Magazine

Sizing Up John Kerry's Battle Plan


John Kerry doesn't say he plans to raise taxes on the rich, preferring the slick phrase "rolling back" the tax cuts ("Kerry's battle plan," Cover Story, Aug. 2). But whose money is it in the first place? The Democratic Party doesn't wish to recognize that it is the wealthy paying the most taxes to begin with, and someone who paid zero taxes is obviously not going to get a tax break.

There are two ways to view this: You can view a tax break either as a "gift" from the government, or that going forward they will "steal" less of your hard-earned money so that you can spend it as you wish. Using the phrase "rolling back" implies that Kerry views the tax cut as a gift from the government.

It's not the government's money -- it's your money. Let's not forget that.

Benjamin M. Zeloof

Bridgewater, N.J.

YOUR COVERAGE of Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry raises the issue of Kerry's use of his military service in Vietnam as a campaign asset. I find this use of wartime service confusing at best.

While Senator Kerry has surrounded himself with a made-for-photo-ops veterans crew at public gatherings, he selected a man with no military experience, Senator John Edwards, as his running mate and supported a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton, whose own lack of military service was a major issue during his election campaign.

When I was in Vietnam, where I served as a Red Cross hospital worker in the early 1970s, there was a phrase that summed up much of the absurdity of the war: "It don't mean nothing." That could be said today of Mr. Kerry's selective devotion to the armed forces and veterans.

Joan M. Maiman

Chicago

The troubles of Europe will become the troubles of the U.S. if the Democrats and labor unions get their way ("Europe: Staring into the abyss," Economic Viewpoint, Aug. 2). Europe's answer to the problem, of course, has been to attempt to hobble the U.S. with the same kinds of social burdens it faces. Europe has discovered the price it has to pay for the failure to have responsible government. Democrats have not. Once trained to expect more of the same, Europeans' ability to change is most unlikely.

Let me see: Was Margaret Thatcher more similar to the Republican (maybe the conservative Republican) model or the Democratic "give them anything they want" model? The notion of robbing Peter to pay Paul, while earning Paul's undying support, results in today's Europe. Soon the U.S. may only have the productive Peters paying the bills. That is when the demise of democracy and capitalism accelerates.

Don R. Sherwood

Boulder, Colo.

I buy Coke (KO) because I like its taste -- and not the taste of Pepsi (PEP) or Mountain Dew, which I have tried ("Cult brands," Special Report, Aug. 2). I couldn't care less about brand. I buy Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) machines because they are far more user-friendly than PCs. If PepsiCo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) improved their products, I would switch back to them. Brand is garbage; performance is everything.

Donald E. Brown

Fairfax, Va.

While your Aug. 2 editorial "The real middle class squeeze" correctly analyzes the effect of the "core" inflation on the median family whose income is up 8% from 2000 to 2004, it completely neglects to mention the dramatic effect of the "middle" inflation on the ever-increasing group of retirees.

L.J. Fanta

DeBary, Fla.

"Why the GOP has a Medicare headache" (Washington Outlook, July 26) is not up to your usual standards of accuracy, as any senior citizen will tell you. This act is a government giveaway to the HMOs and the drug companies. My congressman sent me several pages from the Congressional Record of testimony by congressional representatives stating what was wrong with the law. Not only will the drug card not save much money but better, larger drug discounts are available from many sources, including neighborhood pharmacies. One of the biggest problems is the law states that the U.S. government cannot negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare. That is tantamount to telling the drug companies to "go ahead and raise prices some more." Just what seniors need.

Morley G. Melden

Monroe Township, N.J.

The development of stem-cell lines that can produce many tissues of the human body is an important scientific breakthrough, with the potential to revolutionize medicine and improve the quality and length of life ("The stem-cell flap: Simmer down," News: Analysis & Commentary, July 26). Anyone who has watched relatives, friends, or co-workers suffer with a neurological disease can attest to their devastation, the pain, and the anguish. Any relief is welcome and should be supplied. The hope that a patient could experience some respite or that a family might enjoy more time with the sufferer is an overwhelming prospect.

My mother passed away from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a Parkinson's-like disease, on Mar. 15, 2003. It was a long, torturous, and heroic fight. But in the end, PSP won. How I wish my mother could have suffered less and how I wish I could have had more time with her. Stem-cell research has the potential to grant those wishes to subsequent generations.

Diane E. Alter

Long Branch, N.J.

Coming from the medical and pharmaceutical industries, I find the ideas in "The new accountability" (News: Analysis & Commentary, July 26) to be too little, too late. For 35, maybe 40, years, the Food & Drug Administration has held drug company presidents and CEOs personally and criminally liable for the actions, inactions, and failures of their company's processes and products.

One can argue that, from the standpoint of the shareholder, the "product" they are most concerned with is properly earned profit. These companies are among the most complex entities in the world to manage, not including the obligations of sound financial management. It should be far less difficult to monitor and be responsible just for "the numbers," particularly when you are buying and selling a commodity, doing no R&D, and putting no one's health -- other than financial -- at risk.

John E. Marshall

Durango, Colo.

As I read "Can football be saved?" (Cover Story, July 19), I was puzzled. Is European football's main business on the pitch or does the main priority lie with marketing and brand strengthening? True, the latter is essential for the clubs' survival, and it should not be ignored. However, clubs should be wary in avoiding the path taken this season by Real Madrid Football Club, which boasts a franchise valued second only to Manchester United. The club finished last season trophy-less, but no eyebrows were raised, possibly because of the club's financial gains in the Far East with an increase in revenue from their franchises.

So what then, I ask, is Europe's elite club's main focus? Is it their success in consumership or their performance on the pitch? Surely consumers will get tired of purchasing brands of an underperforming club.

Kagwe Njoroge

Nairobi

I enjoyed your article highlighting football's perilous financial state, especially in lower leagues, but I was very disappointed by the conclusion that the best solution would be to end the relegation/promotion system that runs in most leagues. As your article notes, fan interest in, and consumer spending on, football is higher than ever. The relegation/promotion system -- which genuinely rewards success and penalizes failure, however painful -- is a major reason for that.

The best way to put football back on its feet is almost certainly to cap player wages, not abolish relegation or "create a permanent elite league," as your article also suggests. Anyone who has sat through a few seasons of Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, or the National Football League can tell you that permanent premier leagues end up robbing sport of competitive meaning and eventually kill fan interest, especially once the chances of "silverware" disappear for another year.

David Ernsberger

Singapore

First, the Football Assn. Premier League is not British; it's English. Welsh clubs are eligible (but none qualify), and Scotland has its own version. Second, you're wrong to pan the system of annual "relegation and promotion" between leagues of different standards. That provides some of the wildest and most exciting games to end each season. There's nothing comparable in American sports. The business implications could easily be stabilized if Europe changed to two up/two down, or even one up/one down at the higher levels. To cushion the financial impact, the Premier League gives a cash grant of around 10 million pounds to each relegated team. Wouldn't we all have fun watching the New York Yankees relegated to Triple-A ball?

Finally, you omit any mention of the most successful team in England for the past three or four years -- and it's not Manchester United! With about 60% of Man U's revenue, Arsenal regularly tops them, primarily by having the best financial and field manager in Europe, Arsene Wenger.

John Warren

Round Rock, Tex.

Your profile of Bruce C. Ratner of Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCEA) glosses over the public outcry about his proposed Brooklyn Atlantic Yards development: a project that includes 17 massive towers, in successful neighborhoods of low-rise, mixed-use buildings ("New York's other real estate mogul," People, July 19). The opposition is led by elected officials representing the area including the congressman, state senator, and me, a city council member. This could cost taxpayers $1.1 billion, according to a fiscal impact study, and does not provide for any governmental oversight.

Letitia James

Council Member of the City of New York

Brooklyn, N.Y.

So Wall Street males still aren't passing the sex discrimination test ("A bad deal for women," Finance, July 26). If they were truly "the best and the brightest" -- as they would have us believe -- they would get rid of the unjust attitudes that make the rest of us lose respect for them. And to top it off, they think we should let them handle our money. Buyer beware.

Grace Todd

Idaho Springs, Colo.


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