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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Republicans don't care about working families

On March 9, Wisconsin Republicans showed their utter disdain for working families by voting to abolish collective bargaining rights for state workers. They showed by moving this legislation from a budgetary item to a legislative item that it has nothing to do with balancing the budget, or monetary responsibility. It is about union busting and eliminating workers' rights. It is also important to mention Gov. Scott Walker claimed to run on a platform of eliminating collective bargaining, but not once mentioned this in his campaign.

Based on the developments in Wisconsin, and what is occurring in 16 other states, it should be apparent that the current Republican leaders are attempting to use a so-called fiscal crisis to continue their assault on what is left of the middle class. They are ignoring the root causes of the deficits, such as extending tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans, the Wall Street crisis caused by financial schemes coupled by a neglectful SEC and continued subsidies provided to corporations that are rewarded to ship American jobs overseas. They also have yet to come up with a tangible plan to fix our economy, as they campaigned they would.

Over the past 30 years, the Republicans have led the charge to deregulate government agencies, reduce taxes on the wealthy and convince the public they represent their ideas. In the meantime, the middle class has shrunk, middle class wages have stagnated and the top 1 percent of Americans control an ever-increasing proportion of wealth, including $1.5 trillion amassed by 413 billionaires. How much more evidence do we need to show us who the Republican leaders truly represent?

Joe Klein

West Seneca

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U.S. middle class is in swift decline

American wealth has been redistributed since the 1980s. Staggering national deficits occurred when the tax on the top 1 percent was reduced from 80 percent to less than 40 percent. Then, with the Bush tax cuts, two expensive wars and an unregulated banking system that caused the Great Recession, we now have a top tax bracket that is the lowest in the world and a $14 trillion deficit.

Our billionaires own a massive portion of the economy, while the real income of the middle class has remained stagnant for years. And who do the new Congress and the "puppet" Wisconsin governor want to pay for all of this? Is it Wall Street, which we bailed out and rewarded with a tax cut?

Wisconsin has given the millionaires a tax cut and expects the middle class to give back pay and benefits. And the new tea partyers in Congress are busy going after the only truthful TV and radio stations, PBS and NPR, while Fox News and "hate radio" continue to spread the "big lie." The Republicans want to end the Home Energy Assistance Program for the elderly and take away our mortgage deduction. With this massive redistribution of wealth, the loss of collective bargaining and other workers rights, our middle class is in swift decline.

John W. Kowalski

Lockport

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It's time to downsize, starting with Williams

This is an outrage! I refer to Buffalo Public School Superintendent James A. Williams and his cadre -- a nucleus around which an expanded organization can be built. Clearly, there are several duplications in this list of overpaid and underworked employees. Each of those overpriced salaries could support two to three teachers.

Williams does not have the best interests of the city pupils at heart. With the declining enrollment in city schools, how does he justify all these high salaries? It's time to downsize -- starting with emperor Williams.

Donna M. and Stanley F. Duszczak

Cheektowaga

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Money for everyone except the children

In response to the well-written News article of March 11, it seems to me that during his brief tenure, Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams has learned quite well how to spend the taxpayers' money. Creating a bloated staff of questionable need is a slap in the face of the hard-working people of this city, county, state and nation, since much of the funding comes from outsiders' taxes.

At a time when teacher layoffs loom, and program cuts are on the horizon, I can't help but wonder how much control the Board of Education really has. Then there's the group of principals who were removed from their positions. Aren't their salaries and benefits being paid, too? It seems that there is money for everybody except for the children.

Scott Gorton

Williamsville

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Abolish income cap for Social Security

Does calculating Social Security withholding on income up to a maximum of $106,800 earned sound fair? Why do those whose incomes are seven figures pay nothing on the amount above this to Social Security? Shouldn't the wealthiest owe a society that affords them these opportunities to succeed a gesture of fairness? I believe, and many would agree, that everyone should pay into Social Security based upon their full incomes and not just on a ridiculously small portion.

If this income cap were eliminated and the wealthiest Americans began to fully contribute, there would be no shortfall in Social Security on our horizon. The increase and volume of contributions into the system would allow for a reduction in the percentage of both individual (currently at 6.2 percent) and corporate rates.

Also, the benefits paid out could be raised, allowing for a better standard of living for all those who contributed throughout their working lives. These recipients would spend more on goods and services and contribute more as an economic stimulus to our economy than the government bailout of corporations did. I dare say the additional contributions by our wealthiest citizens would not harm their lifestyles.

Social Security should also be returned to the separate fund it once was. I believe that by eliminating the income cap, we would keep Social Security solvent and working as it was intended. If you believe in fairness for all working Americans, a secure Social Security System and correcting an injustice by the privileged wealthy, please promote this idea.

James D. Menefee Jr.

Depew

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Social Security recipients have earned their benefits

I take issue with Robert Samuelson's column "Why Social Security is welfare" published in the March 8 News. Samuelson believes that current recipients of Social Security did not "earn" their benefits. I beg to differ.

I'm a retired computer analyst who paid Social Security tax for 45 years. Had I been allowed to invest that money along with my employer's portion into the stock market's S&P 500, I would have realized a compound annual growth rate of 5.48 percent during my work career. At the time of my retirement I could have started making withdrawals from that account in an amount twice my current Social Security benefit and not run out of money for 20 years.

Certainly Social Security had the advantage of the compounding interest on the money taken from 45 years of paychecks. Therefore, I have "earned" a benefit that may or may not exceed what I paid into Social Security. I'm offended that Samuelson called my benefit "welfare" when it's less than half of what I could have earned on my own. I've certainly "earned" my benefit and have the numbers to prove it.

Robert Makey

Tonawanda

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UB 2020 is vital piece of our economic picture

Much credit should be given to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his budget proposal. While the nationwide sweep of an anti-tax-and-spend movement has dominated governmental discourse in the past year, there was little from our history to make us believe that it would reach New York State. But it has, with the governor's leadership, and our future generations will be better off for it.

That being said, we understand as a community that cash isn't going to be free-flowing from Albany this year and into the foreseeable future. Which is why it's so important that we take advantage now of opportunities to grow our economy without financial support from state government.

I'm talking, of course, about UB2020, a forward-thinking policy change that can be implemented at no cost to taxpayers. If we can't, as a state, invest in our economies right now, the least we can do is free them of regulation so they might thrive.

UB2020 legislation -- approved by the State Senate recently through the stalwart leadership of our local delegation -- offers flexibility to the University at Buffalo to realize an unprecedented ability to attract students and create jobs. It is a vital piece of our economic picture going forward.

This community calls on the members of our State Assembly delegation to spend the remainder of their time in session in Albany this year convincing their downstate colleagues of exactly what this initiative means to Western New York.

Sharon Randaccio

President, Performance Management Partners

Board Member, Buffalo Niagara Partnership

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Assembly needs to act now to make UB 2020 a reality

Thanks to the efforts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and our five Western New York senators -- Mark Grisanti, George Maziarz, Michael Ranzenhofer, Patrick Gallivan and Timothy Kennedy -- UB 2020 is within our reach! Now we need the same bipartisan effort from the State Assembly to make UB 2020 a reality.

This is the last remaining hurdle for one of the largest economic development initiatives in our region. An unencumbered University at Buffalo will attract students, create jobs and be the economic catalyst our community needs. Let's make it happen.

Arthur Wingerter

President, Univera Healthcare

Buffalo

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Washington refuses to make needed cuts

I never thought I'd agree with Hubert Humphrey, but his quote in Froma Harrop's March 13 column actually made sense. "Spend what you have and spend it well" is sound advice for anybody.

Too bad it will never fly in Washington. We've already spent what we have, now we're working on our children's and grandchildren's money.

Instead of a blanket, hospitals should give every newborn a bill for $45,700 -- their share of the national debt. And somehow budget cuts don't look likely when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid takes the floor to defend funding of the Nevada cowboy poetry festival.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, "It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes."

Tim Delano

Cheektowaga

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