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Living within your means must be the message

What ever happened to common sense and living within your means? Apparently, I'm one of the few people left who actually purchase only what they can afford to pay.

I pay my bills on time, pay my taxes, buy insurance for my home and vehicle and contribute when I can to those in need and my church. I made the decision to stay in the city of Pittsburgh, pay my taxes and send my son to a Catholic school because I thought it was the right thing to do.

By trying to lead a good life and set an example, I'm going to save a whopping $12 a pay to help stimulate the economy. My son cannot receive $40,000 in college education from the Pittsburgh Promise even though he is an honors student, attends a school in Pittsburgh and pays city and school taxes to Pittsburgh. We make just enough to pay our bills and nothing more.

However, our government rewards the working class with nothing. Apparently to succeed in this country of ours, you need to be either rich or not working. What kind of example is our government setting by rewarding those who do not work, who live outside their means and are in this country illegally, getting more benefits than those who are doing "what's right"?

I am truly blessed that I can live in this great country of ours, but every day, I wonder why our politicians are leading our citizens down the toilet with more free handouts instead of forcing people to live within their means.


Unjust rewards

When dictators were changed in "banana republics," the outgoing administration was always careful to leave with a share of the public "goodies." The incoming group, which after all, had its supporters to repay for installing it in office, also had to take a cut of the public pie upon entering office. So it was in the dictatorships of the Third World.

We are much more sophisticated here in America. We don't call such rewards graft; we call them "bailouts," and they occur under the very noses of the electorate.

The banking community, which supported the outgoing Republicans, got a third of a trillion. When the administration changed, highly compensated auto industry executives also were found to deserve a reward despite allowing their companies to founder. They then shared in the public money, too, awarded by the incoming group.

It seems to me that the first method seems more upfront than the second method of rewarding the victors.

Franklin Park

A golden gift to us

Like so many touched by Clarke Thomas' words and example, we are reflecting on his contribution to the community -- and the world we share ("Clarke M. Thomas: Longtime PG Editorial Writer and Senior Editor," Feb. 23 news obituary).

For us it is personal. Six years ago, we clipped his column "Going for the Gold" and were moved by its message -- essentially not to "take one's marriage for granted." The "gold" of the column referred to Clarke's 50-year marriage with Jean and how the ritual of setting aside one day a month for "the romance of our lives together" had been enriching. For the Thomases that date each month was the 25th -- the 25th of February 1951 when their friendship began and then subsequent 25th dates of their engagement and wedding. Thanks to that column, we adopted the ritual (for us, it's the fifth of the month) and have been sending out the column as a "happy anniversary" greeting to others for years.

We hope those others, like we, will honor Clarke Thomas' inspiring life by celebrating its message: to live fully, to love generously and to share life's gifts in ways that give them meaning.

Mt. Lebanon

He'll be missed

Clarke Thomas was a man who cared deeply about Pittsburgh -- both its past and its future. For more than 30 years we bumped into each other at gatherings large and small that dealt with understanding the history or improving the life of the city. He played a major editorial role in the elaboration of my recently published history of Pittsburgh.

While Clarke was passionate and engaged about Pittsburgh, he was also concerned with the state of the world. He was a cosmopolitan who could talk with depth of understanding about Eastern Europe, Western Africa, Latin America -- the world. He deeply cared about working people and was keenly interested in the history and present condition of unions.

He wrote in recent years about the contribution of the United Steelworkers to the survival of American steel production and about the excellence of the construction trades' apprenticeship programs. He had a natural sympathy for minorities, women -- anyone generally excluded from the dealings and decisions of the powerful. His compassion, kindness and political insight will be sorely missed.

Mount Washington

The writer is director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Labor Relations and professor of industrial and labor relations at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Gave me a lift

For me the Post-Gazette is a "must-read" every morning. But, of late, the constant news of the economic downturn, wars in some corners and sad human conditions in most all others makes the "read" weigh heavy on my shoulders. Therefore I look for uplifting fare like "Random Acts of Kindness" and other columnists' humorous take on slices of our lives to counter the gloom. On Feb. 18, I hit paydirt! Reg Henry's "Portfolio" column was a veritable masterpiece of wordsmithing ("The Sully Look Is Hot. [Right?]").

He deftly heralds his uncanny physical resemblance (tongue in cheek) to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the US Airways captain who piloted his aircraft to a watery but safe landing in New York's Hudson River. The column had my husband and me in welcome fits of laughter.

Like Mr. Henry, we are people of a certain age, a little post this and a little post that. "Sully" is the new American hero and it's nice to at last have a hero who is neither buff nor ripped, but rather distinguished, unflappable and, well, of a certain age.

Thanks, Mr. Henry, for brightening our day. I'm told that laughing burns more calories than moping. Thanks for that too!


More democracy is the best way to fill Senate seats

Columnist George F. Will opposes my proposed constitutional amendment, which would prevent governors from filling U.S. Senate vacancies with their handpicked choices ("More Feingold Folly," Feb. 23). But he also reveals his jaw-dropping contempt for democracy, as well as the 17th Amendment itself, which beginning in 1913 required the direct election of senators. "It would be better to repeal it," he says.

Prompted by scandal, the 17th Amendment was an important step in our nation's progress toward full democracy. Nine cases of bribery came before the Senate between 1866 and 1906, including a celebrated case from the state of Illinois. And between 1891 and 1905, the state legislatures from 20 different states deadlocked 45 times when trying to pick a senator. At one point, a Senate seat from Delaware remained vacant for four years because of deadlocks. While the Framers got a lot right, their decision to deny the people the right to choose their senators has not stood the test of time.

Nearly a hundred years after the 17th Amendment was ratified, there can be little doubt that the amendment was a good idea -- but that allowing governors to still pick temporary replacement senators was a mistake. My proposed constitutional amendment is the best way to avoid a repeat of the Blagojevich scandal, the circus surrounding the New York vacancy and the temptation for political gamesmanship evident in other cases.

Mr. Will is right about one thing: I share the early 20th-century progressives' belief that more democracy, not less, is the best way to fulfill the promise of our Constitution. Requiring that all senators be elected by the people is an idea whose time has come.

Washington, D.C.

The writer is a Democrat from Wisconsin.

We receive more letters than we can fit into the limited space on the editorial page, so we'd like to share some additional letters with our Post-Gazette Web site readers.

Clarke Thomas was a mentor for young journalists

Clarke Thomas was a man of great curiosity and endless compassion who helped many a young news professional at the Post-Gazette learn how to behave ("Clarke M. Thomas: Longtime PG Editorial Writer and Senior Editor," Feb. 23 news obituary). For Clarke, doing news was only part of it. He also showed us how to be good citizens, good family members and good colleagues in the newsroom.

I was a naive, impulsive 22-year-old when Clarke first took me aside and helped me understand my responsibilities as a reporter. I've never forgotten how simple and natural he made it seem to step outside the daily deadline rush and think through the consequences of a news story. He helped many of us understand that our stories would have impact in the communities and among the people and organizations involved in our reports.

"Getting the story" was never enough for Clarke. He taught that, in fairness, we were required to also "get the issue."

Regent Square

The writer was a Post-Gazette staff writer from 1969 to 1977.

Therein lies the problem

The Post-Gazette yesterday published three letters to the editor in response to Elsie Hillman's Feb. 19 letter advising the GOP to be more tolerant of pro-choice people. They were by people named Dave, Patrick and Walter. And there is the problem with the party. Men think they have control over a woman's body. The party can't hope to compete with over half the population.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

The writer is formerly of Irwin.

Gross salaries are illustrative of higher education's woes

The Feb. 23 article "Top Pay Spread Around Campus" is a story that should outrage reasonable people. It revealed that the president of the University of Southern California is paid $906,778 per year, and that the school's football coach, the highest-paid college employee in the nation, receives $4.4 million, almost five times the president's king's ransom.

Universities are considered to be nonprofit institutions, something that has become a laughable concept, given the extent to which many of them have abused this designation and squandered public money and student tuition.

The fact that a mere football coach could be the most highly compensated college employee nationwide is reflective of a society that has abandoned traditional values and reason, as this violent sport is hardly a facet of public education that serves to have a powerful, positive influence on impressionable young people.

A college education is not affordable for most American families. The lunacy of the remuneration that is being provided to employees of the University of Southern California is a microcosm of a great deal that is wrong in academia.

Upper St. Clair

Geithner's role erodes confidence

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the major source of loss of confidence in the Obama administration's ability to fix the economy. Mr. Geithner's failure to pay income taxes, his membership in the Wall Street culture that is responsible for the severity of this global economic meltdown and his continued vigorous opposition to a tougher stance on Wall Street are the major issues.

The window of opportunity to reverse this extremely bad choice for secretary of the treasury is quickly disappearing. However, in terms of damage control, the president will have far less damage if he replaces Mr. Geithner now, than if the president delays or avoids replacing him.

It is also far more important to replace Mr. Geithner quickly for the good of the U.S. citizenry than to avoid or delay replacing Mr. Geithner in order to save face for the president.

Time is of the essence: Mr. Geithner's ingrained deference to Wall Street appears to be spreading rapidly throughout the Obama administration, at least by softening the president's critical tough stance as well as through converts.

While Mr. Geithner may be a terrible choice for secretary of the treasury, he seems to excel at persuading others to support his stance.

Bethel Park

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We welcome your letters. Please include your name, address and phone number, and send to Letters to the Editor, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222. E-mail letters to letters@post-gazette.com or fax to 412-263-2014. Letters should be 250 words or less, original and exclusive to the Post-Gazette. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and accuracy and will be verified before being published.


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