Social Security isn't welfare: It's every American's duty

I enjoyed reading Jeffrey Shaffer's May 20 Opinion piece "Golden years, silver tea, and safety nets" except for one paragraph that stated that government assistance creates a pattern of dependency.

This does not describe our Social Security program. No cycle of dependency is created. I have read in numerous places that the cost of running Social Security is unbelievably low compared to other countries and especially compared to the cost of managing private investment accounts. Since I work in a public library, I see many retired people who collect Social Security, and I would not consider any of them to be welfare-state "slackers."

I see taxes and Social Security as the dues we pay to be part of our wonderful country, and I wish that the companies moving overseas would see it that way, too.

A lifetime of hard work and careful planning can be reversed by just a few things like a bad investment (Enron or Worldcom) or a serious accident or illness at the wrong time. Besides drinking "silver tea," how would we feel about seeing homeless grandmothers living on the streets in the United States?
Pamela W. Elicker
Port Townsend, Wash.

'God' through the eyes of an atheist

Regarding the May 23 article "Next church-state dispute: 'In God We Trust' ": The word "God" is religion-neutral; for an atheist such as myself, "God" can be the speed of light in a vacuum (a constant nonpareil that holds good for everyone without discrimination, and thus doesn't undermine the basis of atheism).

While this constant is morality-neutral, "God," as given in any particular religion, is not. As long as there is no mention of any particular religion, "In God We Trust" should be allowed to stand.
Raghuram Ekambaram
New Delhi

For safety's sake, repeal the gun ban

Dante Chinni raises several questions in his May 24 Opinion piece, "GOP Gunslinging in D.C.," but he fails to ask the one question that really matters: Why shouldn't residents of the District have the same opportunity to defend themselves as the vast majority of other Americans? Criminals in the district already have firearms in violation of the District's handgun ban, while law-abiding residents are defenseless.

There was also a 1981 D.C. District Court case, Warren vs. DC 444 A. 2d 1, that ruled the police are not obligated to protect individual citizens. The court held that police have a duty only to the "public at large and not to individual members of the community."

As a Virginian who commutes to the District for work every day, I would benefit from the repeal of the D.C. gun ban, and I urge Congress to pass it soon.
David Adams
Richmond, Va.

Joint oil ventures yield better outcomes

While I applaud your May 24 editorial "Latin Oil Romance," I would not dismiss Venezuela's approach to the energy industry so quickly.

South American countries would be wise to favor joint ventures instead of the traditional "production sharing agreement." Countries with poor credit often use the latter, leaving them dangerously exposed to oil price changes. This is because foreign companies finance the project and recover their costs by taking more oil for themselves. Any excess oil is split with the state oil company. When prices fall, the foreign companies take more. By contrast, a joint venture requires the state oil company to share in the cost of development, but it also collects its share of production, making it a more secure source of state revenue.
Jonathan Reingold
Brooklyn, N.Y.

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