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Jeff Hoffman, San Francisco
"Tax the Rich!" Feature, 4/13
Fix Prop 13
There are solutions! Thank you for giving a platform to David Cay Johnston's clarity about taxes in the US. Now please turn your attention to California and do an exposé on old Prop 13! California's love for Prop 13 is unrequited. Well, it did love us some, by helping seniors on fixed incomes stay in their homes. Let's keep that part, but other parts have been coddling instead of taxing the rich. Please expose how flattened property tax has disproportionately helped corporations, and how the two-thirds majority required to raise revenue has helped the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us. When we fix Prop 13, then we will be able to tax the rich as your front page commands.
Again, thank you.
Laura Wells, Oakland
A Specious Argument
David Cay Johnston throws together a barrage of facts, figures, and anecdotes to try to make the case that the "rich" should be paying more taxes. It's a specious argument because it ignores the most salient fact: Government spending during the past thirty years has not suffered from any shortfall of revenue from the rich, but has in fact been growing rapidly, and at an accelerating pace.
Over the past decade, the percentage of GDP represented by federal government spending rose from 32 percent to 41 percent. During the same period, the share of total gross income earned by the top 1 percent increased from 20 percent to 23 percent. So while the rich are getting richer, the government is growing at an even faster pace. Even if you were to tax 100 percent of the income of the rich, you still would not keep up with the voracious spending habits of federal, state, and local governments.
While it's tempting to look at countries like Germany and conclude that we should increase the size of our government so we can offer Americans the same social programs that German citizens have, the fact is that German government spending, currently at 42 percent of GDP, is not that different from what ours is already.
Clearly, we don't need a bigger government financed by more taxes on the rich, we need a government that spends more wisely.
Gene Chamson, Oakland
"The Uncivil Debate," News, 4/13; "The Fight Club," Culture Spy, 4/13
Last week's stories on anti-Zionism and also the creative fights were fascinating! I have a suggestion for an exciting tie-in. Why not invite Israeli ex-pats to duke it out with anti-Zionists? That would sell even more tickets than punks versus hipsters and no one would pull their punches, guaranteeing an exciting time for all! Let's bring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict here to the East Bay!
Biff Stockton, Oakland
"Tax the Rich!" Feature, 4/13, "The Fight Club," Culture Spy, 4/13
A Link Between Taxes and Violence
I believe a lot of the anger and frustration that motivates people to join a "fight club" can be traced to the economic and cultural disenfranchisement of multi-decade corporate economic policies as described in your cover story. And I'm sure the uber-wealthy enjoy watching the "lower" classes anihilate each other in the ring instead of cooperating to enact legislation that "taxes the rich." As for "physical" entertainment, I think a sexual orgy (even in a boxing ring) where individuals and/or groups compete to see who can out-fuck the other would be a lot more fun.
Carl Martineau, Berkeley
"Oakland Overgrown," Feature, 3/6
Don't Forget Urban Releaf
The piece by Nate Seltenrich did a good job of pointing out both the challenges faced and benefits received from urban tree planting. It is clear to me as a cyclist who has often had to steer out into traffic to avoid tree branches that there is value in making sure trees are properly trimmed. It seems that despite the difficulties in our current city budget that this is an issue that should be reviewed. That said, the benefits of the trees likely outweigh the challenges brought on by the need for maintenance.
In reading about the benefits I was surprised when Mr. Seltenrich named some tree planters but failed to mention the organization Urban Releaf. Urban Releaf is one of the largest tree planters in the city, having planted more than 15,000 trees in the last ten years in close cooperation with the community and in various areas of Oakland. In addition, they have consistently provided early tree pruning services to keep the trees healthy and manageable.
Despite the difficulties, it is important for us to expand our tree coverage. Due credit should be given to Urban Releaf, who has, to my knowledge, contributed more to this important natural infrastructure of ours than any other private organization.
Dave Alberts, Oakland
Avoiding a Slick Argument
With Japan's nuclear crisis and a wave of instability crossing the Middle East, pols and pundits are turning again to the question of our energy future. Will civil war and strife disrupt access to oil and our way of life? Can the United States change its century-old pattern of relying heavily upon petroleum?
People will reach different answers to these questions and draw different conclusions about what to do. It would be helpful, however, if everyone could get the factual premises right.