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Seniors must share in the burden of their choices

As a 22-year-old economics student at the University of Pittsburgh, I applaud Barack Obama for his sober take on entitlement reform. He is proving himself a leader for my generation.

Like most young voters, I believe in a safety net for the elderly. However, it's reasonable that sacrifices be split between young and old. We will have to pay higher taxes and get fewer services, but it would be theft for older Americans to demand these sacrifices without offering anything themselves.

Older Americans should live with their political and personal choices. While George W. Bush was cheered for two invasions, tax cuts and retiree drug benefits, his Social Security plan was considered political suicide. Al Gore, too, was called nerdy for thinking ahead with his "lock box." Entitlements are the third rail of politics, even though delay just worsens matters. And as promises to retirees grow, America trails poorer countries in education and child health. Outside the Beltway, meanwhile, baby boomers have saved only a fraction of what their parents did.

Critics claim if America can afford wars and bailouts, then it can afford generous entitlements. This is sloppy thinking: Having wasted money in other ways does not mean more is left over for entitlements. Most important, the wars may cost $2 trillion and the bailouts $1 trillion, but Medicare has a projected shortfall more than 10 or 20 times these amounts.

With age is supposed to come more wisdom and less selfishness. I hope that's the case.

LEWIS LEHE
Oakland


So this is optimism?

Haven't you expected more optimism from Barack Obama? He advises us how bad it is at every turn. He discusses the "heavy lift" he's confronted with to get the economy going again. He repeatedly emphasizes that this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. All right already; we get it.

Things ain't so good.

No doubt this is what virtually every other politician would do. It's sensible from an expectation-setting standpoint, and it's terrific for covering yourself. What politician wouldn't want that? But haven't we been conditioned to expect more from the inspirational Obama? We've witnessed his pragmatism; now how about some hope? Would it hurt to more aggressively express confidence in his ability to facilitate a recovery? That shouldn't be too risky for a self-assured, motivating leader, should it?

Perhaps this is just what you get with lawyers and the culture they've spawned. It's life in the land of the disclaimer -- the never-ending search for plausible deniability.

Unsolicited advice: Leadership matters. Words are meaningful. The presidential bully pulpit is powerful. Get beyond the negative. The media are there every minute of every day to remind us about all that is wrong.

Focus on accentuating the positive. Ronald Reagan did that masterfully. He instilled us with confidence -- never talking down our prospects. Most important, he had the political courage to tell us that things would be better. He would see to it. That "shining city on a hill" is still there.

It would be visible again if you'd help clear the fog of negativity.

CHUCK DIETRICK
Collier


Give us answers

Why are so few in the media seeking or getting answers about the oversight and disposition of the "bailout" billions? Your newspaper, like so many others, has been doing the Roland Burris song 'n' dance regularly (for example, the Jan. 9 editorial "Out of the Rain: Democrats Come to Their Senses on Seating Burris"). But except for an excellent editorial asking the right hard questions at Christmas time ("Bailed to Excess: Taxpayers Deserve Accountability on the Rescue," Dec. 23), I have read very little on the specifics of the most important -- and biggest -- financial investment by taxpayers ever.

What more significant aim could "the media" possibly have? Is investigative journalism a thing of the past? Can no one knock on doors at the Treasury Department? After reading a recent piece in The Huffington Post ("Why Are the Media More Interested in Blago Than in Unraveling the Bailout Mystery?"), I have to ask if anyone in the media these days has the resources to tackle really difficult and complex questions.

PENN HACKNEY
Regent Square


Get over it!

A woman seeking health club membership happened upon a gay bath house, saw naked men cavorting about, and, oh my! -- her reaction would, no doubt, have triggered a myocardial infarction had she stumbled upon a brothel ("Did City Look the Other Way?" Jan. 7).

The fact that sex, as a consumer product, is vilified in a country where lying, cheating, dishonesty and, yes, murder, are commonplace, would be farcical were it not so tragic.

Get over it! Anytime Steven Herforth and Peter Karlovich would like to include me as one of their favorite charities ("Club Pittsburgh's Owners Often Open Their Home for Philanthropic Events," Jan. 9), I'll accept. They are to be commended for their community activism. The Post-Gazette's interest in that activism should be less prurient.

LUCRETIA BIORDI ELSON
Squirrel Hill


No time to wobble

I could not agree more that Israel stay the course in its decision to retaliate in Gaza ("Israel Must Complete the Real Mission of This War," Jan. 10 Charles Krauthammer column). Indeed, to quote Margaret Thatcher in this regard, this is no time for the United States or anyone else who'd urge an Israeli cease-fire in the region to "go wobbly."

Was not the horror currently being endured by the civilian population of Gaza similarly endured in Dresden, say, during World War II? And might not the same timorous response to civilian bloodshed have been anticipated even then?

One can only assume, after all, that the general population of Gaza endorsed a decision to lob missiles into Israel. What's more, it is difficult to imagine that the United States (or anybody else for that matter) would have reacted differently than the Israelis have under comparable circumstances.

Mr. Krauthammer's invidious comparison of the Gaza incursion to the Arab-Israeli "stand-off" in Lebanon is not only apt but, in my opinion, correct. And it would be a tragedy were the same to be repeated in Gaza.

SERGIO BETANCOURT
Highland Park


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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