Scandal shows need to simplify tax code

After many discussions about revising the tax code, the recent IRS scandals emphasize that lawmakers need to get serious about this issue.

First, the IRS agents should have met their deadlines in a timely manner responding to those who applied for tax-exempt status. On the other hand, we should not be giving tax-exempt status to a majority of 501(c)(4) organizations, if any, knowing that many use funding to conduct mostly political activities.

Tax-exempt status was originally designed for 501(c)(3) organizations to allow them to use a greater portion of funding received to serve their clients and utilize only minimal unrestricted funds to politically advocate for their clients when necessary.

When I was board chair for an AIDS service organization in another state, we used unrestricted funds to meet with key state legislators to stop the governor's plan to cut funding for substance-abuse programs that were successful.

A solution to the tax code is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Set a flat tax for all individuals so everyone pays their fair share and the wealthy should give more, perhaps to reputable charities and not more to the government. Then the president and Congress could work to eliminate most of IRS to do its only truly needed functions.

Kurt Kleier

Oakland

Americans must reduce salt intake


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As a cardiologist, I take issue with the recent report from the Institute of Medicine on "healthy" levels of sodium. The American Heart Association strongly urges Americans to lower sodium consumption from the current average of 3,400 milligrams a day to 1,500 mg a day.

Not only does the IOM recommend reducing sodium consumption only to 2,300 mg a day, the institute failed to address sodium's direct link to high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, which afflicts 67 million Americans, is called the "silent killer" for a reason. Thirty-five percent of heart attacks and strokes, 49 percent of heart failure and 24 percent of premature deaths have been blamed on high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association advocates educating consumers about the high levels of sodium present in the food supply -- especially processed food and restaurant meals. The AHA supports federal regulations that would limit the amount of sodium in foods -- ironically the primary strategy stated in a 2010 IOM report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States.

Dr. Matthew DeVane

President, East Bay Board of Directors, American Heart Associati Alamo

Lake Merritt project is a job well done

Great job, Oakland, on the Lake Merritt project.

I work near the Lake Merritt BART station and have been watching the process for the last several years -- from the renovation of the boathouse to the new bridge and park on the west end of the lake.

Thank you for turning this into the gem it deserves to be.

Maureen Gaffney

Larkspur

Clarifying remarks in story about rape

My comment in the April 21 article, "Teen sex culture," deserves further context.

I wholeheartedly believe that rape will always be rape -- there are no blurred lines when it comes to sexual assault.

Unfortunately, sexual assault and sexual exploitation are not being clearly defined for our young people.

The brutality and violence often associated with rape can sometimes cause a person to second guess whether they were just victimized or not. Young girls (and boys) need to know that they do not need to be coerced into "giving it up freely."

Coercion is an insidious form of sexual assault, otherwise known as date rape. I've talked to many young girls who truly believe that if a boy takes them out, they are obligated to have sex with them. Girls need to learn that a date is not a sexual obligation.

In no way am I saying that a young female brings rape upon herself through social networking. When pictures and posts are out there, they may create a belief that she is a willing participant, which may not be the case at all. Girls need to know that they do not have to sexualize themselves to be loved.

Paullette Segovia

Antioch

Stokes a great man with great vision

I had the privilege of working with Bill Stokes from 1970-1974. He was a great guy.

He knew everyone's name and always showed his love of BART -- a simple vision I used my entire 30 career and I still have it.

Sorry to hear of his passing. I'm sure he was a great grandpa.

Chuck Brown

San Leandro