Letter to the Editor – June 2011

Letter to the Editor

ink_penDear Sir:

I often wonder if the Ojo readers would be better served if all political comment were avoided. A lot of what gets printed about political issues falls into the category of “inaccurate,” cheap shot sensationalism and Fred Mittag’s guest editorial in your May issue certainly fits the bill.

He states that “only 400 Americans now own more wealth than half of all Americans combined” and he finds this unbelievable. Unbelievable by what set of statistics? Is this higher or lower than it was 100 years ago? We all know that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett head the list of richest Americans. Are they representative of the greedy capitalists he excoriates earlier in his piece? I think not.

Both are self made men and both have given billions to charities all over the world. Microsoft is frequently listed as a wonderful place to work and salaries are just part of that. Buffett selects well run companies to buy, where workers are happy and future prospects are good, and then lets them get on with it.

Mittag goes on to say that “Tax responsibility has shifted from the very rich down to workers.” What rot! Does he know that the top 50% of wage earners pay 97% of all income taxes collected in the USA?

In my career the union I worked most closely with was the ILWU (west coast longshoremen). Because of circumstances allowed by the US government, they are able to hold the whole country to ransom. Our west coast stevedoring costs are the highest in the world, by far, and that adds cost to everything the consumer buys. The least experienced earners in the ILWU make over $100,000 per annum. Many, like crane drivers and clerks, make over $200,000 per annum. Additionally they have full health coverage for themselves and their families provided by the employers throughout their working life and in retirement thereafter.

These are facts Fred Mittag not just cheap shot sensationalism.

David Harper – Ajijic

PS: I don’t know who was responsible for the accompanying cartoon to the Mittag piece but a John Q Public type saying “Die Union Scum” to a depiction of a New York City Fireman on 9/11 is despicable.

Fred Mittag Replies:

David Harper suggests censorship for others, but presumes readers will benefit from his own utterances. The editorial that Harper calls “cheap-shot sensationalism” is based on standard history and economics that most of us studied in school.

Harper can check Forbes, or the WSJ for the statistics he requests. Today is worse than a hundred years ago, when the richest 2% owned one-third of the nation’s wealth. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican (and John McCain’s “hero”), began the correction of wealth distribution with a speech in 1910: “Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes … and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Harper is correct that Warren Buffett is not representative of greedy capitalists. Buffet said it’s not right that his secretary pays more in taxes than he. Buffett told a Senate committee that the rich should pay more taxes and that taxation has shifted too much to the middle class.

Harper adulates Buffet, then denounces his Senate testimony on the shift of tax responsibility from the rich to the middle class as “rot,” a wonderfully smelly word. Harper’s poetic “rot” imagery has overwhelmed his critical thinking skills. It’s not even clear that Harper knows what “wage earner” means. The very rich don’t earn “wages.”

Harper asserts the ILWU “held the whole country to ransom.” During contract negotiations in 2002, management locked out the workers at all ports on the West Coast, quite the opposite of a strike.

Harper venerates the wealth of Gates and Buffet, but begrudges the wages and health benefits of the ILWU, which he overstates: “The least experienced earners in the ILWU make over $100,000 per annum.” According to Answers.com, that figure is $60,000. Harper deems Ted Rall’s editorial cartoon as “despicable.” Ted Rall’s cartoons appear in 100 U.S. newspapers. He is the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. He served as a war correspondent in Afghanistan and his book To Afghanistan and Back won the Best Book of the Year Award from the American Library Association.

Ted Rall’s own words about his 9/11 firefighter cartoon are: “After 9/11 conservatives loved firefighters. Now they’re bashing unions … which includes firefighters.”

If Harper favors censorship, he might begin with himself.

Ojo Del Lago
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