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The expense of guarding ailing inmates; public pensions; sales taxes on online purchases

March 04, 2011

The absurdity of it

Re "Sick inmates a threat only to state's budget," March 2

Here we have a semi-paralyzed man shackled to his bed with three corrections officers to guard him. "But you can't argue with policy," says a guard. I guess I am not alone in asking: Whose policy?

It really does not matter. If the policy is absurd, which it clearly is, it is a greater absurdity not to change it.

The policy that could help — the medical parole law — has been on the books for almost six months, but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has yet to schedule a single case for a hearing.

I guess if we were in a financial crisis, we might get swifter action.

Brian Richardson

Pacific Palisades

For one 57-year-old, semi-paralyzed, hospitalized inmate, $800,000 a year is spent on three full-time guards.

School budgets are being unmercifully cut; what do we spend per pupil to educate our children? Something is wrong.

Maxine Moshay

Los Angeles

Seldom does a day go by without a story documenting the incredible waste of our tax dollars at the hands of those we trust with our money.

Add three guards per ailing prisoner to the list along with Bell and billions in unfunded pension liabilities based on unrealistic investment returns, and we should ask ourselves: Are these just incompetents we pay, or are they conspirators?

Harold LaBonte

Palm Desert

Pensions, then and now

Re "Day of reckoning on pensions," Editorial, Feb. 26

I was born in Los Angeles in 1944 and have lived here my entire life. Studying the civil service concept in L.A. public schools — among the best in the nation back then — I learned that civil servants earned lower pay in exchange for job security and small, guaranteed pensions. Today they earn more than comparable private sector workers and generous pensions. The contract between civil servants and society has been fundamentally changed, yet I do not see this fact addressed anywhere. The quiet implementation of this change goes against the original intent of public employee pensions.

Louise Jones

San Marino

As we ponder the future of pensions and retirement, there's a lot of talk about leveling the playing field: We can either drag down public sector employees by curtailing or eliminating their pensions, or we can build up those private sector employees with only 401(k) accounts who (according to most experts) will not be able to support their retirement. Which of these choices represents genuine American values?

And a cautionary note: If workers' wages and pensions fall, their ability to spend, and thereby grow the economy, withers away.

Jon Merritt

Los Angeles

Fair is fair. Pensions should be paid in accordance with the terms when the employee was hired.

Robert M. Doumakes

Los Angeles

Sales taxes for everyone

Re "A bigger slice of Net sales," Business, Feb. 27

As a small-business owner (fine antiques and silver retailer), I am often confronted by the words "But I can buy it on EBay and pay no tax." Thus, many owners of small retail shops are near bankruptcy or have had to go out of business over the last 10 years.

The Times should have given readers an idea of how many thousands of people or how many businesses have gone belly-up because of this pernicious policy. Not only is the current system unfair, it is evil.

Betty-Jeanne Longo


A quote in this made me laugh: "'To try to force a marketer not located in the state to learn the tax rates for 7,500 jurisdictions within the United States would constitute a burden on interstate commerce,' said Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Assn., an Internet, TV and catalogue sales trade group."

My wife works for a small firm that sells dental implants to dentists nationwide. She spends nearly half her time calculating and paying sales tax in jurisdictions nationwide. If her small firm can do this, why can't Amazon, Overstock and other online retailers? Although it is a burden, it isn't rocket science, and it wouldn't take a genius to implement.

Not many people like paying taxes, but basic honesty is an important part of any discussion, and that seems to be missing at the Direct Marketing Assn.

Brian Ellis


The path to middle class

Re "A union job paid my tuition," column, Feb. 27

Steve Lopez asks, "Shouldn't there be one last place to make a middle-class living with decent benefits and none of the risks posed by 401(k)s that are tied to shaky markets?"

What he's really saying to taxpayers who are struggling to maintain middle-class status and are forced to suffer the risks of those shaky 401(k)s is this: By rooting for the public employee unions, you can at least live vicariously through those fortunate enough to have what is denied to you, and you'll have the privilege of paying for it.

John Fessler

Chino Hills

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