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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

Nobody is looking out for struggling taxpayers

A recent letter compared the debate over collective bargaining to terrorism, and said that the United States would become another Libya, with blood in the streets. Setting aside the ridiculous and irresponsible rhetoric, the writer isn't even close to fact.

He wants a government of the people and for the people. Who does he think public sector unions negotiate against? They spend mightily to help elect people who will then be friendly at the negotiating table. What other industry gets to pick the people with whom it negotiates salary and benefits? The politicians elected to represent the people then give away generous benefits to help win re-election. Meanwhile, who's representing "the people" -- those left to pay the bill?

Also, why should public sector employees be immune from the same economic realities that every business, large and small, experiences? Taxpayers are hit twice: they face the hard decisions that go along with economic downturns, such as reduced salaries, benefits, potential loss of employment, etc. They are then asked to continue funding those who face no such downsizing. Additionally, much of the debate has centered on the unions' ability to collectively bargain pension and other benefits. They are still able to negotiate pay. Employees are hardly going to become wage slaves. The letter was filled with hyperbole and talking points, yet woefully short on facts.

Rick Cannon

Buffalo

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Politicians are happy with the status quo

I was struck by the Viewpoints article written by Sherwood Boehlert and Amory Houghton advocating public financing of elections in New York State. Once again we see former office holders willing to promote causes that are fair and reasonable, but that will never be passed by the legislative branch of government because one side or the other sees an advantage in the status quo.

The deficit reduction plan promoted by former senator Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles addressed the issue of the federal budget deficits and national debt in a serious manner and proposed spending cuts and tax increases that would require sacrifice on the part of virtually all Americans. I, for one, do not expect to see such an even-handed approach from our current Congress.

We should ask ourselves why it is that, only after politicians have left elected office, or active positions in the government, can they sit down together and work out reasonable solutions to the problems facing our state and our country? What is it about being elected to office that causes the childish squabbling that we see more and more frequently in Albany and Washington? As "Deep Throat" said, "Follow the money."

Joseph R. Riggie

Kenmore

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We shouldn't dismiss Beck or his audience

I like Jeff Simon, but after his latest dismissal of Glenn Beck -- and he does seem to visit this well often enough -- some things should be pointed out. Who is being more obvious here, the "rodeo clown" or his critic? Lying close to the surface of this ongoing critique is the dismissal of Beck's audience and readers of his best sellers. Will Simon dismiss Beck's guests like Martin Luther King's niece, economists Niall Ferguson and Art Laffer, and Rabbi Lapin? European Parliament contrarian Daniel Hannan said that his interview with Beck was his most enjoyable after going "viral" on YouTube.

I'm grateful to see a White House whose top occupants include Saul Alinsky acolytes and media czar Mark Lloyd, who openly admires the "media programs" of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, discussed anywhere in major media. One mention from Beck, and interest in classics like Friedrich A. Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" would explode.

Beck seems to fall short of the (ahem) high standards in journalism and the arts. There are many quips about critics, but as I said, I like Simon.

Dan Hoffman

Buffalo

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America is suffering from poor leadership

I am bemused at the level of angst shown by Robert Samuelson in his op-ed, "Big government on the brink." Saying "government is suicidal" and listing all the costs of "dependencies" adds nothing to the misbegotten mix of failed leadership and policies. The focus should be on the highly overpaid leaders of all societal segments, from General Electric and Viacom to school district superintendents and HMO and banking/insurance executives. The tax systems, the war policies, the energy conundrum and more are failures of leadership.

That said, the awful term "austerity" is being used constantly now to suggest a way forward that will never work. As a nation we will not go back to a substandard level of living when there is wealth and plenty all around. Corrective measures cannot be done on the backs of the ill, weak, poor and elderly, as Samuelson seems to suggest. Instead, leaders must be replaced, and will be.

Leaders all too often do not have adequate economic backgrounds, and fail to understand demographics, investments, return on investment analysis, resource management, Central Bank and Treasury policies, the bond markets and more. And they are generally overpaid, from utility and authority executives to elected officials. It is simply a scheme that cannot last. But it is not suicidal. It begs for reform that will come, perhaps again out of crisis.

First, end wars; second, create a currency worthy of a strong nation; third, pay people and labor with merit systems; and fourth, educate the public on health and lifestyle that leads to abundance. We are much too advanced to settle for that meager menu dished out by former government and business leaders. It is simply unacceptable. New and better standards will have to be adopted, and the advisers exist to accomplish them.

David R. Conners

Eggertsville

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Require sellers to list cost of gasoline, taxes

When we go shopping for something, we are informed of the price of that item and then, with the receipt, any taxes are itemized to give the total sales price. With gasoline, however, the price is listed inclusive of its taxes. What is the true cost of gasoline?

The federal government, state, county and locality take a bite of our hard-earned money. We are near $4 per gallon and it looks like that is only the beginning. In New York, we have the second-highest total taxes on gasoline (behind California) bumping the gasoline cost by 65.6 cents per gallon (as of Jan 2011 when the price was $3.25 per gallon). Local sales tax rates will change this. Now at about $4, total taxes are more. It is time to require sellers to list the base price of the gasoline and itemize all taxes for a total price that will educate the consumer of the true cost of gasoline and where our money goes.

Michael Thorp

Buffalo

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