LETTERS IN THE EDITOR'S MAILBAG.
Startups are the real future
Two articles in the Feb. 24 Register-Guard caught my eye.
Tom Friedman's column on investing in startups rather than the ossified dinosaurs in Detroit is a compelling argument. Coupled with an article in the business section about a local green enterprise, Energy Wise Lighting, that intends to build low-cost solar water heaters for residential use, they bring our current economic moment into focus.
Peter Greenberg, Energy Wise's president, isn't looking for a handout from Washington, D.C., but his spunk in starting a solar water heater business in these economic times is not only commendable, it's truly American.
While the bombasts in the Beltway pour billions into the aging behemoths in Motor City - the very same big auto companies that worked diligently for decades to prevent greater fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and lobbied Congress to subsidize Hummers and Hemis - small business entrepreneurs like Greenberg represent the future of America's industry and economy.
Supporting businesses based on renewable energy sources, an independent entrepreneurial spirit and a moxie that says we will thrive despite long odds and the misadventures of our financial, industrial and political elite is poetry from the heartlands.
PAUL HOOBYAR, Principal
Laissez faire nearly wrecked us
In the Feb. 25 Mailbag, Stephen Hawke asserts that the Obama stimulus plan will "destroy free market capitalism" and repeats the tired mantra: "cut taxes," and all will be well. He furthermore somehow claims that liberals have brought down our economy. If we accept Hawke's premise, I, as a card carrying liberal, should feel guilty for my part in causing our current economic plight.
However, I fear Hawke must have spent the last eight years in some parallel universe. I must first remind him that we had eight years of tax cuts for the wealthy. They worked out well for the wealthy and rather badly for the rest of us. Furthermore, "free market capitalism," as laissez faire capitalism during the Bush years, has nearly destroyed the American economy. Laissez faire capitalism, fueled by greed and virtually unfettered by regulation for the past eight years, has brought us to our current plight.
Additionally, the Bush era tax cuts, specifically targeted to the very wealthiest Americans, combined with a trillion dollar war, have created the largest national debt and the greatest budget deficits in our history.
Now President Obama and all Americans face the daunting task of rekindling our economy, repairing the systematic damage done over the past eight years and, somehow, dealing with our monumental debt and deficit.
While I don't expect angry right-wingers to help in this process, it would be nice if they'd at least refrain from attempts to undermine it.
Bad time to raise beer tax
The Oregon Legislature would be wrong to raise taxes on beer. Increasing alcohol taxes costs jobs and disproportionately hurts those who are least able to pay them (Register-Guard, Feb. 24).
According to the Tax Foundation, individuals earning less than $20,000 per year face federal alcohol tax burdens that are more than 18 times higher than individuals making in excess of $200,000. Not only are hospitality taxes on wine, beer and spirits regressive, they also contribute to job loss. After the federal government doubled the beer tax in 1991, approximately 60,000 Americans in the brewing, distributing and retailing industries lost their jobs from a shrunken industry.
Too often, hospitality taxes are treated like an ATM to generate extra revenue to make up for wasteful government spending. As Americans struggle through tough economic conditions, Oregon could not pick a worse time to increase taxes.
American Beverage Institute
Bush was no conservative
I am an avid reader of the letters section for the widely entertaining opinions that are strewn throughout. Lately, many of the missives have been from self-proclaimed conservatives warning the public about the socialist onslaught that should be expected now that Barack Obama is president of the United States. The arguments are all along the same lines, and all seem to fault liberals for the current economic situation. They also sound the alarm bells of "big government" on the way.
I would like to ask these people which rock they have been festering beneath for the last eight years. George W. Bush was elected on the conservative, small government platform. He was given a Congress that was ideologically in agreement with those principles and had an opportunity to steer the federal government in a more conservative direction.
He was re-elected in 2004 and given an even larger majority in the Congress. What did the good conservatives that had the reins of government do during that time? They brought us the largest government agency in the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the largest amount of federal spending in the history of our government.
If one really wants to discuss socialist policies, one cannot ignore Bush's No Child Left Behind policy and the expanded federal oversight of public schools that the act entails. In essence, anyone who claims to hold a fiscally conservative ideology and supported the Bush administration was effectively duped by the Republican spin doctors.
Michael E. Hoekstra
How PERS works today
For the second time in as many weeks I have read a letter suggesting that our state's dire economic situation has been worsened by the "PERS problem," the most recent from Rob Deharpport of Westfir (Mailbag, Feb. 24).
I suggest that Deharpport take a look at the Public Employees Retirement System Web site, www.oregon.gov/PERS, and get his facts straight.
PERS benefits are paid solely from a trust fund known as the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund and even with the current investment losses the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund was valued at approximately $46 billion.
As part of the PERS reform legislation and court cases, Tier One member regular accounts (only) must be credited annually at the 8 percent rate, regardless of the actual losses or gains. Any earnings above 8 percent are set aside in a reserve fund to ensure the 8 percent annual credit.
The PERS Board set aside approximately $1.9 billion in this reserve fund from investment returns in 2005-07. These funds will be used to pay earnings to Tier One member accounts for 2008. Only earnings on Tier One member regular accounts fund that reserve (not taxpayers' dollars).
For the past five years, since Jan. 1, 2004, all Tier One member contributions have been placed in the Individual Account Program. Similar to a 401K plan, these accounts receive actual earnings and losses from a diversified investment portfolio without a guaranteed return.
New Mideast plan needed
I appreciate Sriram Khe's hopes for stability and an enduring Israel-Palestine peace (Register-Guard, Feb. 23), but also share his doubts that a two-state solution could bring this about.
Unfortunately, decades of attempts to divide the land into two states have failed miserably although the Arab Peace Initiative has been on the table for over 20 years. Israel has steadfastly ignored this plan because it would require their compliance with U.N. Resolution 242, withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. Israel also refuses to comply with U.N. Resolution 194, the right of all Palestinian refugees to return.
All peace plans, including Geneva and Oslo, have ignored internationally recognized Palestinian rights and the 1948 origins of the conflict, thus releasing Israel from responsibility for its land theft and population displacement. The 4 million U.N.-registered Palestinian refugees and diaspora have been excluded from these "peace" negotiations, their rights ignored.
Even the best two-state model would formalize a policy of inequality and segregation within Israel for the 20 percent Palestinian-Israeli citizens now denied equal rights and legal protections, and would increase their risk of involuntary "transfer."
Perhaps it is time for a new vision of peace, one based on the principles of freedom, justice and equality for all who live in the historic land of Palestine, including those expelled in 1948 and their descendants, regardless of religion or ethnicity.
And to further ensure Mideast stability, Israel might want to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as Iran has done.
MARIAH LEUNG, Co-Director
Al-Nakba Awareness Project
Best Actor overlooked
Forget Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke or any other Oscar contender. I say the Best Actor award should've gone to Barack Hussein Obama for his convincing portrayal of a smooth player bent on manipulating the public to board his "hope" and "change" train.
It actually happened to be one of my favorite films this year. I believe it was called "No Country for Thinking Men."
Check out Eugene's share
After reading the Feb. 25 letter from Kim Heddinger and Lynell Stokes regarding the deplorable state of Crest Drive, Storey Boulevard and Friendly Street, and agreeing since having driven on them many times, I would like to suggest they look at Eugene's share of the so-called stimulus plan on this Web site.
How much will add jobs or better streets? I leave that to smarter people, but thought that this Web site would be interesting and might generate some comments. Have fun. www.stimuluswatch.org/project/by_state/OR
Change? No, short-changed
In November 2008 half the people in this country were conned into voting for "change." But it looks like the only change we will get is "short-changed." Do you realize that one of the bills now before us contains around 9,000 earmarks, including millions of dollars for tattoo removal? This is preposterous, to say the least!
Let RV workers build homes
Two articles on the front page of The Register-Guard on Feb. 25 - "Workers (RV) on furlough" and "It can happen to ... anyone" on homelessness - prompted me to think.
Why can't RV workers be hired to build manufactured homes to house the newly homeless families? RV workers have transferable skills, e.g., installing walls, floors, cabinets, plumbing, electrical wiring, etc., to build manufactured homes. These homes can be of good quality and sold nationwide.
The banks can use the stimulus money to lend the homeless, at a very low or no interest, mortgages to buy these homes. The government can also buy these homes to be used as Section 8 (subsidized) rental housing for homeless families. It will be up to the cities and towns to develop land for these homes.
Lynn L. Hung