Letters to the editor
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Thank you for the Dec. 10 article "Director Sounding Alarm on State's School Pensions" and the continuing coverage of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposed "college tuition tax" in Pittsburgh. The last sentence of the school pension article is chilling.
W. David Hall of North Hills School District says, "The only way you're going to get more resources is from the taxpayers." Why is it that every time a public employee pension fund makes risky investments and loses, the first thing out of these people's mouths is we have to raise taxes?
The company that I work for was not doing very well last year and it did the following. Spending was cut, travel was cut, 300 people were fired, many were laid off for months, and the 7,000 other people took a 5 percent pay cut. The legislators and local government people of this state are so corrupt and so controlled by lobbies it is criminal. All they do is raise taxes on the middle class and the defenseless people like college kids.
And here's a question for the union-controlled Mayor Ravenstahl. Who's next on your tax list? I think it's time for the taxpayers of this state to do what people in the 1700s did to politicians ... tar and feather them!
Union, Washington County
Nurture this strength
As Pitt faculty members, one of whom is a naturalized citizen who escaped from a communist country to access higher education, we value American universities.
We received government support as students. We were educated in a system envied by the world. We voted for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and want to see him do the right thing.
Now the smokestacks are gone, only one of the big three American automakers avoided bankruptcy and the United States is left with a single world-changing export: higher education and the intellectual property, technology and industry it generates. We have hosted numerous foreign graduate students, scientists and physicians. They came here for open, flexible, accessible and better institutions of higher learning. Putting "been to the U.S." on their resumes is still important. And most of our foreign students came here on scholarships from their governments!
The proposed tax -- which appears to be on hold at this point -- is akin to killing the goose that lays the golden egg for the local economy and for our society at large, is against most American (and Jeffersonian) principles and reveals a lack of appreciation of a remaining bastion of American strength.
The mayor should be promoting higher education in this flagging economy and making education more accessible to our most promising students. They will generate future technology and business and therefore revenue. Our future locally and nationally depends on our will to nurture and promote higher education.
VERA S. DONNENBERG, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Surgery
ALBERT D. DONNENBERG, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Wall Street games?
I read the opinion of Paul Krugman "Still in Denial" (Dec. 15 column) and the line that stuck in my mind is "Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies." I wondered to myself that if I were a banker what would be my strategy to stop these regulations.
For one I would slow down the loans to small businesses, at least for six or eight months. That would help keep the unemployment number high. I mean, I've made it through my crisis; the American people can wait a few months longer. That would take us to the next election cycle when my friends in the Republican Party could claim that the Obama administration doesn't know what it is doing. They even might be able to gain the majority in the House and put an end to this foolishness of financial regulation.
Now I'm not saying that this is what's going on. But if my paycheck were hanging in the balance ...?
Let's see, the police officer who was recently killed was 32 years old. He is already in his final resting place and has probably met his maker. The man who is accused of killing the police officer is also 32 years old ("Parolee Held in Cop's Death," Dec. 8). If convicted, he can expect to live at least another 15 to 20 years.
During those years he will be fed and provided with shelter, protection, legal representation, health and dental care, possible educational options and some opportunities to visit with his children.
You know, I guess there are some people who still complain about the unfairness of life.
A means of food
I'm writing in regard to the Dec. 14 letter "Hunting Horror" and the letter writer's question, "Is there anyone there who is against deer hunting?": While I can understand that she was upset seeing a fawn with an arrow through its head, what makes her so sure a "hunter" shot the deer?
My husband hunts deer with a bow, and I can tell you that he will eat every piece of meat from the deer he just shot for the next six months. What is even sadder is seeing the pile of "road-kill" deer that will never provide a meal for anyone. Please stop bashing hunters.
Choice is the middle
The Dec. 7 article "Casey Seeks Middle Ground on Abortion Issue" is mistitled. In fact, the middle ground on abortion is the pro-choice position, i.e., allowing a woman to decide if she needs this medical procedure. The extreme positions are denying access to abortion (which too many of our elected officials support) and requiring pregnancy terminations (which has occurred in fascist regimes). Our pro-life senator will not find middle ground for a public health insurance option to cover abortions because he is trying to move the middle ground to an extreme position.
The main point of Rep. Bart Stupak's language, which is a major sticking point in the Senate debate and which is why Sen. Bob Casey is seeking a compromise, is that insurance plans that receive public money could not cover abortions. Therefore, women who think they might need an abortion in the future would have to obtain other insurance coverage. What woman thinks that she will need an abortion in the future? Who plans to have an unwanted or problematic pregnancy? The debate is so convoluted as to be absurd.
DEBBIE LEVY McKENNEY
As a city resident, I am committed to sharing the road with bicyclists. However, it seems to me that safety procedures need to be adopted by bicyclists that would help drivers like me see them in the dark. On a recent night a friend and I were on West Carson Street heading toward Station Square. It was about 5:30 p.m. and dark and raining.
Lo and behold, as I moved to the inside lane to turn into Station Square, I saw a bicyclist in the middle of the road! There were no reflectors or lights on his bike and he was wearing dark clothes. If I would have hit him, I would never have forgiven myself.
If bicyclists are sharing the road, I think they need to have lights on their bikes at night. After all, this is a rule for automobiles. Similar instances like this have also occurred in Squirrel Hill. Let's save a life before it is too late.
Such taxation isn't legal and would hamper e-commerce
Pennsylvania, along with many other states, has suffered a loss of tax revenue due to Internet sales, as pointed out by PG staff writer Bill Toland ("States Hard on Trail of Online Sales Taxes," Dec. 14). Our Department of Revenue wants out-of-state Internet retailers to collect use taxes on goods shipped into Pennsylvania.
That approach was outlawed by Congress through the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151), which forbids "discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce" and does not expire until Nov. 1, 2014. A tax is discriminatory, according to the act, if it "imposes an obligation to collect or pay the tax on a different person or entity" than in traditional commerce. The obligation to pay use tax is on the purchaser. Shifting it to the retailer for Internet sales and not other types of transactions would be illegal.
Congress continues to believe, as it did in 1998 when the act was passed, that the potential of the Internet should not be hampered through discriminatory taxation.
The writer is a lawyer and director of the eBusiness Technologies program at Carnegie Mellon University.
First Published December 18, 2009 12:00 am