Senior Citizens Share the Country's Burdens

Regarding the opinion-page column ``Fairness From the Elderly,'' Sept. 24: The elderly have seen the purchasing power of their savings shrink in constant terms during their lifetimes. They remember a strong dollar, when $18.75 would buy a US War Bond paying 3 percent interest, or 367 soft drinks at a nickel each, or 125 dozen eggs, or 628 postage stamps at three cents each. Their wealth, through inflation and taxation, has been transferred to innumerable futile ends: misdirected foreign grants and aid programs; corrupt social programs; incessant pandering to special interest groups; deceitful self-serving congressional benefits, raises, and inflated and exaggerated staffing; and decades of pork-barrel policies and subsidies designed to buy votes.

Congress has a legacy of blatant waste and a tradition of serving itself at the expense of the nation. For years it has refused fiscal reform and responsibility. Congress created inflation, not the elderly. F. P. Trudell, Houston

The author doesn't attack the basic problem of Social Security. He suggests only vague ``curbs on the growth of old-age benefits,'' which would swell the Social Security surplus. I suggest another plan: Include Social Security benefits in the taxable income on which income taxes are paid, and put the receipts from that in general revenue, not back in Social Security funds. In general revenue, these funds will help reduce the deficit. After all, reducing the deficit is what all the current fuss is about.

I agree with the author that ``it would be nice if this generation of grandparents would help out.'' I see no reason why the retired elderly should not contribute to the cost of government. And I am well qualified to make this statement; I am 85 and have been receiving Social Security benefits for 20 years. Richard E. Haswell, Springfield, Mo.

The author's attack on the elderly reveals a superficial knowledge of the problems. The millions of elderly on pensions, aside from those who worked for the government or were in the military, do not have cost-of-living escalator clauses in their pension plans. As a result, inflation has seriously deflated the purchasing power of those pensions. My pension seemed sufficient when I retired 19 years ago, but its purchasing power today is significantly less than it was. When Congress passed legislation taxing half of my Social Security, it increased my taxes that year by $1,700. Millions of industrial workers not covered by cost-of-living escalator clauses have had the same experience. As inflation continues, their pensions' purchasing power will be further depleted. Joe Swire, Lusby, Md.

This article angers me, not because the author is wrong, but because he appears to limit greed to only one segment of the population. It is disconcerting to see one group asking for more when our nation and so many of its people are hurting. However, greed is not confined to those who are receiving Social Security; it permeates all economic and age levels. On Oct. 1, members of the House of Representatives began receiving their second pay raise of the year - bringing their salaries to approximately $99,500. At the time they voted themselves this pay raise, they barely increased the minimum wage.

I don't know how to control nationwide greed, but it might help if the more fortunate among us, especially those in highly visible positions, began to show restraint and demonstrate less gluttony. Clare N. Shumway, M.D., Dillsburg, Pa.

How refreshing to see something so far from the usual lamentations about the poor old folks. I'm one of those old folks (84 years) of the large middle class and I felt ashamed of my peers when they were on TV and in the newspapers, besieging Congressman Rostenkowski when he suggested they share the country's burdens. Something does need to be done about our health system but not just for the elderly. When we have a good national health plan that includes people of all ages, then we will see true fairness. Ruth Krause, Brookfield, Ill.

The author might well ponder a wise Indian proverb: ``Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.'' Enough said. Eleanor Armstrong, Thomaston, Maine

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