Letters for September 15, 2011

Letter of the week

Direct action for solvency

Re “Four steps to Sacramento solvency” by Jeff vonKaenel (SN&R Greenlight, September 1):

Jeff vonKaenel’s four steps for bringing in and retaining dollars in the regional economy are sensible actions that we definitely should take to heart. But like Davis Dollars, they are stop-gap measures that do nothing to address the continuing systemic trend of impoverishing the lower and middle classes. Latin America learned the lesson in the ’90s; economic indicators can soar while the masses become poorer. In Nicaragua, after the Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1991, unemployment and underemployment reached around 70 percent. Meanwhile, the country was a wreck, with plenty of work that needed to be done. The missing ingredient that kept workers and work from coming together? Money.

With wealth becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of the few at the top, there is less money to go around for the rest of us and to support that part of the economy that means the most to ordinary folks. If you think you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you will eventually realize that those bootstraps are connected to you, and pulling on them will not elevate you without a step up for your boots to stand on. We need to get the sequestered wealth back into the human economy. While it would be nice to liberate the money through stimulatory taxes such as a steep inheritance tax (which should be called the “You Can’t Take It With You Tax”) or a tax on the $2 trillion in cash that corporations are hoarding as they wait for a miracle cure for the ailing economy, vonKaenel is right that state and federal government will not help.

The only hope we have for making the economy actually work for us is direct action.

Phillip Fujiyoshi

Negative light-rail tales

Re “What’s your light-rail tale?” (SN&R Streetalk, September 8):

So what exactly was the point of your “light-rail nightmare tales” feature in this week’s Streetalk? Are you worried that public transportation in Sac is still a bit too healthy and that we need to make sure that any commuters who are foolishly thinking about leaving the car at home once in a while realize that they face certain theft, harassment and likely death in the war zone that is the Folsom-bound train? What’s next? Tell us about the weird shit you took after eating locally-grown vegetables?

Charlie Barnes
via email

Another take on the pension problem

Re “Public enemies” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Feature, September 1):

In all the discussion involving pensions, the arguments always seem to revolve around the percentage of what the employees contributed. What is missing is the amount of what income on which the pensions are based on.

An example: In the Sacramento County Fire District, 25 percent of employees make over $150,000 per year, with many making close to $200,000. And with other public-safety employees making over $100,000, this is where the pension problem lies. Then look at how many other six-figure incomes are being paid out. It’s not the employee making $35,000 that’s burdening the system.

It’s time to reduce pay for some category of employees and contract salaried professionals. Remember, these are public-service jobs working for the public good. If you want private-sector pay, then work for the private sector.

A radical idea would be to cap pensions at a certain level, such as $100,000 with cost of living built in. If you are having trouble living on $100,000 after earning an income of more than that for years, then maybe you should have planned better.

For too long, your taxes and the tax system have been used as an investment bank by business and a piggy bank by public employees. Reform is needed, and if we have to start with the pension system and the pay that all public employees—salaried and [hourly]—are paid, then let’s do it.

Michael Santos


Re “Xfinicky” by Mark Drolette (SN&R Essay, September 1):

Is this supposed to be a curmudgeonly rant about the evils of the unnamed cable company? It sounds more like the ramblings of a doddering old fool who isn’t aware of his own gullibility, just the kind to buy anything being pitched by any snake-oil salesman and wonder later what happened.

I’m an old guy not too enamored with all the latest tech gadgetry, but I know how to say no to what I don’t need or want. Not all of us seniors are so clueless and don’t want to be thought of as so, but this guy seems to want to celebrate that he is, while trying to get some sympathy by blaming the-not-to-be-named cable company.

Rather pathetic if you ask me.

John W. Borsdorf

Ask a better question …

Re “Dangerous ground” (SN&R Editorial, September 1):

As you wrote, “This is neither the time to panic nor the time to be content with the status quo,” but in order to assess any situation, one must be aware of definitions. In the nuclear-power industry, an “unusual event” means absolutely anything that does not occur on a daily basis of operation. We have “unusual events” in our own lives every day, but as experienced individuals, coping with and adjusting to these events is how we define a well-functioning adult, or power facility.

Second, in times of natural disasters, we expect a certain amount of damage. It is, after all, a disaster. The event at Fukushima was horrific and unprecedented and certainly raises questions of preparedness. So just how prepared are these plants? All nuclear facilities are built to sustain twice the level of the maximum historically recorded event at the site. Therefore, plants in the Midwest are built to sustain themselves through twice the damage of the worst flood in history for that region.

In these wild times of climate change, however, would twice the worst recorded damage be so unusual? I don’t know. But we can only find out by asking the right kind of questions.

Juliana Boggs

… and don’t trust Wall Street time

Re “Dangerous ground” (SN&R Editorial, September 1):

You end with “What will it take to get a safe, sane and sustainable policy from both the American people and our leaders?”

What a bizarre question. The question itself shows a complete lack of understanding of the issues. You are talking about policies on the scale of a human lifetime, or even several generations of human lifetimes, or even evolutionary time (but we all know evolution is a lie—a bearded man in clouds snapped his fingers and created trillions of light years worth of matter in six days, and don’t dare ask who created a bearded man in clouds, because it’s not an appropriate question).

Anyway, what you fail to understand is Wall Street time scales. If a nuclear power plant can put a few billion in Wall Streeters pockets this quarter, it matters not whether the planet blows up or melts down in the next quarter. The next quarter does not even exist in the Wall Street time scale. Thus, your question about nuclear power plants makes no sense. Nuclear plants bring profits in this quarter. There is nothing else that matters, and no time exists beyond the end of whatever is the current quarter. Our economy and our national policy are built upon this eternal (quarterly being the Wall Street eternity) truth.

Ed Hass
Elk Grove

Puff Daddy dreams

Re “I dream of Daddy” by Rachel Leibrock (SN&R Popsmart, September 1):

I enjoyed this article. Here are a few suggestions for you: Forget about their stardom. Each of them is just like you and I.

I believe it is a way to get your attention and it is working. Let us say the Tom Hanks dream about raising funds is a way to let you know that [Sacramento] State may need funds for the arts department. Maybe you can help in some way.

The Madonna dream is about loyalty and protection. The doghouse is important because the dog is loyal and protective. Maybe you are a loyal person and can offer some form of protection to someone, or maybe you need that in your personal life.

Concentrate on the objects in the dreams not the people. The people are just what attract your attention. Puff Daddy killing you is not literal, it is just a way of saying there is something to let go of in your life. Maybe holding back is harming you spiritually. Maybe you have a small fear of singing. Try karaoke. It isn’t about if you are good enough, because you are. It is about the love of music and expressing yourself from the heart through what you sing. Write lyrics to a song at home. You have a need to express yourself more.

If the Puff Daddy dream really bothers you, it is possible to demand it to go away. We can control our dreams. It just takes practice. We can change them while they are happening, too. Think on it. Good luck and think positive.

Tami Lobato

His Facebook has faces—and bodies, too

Re “Facebook fatigue” by Adrianne Jeffries with Ted Cox (SN&R Feature, August 25):

My Facebook has windows to look out of, people to wave and say hello to, walking with a dog or cat, visiting the local park, paying attention to my surroundings and helping out in the community. Enjoy all the wasted time in front of that screen so later on you can relish those moments.

Larry Bob

Millionaires who don’t pay taxes

Re “Joe & Susie” by Bob Schmidt (SN&R Essay, August 25):

I can’t find the data in the [Internal Revenue Service] report that supports the author’s claim that 1,470 millionaires and billionaires did not pay taxes in 2009. All of the IRS reports that I reviewed showed that the highest income categories not only paid the most taxes, but also paid the highest percentage of taxes to income. Also, I noticed that the lowest income levels paid zero taxes.

I don’t believe that the wealthy can avoid paying taxes under the current tax taw. There are IRS rules in place to prevent that from happening. The question is: Do the wealthy pay enough taxes simply because they can afford it? This question should be answered with accurate data and information.

Gary Jellis
Rancho Cordova

Bob Schmidt replies: It is understandable why Mr. Jellis had difficulty finding IRS data about the millionaires who paid zero taxes in 2009. The IRS report for 2009 is 310 pages long, with about 150 full-page tables in very small print. On page 35 of the report, “Selected Income and Tax Items, by Size and Accumulated Size of Adjusted Gross Income,” on the line for adjusted gross income, “1,000,000 or more,” the total number of returns in 2009 was 236,883. Further along the line, under number of taxable returns, the figure is 235,413. The difference is 1,470; the number of Americans whose 2009 income exceeded $1 million and who paid zero federal taxes.