Lettters to the Editor

Readers write about making retirement secure and why those who make more money should pay higher income taxes.

Social Security is the answer to retirement woes

In regard to the Oct. 17 article, "Fallout of stock market's plunge: retirement woes:" The headline says it all. Social Security's founders seemed to understand in 1935 the folly of investing for retirement via the stock market. The 1929 market crash resulted in the Great Depression, which led to Social Security being created fully divorced from the market. And that program remains the only leg of the "three legged retirement stool" effectively functioning, given the dismal performance of private and individual plans.

Yes, a way needs to be found to ease the pain that financial crises inflict, and the obvious answer is to make Social Security the nation's principal pension plan by raising its benefit level for the average worker from the current 41 percent of earned income to 70 percent. Contrary to misinformation promoted by conservatives, the program has no long-term deficit, and the additional cost will be much less than proportionate to the benefit increase.

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Workers and their families need to be freed from the prolonged financial anxiety surrounding retirement.

David Langer,
consulting actuary

New York

Those who have more should pay more

Regarding the Oct. 17 Opinion piece, "Obama, Joe the plumber, and the gospel of envy": Does author Scott W. Johnson realize that capitalist icon Adam Smith himself favored a progressive tax? Smith felt it was appropriate and moral, given how a society's haves are naturally more invested in that society than the have-nots. (Think about it: Do the working poor have as much to lose from a foreign invasion as do the wealthy?)

As a quasi-libertarian, I'm actually more of a flat-tax person than Smith. But all bets are off when even a country's "small-government conservatives" don't believe in paying as they go. At that point, the door opens for other remedies.

Rob Asghar
Long Beach, Calif.

Scott W. Johnson echoes the outrage of the McCain campaign that Barack Obama would have the audacity to tell "Joe the plumber" that we should "spread the wealth around."

I guess I'm a little confused by the outrage, since nothing could be more a foundation of Christian principles than to give to the poor and to help those who are in need. In the collapse of Wall Street, we have just witnessed firsthand what the politics of greed brings. Are those lessons not fresh enough in our minds?

Neil Schleifer
Bronxville, N.Y.

Scott W. Johnson overstates his case in two ways. First, by saying that "the top 1 percent of filers paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes," he ignores the all-too-salient fact that the wealthiest filers do not generally pay as high a percentage of their massive incomes in taxes as do those of average means. Second, he assumes that there can be no such thing as "too much wealth" accruing to individuals in a democratic society based on free-market principles. History has disproved that dangerous assumption with alarming frequency, and the result has often been violence and anarchy.

The present situation is not unfair to the extremely wealthy, and there can be no rational argument in support of why they should not pay more than they do. That a Democratic president and Congress might work to make them do so is also hardly dangerous to anyone, and certainly not to American freedom.

Neil R. Hughes
Athens, Ga.

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