Letters to the Editor for August 27, 2011

August 27, 2011

'What's next?

A cable park on Hood River's door steps. Cool. I've got a better idea: PIXIELAND!

John Paulin


Unfair to small business

We all know the shell game, and it's a lot of fun to play when nothing's on the line. Unfortunately, it's a game the Oregon Insurance Division appears to be playing as it reviews health insurance rates.

The division is setting rates that force insurance companies to lose money on policies purchased by individuals. They expect these insurers to either draw down reserves to cover losses, or shift those losses to employer purchasers in order to protect reserves. These methods are short-sighted. None of this truly reduces costs; it simply masks cost increases.

As a small-business owner, I want to know my insurer isn't bleeding from government-ordered losses, and will be ready to cover the cost of my employees' health care when they need it. The Oregon Insurance Division needs to protect consumers to make heath care more affordable, but not on the backs of small-business owners.

Fred Duckwall

President, Duckwall Fruit


Retire-rehire costs less

There have been a few letters to the editor recently concerning rehiring PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) retirees. This letter is to clarify the financial effect on the Hood River County School District.

The school district pays into PERS for all eligible employees. If an employee retires and gets rehired by the school district, the district stops contributing to PERS on his or her behalf.

With the district's current PERS rates, rehiring a PERS retiree saves the school district an average of $16,000 per year for rehired retired teachers and $23,000 per year for rehired retired administrators.

From the employee's perspective, "working-retired" (being rehired after retiring) is basically a tradeoff. When the employee retires under PERS, the accrued PERS benefit stops increasing, the retiree starts receiving PERS earlier, and the monthly PERS checks are reduced for the rest of the retiree's life (as compared to what they would have been if they had worked longer in a PERS position, assuming other variables remain constant).

I've been asked if working-retired is "at the expense of taxpayers." No, it is not. When employees retire, the school district stops contributing to PERS on their behalf.

The retired employee starts receiving PERS payments based on their account balances at that time, their years of service, their life expectancies and other factors. (The exact factors used vary with the different calculation methods used by PERS for each specific person.)

Had they continued working longer in PERS positions, their PERS accounts would have grown larger (in most cases), their years of service increased, their life expectancy decreased, and their eventual payments from PERS would have been higher.

If employees retire earlier, they earn less total PERS over their lifetime. In addition, the school district avoids contributing to PERS for those positions for the duration of time the retirees work for the school district.

From a financial perspective, rehiring retired school employees saves the school district money.

Nick Hogan

Finance director, Hood River County School District

Tax facts explained

John and Marilyn Brennan's letter of Aug. 13 contains facts, but the Brennans don't provide a context for understanding what the facts mean.

They state: "The top 10 percent of earners in our country paid 70 percent of federal income taxes." This is true; but it is also true that the richest 10 percent control about 84 percent of the wealth (1) and 73 percent of the net worth, including home equity (2).

They say: The top 1 percent of income earners paid 38 percent of all federal income taxes in 2008, while the bottom 50 percent paid only 3 percent. True, but in 2008, the average income of the top 1 percent was $1,137,684 (3). Since 1979, their share of after-tax income has increased more than 120 percent (4). In 2008, the average income of the bottom 90 percent was $31,244 (3). The income share of the bottom 80 percent has gone negative since 1979 (4). The 2008 income of top .01 percent of the population was $27,342,212 (3).

The rich are paying less in taxes than they have at any time since the Great Depression (5). These figures show that the wealthy are far from over-taxed. Their tax rate has gone down and their income has increased while the income of the lower 80 percent of the population has gone down since 1979.

So who is paying the bills? The increasingly stressed middle class and No One. That's why we have a deficit.

I think we should return the tax rates to the same levels as those of the economic boom-times of the Clinton administration. Then we could pay our bills.

(1) Source: Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School; Dan Ariely, Duke University, 2009

(2) Edward, Wolff, Bard College; Federal Reserve. 2007 data

(3) 2008 data, including capital gains. Source: Emmanual Saez, UC Berkeley)

(4) Congressional Budget Office

(5) The Tax Foundation

Pat Bozanich

The Dalles

'Mockingbird' still teaches

Thank you to the Columbia Gorge Arts Center for bringing "To Kill a Mockingbird" to our community. I went to an afternoon showing a couple weeks ago and was reminded how powerful this story remains today.

For all the hard-fought progress regarding race equality that we have made in America over hundreds of years, there is still work to be done. If anything, more work on a personal level. The performance brought up a couple of hard questions for myself.

Why is racism still pervasive in our country today? Perhaps it continues because of my own apathetic responses. Or maybe it's our collective guilt, or white men's burden, for what has been done to people of color since before our country was a country.

Thank you to the cast and crew of "To Kill a Mockingbird," for keeping the dialogue about the inequalities within race alive. Although much less than even 50 years ago, it still feels like an important conversation to have. After reading the book and watching Gregory Peck in the movies, watching this performance live was an invaluable experience for me.

Avery Hoyt

White Salmon, Wash.

Adopt pets from OHS

I just want to send a big thank you to the Oregon Humane Society. We chose to go to the Oregon Humane Society where they truly desire to place animals in loving forever homes with perfectly capable owners.

We were able to adopt a pit bull mix puppy who also needed a loving home. Our new family member has already filled our hearts and home with love.

If you want a forever friend with support, encouragement and the extra training provided after adopting, then the Oregon Humane Society is the place to go, for they are the true advocates for the homeless defenseless animals in our state.

Denise Long

Hood River

Keep your

pet safe

I know everyone heard that story on the news about the 5-year-old who tortured and killed the neighbor cat just for fun, and then ran away. All the neighbors saw it happen, didn't do anything to stop it. Where were the kid's parents or the baby sitter when this was going on?

What's wrong with the kids today? Didn't that kid's parents teach him right from wrong and to respect other people's stuff and their animals? I hope the parents get their kid some help that he needs so he never does this again to anyone's cat or dog.

As a cat lover myself, I keep an eye on my cat at all times. All of you out there who are cat lovers or dog lovers, keep an eye on your pets so nobody hurts them and you will always have your best friend you love around you.

Pam Smiley


'Dribble-athon' success

I just wanted to say thank you to the many people and companies in Hood River who donated to Theo Fusban Dribbleathon. With only a week to collect, our original goal was $1,000 and we raised over $3,500!

Theo was so excited and amazed that the community came together. His father said this would never have happened in Germany and was in tears over the generosity and support the family received.

Theo has slight movement in both arms as well as feeling in one of his legs, which is awesome and wonderful news. His goal is to fly with his father back to Hood River.

To anyone interested, you can follow up and support Theo on Facebook at the group entitled, "Theo Fusban get well wishes!!!!!"

Joe O'Neill, coach

Hood River Fire Soccer Club

Dynamos Organization

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