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Issue Home December 29, 2010 Site Home

Letters to the Editor Policy

Local Gasoline Prices?

I have just returned from a car trip to visit my father in Florida. Without exception, the price of gasoline locally was more than any price I paid on the entire trip. Prices along Routes 81, 77, 95, 301, and 75, through the states of PA, MD, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, and FL and back, ranged from $2.65 to $2.99. The fill up, at Great Bend before the trip, and the fill up when I returned were the highest by $.10 to $.44. You don't have to travel more than fifty miles south to find substantially lower gasoline prices.

Is there a realistic reason why gasoline prices in Susquehanna County are always so much higher than any place along my route?

Walton Dahlander
Great Bend, PA

Fleeting Freedom

It seems to me as if our Freedom is flying away at the speed of light. A letter once a week doesn’t seem like near enough to express my dismay. The latest things to come across my desk are things like the FCC getting its’ hooks into the Internet under the guise of “Net Neutrality.” Ostensibly to provide “fairness” for all internet users, but it will provide the government with the means to silence the voices of opposition. Television news will be next under the guise of “reducing political rancor.” We know who that target is. Chevez is implementing this stuff as I write.

A WSJ article on the cost of wind power caught my eye this week. I learned that the federal subsidy (read: your money) on wind generation of electrical power exceeds by 50% the actual cost of electrical power generation by a gas powered plant. The EPA, having “decreed” that the chemical which is essential to plant growth is dangerous, certainly must regulate it. It, of course, is carbon dioxide, which we exhale at every breath. That decree is at the heart of the government press to shut down all our coal powered plants and to implement Cap and Trade. All this while China puts new coal fired electrical power plants on line every day without near the emission control already in effect here in the US. Is this a great country, or what?

Health and human services (HHS) has sent threatening letters to health insurance companies that they will scrutinize any rate hikes in premiums that exceed 10%. This after the passage of Obamacare has substantially raised the cost of providing insurance. Just another step toward “single payer coverage,” also known as total government control of healthcare (and effectively total control of our lives). Coercion of another industry. I’m standing by for the “death panels,” which subtly already exist with the actions of the FDA in removing certain cancer fighting drugs for “effectiveness” (read: too expensive).

We have entered the age when unelected government agencies are running our lives at levels never before seen. Their actions are the bureaucratic extrapolation of the laws which are passed by Congress. All of the actions of these agencies, which are costing us billions upon billions of dollars, are inexorably taking away our growth and prosperity, costing us the jobs today and our future tomorrow. I used to be a Republican but they morphed into Progressives in their frantic attempts to gain political power. While I now an Independent, I will be nominally re-registering as a Republican so I can vote in the primaries. We can’t afford any more O’Donnell’s such as we had in Delaware (unintended consequences). Every vote we cast is critical from this day forward. We the people won a great victory in November but we are very far from winning the war. Please, for your children’s sake, stay alert, informed and involved.

Joe McCann
Elk Lake, PA

Living In Hard Times

America is being crushed to death. Gasping under the triple burden of federal, state, and personal debt, made 2010 a difficult year especially for those at the bottom of the pile. But at the end of next year we may look back at 2010 as “the good old days.”

The most reckless accumulator of debt was the federal government. Its debt increased to the point that the National Debt Clock no longer had sufficient digital space to register it. Dropping the dollar sign made room to squeeze in the eleven digit $14 trillion figure.

But it is the Obama-GOP tax cut that shows just how dire the debt crisis is. The two parties shook hands on a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. The agreement added a staggering $858 billion to the national debt without so much as a dime cut in expenditures. Does either party recognize that the U.S. is spending itself into insolvency?

But the laws of economics dictate that this debt will be paid. The easy way, simply printing dollars. Inflating our way out of debt will work but at the expense of trashing the dollar and ballooning inflation. Or the hard way, slashing the federal budget and increasing taxes. This, too, will work but will boast unemployment to double digits, cause widespread social disruptions, and a severe loss of government revenue.

Taming the national debt will be extraordinarily difficult - if even possible. Here's why.

The U.S. sells Treasuries to pay for its debt. But a burgeoning debt is causing the world is lose faith in U.S. Treasuries. Interest rates will have to rise to the point where buyers can be found. But higher interest rates mean higher interest on the national debt that, in turn, adds to the national debt creating a vicious cycle.

The states, too, are hard hit by an economy staggering under debt. A decline in sales taxes and increasing expenditures for social programs have forced 46 of the 50 states into the red. And unlike the federal government, the states cannot print their way out of debt. They must find ways to increase taxes and cut spending.

No state has ever filed for bankruptcy but now the unthinkable is possible. California, the most populous state, with a budget deficit of $28 billion, is a leading contender for chapter 13. Is the Golden State too big to fail? If not, the federal government will have to bail it out adding $28 billion to the national debt. In effect, it's borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

The average American family is at the bottom of the heap. The total household debt, principally mortgages and credit cards, is just a sliver shy of the national debt. This, in spite of the fact that both husband and wife are working, sometimes with three jobs. Yet the average medium household income dropped 2.9 percent in 2009. And prices are rising.

The best gauge for tracking inflation is the cost of a barrel of oil. In 2003, it was $25 a barrel. Today it's just shy of $90. And oil is priced into everything we buy. Fewer dollars chasing higher prices is a losing game.

For many households, inflation, lose of a family member's income, and debts proved too much.

Some 2.8 million families lost their homes in 2009. This year it's up 20 percent, for another record-breaking year. And something called bracket creep will make 2011 another all-time high for foreclosures.

Bracket creep is caused by inflation pushing one's income into a higher tax bracket. Inflation not only decreases buying power, it also increases a person's taxes. And there's something called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) that ensures that taxpayers cannot deduct their way out of paying taxes.

In 1969, Americans were fed up with the rich deducting their way out of taxes. In response, Congress enacted the AMT. It ensured that the wealthy, those earning $75 thousand a year or more, would pay a minimum of $3,900 in federal taxes.

But forty years ago only 19,000 people paid the AMT. Today, bracket creep has pushed 11 million into the “wealthy” $75-thousand-a-year-or-more bracket. The AMT no longer targets the rich but families with many dependents and multiple deductions.

Inflation, growing unemployment, and increased taxes have combined to form a perfect economic storm.

Coming to terms with debt will be the most demanding task America has ever faced. How long it will take to work through this problem and what we will look like on the other side is impossible to say. But this much can be said: The America that will emerge will not look like the America we know.

Bob Scroggins,
New Milford, PA

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