Tax cuts for the wealthy will not revive economy
Instead of investing in education, infrastructure and advanced energy policies, the Republicans tell us that the path to job creation is through deregulation, combined with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Historically, they insist, deregulation and tax cuts have been the only way to grow the economy.
According to the Tax Policy Center, the top tax rate in 1921 was 73 percent. From 1924 to 1928, it was lowered to 24 percent. In 1929, an unregulated Wall Street crashed, sending the world into the Great Depression.
In the 1950s and '60s, the top tax rate ranged between 70 percent and 92 percent. During that time, we paid off the World War II debt, built the interstate highway system, enacted Medicare and Medicaid, sent men to the moon, initiated the war on poverty, created the highest economic growth rate in history, defeated communism, built the world's most comprehensive education system, grew the middle class, rebuilt the economies of Europe and Japan and became the greatest world power.
In 2003, the top rate dropped to 35 percent (15 percent on investment income) followed in 2008 by the Great Recession and the loss of 8 million jobs. Stimulus funds, TARP and the auto bailout reversed the deconstruction, and the U.S. economy has been slowly improving, while Europe, where drastic cuts were instituted, is still wallowing in debt, unemployment and unrest.
And what does the GOP propose? Deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest, funded by cuts to education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, infrastructure and research is their "one size fits all" solution.
As Winston Churchill so aptly stated, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
Will we allow hundreds of millions of corporate dollars spent on slick, deceptive advertising to doom us?
Timothy M. Shannon
One hand washes other in Buffalo Public Schools
Buffalo parent leaders could, I think, play a substantial role in relieving the attendance problem in district schools, maybe in lobbying Albany to permit our system more independence down the line, and certainly in supporting Buffalo Public School initiatives in general. But I don't believe such projects will move to the top of the activist agenda before school officials, and perhaps the public as well, better acknowledge the parents' respectable intentions.
Many Buffalo parents perfectly understand the critical importance of education, but must send their children to schools they know to have low expectations and dismal graduation rates. They know they're not equipped themselves to compensate for the system's deficits. Out-of-school suspension for non-violent infractions terrify. Given that any child is liable to break a rule, given conditions on the street and given skepticism about the judgment of district employees, many parents consider that policy a threat to their children's lives.
Further angering many parents, I suspect, is the unfounded assumption, persistent among some members of the public, that the group that doesn't send its children to school and the group that demands better schools is one and the same. I believe that the activists among people living with these issues can be persuaded to give invaluable support to our school system, but I think the persuasion will require persistence and finesse.
I urge Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon to consider permanently eliminating out-of-school suspension for non-violent infractions and to use her diplomatic skills to make clear to parent leaders the high price the adults working in your buildings will pay for this concession. That accomplished, I hope parent activists will reciprocate by striving to motivate weaker parents to send their children to school and will gradually become more responsive to her leadership.
Speculators to blame for our high gas prices
Consumption of oil in the United States has decreased dramatically in recent years, yet gas and oil prices continue to climb. We're also producing more oil now than we have in almost a decade. Unfortunately, U.S. oil producers are sitting on their inventory, waiting to sell it for maximum profit. Wall Street speculators share a large chunk of the blame, along with voracious China and India, which are gobbling up oil at an alarming rate.
The proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico via Texas will not solve the problem. Much of the oil we purchase from Canada is priced below what it would fetch on the world market, mainly because it's land-locked. Give that same oil an outlet to the Gulf and it now has access to the world market. Last time I checked, that's hardly a recipe for lowering the price of oil.
To compound the problem, refineries are intentionally producing below capacity. Some are even closing. There hasn't been a sophisticated refinery built in the United States in the last 30 years.
While there is heated debate on the subject, we can all agree that this issue is a complex one. We need to stop speculators running rampant through the market and force oil companies to stop sitting on their reserves. We need to upgrade and modernize refineries, then force those refineries to produce up to capacity.
Either way you look at it, though, these would only be Band-Aids that may slow the rising cost, but not stop it. Oil is a finite resource. The earth is going to run out of it sooner or later. Hopefully, when that day comes, there will be an alternative ready that's cleaner, more abundant and not a commodity.
More research is needed on Parkinson's disease
April is National Parkinson's Awareness month. In the United States, 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, adding to the 1 million people who have Parkinson's disease. It is estimated that 4 million to 6 million around the world have Parkinson's.
Here in Western New York, there is a very active chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation whose mission is "to improve the quality of life for the Parkinson's community throughout Western New York." We have about 1,000 names on our mailing list of individuals who are very interested in Parkinson's either because of their own diagnosis or because some family member or friend has the disease.
Just recently Michael J. Fox came to Buffalo and spoke at the Distinguished Speaker Series to keep Parkinson's in the public's mind. Unfortunately, without such a well-known spokesman, research and awareness becomes negligible. With the aging population, especially so in Western New York, Parkinson's will remain with us. Information is powerful.
Evalyn Katz, LCSW
Secretary, Western New York Chapter National Parkinson Foundation