At minimum, a tax disagreement
Re "Fair taxes, the AMT way," Opinion, Oct. 20
Michael Kinsley's interpretation of the alternative minimum tax bears minimal relation to reality. The actual amount bears little relation to his simple formula, primarily because it has no direct effect on long-term capital gains.
The 15% maximum rate for capital gains -- which I happily exploit -- is probably the most significant regressive item in the federal tax code.
All the AMT does is eliminate deductions, whether standard or itemized. Typically, itemized deductions are dominated by mortgages, state taxes, medical expenses and charitable contributions, but those could be limited more simply without AMT.
But how can anyone defend the taxation of state tax payments? Most states have highly regressive tax structures, and those with low (or zero) income tax rates tend to be the worst; California has a fairly flat tax structure overall. The AMT unfairly transfers income from the most progressive (usually blue) states to the most regressive (usually red) ones. That is indefensible.
Kinsley seems to imply that we need the AMT to make sure the rich pay some taxes. This is basically a con. As he well knows, the effect is harshest on taxpayers with annual incomes of $100,000 to $500,000. The truly rich typically are not affected because their regular tax rates already are higher than under the AMT.
Mill Valley, Calif.
The AMT is just another unintended consequence of our broken and destructive income tax system. The system is killing off the "Made in America" label, driving trillions of dollars offshore, and is an expensive annual torture for taxpayers. It has become an almost indecipherable patchwork quilt of congressional favors and punishments, a lucrative industry for tax lobbyists and a profitable playground for D.C. academicians.
The debate about fixing the AMT will reveal whether Congress is even capable of correcting this latest assault on taxpayers caused by its own error and compounded by bipartisan dishonesty in relying on the revenues.
If Kinsley likes the AMT as the new tax system, he should consider the Fair Tax, a progressive national sales tax that eliminates the embedded taxes killing American companies, deals tax lobbyists out and removes congressional politics from the national tax system.
Dim view of Festival of Lights
Re "Festival of Lights dims DWP's 'green' credibility," Oct. 22
Thanks to The Times for giving credibility to those of us who would like to see some alternatives to the Festival of Lights configuration. Even if 2,500 to 4,500 cars visit the festival each night, the L.A. Department of Water and Power's logic is still faulty. Those cars don't all come at once. Even assuming each visitor stayed for an hour, that means 6,500 parking spaces over five hours (1,300 spaces in the L.A. Zoo parking lot, multiplied by five). If the DWP can't handle a simple word problem, I have doubts about its ability to handle more complex tasks.
Tal O. Vigderson
The writer is a board member of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council.
For a city striving to become more green, eliminating the long line of idling cars waiting to view the Festival of Lights would be a step in the right direction. From Griffith Park's entrance to where the Festival of Lights begins is a very slow drive. Having driven and walked through, walking the festival provides a better view of the lights, the holiday music sounds vibrant and the atmosphere is festive.
Taking pride in their roots
Re "In the beginning," Opinion, Oct. 21
Gregory Rodriguez was right on in addressing confusion in racial identity and self-racism toward one's own Indian ancestry among many people of Mexican origin. The vast majority of members of Indian reservations in the United States are not full-blooded Indian. They have varying degrees of European ancestry, have European names and can't speak their tribe's indigenous language. They nevertheless proudly identify themselves racially as "American Indian" or "Native American" instead of "mestizo" or some pan-ethnic generic label such as "Hispanic" or "Latino."
I am the product of a mostly Mexican Indian father and a European American mother, but I identify myself as indigenous American as opposed to just the ethnic identities. About 90% of people of Latin American origin are genetically bi- or tri-racial, and have the right to choose whatever racial identity they please. However, after more than 500 years of that Spanish colonial shock wave that rings of "Indians and dark skin are inferior," it's time for the young generation of "Latindios" especially to identify with their indigenous Americana roots with pride.
As one of the hybridized offspring in Mexico, I would like to encourage you to go for a more complete and elegant list of adjectives for people from Mexico for your book. Why did you not list princes, poets, strategists and scholars? I invite you to explore the true meaning of "Malinche." It is not a title of Marina alone. It is a title, even now, in the Conchero Danza (descendant ceremonial dances) and is given to the senior protective matriarch who is held as an equal to the elder chieftains if she is a widow. Malinchismo is one way to use the word.
San Miguel de Allende
Attack on Iran would be a mistake
Re "One strike, Iran could be out," Opinion, Oct. 22
That Israel bombed something and that Syria did not react (yet) does not imply that striking the premier industrial effort of a much larger, more capable state will lead to no reaction. It is foolish to imagine we can identify all threats and eliminate them. It is arrogant in the extreme to feel that we can attack possible threats without that certainty. We have no responsibility to prevent other states from making mistakes, but we have full responsibility for our own.
Oak Park, Ill.
Just as in the run-up to our debacle in Iraq, pundits assured us there was no other viable option than to invade. Niall Ferguson continues in this vein, offering vague arguments in favor of a strike that would not only destabilize the Mideast but stretch our already tired military to its limit. And it would put our country in even worse standing in the eyes of the world. While I'm no fan of the regime in Tehran, when you consider the CIA-backed overthrow of a democratically elected government in the 1950s and then a series of hypocritical policy moves, including the support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, it is no surprise that Iran is hostile to the U.S. As a historian, Ferguson would be better off informing the public about the history of U.S. intervention in Iran and the effect this has had on relations between the two countries. Instead, he presents a doomsday scenario with military action as the only solution.
In stating that a diplomatic solution to U.S.-Iran tensions is "dwindling fast," Ferguson neglects to mention that the Bush administration has rejected direct, high-level talks with Tehran. Diplomacy can only work if all parties are willing to talk. Ferguson also doesn't consider that a military strike would not ensure the destruction of all possibly existing materials and knowledge used to produce a nuclear weapon. He never mentions that an attack on Iran would likely shore up support for extremists across the Middle East, thus leading to an increased risk of terror attacks.
A prescription for failure
Re "Let pharmacists prescribe," Opinion, Oct. 22
The pharmacist today is the medications expert compared to other healthcare clinicians. However, allowing pharmacists to prescribe some drugs without a physician's authorization will work only in a perfect world. Currently, licensed physicians cannot own a pharmacy because of a possible conflict of interest. Thus, what would keep a pharmacist from prescribing a medication to a patient that returns a greater profit than another? Specifically, a generic form of a drug costs less to the patient than a brand name; however, a greater profit can be made on the generic by the pharmacy. One would like to believe that all pharmacists are ethical. However, with the pressure of reducing costs, this scenario can become inevitable. The writers mean well in an academic sense but ignore the real business environment.
I have many interactions with pharmacists every day involving patient care and medication. I respect their expertise and consult with them often. They in turn respect my clinical skill and experience. They will alert me to possible interactions between drugs, allergies and cross allergies, and give me suggestions of alternatives. We all know there is a boundary that shouldn't be crossed.
I as a doctor I am a clinician in the truest sense. In medicine, a doctor not only needs to know what treatment to begin with but also how to recognize and fix any complications that arise. That is what makes a clinician different. That is what the minimum of three years of residency experience and the continual interaction with patients give the clinician. It is quite easy to start giving a patient a medication for pneumonia. The difference comes when complications happen, when things aren't going as planned, when to stay the course or to change. If pharmacists have the same experience with patients as a doctor in this respect, then it would be time for pharmacists to prescribe. Until then, no.
Vincent Hoang MD
The writer is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the UC Riverside-UCLA School of Medicine.
Tide of hostility
Re "In Italy, backlash against migrants grows," Oct. 19
It was interesting to read of the rising tide of hostility to Muslim migrants flooding into Italy. It was amusing that Roberto Calderoli, a senator from the Veneto region, proposed a national "pig day" to desecrate land for mosques in the eyes of Muslims. Had he done that here, he would be accused of advocating a hate crime.