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The maximize-profit motive has led to our woes

"Why is 'profit' such a dirty word?" asked a letter writer last Sunday ("Let Market Work," Dec. 27 Issue One). Anyone with a healthy sense of business appreciation realizes that in order to stay in business, a business must make a return on the capital it invests, i.e., the income generated by a business must be more than its expenses or cost of doing business. So profit is not just a desirable goal; it is a necessary goal.

The problem with the profit motive today is not in the fundamental concept of profit versus loss. The problem lies in a cultural business shift that has supplanted a genuine concern for those a business serves with a pre-eminent goal to "maximize profits."

This has caused a shift from a product's name connoting quality such as GE, RCA, IBM, etc., through the '50s and '60s to imported junk that looks good but fails prematurely. It was also the reason our auto industry could not compete with the Japanese in the '80s and on.

What we see today is maximization of profits (make as much as you can as fast as you can regardless of how you do it) which produced the savings-and-loan crisis, Enron, the housing bubble, the dangerous speculative nature of creative stock-market products, the prostitution of Congress and a health-care crisis spiraling out of control because genuinely caring for the sick has become big business with the same inherent cultural underpinning of greed.

Until we change our overall ethic to "love one another as I have loved you," things will not get better, only worse.

Weirton, W.Va.

Just rewards

I would like to support a letter from Dave Majernik that appeared in the Dec. 27 Issue One ("Let Market Work"). Mr. Majernik asks: "Why is 'profit' such a dirty word?"

There are many folks in Washington who do not believe in the free-market system, where hard work and a good concept is rewarded. In most countries of the world, people do not have the freedom to pursue their dreams and that is the main reason so many of those countries have never enjoyed the lifestyle that most Americans enjoy.

Profit is paramount in the pursuit of success. If the amount of success is regulated by government in the guise of fairness, what is fair about taking a portion of one's earnings and giving that to someone who doesn't have as much?

Yes, I agree with Mr. Majernik that some things need to be fixed within our health system, but to dump it all and tell the American people that they don't know what's best for themselves is nothing less than tyranny. This country became great not because of governmental decrees, but because people were rewarded for doing good things.


Insurance and costs

Regarding "Highmark Might Send Work Overseas" (Dec. 20 Business): How ironic! The insurers and their paid lackeys, the Republicans and blue-dog Democrats, have been trying to frighten the American people into thinking that health-care reform will allow government interference between them and their doctors. Now Highmark is exploring the possibility of letting offshore contractors do exactly that.

It's difficult enough appealing health insurers' arbitrary decisions when the insurer is located here. Imagine the fun of dealing with some guy operating under the pseudonym "Ralph" over in some Third World village.

If Highmark wants to cut administrative costs, the model is there for it to follow. It's called Medicare and veteran's insurance. The federal government administers these programs for three cents on the dollar. Highmark's costs are nearly eight or nine times as much, about 27 cents. Thus the attractiveness for the "public option" the insurers insist on killing.

Another suggestion of ways to cut administrative costs at Highmark: Have senior management accept pay cuts so their compensation is in line with the wisdom of this stupid proposal, namely a lot less than they are now overcompensated.


Make them help

I found the front of the Dec. 20 Business section to be somewhat ironic. The top story is "Highmark Might Send Work Overseas" and right below you have a photo of a man who was homeless and struggling to raise two children along with the story "Helping the New Needy."

It gave me an idea: maybe a nice fat tax imposed on corporations that send American jobs overseas, payable to a fund for people like those in this story and many others like them.


Kills opportunity

I continue to be amazed that with our unemployment rate being at 10 percent, companies send work overseas or offshore. The Dec. 20 article about Highmark taking this under consideration should be given to the president for him to determine how to offer incentives to companies that keep work in the United States. The land of opportunity is not going to be here if this continues.

How can we continue to support our country and people within if this is something that continues?


The pain of war

A recent letter to the Post-Gazette stated that George W. Bush kept us safe for eight years. Perhaps the writer forgot that 9/11 happened on the Cheney-Bush watch and that we were misled into a war in Iraq that so far has killed 4,300 of our brave military men and women and wounded thousands more, many with catastrophic injuries.

The Cheney-Bush administration never even tried to pay for the near trillion dollars it has cost us to wage the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration has not put forth a plan for paying for the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

I strongly ask that a "war tax" be imposed. Most Americans have not personally felt the pain and tragedy of these wars; it's about time we all contributed.

Mt. Lebanon

Good to know

Thanks to Dr. Alan M. Berg for pointing out the ethnic slur in the word "gyp" ("An Ethnic Slur," Dec. 28 letters).

I grew up hearing the term, and probably used it from time to time, but never knew that it had any relation to the Roma people, or those known as "gypsies." Thanks also to the Post-Gazette for publishing Dr. Berg's letter in all its editions, instead of a mere 10 percent.

Penn Hills

Perhaps Kelly does care about global warming

Jack Kelly almost gets it. I think he still wants to say global warming is a hoax. But his column "Climate Calamity" (Dec. 27) focused on how the Copenhagen summit did not produce a formal, specific agreement on environmental remediation and the economic effects associated with that remediation.

Now, why would you worry about fixing a problem you think is a hoax? Obviously Mr. Kelly is simply trying to highlight an event that liberals (as well as conservatives) see as a failure for President Barack Obama.

Still, Mr. Kelly provides the opening to look at how we should look at global warming. On the one hand, there are those who still claim global warming (or at least the notion that humans are affecting it) is a hoax. Given the large number of scientific organizations and scientists who have signed on to it, some of us would like to know how they can still make that accusation.

But on the other hand, when we do agree there is global warming and even that we are affecting or causing it, there is still room for a considerable debate on how to address it, and maybe more important, how the costs should be distributed. The issues move from planetary science to economic issues and include difficult issues of fairness. That was part of why an agreement could not be achieved at Copenhagen.

It is insulting that Mr. Kelly trivializes the difficulties associated with the issues of fairness, but heartening that he now might agree global warming does exist.

Point Breeze

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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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