Letters To The Editor 2/4/2019

February 4, 2019

Threat to VA system

Editor: There has been much recent activity and commentary concerning congressional desire to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs health care.

By every measurable standard, those of us who use VA health care rate it higher than similar ratings in the civilian community. According to the Congressional Budget Office, VA health care is also more cost-effective. Those who wish to take over VA health care have no desire to take over the Veterans Administration. Let the VA take on the role of an HMO and keep the VA Benefits Administration, national cemeteries, home loans, educational grants and medical research. There is no profit there but big pharma and the medical nabobs drool over the prospects of getting control of VA health care.

The attack on VA health care is part of the Koch brothers’ open-markets, anti-government philosophy. Their mouthpiece is the advocacy group known as the Concerned Veterans for America, which fronts as a veterans organization. It is held in contempt by 30 or more veterans organizations that provide services for veterans. While true veterans organizations advocate for veterans and members of our armed forces they are prohibited from engaging in politics. Concerned Veterans for America openly contributes to and supports political candidates and causes that are funded through organizations controlled by the Koch brothers.

The VA provides free health care for the treatment of service-connected disabilities and for those rated as 100 percent service-connected, health care has no cost.

Veterans must be aware of what this might cost them. Some bills in Congress contain language about means- testing, co-pays or deductibles. Should privatization become law, it might hit veterans right in the pocket. Veterans should not be fooled by the rhetoric and half-truths but be aware and ensure that your representatives in Congress know where you stand.




Base wage hike bad

Editor: A recent Times-Tribune editorial calling for an increase to the state’s minimum wage (“Make higher base wage top priority,” Jan. 2) glosses over the unintended consequences that result from government- mandated hikes to entry-level wages.

Studies show that these policies lead to negative impacts on employment, including job loss. A Congressional Budget Office report found that an increase to $10.10 an hour would result in the loss of 500,000 to 1 million jobs nationwide. Small businesses are among the hardest hit by mandatory increases to entry-level wages. The last time Pennsylvania raised the minimum wage, many small-business owners were forced to halt hiring, reduce employee hours and, in some instances, cut jobs due to the strain on already thin profit margins.

The editorial board cites a study from the University of Washington, which found that Seattle’s minimum wage increase to $13 an hour actually led to a reduction in average take-home pay for low-wage workers. The editorial board notes that this study was revised, but omits that the revised version still concluded that average take-home declined and simply clarified what no one disputes: that some individuals benefit from a mandated wage increase, but others are hurt — including the people these types of policies are intended to help.

Interestingly, while The Times-Tribune supports a statewide minimum wage increase, the newspaper industry enjoys exemptions under state law. How can this news outlet argue for government-mandated wage hikes when its own industry successfully has sought exemptions from the mandate?

Policymakers and advocates ought to pursue policies that help low-wage earners without risking jobs, like stronger job training programs and more targeted support to low-income families, such as a state-earned income tax credit.






To Russia with love

Editor: What is going on with the Republicans and the Russians?

Nearly every day we learn of more connections, compliance and catering to Russian officials. Every week another of Trump’s cronies gets caught or charged with lying about dealings with Russians. The Republican Treasury secretary, for no particular reason, just lifted sanctions against a Russian oligarch’s companies, telling us to trust the administration. Why trust an administration that is completely untrustworthy?

This action directly benefited Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who has alleged connections to President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was convicted of bank and tax fraud charges.

In addition, Russians donated to the NRA. Would someone explain why Russians pump money into the NRA? The NRA then uses donations to help fund the campaigns of Republican politicians. Does anyone see a pattern here?

To top it all off, last year in Helsinki, Finland, the president engaged in the most disgraceful display of weakness we have ever seen from an American president, siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his denial of Russian interference in our 2016 elections. Seventeen of our intelligence agencies confirm that Russia interfered. Yet Trump chose the word of the brutal Russian dictator over our American intelligence experts in front of the whole world. So, after witnessing all of these dubious activities, a question remains: Who do Trump and his Republican cohorts actually work for, Americans or Russians?




Equal justice

Editor: The investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has been falsely accused of rank partisanship and bias.

It has been called a “witch hunt.” The recent arrest of Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Trump, proves it isn’t. Stone, just like every other American, will have a chance to defend himself in court and legally he will be innocent until he admits guilt or a jury of his peers finds him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But even before a trial, the indictment is clearly not a partisan document.

Mueller, a lifelong Republican, brought charges before a grand jury against Stone, also a Republican, for lying to a Republican-controlled congressional committee. Clearly, the dispute isn’t about partisanship. It’s about the rule of law and whether the law applies equally to everyone. Republicans have long believed that it should. It’s good to see that it still does.




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