Social Security fund
Some conservatives have continued to claim that we must cut Social Security benefits to deal effectively with our federal budget deficit.
Many argue that the $2.8 trillion Social Security Trust Fund, made up of special government bonds, is “just a bunch of IOUs“ and as such does not alleviate their concerns about the supposed contribution of Social Security payouts to the budget deficit.
Since 2011, payroll taxes have not completely covered Social Security payouts. However, and nobody ever seems to make this point, since the Reagan era, as the fix for just this problem, Social Security retirement benefits have been increasingly subject to federal income taxes.
Up to 85 percent of Social Security retirement benefits can be taxed, depending on other income. Despite searching, I have not been able to find the figures for the income taxes recovered by the federal government on Social Security retirement benefits paid out.
I would bet my monthly check that if you add in the income taxes recovered from us beneficiaries, Social Security actually contributes money to the general fund and thereby actually helps the deficit situation.
Glenn E. Bradford
In the post Six Day War period, when I was a student in Jerusalem, Jews and Muslims went to the Temple Mount together.
The Rabbanut (office of the chief rabbi) forbade Jews to go onto the mount, and therefore there were no prayers there. But tourists and students walked there freely alongside the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Muslim and Jew, and shared the sacred space as we chose.
But no longer.
Now the Temple Mount, the Noble Sanctuary for Muslims, has been transformed into a political icon. Muslims forbid Jews to pray there, and Jews insist on the right to walk and pray where the Rabbanut once forbade them to set foot.
If this were not so tragic, we’d laugh at the childlike behavior of adults who refuse to play in the sandbox together.
There is no reason for Jews to vacate the Temple Mount, and there is no reason for Muslims to not pray there. There’s plenty of room for everyone.
Where hatred rules, there’s no room for anyone, and that’s what we suffer today.
West of the Old City is Gai Ben Hinom, the Valley of Ben Hinom, from which the English word Gehenna originates. It means Hell.
The symbolism is real: Jerusalem totters at the edge of the abyss of Hell, and blood will flow into Gai Ben Hinom because the inhabitants refuse equality to one another.
Jerusalem, the City of Peace, has become the City of Tragedy. May God have mercy on us all that two people cannot live peacefully in God’s habitat together.
Rabbi Mark H. Levin
Clean water act
I met recently with a staff member at the Kansas office of a U.S. congressman. We discussed The Borgen Project, an organization for which I intern that is dedicated to ending extreme global poverty.
One of the pieces of legislation for which our organization advocates is HR 2901, the Water for the World Act. The act seeks to bring access to safe water and sanitation to millions of people living in poverty by reforming the original Water for the Poor Act of 2005.
Hundreds of millions of people live without adequate safe water and sanitation, which spreads disease, disrupts economic activity and threatens security. To support access to water in other nations is to support the growth of foreign markets that benefit our economy at home.
This legislation has received bipartisan support, and the staff member with whom I met expressed interest but the congressman has yet to officially support the act.
We at The Borgen Project call on the leaders of Kansas to take an active role in the fight to ensure access to water for all.
Boots on the ground
Listening to the news, I keep hearing former Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker John Boehner and Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham and other Republicans saying we will need American boots on the ground against the Islamic State militants.
My first thought was, Are any of these hawks getting their kids signed up to fill some of these boots?
I don’t mean boots behind a desk. I mean out in the heat and sand carrying a weapon. These people will send our family members to fight, die or get captured and possibly beheaded by these barbarians but won’t send their kids.
I say maybe after we see all these hawks’ family members out in the front lines, then I as a 78-year-old Navy veteran would volunteer to join them. I feel very safe making that statement because I doubt I will ever hear of or have to join all of these people’s kids over there in the fighting.
One former senator answered an email I sent him, saying he was a proud father of a family member in Iraq. I said if that family member wasn’t sitting behind a desk I highly commend him.
I never received an answer.
Respect and condolences are due to the families of Peter Kassig, James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Alan Henning and dozens of others (11-17, A1, “U.S. man’s beheading is a shift”). So isn’t it about time to stop using the word “beheaded” with such sensational frequency?
These men were murdered. Although the details and the means of their murders are an important part of an in-depth discussion, this colorful descriptor used every time only serves to make each story unnecessarily gruesome.
Let’s save the overly provocative words for the movies and pulp fiction. Report the facts, respect the families and discuss how a violent group of misguided murderers has risen to such worldwide prominence.
Hint: The news media are helping.
I grow sick and tired of National Football League players attempting to show they have spent valuable game preparation time perfecting ludicrous dance moves.
It appears they are so hungry for attention that the roar of the crowd, the change in the numbers on the scoreboard and their names boldly announced over the public address system do nothing to satisfy their egos. Perhaps they fear that might be their last chance at fame and attention.
I played college football more than 50 years ago. To this day, I remember a game early my freshman year.
On an amazing play, a senior star player intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, then did a bit of showboating in the end zone. The player was pulled from the game and benched.
After the game in the locker room, the coach spoke to the entire team and said: “From now on, when you make a big play like that, act like you have been there before and plan to be back again. Hand the ball to the nearest official and exit the field like a gentleman satisfied with what he has just accomplished for his team.”
Warren R. Smith
Seniors, heads up. You have an important decision to make. Open enrollment for Medicare started Oct. 15 and continues until Dec. 7. Your choices make a difference for you and all taxpayers.
Some like the Medicare Advantage plans. They are certainly well advertised. They can be free, or inexpensive, or so it seems. In fact, they are great insurance if you never need medical care.
But before you sign up, consider carefully the co-pays and approval process.
Case in point. A patient I know had an out-patient procedure; the co-pay was $300. Much later, information arrived about the actual amount the plan paid — $58.64. The co-pay for a routine office visit was $45; the plan paid $26.19. Does that sound like insurance to you?
By law, Medicare pays 80 percent of your doctor and hospital costs. You can buy supplemental insurance to pay part or all of the 20 percent.
Patients in the Advantage plans cost U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars more than those on regular Medicare, and it may well cost you more as well.
Shop carefully and read the fine print.