Letters To The Editor 12/30/2018

December 30, 2018
Letters To The Editor 12/30/2018

Time for austerity

Editor: I find it laughable that the Scranton School Board has asked nonprofits to help it balance yet another multimillion-dollar budget deficit (“School board to seek donations,” Dec. 26).

The board blames the deficit primarily on unfunded federal and state-mandated

requirements, but I blame the board for years of fiscal mismanagement. Is there anything the board can do to balance its budget short of bake sales, car washes and outright begging?

There is, but it involves a large dose of tough love. Begin by calculating total revenue — and potential revenue from nonprofits doesn’t count. Next, make a prioritized list of all expenses — federal and state requirements at the top, nice-to-do expenses at the bottom. Finally, go down the list of expenses until revenues run out. Everything above that point gets funded; everything below it does not.

If any federal or state requirements are not funded, seek help from those legislatures. If people complain about such an austere budget, send me their names. I will donate a box of tissues to each of them.

All nonprofits should give back to the community, but that support does not have to be a payment in lieu of taxes. For example, local universities can offer reduced tuition to city residents as an incentive to live, work and pay taxes in Scranton. But there is no point in donating money to an entity that cannot, or will not, put its financial house in order. I will not support a nonprofit that would waste my money by giving it to the Scranton School Board.

It’s time for the board to do what the rest of us do — live within its means. If that doesn’t happen, the state should step in and place the school district in receivership. Hopefully, adult leadership by outsiders will fix the problem once and for all.




Hazardous craft

Editor: “Journalism will kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it,” said newspaper editor and author Horace Greeley, who often is credited with the quote, “Go west, young man.”

The Fourth Estate has been bullied, scorned and ridiculed in the era of President Donald Trump. While convenient bromides such as fake news, alternative truths and burying one’s vacuous head in the proverbial sandbox of ignorance may appear to cause no real harm, journalists still remain at risk in multiple places across the world.

At least 30 journalists worldwide have been killed this year. Many died on the front lines of some of the biggest unknown, unreported and important stories on the globe today. News stories speak truth to power and chronicle the blight of the disenfranchised, the struggles and suffering of the marginal and the afflicted.

So, let’s honor the fallen journalists of 2018. Even if you don’t recognize their work and find it fake, they have been working for you, to enlighten and inform you. To paraphrase the French Enlightenment era writer Voltaire, journalists might not agree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it.




Set fair rules

Editor: Procedural rules in the Pennsylvania Legislature put too much power in the hands of too few, making it almost impossible for lawmakers to represent us fairly and to conduct the people’s business in good faith.

Under current rules, committee chairmen can cause a bill to languish in committee or materially alter it beyond its original intent. Even if a bill is voted out of committee, the speaker of the House of Representatives can refuse to place it on the calendar for a vote.

In the 2018-19 session, bills with broad bipartisan support didn’t get passed, such as one to reform redistricting, which was co-sponsored by a majority of House members.

It’s time to change that. The 2019-20 legislative session starts Tuesday, when the first item of business to be taken up by the House will be to pass procedural rules. House members could even lock in bad rules for the entire session, as they did on Jan. 1, 2017, by passing a rule to forbid revising the rules.

Representatives should support rules reforms that ensure bills that have bipartisan support get a vote in committee, that bills reported favorably from committee are guaranteed debate and a vote on the House floor and that bills move regularly through the process, rather than being used in power plays in the last few days of session.

There is a bipartisan effort to reform the rules. Changes could be put into place through amendments introduced on the first day of the session or later, through a commission created to recommend reforms. Most important, bad rules should not be locked in to start the session.




Drug reform overdue

Editor: The rigging of generic drug prices by major manufacturers to artificially keep prices much higher than justified shows that drug companies need to be carefully monitored.

The opioid epidemic, for instance, has been fueled by huge amounts of drugs being sold without anyone in the pharmaceutical industry questioning the quantity being sold. The huge amounts of money generated by pharmaceutical sales can easily trigger greed in some executives, especially if their compensation correlates to company profits. Also, by not allowing Medicaid to fully and freely negotiate drug prices, the costs of many medications remain higher than what other insurers pay for the same drugs.

The costs of medications help offset and finance pharmaceutical research. But why should Americans be the ones to totally foot that bill? If drugmakers have issues with what they can sell their drugs for in other nations let then deal with those nations and not penalize us through higher prices.

To believe that companies won’t continue to fund research and present new medications isn’t very realistic. Of course they will develop new products, if for no other reason than the fear that their competitors will develop and profit from the next “miracle” drug. Drug prices in this country are in serious need of reform.



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