Email letters, Sept. 21, 2012

Americans must face up to national debt or suffer consequences

If you divide our national debt (more than $16 trillion) by every man, woman and child in America, it is more than $50,000 per U.S. citizen. Next time you’re at the dinner table with your family or at a restaurant with a group of friends, imagine how much money that is.

What would you do if you had that much money to invest? You could invest for your child’s education, or your retirement. Maybe you would like to start a business or give money to your favorite charity. If you had money to invest in your future, whom would you rather give it to, Mitt Romney or President Obama?

The problem is the federal government has no money. The money it borrows to invest is in our name. If an investment goes bad, we get stuck with the loss.

Perhaps you think we should have the rich pay all our debt. Try that when you go out eat with your friends. Make the richest person pay.

I am not saying we shouldn’t have a progressive tax system in which the rich pay more. All we citizens must do our part to solve it, not just the evil rich. People with plans to solve our debt crisis should be listened to and debated with, not demonized.

Our debt is still growing and not sustainable. Someday we will all suffer the consequences.

MARK HABENICHT

Grand Junction

Washington isn’t telling Americans just how bad federal deficit is

I spent the past year trying to understand why Washington is not explaining to voters the grim dilemma they face in closing the annual trillion-dollar deficits. Using the White House budget released in February, Congress cannot close this year’s $1.3 trillion budget deficit, even if it shuts down Washington, D.C.—every department, agency, employee, including the military.

If Washington shuts down, it doesn’t have quite enough tax revenue to pay the interest on federal debt and continue printing the checks for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment and other nondiscretionary programs.

When I produced the YouTube video “United States Budget Dilemma.wmv” to illustrate this problem, I didn’t expect it would attract more than 2.7 million viewers and bring national focus to the problem. Sadly, the video doesn’t come close to revealing how broke our nation really is.

The $1.3 trillion deficit is not a true representation of our nation’s dismal fiscal condition. The United States operates on a cash basis, unlike accrual accounting standards required in businesses.

Corporations must report and fund future liabilities for pensions and health care. The most recent United States Financial Report estimates Washington has promised trillions more in entitlement benefits than it will receive in tax revenues. It doesn’t take a math genius to see that the United States is on an unsustainable fiscal path.

Recently, syndicated columnist Scott Burns reported in his article “Will the real federal deficit please stand up?” that the 2012 deficit is closer to $10 trillion if it included what has been promised for Social Security and Medicare. Economists say the true financial condition of our country is far, far worse than it is represented in public discussion. Economists estimate that this fiscal gap is now $222 trillion. Time to take your heart medication!

Furthermore, in 1965, Washington adopted a unified budget using surplus trust fund tax surpluses to offset Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Vietnam War. He and every president thereafter raided all the surpluses in Social Security, Medicare, military/federal employee retirement and health trust funds to operate the federal government. They replaced these surpluses with IOUs (Treasury notes) that now must be paid out of the bankrupt General Fund.

All the payroll taxes collected for future Social Security and Medicare benefits are gone … as are military and federal employee pension/health trust funds. This use of $5 trillion government debt is illegal in the business world. It would be like Wal-Mart using employee pension/health contributions as revenue for daily operations.

So why do politicians keep this from American voters? Perhaps politicians understand we would “fire” them. Time to fix the problem – vote this November!

HAL MASON
Grand Junction  

Vandals who defaced Otto’s rock must be illiterate

As the son of a World War II Atlantic Theater veteran, I realize that a swastika can be upsetting to some.

However, John Otto’s strange 1915 “Rock of Ages” on display at the Museum of the West had nothing to do with Hitler or World War II. The swastikas were either just decorative or good luck symbols once used around the world. Plus, the Otto swastikas, like many others, do not have the tilt that Hitler later purposely gave the infamous Nazi symbol.

If the vandals who struck Otto’s rock want to rid Earth of swastikas, maybe they should start with Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. Stone swastikas were added to the floors and walls during construction hundreds of years ago as decorative good luck symbols. I’m sure the peaceful monks won’t mind if some idiot wants to pry out the stones.

Southwest American museums and galleries on occasion display Navajo rugs of the 1800s that had swastikas added to the colorful and intricate weave. Should we burn them all?  1870s-era streetlight bases that still stand in front of San Francisco’s historic mint have cast iron swastika designs. Cover them with spray paint?

During the 1890s, one Colorado saddle and holster maker would, if requested, adorn holsters with brass tacks in the shape of a swastika. Now very collectible. I guess you could yank out the tacks with pliers once the holster was taken out of a safe.

Swastika-shaped, stamped metal “Good Luck – Coca Cola” pocket watch fobs were handed out for free by the soft drink company during the 1920s. Just melt ‘em all?

There are literally thousands of similar “good luck” swastika stories. Unfortunately, the criminals who vandalized Otto’s rock won’t know all this. I assume they are also illiterate. How else can you explain how they missed the real meaning of Otto’s swastika that is spelled out on a plaque just a few feet away from the rock?

Once the vandals are caught and convicted, maybe some kind-hearted second- or third-grade student can read the facts to them.

DAVE FISHELL
Grand Junction

Statistics demonstrate lack of hope, change during Obama’s watch

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently asked: “Do we want our children to inherit our hopes and dreams, or do we want them to inherit our problems?” If we give President Obama a second term, we will be creating even more problems for our children to inherit.

Under Obama, we have given our health care rights up to the same entity that operates the U.S. Post Office, which runs more than a $1 billion deficit every year while constantly raising the price of stamps. Mailing packages has gotten so expensive that I now send gift cards instead of gifts.

Under Obama, coal-powered plants are closing, even though coal makes it possible for most of us to afford electricity. Under Obama, 11,000 pages of regulations have been added to the burdens that businesses already struggle to operate under.

Hope and change? Here’s the change under Obama: A gallon of gas has gone from $1.83 to $3.44 (84 percent increase). A bushel of No. 2 yellow corn has gone from $3.56 to $6.33 (78.1percent increase). A record number of people – 46 million – are now on food stamps (69 percent increase). A record national debt—$16 trillion – has now been reached (62.5 percent increase). Unemployment is up 24.7 percent over January 2009 levels. Unemployment among blacks is up 25.4 percent. Is this the kind of change that you want?

America showed how far we have come by voting in a black president. Now let’s do what’s best for the country and our children and vote him out.

BRUCE MANY
Eckert


American ‘freeloaders’ would have included Romney’s grandfather

Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather was a polygamist outlaw who fled Arizona to avoid prosecution for perjury involving a land deal. According to Mitt’s 2004 memoir, Miles Park Romney was “called upon” to settle in Mexico – and embodied the “same values that were passed along to me.”

Romney’s non-polygamist grandparents fled back to the U.S. in the “Mormon Exodus” of 1912 to escape the Mexican Revolution, initially subsisting on welfare funded by a special congressional appropriation of $100,000.

Mitt Romney’s father, George, rose from these lowly circumstances to become president of American Motors, governor of Michigan and a responsible Republican presidential candidate who released 12 years of his income tax returns to the public.

Mitt provided 23 years of income tax returns to John McCain’s campaign in 2008 (which remain secret), required Paul Ryan to provide 10 years of returns during his vetting for V.P., but has not released any complete federal tax returns himself. What “values”?

During the Republican primary, Romney proclaimed that he was “not concerned about the poor, because they have a safety net.”  The “Romney-Ryan Budget” dismantles it – and would reduce Food Stamp funding by $134 billion over 10 years.

In May Romney told wealthy contributors that 47 percent of American households not paying income taxes are “freeloaders” – which would have included his own family in 1912 (and perhaps himself during the last 10 years) – who would tax them at 100 percent!

Food stamps comprise 78 percent of the nearly $1 trillion Farm Bill passed by the Senate, but still awaiting a vote in the House. One House version would cut food stamps by $36 billion; another protects and expands subsidies to wealthy farmers and agri-businesses.

As Sal Pace properly observes, Scott Tipton’s dutiful submission to Tea Party demands is preventing these differences from being promptly resolved in a conference committee.

BILL HUGENBERG

Grand Junction

Churchill quote on socialism applies to America’s current state of affairs

Winston Churchill once said this about socialism:  Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

The four key words in that quote pretty well sum up what the country has been creeping toward for decades. Now, along comes Obama and we’re in a headlong rush to get there.

Can another word other than FAILURE describe unsuccessful attempts to jump-start the economy or explain other broken promises?

What about the creed of IGNORANCE surrounding him, his advisers, followers, worshipers and the fawning, biased media?

Shouldn’t we consider his constant preaching “...pay their fair share” ENVY of the rich and successful?

And finally, what are we to think about all the economic MISERY we’ve shared equally these past four years and the guarantee of even more when Obamacare kicks in?

It looks like the “S” word to me, and “if it looks like a duck…”

AL CARLEY
Grand Junction

Reelecting Obama would mean more four more years of ineptitude or subterfuge

Nine days after an attack on our embassies and four dead Americans, the Obama administration has determined that it was an act of terrorism, something the rest of knew the minute it happened, since it was September 11 and they were well armed. Not many protesters show up at demonstrations with AK-47s and RPGs.

Here is my question to Obama supporters: Is this administration that inept, or are they hiding something? Either way, you have to ask yourself if we can afford four more years with them in charge.

We have a dying economy, Al Queada is back in power and attacking us; and our foreign policy is the laughing stock of the world, especially the Islamic world that he was going to make our best friends.

Think hard about it, the survival of our country is at stake.

MICHAEL BOHNENKAMP
Montrose

Right to distribute anti-Muslim video is ‘preposterous’

Sunday’s Sentinel editorial extolling the virtues of our First Amendment and chastising a few Muslims for overreacting to an anti-Muslim video produced in the U.S. is way off the mark and insulting.

I am a civil libertarian and a strong advocate of First Amendment protections of speech. If the little video skit were enacted on any street corner in the U.S., I would defend the free speech rights of the actors.

The Sentinel, however, has failed to recognize an extremely important limitation on free speech – the prohibition against shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. The makers and perpetrators of the video intended to cause Muslims around the world extreme hurt and humiliation. Serious reprisals were surely anticipated, and at least four good Americans have died as a direct consequence of releasing the video into electronic space. U.S. relations with 20 or more predominantly Muslim nations have been strained, perhaps irrevocably.

For the Sentinel to support the video and its distribution as a proper exercise of free speech rights is really preposterous.

Further, accusing Muslim nations of “inflaming the populace” about “misdeeds of outsiders” completely misstates the facts – that those were spontaneous actions carried out by deeply insulted Muslims.

Think of a Muslim-created video shown widely in the U.S. showing Jesus as a womanizer and buffoon. How would fundamentalist Christians react?

NEVILLE WOODRUFF

Grand Junction

Where did the love of our neighbors go?

Chaos through anger – where does it ever get us? The world is changing, and not for the better. America over the years has helped more countries for the good life and seeing their health for the better. America has helped nations grow financially.

There are more different religions in America than any country on Earth and more nationalities living together here, as well. Aren’t we all neighbors on Earth?

Our country simply grew through all these last centuries out of care of living at peace with one another and learning from our fellow man. And, now look where it has gotten us, that terrible movie from a studio, to promote hate and terror in homes throughout the old, tiring Earth.

What love for our fellow neighbors is there in that? Where is our love for our neighbor, wherever our neighbor lives on Earth?

Where’s our peace gone, the peace of the good life, the love of living together?

DAVE MORRIS

Grand Junction

 



COMMENTS

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Mark Habenicht’s “Americans must face up to national debt or suffer consequences” and Hal Mason’s “Washington isn’t telling Americans just how bad federal deficit is” raise legitimate and challenging questions about our fiscal future.

Habenicht’s problem is NOT that “the federal government has no money”, it’s that “conservative” Republicans – beginning with President Ronald Reagan – have been deliberately depriving the federal government of the resources it needs to function,
which in turn has shifted increasing financial burdens onto state and local governments.

While we cannot expect “the rich to pay all our debt”, it’s one thing to meekly pay lip service to a “progressive tax system”, but quite another to enforce that “progressivity” by eliminating the loopholes that allow “the rich” (including Mitt Romney) to pay far less than published tax brackets would nominally require.  Moreover, Tea Party Republicans (including Scott Tipton) – having pledged their allegiance to Grover Norquist rather than to their oaths of office – refuse to consider any “revenue enhancements”.

As Mason may recall, in 2000, V.P. and presidential candidate Al Gore sought to end the practice of using Social Security surpluses to fund the federal government by advocating a “lock box” to sequester that surplus – but was ridiculed by Republicans.  George Bush then persuaded the American electorate to try another dose of massive deficit spending.

As for cash versus accrual accounting, the only long term remedy (if any) is really robust economic growth – not fudging growth rates on spreadsheets (ala Reagan and Paul Ryan) – to prove that more tax cuts will “pay for themselves” with “trickle down” prosperity.

In the shorter run, 70% of Americans already agree that a “balanced approach” must be undertaken sooner rather than later – but partisan Republicans still stall.

Readers interested in better understanding these complex issues should try the “Federal Budget Challenge” exercise at http://federal.budgetchallenge.org/respondents/summary#.

                Bill Hugenberg

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