Greed, income inequality

Not surprisingly, in his recent guest commentary in the Times, Tom Terrill, CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council, comes out on the BART management side of the current dispute.

Terrill claims, "The private sector has seen significant reductions in pay, medical benefits, pensions and other financial issues."

While this might be true for many workers, we can look at Social Security's national average wage index to see that the average wage has gone up in every year between 1951 and 2011, except 2009. The 2011 average ($42,979) is about 25 percent above 2001 ($32,921).

The problem is the distribution: The gains in our economy are concentrated in the upper income levels. We've reached new highs in income inequality in a global "race to the bottom" for the American worker.

Civil service has always been viewed as a compromise for those who choose it. They would never get rich and the work might be repetitive and boring, but the jobs were well-benefitted and stable.

In the wake of a financial crisis caused by corporate greed, many private sector workers were indeed battered into accepting cutbacks in benefits and wages. After Terrill's "recalibration," profits rose and the Dow is now at record highs.


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As the wealthiest Americans feast, civil servants are pitted against private sector workers in a fight over the leftovers. Wanting enough compensation to buy a house and raise a healthy family is not greed, it is the post World War II grand bargain that made this country enviable.

Jim Beller

Albany

Don't define 'liberal' for me

This is in reply to Mark Marcotte's Sept. 30 letter in the Times, "How do you know if you're a liberal?"

To begin with, I don't need or want a term such as "liberal" to be defined by anyone. The word "liberal" had long been used by right-wing conservatives as a dirty word to describe wimpy Democrats, much the same way they use the word "tree-hugger" to label someone who wants to preserve the environment.

Since Marcotte took the opportunity to define what a liberal is, I think it's only fair to allow me to define a conservative.

You are a conservative if you believe that since you got yours you should forget everyone else. You are a conservative if you prefer development over preservation and if you prefer the same old way to trying something new. You are a conservative if you don't support civil rights or a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.

To me, being a liberal means helping those who are less fortunate than most of us. It means supporting ethnic diversity. And it means supporting civil rights for all Americans.

Perhaps if I lived in the affluent, mostly white community of Danville, I might think differently ... but I doubt it.

David Matthews

El Cerrito

Bringing down our economy

Republicans in Congress -- this has nothing to do with the Democrats -- run around as though the sky has fallen.

So, in order to obstruct universal health care, something that our competitors worldwide have enjoyed all their lives, they are willing to bring our own economy to its knees.

What a pathetic exercise in cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

Mike Bloxham

Kensington

An Alzheimer's registry needed

In her Sept. 20 letter, Karen Stevenson states that Alzheimer's disease is " the only leading cause of death that can't be prevented, reversed, or even slowed."

One overlooked answer to Alzheimer's is prevention. Billions of dollars spent on dementia research have failed families like mine. I am 86 years of age; to my knowledge our family has lost eight persons to Alzheimer's, three in my generation.

I feel the United States should be involved in establishing a national/international registry to record statistics on the histories of millions of dementia patients, including families like mine. Computerized statistics are capable of providing possible causes, treatment, and prevention of dementia. Pathologies, injuries, genetics and environment can be vital comparable issues in such a registry.

I have sent this suggestion to legislators, the online National Alzheimer's Plan, AARP, and Alzheimer's Association. They have unaccountably ignored it, despite the fact my suggestion of such a registry was posted online in the Alzheimer's Research Forum on preventdisease.com, celiac.com, and other media.

France and other European countries have begun recording such statistics. Apparently, their research is not beholden, as ours appears to be, to seemingly incurable limitations of government and pharmaceutical interests.

Events such as Alzheimer's Action Day have not changed the U.S. stagnation on prevention research, ignoring current progressive communication capabilities.

Gerta Farber

Berkeley

Saving money, or being mean

In Washington, D.C., a brand new barbed-wire barricade is stopping us from walking through the outdoor World War II Memorial. And the Lincoln Memorial is barricaded. Also, the gates at Grand Canyon are closed.

Why? Is this President Obama being mean?

When I visited these public outdoor destinations, it did not require any federal employees to do anything. In fact, I did not see any federal employees at the two above-mentioned memorials. Now it requires federal employees to keep us out.

Wow, what a powerful president we have!

When Obama encountered the sequestration, he closed the White House to all visitors. It is estimated that will save $1.8 million per year. However, Obama took his family and assistants on vacation to Africa the next month, costing us about $100 million.

He showed us what's fair and who's the boss!

Mike Vukelich

El Cerrito

Cyberbullying needs scrutiny

I applaud California legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown for passing SB 568 into law last week.

While the bill has several provisions, its main purpose is to give minors a process to delete their own postings from social media. After all, a do-over is something we all need as we come of age.

However, I must address a glaring concern that was only briefly mentioned in the article describing passage of the bill. The law implies that minors have sole control over the life span of their online posts. This is simply not true. As law professor Eric Goldman states, the law creates "the illusion of control."

We all know that a post can go viral in seconds. All it takes is one repost and the removal right, a key piece of the law, is null and void. Also, while many youths post content about themselves, we cannot forget about youths who post content about their peers.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue, which often results in detrimental physical and mental health outcomes for its victims. We cannot forget Rebecca Ann Sedwick, Tyler Clementi, and others who took their lives after their peers virtually attacked them.

Any law related to young people's use of social media should take cyberbullying into account.

Alaya Levi Salley

Emeryville