Grow up, California
Re "Californians want it both ways on budget," Nov. 18
I am shocked, stunned and astounded to learn that Californians want to have their cake and eat it as well.
We have an enormous budget deficit that cannot be fixed by cuts alone, and we must not fix it by taxes alone. We need to cut programs and pay more taxes. We got ourselves into this mess, and now we have to fix it.
So to use a current expression, man up, voters! Start acting like responsible adults who have to fix a major problem and quit acting like whining, overindulged children who want someone else to fix the problem.
Please don't trot out cutting waste, fraud and abuse as the solution to our deficit. If neither Republican governors nor Democratic governors have found the alleged waste, fraud and abuse, it's not there in any amount that is going to help with the deficit.
Every taxpayer should be sent a receipt that breaks down what that person individually paid in at least 10 different categories: public safety, K-12 education, infrastructure, judicial salaries, food inspection and so on. The taxpayer would be surprised how little he or she paid for more important services and perhaps outraged by other costs.
In the end, each taxpayer would become personally aware of how taxes and services go hand in hand instead of emotionally morphing the general tax bill into a monolithic demon that is so easy to dismiss.
Of course Californians want to balance the budget by the painless and impossible solution of eliminating waste and inefficiency. But don't entirely blame them for dreaming the impossible dream.
During my half a century in California, politicians frequently have advocated exactly that, pretending that when elected they would spend less without sacrificing services. Of course they didn't or couldn't. What they could do, though, is make Californians believe their fantasy promises.
Those promises have perverted voters' ideas of what is possible for balancing the budget. As politicians try to satisfy the voters' impossible demands, which they have created, it is no wonder we are so deeply in debt.
The Times' article turns a blind eye to the grip of the public employee unions on Sacramento. It fails to mention the looming public employee pension catastrophe.
My defined benefit pension disappeared when my private employer went through bankruptcy. California will head down the same path until the unions are forced to accept 401(k)-type packages like the rest of us.
For whom are the toll lanes?
Re "MTA may add more toll lanes," Nov. 16
Though I generally oppose toll lanes, if the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is going to open more of them, then it had better take a close look at how carpool lanes are used.
In my experience, carpool lanes usually do not move any faster than the rest of the freeway. I believe this is because the drivers fear that someone will cut in from slow-moving traffic.
The MTA should experiment with soft barriers (such as collapsible plastic posts) to see if the carpool lanes can be improved before converting them to toll lanes.
Robert H. Latter
If you're rich, the toll lanes are a brilliant way to get all those pesky cars belonging to poor people off the road.
I think another bright idea would be to make parking tickets equal to 1% of the car's Kelley Blue Book value. That ought to get the attention of those with extra dollars to burn.
Wall Street in the driver's seat
Re "GM IPO could set a record," Business, Nov. 18, and "Few will get in on GM's IPO," Business, Nov. 16
Wall Street did it again. With abysmal insensitivity to the individual stockholder, they deliberately closed them out to what may be the safest stock investment they could ever make in a company "too big to fail."
The Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department should have required 61% of the offering to have been offered, and parceled out, to individual stockholders.
We foolishly expect our government to be concerned with equity and fairness. Maybe someday.
Judging by General Motors' record-setting initial public offering last week, there must be some truth in what Charlie Wilson, former CEO of GM, said many decades ago when he proudly and pompously informed the nation that "what is good for General Motors is good for America."
Controversial as it might continue to be, how can you disagree with this if GM leads us out of the depression? Stranger things have happened.
Panning Palin as she gets rich
Re "Palin and Reagan," Opinion, Nov. 15
Craig Fehrman's piece discussing Sarah Palin's frequent references to Ronald Reagan reminds me of an observation made by my constitutional law professor many years ago: "For every problem, there is a simple and erroneous solution."
Palin's popularity and her simplistic pronouncements are the most glaring recent examples of the dumbing-down of the American electorate.
Mark S. Faulkner
Palin is not running for president in 2012. She left the Alaska governor's mansion to make money, and she is making it hand over fist. Running for president and winning would stop the river of cash she loves so much. So would running and losing.
Moreover, she can only win if she's willing to take on what she dismisses as the "lamestream media," and she has already proved that she is no match for Katie Couric or Charles Gibson, let alone any of the profession's true heavyweights. If she runs and refuses to appear anywhere except on Fox, where she is a paid commentator, she will win over only the right-wing fringe.
Marvin J. Wolf
Mar Vista Heights
Re "Heed the Terminator," Opinion, Nov. 17
Reading Barry P. McDonald's piece made me laugh at his attempt to justify 1st Amendment exceptions to accommodate personal biases.
I giggled at the writer's earnest question, "How violent must a game be to trigger regulation?" Right there he unwittingly nails the fundamental problems with censorship: Exactly what deserves regulation, and who gets to decide?
The author cites "workable" 1st Amendment exceptions. But how "workable" are the undefined standards of obscenity law, which can only be applied to an expression retroactively? How "workable" is the risk of creation when a court might decide to sanctify or sanction a finished work's suitability for the marketplace of ideas, not to mention its eligibility for legal protection?
Scott D. Small
Re " 'Boobies' bracelets at center of lawsuit," Nov. 16
I am reminded of my freshman year at college. The school issued a new policy: "Do nothing to injure, embarrass or discomfort another."
The student council wisely amended this edict: "Do not be too easily
injured, embarrassed or discomforted."