Having read the letter from George Kochis (Dec. 13), I feel compelled to respond.
I am not a resident of Wilkes-Barre. Certainly, I am in complete agreement with George's position on how disgraceful it was for the firefighters to be dismissed from their positions due to budget problems.
Whether it was prior to Christmas or not, is irrelevant, although it does reinforce the misery to these people and their families.
Firefighters should be among the last to be sacrificed for budgetary and/or fiscal problems. They are so significant to any community. When they accept the position and the requisite training they also accept the concept of being in harm's way.
I was incredulous when I first read about these layoffs. I do not know any of the firefighters, but I feel it is shameful for the mayor of any community to make them sacrificial lambs. And, make no mistake, that is precisely how they should be characterized.
There are individuals employed in Wilkes-Barre City government with positions nowhere near as essential as the firefighters. The mayor could have sacrificed at least part of his salary. The council members, particularly those with other positions, could have relinquished their entire salaries.
Mister Mayor, do the right thing. Call these people back to their posts. Like the police, they are protectors of residents. Nothing less should be acceptable.
The three costliest items in our government are SSI, Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense and they can all be cut by 20 percent and never skip a beat. SSI: get the money back from our in house thieves who permanently borrowed from it with no intention of repaying it. Crack down big time on the SSI disability fakes. Stop supporting alcoholics, drug addicts, morbidly obese and reel in the second- and third-generation career welfare groups. Bring SSI back to what it was initially intended to be.....scrap the free cellphones.
Medicare: Reduce and try to eliminate the massive fraud. Eliminate duplication of services and unneccesary testing. As a Medicare user, if you see an irregularity on your explanation of benefits report it. It's your money being abused. The eligibility age could be raised by a year or two.
Department of Defense: Start at the top by reducing the number of generals by 50 percent. As they retire, don't replace them until we reach that percentage. Give the responsibility to full-bird colonels and eliminate the rank of lieutenant colonel. Come down hard on defense contractors and eliminate their carte blanche. Every agency in the department can be cut 20 percent and not only remain completely functional but another much needed division could be created. Increase stateside tours of duty to ease the cost of moving military families so often. Right now it's usually about a two-year tour and then it's rotation time; make it three or four years. Although the Coast Guard currently comes under the Department of Homeland Security, consider privatizing it.
Once we get our financial house in order and become the lending nation instead of the borrower then and only then can we take another look at things. For right now and the foreseeable future it's crunch time.
Instead of leading and working around the clock, face to face with the Republican leadership to find a real solution to the fiscal cliff, the president is doing the only job he knows how to do, engaging in populist rhetoric as the country's community organizer in chief. This strategy, after all, worked during his first term and got him re-elected when people found solace in his message of class envy, blame and the promise of something for nothing.
Although this strategy has ensured support from shortsighted voters of today, the citizens of tomorrow, our children and grandchildren are being shackled to a future of diminished expectations. The fiscal cliff is only the start of our potential demise as a nation. Once we hit the floor after falling from the cliff in a few years we will be buried by the fiscal avalanche. Obama has demonstrated a total lack of insight and leadership in taking on this threat to America and her economy -- national debt. Rather than committing to specific and necessary cuts to federal spending, the president has chosen only to call for revenue increases through taxing the rich. While this plays well in the realm of class warfare it does not begin to curtail our debt.
As I am typing this letter, the national debt stands at $16,377,017,116,195.32. Think about that number compared to the population of the United States, which is, approximately 314,038,455. This means that every person has a share of more than $52,149.71 owed on the nation's debt and the pricetag only increases with each passing day. Since 2008 Obama has increased the national debt by more than $6 trillion.
In January of 2012 the national debt hit a grim milestone and became equal to the annual amount of the nation's gross domestic product. What the federal government owes its creditors and so-called trust funds of federal programs such as Social Security is equal to the value of everything our economy produces and will begin to exceed it. No amount of increased tax revenue will be able to pay off what our government owes in principle and interest. As the debt continues to balloon, it threatens our ability to pay for things such as education, the military and health care.
Last summer Obama seemed to exhibit some leadership and commissioned a bipartisan group of lawmakers to examine the federal deficit. They came up with the Bowles-Simpson Plan, which would begin to address our debt crisis by slowing its growth through reasonable cuts to the federal budget to include entitlement and military spending and revenue increases through some moderate tax increases. Obama did not work with Republican leaders and did not use the presidential bully pulpit to bring national attention to the issue. Instead, he and the Congress agreed to disagree and put off working on the issue until after the election. Now, rather than making the tough choices through negotiation, Obama is using the bully pulpit to push a populist agenda that will not solve the growing burden we are leaving our progeny.
The major contributing factor to the nation's debt is our spending on government-funded entitlements, namely Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and soon, Obamacare. These programs have grown dramatically due to the aging of the baby boom generation but also because of the stagnant economy. Eventually the money will run out and future generations will be left with the difficult decisions of drastically increasing taxes and cutting federal spending. In the end, those people who do genuinely need assistance will go without, the tax-paying middle class will be destroyed under the burden of high taxes and spending on crucial elements such as education and the military will be cut leading to a diminished America.
If fairness is what Obama is after, why not introduce a means test for individuals filing for such benefits as Medicare or Social Security? There is a big difference between a senior citizen who has been a working-class person with a limited potential to save and invest money and one who has earned a large amount of salary through the years and has been able to save and invest. There is also a huge difference between a person born with mental disabilities and someone who abuses drugs and falls into depression. Under the current standard, all these individuals receive the same benefits, this leads to insolvency of these programs. More closely scrutinizing and limiting recipients of government entitlement programs will improve the fiscal health of the programs, improve the services delivered to those who truly need them, and ensure they exist for future generations.
Mark H. Adelson Laflin John Mihalchik Sr. Ashley Edward Chronowski Wilkes-Barre