Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of October 17, 2011

Readers write in with context for a Monitor story on Wisconsin teachers retiring en masse, a suggestion for political commentary, and a protest against the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

Context for Wisconsin cuts

The Sept. 19 article on a large number of Wisconsin teachers retiring after the state limited collective bargaining ("After labor fight, teachers exit") could have better informed the public of the context.

The article notes that "some districts have handed down 'onerous, almost punitive' mandates," according to a local union rep. As an example, Wisconsin's Kaukauna school district increased work hours but not pay: from 37.5 hours per week to 40. But most people wouldn't think it a "punitive mandate" for teachers to work 40 hours a week for a full-time salary, but merely a common-sense adjustment.

The article also records teachers' complaints about having their take-home pay reduced because of a new requirement that they contribute more to their health care and pension benefits but doesn't note that the contributions they must now make are at or below what the average nonpublic worker contributes.

And as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported, school districts have hired back more than 1,100 of these retirees. They can now collect full pay and retirement benefits at the same time (without having to contribute to retirement as a new hire would), since Wisconsin doesn't limit the practice known as "double dipping."

Joy Pullmann

Education research fellow

Heartland Institute

Chicago

Falstaff needs a Toto

I loved Walter Rodgers's wry suggestion in his Sept. 12 column that Democrats need a Falstaff to highlight the absurdities of GOP positions by making us laugh at them ("A Shakespearean twist to Election 2012"). At the risk of mixing metaphors, I would suggest that the modern-day Falstaff might benefit from an animal companion.

I'm thinking of a Toto, Dorothy's little dog in "The Wizard of Oz." With a Toto to pull back the curtain, revealing the corporate money and lobbyists actually operating the levers of political power, Mr. Rodgers's Falstaff could take the stage.

He could then lampoon the true influence that dictates the GOP's absurd policies and turns elected Democrats into Cowardly Lions. It could be that all American voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, might then have the last laugh.

Alan Willis

Portland, Ore.

No to pipeline for oil sands

US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue's Sept. 19 commentary, "The highway to jobs – via better infrastructure" fails to address the negative impacts on the environment that may result from his supporting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oil sands from Canada to the United States. What are the future costs to all species for some temporary jobs?

This piece might have been better headlined: "Shortsightedness: planning for a dim future."

Greg Schifsky

Portland, Ore.

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