It's a bad idea to bypass lawmakers

Thomas Sowell's column, "Presidential election about America's survival," is insightful.

As an attorney, I was appalled when the Obama administration implemented much of the Dream Act through an executive order after Congress would not pass it. While the Dream Act may be laudable, implementation through executive fiat weakens our constitutional system.

Recently, presidents have used executive orders or "signing statements" to advance policies that could not pass Congress. These weaken our system under which Congress makes the laws, the president executes the laws and the courts interpret the laws. We are a government of laws and not of men, even presidents who believe an existing law unwise. Departing from this standard, even for compelling reasons, diminishes our capacity for self-government.

The play "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt provides a compelling argument for the rule of law. The play is about Sir Thomas More, who was executed after refusing to recognize the legitimacy of King Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church. The pertinent dialogue follows:

More: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, Roper, the laws being all flat?

Those who celebrate President Obama's circumvention of Congress to implement the Dream Act and advocate he advance more policies this way, should be careful what they wish for.

Mark Said

San Ramon

Pension 'reform' just a Band-Aid approach

I offer this in regard to the current "pension reform" being advanced in Sacramento: true pension reform requires public/private equity.

The current proposal to "reform" pension plans for state employees is far from a cure, in fact, it is but a Band-Aid approach to a sucking chest wound. True legislative courage would be to pass a program that provides for all future state employees to have what most private sector employees have -- a 401K program or its equivalent with employee contributions made at the discretion of the employee with a reasonable match by the employer, a limit on the number of vacation or sick or personal days that can be carried over from one year to the next, no for-life health plans paid for by the employer and no defined pension plan at all. Public sector employees can no longer hang their collective hats on the "we-earn-less-so-we-need-more-for-retirement" mantra of the past decades. Public employee jobs are the most sought-after positions. Why? Well, because they pay the same as the private sector, have lucrative retirement benefits, offer more paid holidays than private sector positions, reward longevity (not performance) and are virtually impossible to be discharged from unless a felony is committed. And then maybe a termination with some type of severance package is worked out.

Taxpayers are paying government servants benefits and retirement packages that professionals in private practice cannot hope to achieve. True reform is what is necessary -- this proposal is sending a boy to do a man's work.

Robert Hodges

Alamo

State not as bad off as Greece, but it's gaining

An article in the Aug. 27 Times asked, "Is the California economy as bad as that of Greece?" This article had interesting comparisons, but the analysis was severely flawed, since it compared only California's state taxes and debt to Greece.

A more correct comparison would also include Californians' share of federal taxes and the national debt. When looked at in this way, Californians' debt is more like 109 percent of GDP, versus 165 percent for Greece. The combination of state and federal taxes for Californians is more like 35 percent of GDP, still well below Greece's 50 percent level, but a much larger figure than in the article. The above figures don't include local property and sales taxes, but it's not clear to me if the Greece figures include them.

No, we're not yet in as bad of an economic shape as Greece. But we are getting closer every year, with four years of record deficits at the national level and state spending and debt that are growing far faster than California's population (and GDP). The figures are derived from www.usdebtclock.org.

Robert Schleicher

Danville

Remember loved ones who've passed

Despite rapid change across the globe, some things remain constant.

For instance, we all die, and for countless ages people have used custom and ritual to honor and remember those departed. Every church in America used to have an adjacent burial ground where often generations of family shared space. Those whose lives have been exceptional are often interred in places such as Westminster Abbey, where they are remembered for their contributions to humanity. Few visit Washington, D.C., without stopping at the stark and powerful Vietnam Memorial.

But despite all of that shared history and tradition and the desire to have loved ones nearby, some residents of Danville have decided to call a sacred space "a wall of death." Really? And traffic? News alert -- these folks don't drive anymore!

Property values? Nope, those were diminished by financial players who got big bonuses, not a spot of tasteful remembrance for Mom. In a nation with millions living in poverty, millions more unable to be treated for simple medical problems and a creaky economy, this is the greatest threat to your well-being?

Get a grip, celebrate life and let our loved ones be honored and remembered in the places where they lived.

Ron Kuhlmann

Danville

Hooray for champs of Little League!

My name is Ben Clark, and I just turned 12 years old. This summer I got a chance to play for my SRV (San Ramon Valley Little League) baseball all-star team.

I love baseball, and I would like to congratulate the Petaluma team on their (Little League) World Series success. They really played well. I would also like to congratulate the other teams including Uganda, Japan and Tennessee. Every year I can't wait to watch the Little League World Series. These kids that are playing are my age, and some of them are having three home run games against kids pitching 70 mph that are 6 feet tall. I have always dreamed about being in the championship game of the Little League World Series. I hope some day that that will happen. This year the Petaluma-vs.-Tennessee game was incredible. I am looking forward to watch the Little League World Series next year. Congratulations to all the boys in the area who play baseball and especially to Petaluma for representing Northern California so well.

Ben Clark

Alamo