Letters to the editor
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Surely AIG knew that trouble lay ahead
It's very hard for me to believe that in early 2008, the financial wizards at AIG did not have a sense that their jig would soon be up. Therefore, it is with a hefty dose of cynicism that I look upon their brilliant idea (which they came up with in 2008) to award retention bonuses to themselves ("Bailed-Out AIG Giving Millions in Bonuses," March 15).
We ordinary citizens, uneducated in finance, are now being told that the "best and the brightest" financial minds must be enticed into staying with AIG so that it can recover from the disastrous economic situation that these same best and brightest financial minds got us into in the first place.
I am an ordinary citizen without the financial expertise of an AIG executive, but I have a suggestion for the IRS: All bonus-related income shall be taxed at a rate of 99 percent if the recipient of that income is a current or past employee of a company that received a $170 billion bailout from the federal government.
I too am outraged over the handling of the AIG bonus issue. I am outraged that the federal government and politicians have now decided to be outraged at these bonuses since "administration officials said over the weekend that they agreed with" the assessment that by not paying these bonuses, AIG "would face costly lawsuits and be subject to penalties from states and foreign governments" ("Outrage at AIG Swells," March 17).
The outrage should be leveled against the federal government that is trying to pressure a nongovernmental company into intentionally, knowingly and illegally violating its compensation contract with its employees. Of course, according to a Yale law school professor quoted in the article, "it was unlikely that any AIG employees would end up suing ... because their names would be revealed publicly in a lawsuit, and they would then be excoriated."
Once we started down the path of direct government intervention in publicly traded companies, where will it end? Best hope that the next time you are expecting a bonus, raise or just cashing your paycheck, the government doesn't decide that you make too much money. Too bad our government wasn't as concerned with where the money was going when it approved the first two stimulus bills and the earmark-laden budget. Or maybe it's not the amount of money, just who gets to control where it goes?
AIG wants to give $165 million in bonuses with bailout (taxpayer) money after reporting the largest corporate loss in history: $61.7 billion in one quarter. Its logic is that the bonuses were already promised (put in writing).
This is like a crack addict going into rehab, but once there, claiming that he bought crack before he entered, so he has to do it. If the U.S. government or its citizens allow this, it is like handing AIG the crack and the pipe.
I don't want one penny of my taxes paying to keep the insanely irresponsible irresponsible. I think it would be better to bail out the victims of Hurricane Katrina or the families of fallen or disabled soldiers than to bail out the wealthy. No more bailouts, no bonuses!
If they have honor
If the money being used to pay the bonuses to AIG executives were AIG money I wonder whether there would be any bonuses, contracts or not. I am sure, however, that these are good and honorable folks and will not hesitate either to refuse the bonus or to give it in its entirety to worthy and needy charities.
Fallacy about lights
Regarding Timothy Bridgeman's letter "Pointless Proposal" (March 11), supporting the long-held fallacy that lights prevent crime: The fact is that crime increases with additional lighting.
New lights were installed in Riverview Park when I was working at Allegheny Observatory about 15 years ago and an increase in crime was noted by the police who patrolled the park. Studies throughout the United States have shown that lighting does not decrease crime; rather there is either no change or crime climbs in areas with the greatest amount of lighting.
Lights allow criminals a better opportunity to size up their intended marks and provide shadows to conceal them. They are afraid of the dark as much as any law-abiding citizen. Many crimes are committed in the daylight, but I don't hear anyone requesting another sun in the sky.
Many police officers have told me that criminals will commit crimes whether or not there are lights on the streets or porches.
I support Councilman Bill Peduto's efforts to improve our environment, and I know that there are many citizens, not just naturalists and astronomers, who agree with him.
Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory
I would like to make a simple observation regarding a rather horrible eyesore that no one living north of the city could have possibly missed. Take a ride down Route 60 from the airport toward the city and look around and observe the despicable display of trash and garbage that litters our roadways.
A rather fine example of this is the Pointe at Robinson. I don't pretend to know who is responsible for keeping the roads and ramps clear, but whoever does it should be fired! The amount of trash that litters the hillsides should be and is an embarrassment to the city and Allegheny County. The main exit leading to Summit Drive is deplorable. It's not just cigarette butts or the occasional soda can; it's bottles, shopping carts, fast-food bags and containers and everything else you can possibly imagine.
After I moved to the northern parts of Allegheny County a few years ago, I thought that the responsible parties would clean up the trash during the summer months. It's now four years later and the trash has simply multiplied.
As a taxpayer, I realize there are certainly more important things that my tax money can be going toward; however, enough is enough. Each person who flies into Pittsburgh must drive down those roads and bear witness to the filth that covers our hillsides. If I were a business owner in Allegheny County and especially in Robinson Towne Center, I would be embarrassed to have potential clients or partners come into town and see how little we care about the cleanliness of our city.
Health problems don't bankrupt those in Germany
On March 8, letter writer Jim Cannon ("Europe's Reality") asked, "If the European health system is so great, then why do most people in Europe also have private health insurance?"
By lumping all European countries together, Mr. Cannon gives a false impression. I don't pretend to know anything about the health insurance situation in Great Britain, France or Italy, for example. In Germany, where I lived most of my life, health insurance is compulsory. Not only is every person insured, regardless of age, sex or pre-existing condition, it's the law. Family members without income are insured for free. Employer and employee both pay 50 percent of the insurance rates, which are a fixed percentage of an insured's income.
Whether a citizen gets compulsory or private insurance depends on her income. Statistics show that 85 percent of the German population have compulsory insurance -- hardly a welfare situation. And no one has to declare bankruptcy when she loses her job and develops a health problem while being uninsured.
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First Published March 18, 2009 12:00 am