Congress is ill-suited for business reform

Regarding "Looking to Congress to clean business's house" (Opinion, July 19): It is an act of mind-boggling hypocrisy for Congress to draft legislation designed to punish CEOs that "cook the books," considering Congress does so on a daily basis.

The Feds have long played games to exaggerate income, disguise liabilities, and cover up troublesome budget realities. As with corporate accounting tricks, these tactics allow lawmakers to hide true financial situations, and their own irresponsible behavior, from "shareholders" – in this case, taxpayers.

If the government kept its books the way companies are supposed to, the year's $127 billion surplus would actually have been a $515 billion deficit. That's because businesses must book expenses as they are incurred, not when payment is made. Thus, Congress wouldn't have been able to hide a $389 billion boost in military retirees' health benefits or other expenses approved last year just because payments were not made immediately.

The fiscal-watchdog General Accounting Office says Congress's bookkeeping is so shoddy it couldn't get an auditor's seal of approval. Its 2001 report shows $17.3 billion in money that simply couldn't be accounted for, more than the annual revenues of all but the biggest US corporations. When it comes to cooking the books, our representatives are four-star chefs.
Daniel John Sobieski

Allow for market-loss deductions

When you make money in the stock market you pay taxes to the IRS on your profits. But when you lose money in the market, can you deduct the losses? No, not really.

The IRS does allow you to deduct $3,000 per year for losses, but not for the kind of big losses people are experiencing today. Many people will never live long enough to deduct their losses. It's especially unfair when the Enron executives walk away with millions. I believe this IRS rule should be changed, allowing people to deduct their market losses and start rebuilding the economy.
Marc Perkel
San Francisco

Greed won't pay

Regarding: "Ecuador oil brings hope, concern" (July 19): An oil pipeline that deprives inhabitants of their land, pollutes rivers, and runs over an earthquake prone mountain pass to serve the greed of foreign corporations does not inspire hope. With regard to hardship suffered by local communities, the oil consortium spokesperson stated, "It is not our duty to remedy it."

The US's high speed, ultrapowerful vehicle of unchecked capitalism is operating without brakes. As it careens around the globe ensuring that American "interests" (read "demands") are met, untold numbers of poor get run off the road to feed our excesses.

We may temporarily believe we are exempt from harm, but sooner or later we will have to confront the consequences of this insatiable greed machine.
D. E. Philip
Newburyport, Mass.

Rebels who target local officials

In "Rebels' brazen bid to paralyze Colombia" (July 10) the author reports how the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have responded to the massive US-backed government offensive by ordering town officials to "resign or die."

That tactic sounded familiar. I recalled that CIA training manuals were discovered in Nicaragua in the 1980s, which told the contras how to target local town officials for assassination in order to paralyze the Sandinista government, which was democratically elected in 1984.

Peter Mott Pittsford, N.Y.
Co-editor, Interconnect newsletter

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