Letters to the Editor

Shades of gray

July 12, 2011

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To the editor:

The entire idea of a society, in general, is that we do better when we work together rather than fighting each other. It’s why we stopped being wandering tribes and built cities around shared ideas, religions or political ideals. But, since “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” there is a price that you pay for being a member of any society. You agree that you will act to prevent harm to that society, and that you will work to make it better. And in exchange, you get good roads and schools. You get security and safety to start a business or family.

And it used to be, cities gave you a better place to beg for money and food. But years ago, we decided that it would be better if people didn’t have to be on the streets. Our government decided that they would start programs to help people in need. Do they get abused sometimes? Sure. Is it absolutely necessary at others? Most definitely. But to eliminate these programs because of the abuse is a cure worse than the disease.

Not everyone in the world is a filthy freeloader who is after your money. Not everyone is a stingy Scrooge who wants to let everyone starve. Liberal is not a dirty word. Neither is conservative. The world is shades of gray. Practical solutions require compromise, which means we have to work together. And that means everyone feels the pinch, from the prince to the pauper.

Comments

Bob Harvey 4 years, 1 month ago

Bravo, excellent letter. Wouldn't it be nice to go back to the days when working together was in vogue, rather than the world of today when labels and disdain are the norm?

devobrun 4 years, 1 month ago

Alas, there is a difference between working together and being forced to work together. I help my neighbors. I work with people who have needs. But when I must pay taxes to support people who help people, I lose the connection that is referenced by the LTE.

When my taxes are stretched until they need to be raised, I wonder if the society is working. When I see numbers that indicate that my money is going to support a system that doesn't seem to be solving problems.....just continuing them, I wonder. As time goes on, social programs should benefit society. Kids should grow up to be better parents and ultimately, the whole society is bettered. 110,000 people llive in the Lawrence SRS service area. 10,000 cases were seen in June. If there are an average of 2 people per case, that's almost 20% of the population going to SRS per month.

In a relatively rich area. Really? 20% of the population per month can't feed their kids? Can't provide for themselves?
The closing of the local office is clearly a hot issue around here.
I think that educators, artists, engineers, politicians and other responsible people of the community should be asking why so many people are unable, or unwilling to take care of themselves.

And why social welfare agencies and aid agencies are not converging to a solution. No wonder we are going broke.

Scribeoflight 4 years, 1 month ago

And, to be fair, I am not suggesting that our system is perfect as is. There are problems, things could be done more efficiently.

But efficiency is not about cases worked per month per person, it's about results. and results take investment and time. Good programs and good workable solutions.

Why are so many people unable or unwilling?

Well, some of them, literally, are unable. Mentally and physically their bodies and minds cannot do what you or I do. They work as hard as they can, they move mountains, just to be able to come and sweep a floor or work an assembly line.

As to your point about 20%:

A full time job at min wage, $7.25, gets you a gross paycheck of $290 a week, or $1160 a month. Now take out, eh call it 20% for withholding, and your at $928. The median gross rent here in 2007, according to Wikipedia (which pulls from city-data.com), $711. That seems high. I've had apartments for less, but let's call that including bills. Your now at 217 dollars, per month, for transportation, food, savings, medical care.

And according to city-data.com ( http://www.city-data.com/income/income-Lawrence-Kansas.html ) 9000 people in Lawrence live in this income bracket.

And this is for one person, living alone. Not trying to raise a family. Can you imagine if you were trying to save for a college education on this? JCCC is $87 a credit hour. a full semester of tuition and books ran me $2100 last semester. But people want to cut student loan aide. We don't want to pay for job training for the mentally and physically challenged.

gkerr 4 years, 1 month ago

Government is corrupt. It only grows and grows. We have compromised on budgets for decades. Do we raise spending for military, food stamps, social security, medical care, roads, environmental planning, recreation, schools, government salaries, pay for Congress and retirement and medical benefits, travel allowances for Politicians for review of global warming initiatives, medical research, energy research, study groups, etc., etc.,....do we raise outlays for these essentials 5% or 7% or for the really big fix 10%? Let's compromise on 7% OK? yeah sounds fair, a good compromise, 7% it is.

Now trillions of debt. Trillions and trillions and trillions. Let's compromise on trillions more, OK? yeah, sounds fair to me. Raise the debt ceiling another 3 trillion. OK.

Not OK. No more taxes and spending. Period. Gkerr

Scribeoflight 4 years, 1 month ago

Trillions and trillions in debt happened because when we decided to compromise on 7%, we then refused to compromise on paying for these expenditures.

Spend more, because these programs are worth it, but don't raise taxes to pay for it.

There is our problem. No new taxes means no new goodies. TANSTAAFL.

gkerr 4 years, 1 month ago

Scriboflight, If that's the case then why is Europe in so much trouble what with high fees, excise taxes, income and payroll taxes and a 20% sales tax (value added) on every single item purchased at every level? Europe should be in the financial pink lending to us and the rest of the world- yet they are a financial disaster with many Nations on the brink of bankruptcy and others heading that way. Also If taxes were the solution in a free country why are the States such as Minnesota, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan bankrupt or nearly so?.

Taxing something at a high rate does not make for increased tax revenues. People are thinking machines and scheming machines and take their business elsewhere. Even Immelt of GE, the bed mate of President Obama, his counsellor and cheerleader, recently busying himself with lecturing other CEO's on respecting big government, signed off on GE paying zero that's 0.00$ in taxes while earning 14 billions of dollars.

Ask yourself what part of GDP are we paying in federal tax revenues now and in the past? What part of GDP goes into State and Local taxes? What part of GDP's constant dollar amount is lost in inflatiion the cruelest tax of all? I suspect if you tallied all these taxes and fees up at all levels you would find we are paying more now than ever except in time of all out war. And because of the exponentially burgeoning debt we are limiting our governments own ability to milk the GDP for a higher piece of the GDP pie in the future.
Gkerr

Scribeoflight 4 years, 1 month ago

Europe is in the same economic troubles that we are because the world financial markets are all linked thanks to a global economy. When our derivatives and mortgage markets were hit by irresponsible investing, theirs were as well. Everyone had been buying into the idea that inflationary markets would never pop. The tax rates have little bearing on that.

And really, businesses take their money and production where it is most profitable. if this means moving overseas where they can pay workers one tenth the wage, with no benefits and a 60 horu work week, guess where they're going?

As for tax revenues as a function of GDP:

http://www.deptofnumbers.com/blog/2010/08/tax-revenue-as-a-fraction-of-gdp/

Check here. We've remained pretty steady over the years. But the contributions from corporations to the revenue stream have steadily declined.

And yes, inflation is a mother****er. I make the same in an hourly wage I as I have for the past 6 years, but even that short time, inflation and overall cost of goods makes things a lot harder.

George Lippencott 4 years, 1 month ago

Good letter but as you can see above we have some real differences. Have we become so fascinated with a quick government centered approach that all too often does not work as intended that we have undermined confidence in government among many of our citizens? That would be regrettable.

gkerr 4 years, 1 month ago

George, I think of course confidence in government has been undermined, and how could it not be? It has become a bloated caricature of a responsible and effective governing apparatus. Our congresspeople seem spoiled rotten, frequently on the take, smugly entitled to junkets of pleasure abroad and and all too often becoming rich beyond imagining while in public service as they buy and sell their constituents best interests. Those who work hard for a living and try to raise their families responsibly are right to ask, why more taxes? Why failing schools with cheating administrators and teachers cheerleading for cheating students, merely to enhance the job security of teachers and supervisors while damaging students beyond imagining? Why so many make work laws established by apparent busybodies who simply insist on ordering others about yet use the force of law to exert their will in order to advance this or that pet agenda? Government like all of us is prone to excess and error, it's just that government has power to punish and coerce by the force of law, which means it must be suspected and blind and confident acceptance of it's actions is a dangerous and risky fools errand.

The Founders knew Monarchy, tyranny, and each other well. They did not have full trust in one another's judgement or motives and thus established a thoughtful system of checks and balances to neutralize naked power. They understood no system of government would succeed no matter how cleverly composed if the people were not a virtuous people- thus they commended virtue and the faith that forms it when given the opportunity.

An arrogant and self-indulgent government is a grave danger to our Democratic Republic. It's operatives must be held to account and it's spending must be greatly limited. Gkerr

devobrun 4 years, 1 month ago

"quick government centered approach that all too often does not work as intended "

Is not only regrettable, but inevitable. All human organizations go through changes. Look up Westinghouse Corporation in Wiki. People get complacent and flabby, and get that old entitlement feeling. So it's time to cut 'em loose.

Shaking things up is part of everything. This is just a little shakeup. If the feds don't get it together, all the money dispensed by SRS will dry up and the screaming will really be shrill.

rtwngr 4 years, 1 month ago

Working together is one thing but confiscatory taxation to support organizations that do not serve the public good, generally, is a profanation of government. Organizations like Acorn, SEIU, Planned Parenthood and their ilk should be immediately defunded.

Scribeoflight 4 years, 1 month ago

ACORN: a group founded to get middle to low income people involved in government, and to help comunities organize to help themselves, does not serve the public good?

SEIU: is a union. They are funded with union dues, not government money. Members contribute to COPE, their action committee, to lobby for the rights and wages of workers. This is necessary, because under capitalism, you want to pay your workers as little as possible minimize expenses. A union is democracy in action.

Planned Parenthood: provides healthcare to low income mothers. It provides counseling and education for new families. And, it provides a way for people to not be forced to raise a child when they cannot afford it or are not mentally ready for it. How is this not "good" for society as a whole? (I understand some people have a moral objection to planned parenthood, but others do not. And I was under the impression that our government does not, and should not, legislate the morality of the few to be imposed on the many.)

gkerr 4 years, 1 month ago

Scribe flight,

Acorn is a group of thugs and law breakers, caught repeatedly rigging election outcomes, scheming election frauds, agitating ala Saul Alinsky's handbook to erode the existing political order and bring on the socialist dream of stealing from others and yet not get called for stealing. SEIU is a public employees union, negotiating with government for government money and perks paid for by private citizens tax levees. They likewise are frequently caught in acts of deceit and thuggery and have been in constant contact with the current political regime buying as much democracy in action as they can buy with money contributed from their union dues in order to get more of the tax payers taxes. It is democracy in action to support them and to oppose them and expose them for their not infrequent hypocrisy and deceit. Planned Parenthood is a private organization begun by famed Eugenicists who were appalled by the abundance of poor, brown, black, Jewish folks who were making them feel unclean and somehow threatened their personal space. It was primarily an abortion provider and provider on information to educate the young about liberated sexual expression and overcoming hangups of traditional morality. It may be funded by private donation by anyone who chooses tomdo so. Donations to Planned Parenthood are tax exempt. The opposition of many comes to the fact it begs for and receives outright grants and monies from the public purse. It is democratic to support those grants and to oppose them. gkerr

Scribeoflight 4 years, 1 month ago

ACORN was dissolved in 2010, btw. And, for the record, all claims about false registrations being submitted, were reported by ACORN's own internal review. They assisted authorities with the investigation into such matters. I don't think it is fair to judge an entire organizations mission by unscrupulous members. If we open the door to anything any member of any organization has ever done, condoned or not, then there wouldn't be anyone left.

And, if it is bad for SEIU to advocate for and petition and negotiate on behalf of public sector employees, then it is just as bad for corporations to do the same thing. Our system is built around having balancing forces and influence. If corporations want to lobby and exert influence in elections to lower the minimum wage, then workers should have just as much right to lobby and exert influence in the opposite direction.

As for PP:

Margret Sanger, the founder of PP did believe in Eugenics, the betterment of humanity through correct breeding. There are many quotes out there in her books and pamphlets that make this clear.

However, to say that she was opposed to minorities and the poor having children and advocated abortion would be a mis-understanding at best.

From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger

Her first pamphlet read:

It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them. Herein lies the key of civilization.

And, on abortion, again from wikipedia:

"To each group we explained what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way—no matter how early it was performed it was taking life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way—it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun."

So, in fact, the original, and still, mission of PP is education and prevention. Ms. Sanger, despite her stance on Eugenics and the right of people breed, had a very good and correct idea otherwise. Namely, that it is in fact a woman's right, and her decision alone, when and whether she will use her body to have children. It is not the position of government to dictate this to it's citizens. (Though she missed the other half of the argument; if a government cannot tell you to DO something, they cannot tell you NOT to.)

And, as a final point, any federal dollars received by PP CAN NOT, under FEDERAL LAW, be used IN ANY WAY, to fund abortion. Taxpayer dollars go to the other 97% of PP services, which are low and no cost medical care and counseling for low income people. How is that a bad thing?

jayhawxrok 4 years, 1 month ago

Most of the people complaining about "the system" have never done anything to work to change it, never presented an idea or volunteered their time or energy.

George Lippencott 4 years, 1 month ago

How do you know that? I complain after 20 years plus in the system. When the same stupid problem came around the third time and we still did not have the courage or willingness to fix it - I retired and made some money

devobrun 4 years, 1 month ago

There is a difference between helping people and working within a system. When you connect individually with another person, you have a chance to change them, help them. When you know their name and you see them regularly, you have a chance. People make their own decisions, so nobody can be 100% successful in helping others.

But when that spirit of caring becomes institutionalized, it fails almost every time. When the person needing help gets paperwork, "expert" opinions, case workers, and systems......forget about it.

The idea that I offer you, jayhawxrok is to dump the government run system. It cannot be fixed. It is inherently wrong. An institution cannot help a person. It is as simple as that.

jafs 4 years, 1 month ago

My wife has worked at Cottonwood for many years.

It is an "institution" and it works quite well to help a large number of people.

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