, we are nearly half a trillion dollars in the red after just one fiscal quarter! In other words, in just the past three months, we have already passed last year’s total deficit, on pace for more than $1 trillion for fiscal year 2009.
How long will the rest of the world finance all this deficit spending we Americans love? Or will we simply debase our currency by printing dollars until we run out of ink? At some point, we’ll have no choice but to tighten our belts and bring runaway spending under control. It appears this won’t happen anytime soon. Clearly, the era of big government is not over. Instead, it’s back bigger than ever.

Joe Schoonover • TC

A proud American
I’m a “broken glass” Republican, meaning I will, if necessary, crawl across broken glass to get to the polls. I’m a veteran, a small business owner, I fly the flag, and have a portrait of Ronald Reagan in my office.
When Barack Obama started to gain national attention, I contemplated what it would mean if he were elected president. To say the least, it would be historic. I like living through historic times and this event would certainly make my list.
So here we are, seating the first duly-elected African-American as President of the United States and this Republican is one proud American. My ancestors fought and died in the civil war and their battles are being richly rewarded. For me the best part will be the sight of this beautiful family moving into the White House.
Rest assured on January 21st I renewed my political skepticism. On January 20th, however, I used the day to celebrate what it means to be an American.

Wally Morton • Northport

Different strokes
Rick and Heather Shumaker are the poster children for “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle“ (re: “Less is More,“ 12/22). I find their philosophies and actions commendable regarding budgeting, consumerism, charity and environmentalism. I applaud them and believe the general population can take a lesson from them.
I would, however; like to point out that the Shumakers are fortunate to have the luxury to consciously decide to “only” spend $35,000 of their income. For the many in our area struggling to get by on less it is not a luxury they can choose, it is a necessity.

Marianne Morgan • TC

Strangling Gaza
After a three-week rampage that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, 4,000 others wounded (with injuries doctors call “absolutely gruesome”), an economy and civilian infrastructure in tatters, and survivors deeply traumatized, the Israeli military rushed to leave Gaza before Barack Obama took office.
The 1.5 million people who live in an area somewhat larger than Old Mission Peninsula now face what analysts are calling “the most difficult reconstruction project in the world.”
Using U.S. taxpayer-supplied weapons (allegedly along with phosphorous bombs and “new” devices such as Dense Inert Metal Explosives), the Israeli Goliath has crushed David. But to what end?
When will Israel realize that its security cannot depend on the criminal use of military force? How can Israel denounce Hamas’s rockets when it scorns world opinion and inflicts such savage and disproportionately murderous violence on Gaza’s citizens? How can Israel complain about weapons smuggled through tunnels when it uses billions of our tax dollars to replenish its weapons stocks on the open market?
The troops may be gone, but Israel continues to strangle Gaza with its long-standing blockade of food, fuel, and medical supplies. Lifting the blockade and ending the occupation is the way to peace.

Mary Heffron • Cedar

Enemies of America
For years they abused us. Maddening customer service, fluctuating usurious interest rates, fine-print trickery and near-fraudulent advertising. For the past two decades our credit card companies and the banks behind them have done everything they could possibly think of -- both legal and not so much sometimes -- to keep as many of us as deep in debt for as long as humanly possible.
And their devious devices were always aimed at those with least advantage -- least able to pay, least able to avoid the traps set wide by the industry’s best and brightest, who used millions of research dollars and focus group hours to devise the most efficient and nefarious methods to ensnare the maximum number of people into debt so deep many would spend a lifetime crawling out. Their evil was obvious, their arrogance appalling.
Just months ago it seemed like an impossible dream to think that some day some colossal force would bring these corporate behemoths to their knees. But oh would we rue the day! Oh would we love to see the face of that customer service robot who just dismissed your plea for fairness with a scripted denial and disconnect. Wouldn’t that be grand, oh would we cheer and sing in the streets, fairness and the free market prevail, the banks and their bad business practices be damned!
It would be a great day, but here it is, and a great day it certainly is not. Because these corporate cretins have one last dagger to throw -- if they go down, they’re going to take us all with them.
So now they demand payment of the debts they own; they will take their entitlement from us all -- because the millions they duped are no longer able to pay.
So the taxpayer pays, the world pays, we all pay to save these predators from the very disaster they created with their own reckless greed. And pay we will, because the alternative could be far worse -- or so they tell us.
I’m no economist, but I think I can sense fairness and the lack of it when I see it in the world. So I watch the news with a strong taste of bile when I see Citicorp, Bank of America and the like come to Washington with one hand out and the other poised with a hammer aimed at our entire economic system. And I despise the lawmakers who ceded the power to these enemies of America.
We should all hold our noses (and learn our lessons? Nah, that’s too much to ask) while we pay this ransom to the latest breed of terrorist -- the economic terrorist -- our own lending institutions.

Will Harper • TC

Support the arts
As Congress considers the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan in the coming weeks, the arts and culture sector must be included.
The arts are essential to the health and vitality of our communities. They spur urban renewal; attract new businesses; draw tourism dollars; and create an environment that attracts skilled, educated workers and builds a robust 21st century workforce. It is fiscally sound policy to invest in our nation’s arts infrastructure.
Nonprofit arts organizations are proud members of the business community—employing people, purchasing goods and services, and involved in the marketing and promotion of their cities. Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion in economic activity, 5.7 million jobs, and nearly $30 billion in government revenue every year.
It is in hard times that we need artists most. The Traverse region is rich in artists. Let’s support them by integrating their work with agriculture, education and transportation -- all while improving the quality of our Northern Michigan life and culture.

Amanda Kik • Bellaire

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