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August 15-21, 2007

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Letters to the Editor

Entitlement spending

Peter Byrne provided a public service in noting the extent to which Congress and the Bush administration have increased the deficit and the debt (The Byrne Report, "Fiscal Terrorism," June 26). He quotes the head of the Government Accountability Office on the size of the "structural deficit"--spending that exceeds revenues on a regular basis. The fact that we have been experiencing such deficits for more than three decades (with the exception, noted by Byrne, of four years during the Clinton Administration) is a cause for concern.

That said, besides using a sensationalist and misleading title, Mr. Byrne made some errors that are relevant to putting the budget back in the black.

There is first his assertion that "Bill Clinton not only balanced the budget, he used hundreds of billions in surplus monies to start paying down the national debt." Presidents neither balance nor unbalance the federal budget. They propose spending, indicate their preferences for taxes, and suggest changes in spending. But in the end, Congress determines spending and taxing. Clinton didn't "balance the budget" for those four years; a Congress controlled by Republicans did.

As for the "use" of those surpluses to reduce the debt, what Clinton did or did not do is of little consequence. Federal law requires that a surplus must be used to reduce the federal debt.

Mr. Byrne refers to the "long-term structural deficit," which, he notes, rose from $20 trillion to $50 trillion during the first six years of Bush's administration." Two thirds of this gap is the result of commitments to Medicare, and the largest single piece is made up of payments to providers. This and other entitlements are the core of our fiscal problem. Call it what it is, but why call it "fiscal terrorism"? We have promised more to ourselves than we have committed to pay. We face this same problem in funding Social Security, though we have more time to fix it. This is less a weapon of mass destruction than an exercise in mass delusion.

Dr. Richard B. Doyle, associate professor of public budgeting, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey

Hope for the future

Congratulations to Peter Byrne on making the list for the top 25 censored stories on Project Censored's list (The Byrne Report, "DiFi Backlash," Aug. 8).

My hat is off to Mr. Byrne for once again clearly pointing out what a mess we have gotten ourselves into during this millennial century, with the mainstream media in cahoots with corporate profiteers and our (somewhat) elected so-called representatives.

Maybe the next millennium will be better.

Paula M. Arico, Sebastopol

Too little, too late

I can't believe I just read in this week's (Aug. 8) issue that the Ask Sydney column is "officially retired"--not even giving us faithful readers a chance to protest (or flood your office with letters seeking advice).

The column offered consistently helpful, logical and empathetic advice. Please give it another chance and do consider a better placement of the column, too. The last page didn't do it justice.

P.S.: Congrats to Peter Byrne for the Feinstein reportage and award from SSU's Project Censored, plus a thank you to James Knight's "Swirl 'n' Spit" review of Ravenwood's Vintner's Blend Zin (Aug. 8). He called it right on--what happened?!

Marlene Alves, Santa Rosa

Sick of it

So, Michael Moore goes to Cuba but fails to mention that the best care is reserved for rich foreign tourists and Communist Party bosses while regular folk go to run-down facilities, may receive out-of-date drugs and often have to bring their own food, sheets and soap to the hospital ("Acute Care," June 27). Cuban doctors who have been sent to Venezuela don't want to go back to Cuba where they make about $15 a month. Instead, they want to go to America but must escape from Venezuela to Columbia in order to do so. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro flew in a specialist from Spain for his care. Moore recently railed against the Martin Luther King Harbor Hospital in a news conference but failed to mention it is a government-run county facility.

I just ask if people have really seen a sense of urgency and high efficiency in very many government-run operations. Happy with post office lines, the current passport fiasco, the immigration failures, your California highways? Do you think the best doctors/nurses are going to want to work for the government?

Ron Brackney, Santa Clara


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