We must raise taxes and reduce services
We are all hearing about the turmoil Greece is going through to handle its tremendous debt. Ours is not as critical, but we are pointed in the same direction. Instead of "biting the bullet" now, as Greece must do, we continue to insulate ourselves from any real sacrifice, even reducing our contribution to Social Security for another year to put $40 more in each paycheck. Any thinking person knows government services need to be in line with government income. Bringing this about won't be as painful as what Greece is going through, but it will get worse with time. Increasing taxes while reducing services can head us in the right direction to start to alleviate the problem. Of course, I have not even mentioned the need to start paying off our total debt.
This accumulated debt is about $15 trillion. This costs us $309 billion per year at an interest rate of 2.06 percent (10-year Treasury notes). President Obama's budget next year will require borrowing another trillion, which will add $20.6 billion more to our interest payments. If we were to have a balanced budget next year, we would not spend the $20.6 billion but we would have to cut back overall spending by $979.4 billion. This clearly shows the need to reduce our expected services and increase our taxes in a fair manner to make up for that huge reduction in available funds if the budget is balanced.
Of course, we can continue to put this off for years and then handle it like Greece is doing: rioting in the streets. It's our choice.
David F. Baker
State is in no position to attract new business
A recent News headline proclaims: "German dairy firm, Pepsi building yogurt plant." It would seem it is a time to rejoice, with major companies taking an interest in Western New York. So, what sparked the interest? Money -- yours, mine and every other taxpayer's in New York State. You see, this venture comes with a hitch, more than $25 million in tax breaks and incentives.
PepsiCo reported net revenues of more than $66 billion last year. The German dairy firm, Theo Muller, pulled in almost $3 billion. This is tantamount to Donald Trump receiving food stamps.
So why do we stoop to legal forms of bribery? Because Western New York (and the state in general) is one of the worst places in the country to do business. Our astronomical taxes, skyrocketing gas prices, unreasonable union demands, intense governmental regulation and mounting debts do nothing to attract investment. Once again the real issues impeding our growth are ignored and rouge is put on the corpse, expecting it to come back to life.
Proposed evaluations are unfair to teachers
Even responsible readers who have been following the latest proposed changes in the evaluation of teachers -- which are to be based on 40 percent for results of students' test scores and 60 percent on observation and other subjective means -- may have missed this ambiguous phrase of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal.
Teachers deemed ineffective based on the 40 points tied to the objective measures (test results) must be rated ineffective overall. Two years with a rating of ineffective can lead to termination proceedings. The category for ineffective is listed as a total below 65.
Education historian Diane Ravitch says, "There is no research, no experience, no evidence whatsoever that identifies what portion, if any, of a teacher's evaluation should be based on the increase in their students' test scores." She points out that the above system will guarantee that a teacher with a perfect 60 out of 60 on teaching skill will nonetheless be judged "ineffective" if he or she is in the ineffective range on test scores. Many principals and other educators view this as absurd.
The validity of many tests has been questioned. Outside conditions in the students' lives are not considered.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said he wants teachers to stop teaching to the test and to teach with creativity and passion.
New York should set up health benefit exchange
In reference to the Feb. 17 article about insurance hikes, I am writing to share my concern for the lack of real good health insurance options in our area. For those without insurance from their employer, there are few options.
Health insurance that you purchase directly from the company is extremely expensive in New York for individuals, families and small businesses. No wonder our small businesses are struggling to survive in this down economy. If owners want health insurance, or want to offer it to their employees, it is nearly impossible in today's market.
But there is a solution to high costs and bad benefits. Federal health care reform, known as the Affordable Care Act, actually fixed this problem by telling states to set up new and better health insurance marketplaces for individuals, families and small businesses. These regulated markets, called exchanges, can use their purchasing power to offer better and more affordable options.
But the state of New York is dragging its feet in getting our exchange up and running. The families and small businesses of Western New York cannot wait any longer. There are 100,000 uninsured residents in Erie County who could benefit from the passage of a health benefit exchange, and Albany needs to act in its current legislative session to pass a bill to set up the exchange.
Sen. Mark Grisanti is a member of the Senate Insurance Committee, and the Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. I encourage him to get the Senate moving on this issue. Waiting for any reason is unjustifiable when so many of our families and small businesses are suffering, sometimes literally, because of the lack of affordable health care.
Terri Schelter, R.N.
America must develop untapped oil reserves
By demanding that Saudi Arabia increase oil production to offset attempts by Iran to disrupt oil supplies, Sen. Charles Schumer demonstrates the arrogance of our government. Instead, Schumer should be calling on President Obama to open up drilling in the United States, offshore, in Alaska and in any other areas where exploration indicates untapped oil reserves. Had that been done years ago, then we wouldn't be at the mercy of foreign nations' whims and instability today. As one of the world's biggest oil consumers, it is extremely arrogant to expect the rest of the world to supply our oil needs when we have reserves of our own. Alternative forms of energy will never come close to supplying the majority of our energy needs.