Government is the problem

Government is the problem

I believe America has just two major problems — government takes too much in taxes and spends too much for too little that benefits all citizens. Wait a minute, that’s one problem: government.

And how do they get away with it year after year? Again, one problem is masquerading as two — a tax code, indecipherable by any but the most advanced tax attorney, and an unaccountable Congress that writes the tax laws. Yep, same problem, government.

This year, let’s lobby our congressional charlatans to simplify the tax code to eliminate the ridiculous breaks available only to those with the cash needed to hire high-priced advisors. For example, the super pack ripoff exposed by TV satirist Steven Colbert for which he won a Peabody award for investigative journalism.

Also, let’s demand our august legislators inform us, quarterly, what they voted for or against and why, and what the anticipated impact of their vote will be on their constituents. If they can’t perform this minimal service to the country, they gotta go. Otherwise, we will get the same posturing and pretense that was the hallmark of the do-nothing 112th Congress until the country resembles a backwater fiefdom run by whoever has the most men at arms.

Jim Cartwright, Canfield

Stealing students not an answer

Do not steal is one of the bedrock principles upon which all major religions and civilized societies agree. The members of the South Range Board of Education, however, have no problem being thieves. They just call their theft a less innocuous name: “open enrollment.”

Next, they attempt to justify the theft of money from neighboring districts by convincing South Range residents that it will save them from having to pass a new levy. The argument is disingenuous. A new levy will be required in a few short years, but by that time Superintendent Dunham will have his 30 years in and will be collecting his inflated pension. I say it is “inflated” because his $10,000 personal pension contribution is paid for by the taxpayers of the district,.

Additionally, board president John Fromel apparently misspoke (politicians never lie) when he insinuated in the article that significant cuts were implemented before open enrollment was instituted. The Cadillac health care plan, which was costing the district $122,726 a month as of October 2011 remains intact. The supplemental athletic contracts that pay teachers between 7 percent and 20 percent of their base salary to coach athletics remain in effect. The district employs three principals in a building that could function with two. Finally, only in the public sector would a wage freeze be referred to as a “cut.”

Open enrollment may have been inevitable for South Range. We will never know for sure. The school board lacked the courage to implement some of the painful decisions that might have avoided open enrollment or convinced voters to pass additional operating millage.

Rich Ferenchak, North Lima

More concessions than ‘Cadillacs’

In a recent editorial, The Vindicator attacked the Youngstown school district for providing employees with a “Cadillac” health insurance plan for which they pay “peanuts.” The editorial reflects only one side of this story and presents only a partially-informed and inaccurate opinion on this issue. Both the editorial and your apparent source ignore the huge sacrifices and concessions that mostly low-paid workers have made to maintain their admittedly good insurance benefits. In fact, these employees have paid not peanuts, but quite dearly, to keep their insurance plan.

AFSCME represents approximately 336 non-teaching workers in the Youngstown schools — primarily bus drivers, education assistants, custodians, and clerical workers. The majority of these employees are paid between $15,000 and $20,000 per year. Because the schools have laid off employees or refused to replace retiring workers, there are about 100 fewer employees in these positions than there were in 2007.

In four of the past six years, these employees have voted to accept wage freezes. In 2010 and 2011, when they received wage increases of only 1 percent, those increases were more than off-set by other economic concessions. During the same period, inflation increased by approximately 12.8 percent, so employees’ real wages have dropped considerably. Moreover, these employees have agreed to further wage freezes for 2013 and 2014. Employees accepted these tough sacrifices in difficult negotiations solely to preserve their current health benefits. The employees also are paying 10 percent of the total cost of their insurance plans, so if costs increase, so will their share.

The editorial states the district’s self-insured plan is underfunded. While this may be true according to some analysts’ suggested guidelines, in fact, the district had done a good job of estimating and paying its actual insurance claims. Therefore, the underfunding figure the editorial cites is speculation unsupported by the evidence of past claims.

The Academic Distress Commission has accepted happily the wage and benefit concessions which employees have made to keep their good health care benefits. They now should not try to welsh on their share of the bargain by demanding employees give up the insurance benefits they have sacrificed so much to maintain.

John J. Filak, Youngstown

The writer is regional director, AFSCME Ohio Council 8.

Follow the money

It is a sorry state of affairs when your city government looks at its citizens as a cash crop to be farmed for the profits of some distant corporation. With the $afety of its residents in mind, the city will agree to plant devices to entrap drivers and produce an income for the city and its partner in crime.

While safety is touted at the company’s web sites as their mission and goal, it is not safety that sends their highly paid representatives to your city to sell their machines. The reason they come to your town is not public service, but to take money out of your pockets and your town and put in the wallet of someone else. Your money is an incentive to pass out citations. More citations, more profits. It is unethical and immoral.

The machines are designed to be inconspicuous, not be obvious, to sit unnoticed by drivers. This smacks of speed traps and cops fattening the town coffers by passing out tickets. This smacks of a very cynical view that your city leaders have of you. If safety was the main concern, the devices would be bold and visible for all to see, to tell one and all that it is important to obey the law and be careful. Instead we have machines designed to be hidden, to entrap and produce fines, not encourage safety. That is spelled $afety. It is not safety that drives this deal, it is money — yours becoming theirs.

Shame on your city leaders for selling you out. Rebel against this in principle and action and remember this on Election Day.

David M. Conner, Youngstown

Dramatic differences in sentences

Please explain why it is that if you shoot a gun and kill a little boy you get life in prison, but if you run a stop sign and kill a father with two children you get 90 days in jail and probation. Also, how is it that you can run a man down while he is taking a walk, and all you get is probation?

In both cases a weapon was used, it is just that one of the weapons has four wheels.

Tom Clark, Youngstown

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