ENTITLEMENT REFORM

No, boomers shouldn’t bear the burden

D.J. Tice’s March 16 column suggesting that baby boomers have an obligation to step up and fix entitlement programs was well-intentioned but seriously misguided. The entitlement funding problem is not about entitlement spending; it’s about how little money most American consumers of all generations have left to live and pay taxes, when business is tapping us for immense subsidies.

One example: Nationally, 33 percent of bank tellers are on public assistance. In New York, that rises to 39 percent. Who makes up what business refuses to pay but bank tellers have to spend to live? We citizens do in tax payments. We are subsidizing business, as we are in scads of other instances. And while we’re paying our taxes, companies like GE and Microsoft are finding loopholes.

We don’t have an entitlement expense problem. We have a revenue problem. Income inequality, which is hitting boomers full-bore, is exacerbating the issue, because we’re not earning enough to pay the taxes we used to (unless we’re in the top 20 percent).

Yes, we have an “entitlement” problem. But let’s solve it through fairness, not by unfairly loading the cost on baby boomers’ backs so business gets another free ride.

Dick Lee, St. Paul

• • •

Stripped of the misdirection, euphemism and obfuscation, what D.J. Tice is saying in his call to baby boomers for totally indeterminate action is that old people are just too darn expensive. Rather than taking responsibility for those views himself, he claims they are demanded by the laws of arithmetic. Funny, I recall no such demands by those elementary school textbooks from which I learned about numbers.

The fact is, abstractions, arithmetical or otherwise, don’t make demands, and they don’t make choices. Real, live people do. We all know that the baby boom generation constitutes a growing share of the population and requires increasing levels of health care, two consequences of the decisions to have children and not to die. Instead of hoping that the answer to the challenges presented by these demographic realities can be found in a third-grade textbook, we need to look at the realities of our health care system, the one with the highest costs in the world but far from the best results. And in the short term, that means ensuring that our elderly — and all of us, really — are provided the adequate health care we need, have earned and are entitled to, in ways that maintain economic viability.

Jon Miners, Crystal

 

ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Popular vote initiative would undo its flaws

“Lobbyists target Electoral College” (March 16) seemed a transparently biased attempt to discredit the motives of sponsors and supporters of the National Popular Vote initiative, which I knew of but was excited to learn is being actively advanced with Minnesota legislators.

The article’s author apparently wants readers to fear its purported outcome — that is, a concentration of campaign money and power influence in the largest states, to garner the electoral votes required for their desired victory, with the rest effectively ignored. This is exactly the current situation that the NPV initiative is intended to obviate!

Ten states have already adopted its practice of according all of their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national presidential vote, toward the end of ensuring a unifying outcome behind a single candidate. That tally now represents 136 votes, just more than half of the goal of 270. (See confirmation of these facts, and other initiative particulars, at nationalpopularvote.com.)

NPV is only one of several unaffiliated active election reform initiatives, each driven by concerned citizens from every walk of life, all dedicated to counter the pernicious undermining of our democratic processes that have resulted in an increasingly disengaged, discouraged electorate in all states, including our own.

Bill Hannon, Edina

 

CEO PAY

Do consumers have an obligation to walk?

If an investor believes the information is accurate in Lee Schafer’s March 16 column (“Two similar firms differ wildly on CEO pay”), why not withdraw funds as soon as possible from Ameriprise Financial Inc.? Its CEO, Jim Cracchiolo, received $92 million in pay and bonuses in 2013, compared with $3.55 million for Thrivent’s CEO. A rollover of the funds to a firm such as Thrivent Financial might be a small start in reversing the growing income gap between the 1-percenters and the rest of us. Meanwhile, the board of directors at Ameriprise might consider hiring a CEO who can work for a more reasonable salary — perhaps a fiduciary duty to shareholders?

Edward F. Shafer, Rochester

• • •

My husband and I are Ameriprise clients and very satisfied with our financial planner. But two years ago, we completed a client satisfaction survey and were critical of the way-over-the-top compensation for the CEO.

Excessive CEO pay and bonuses further concentrate great wealth in the hands of a few at the top. They also lead to unbecoming publicity for a firm that presumably hopes to hold onto current clients and acquire more.

Mr. Cracchiolo, are you listening?

Randi Luoto, Edina