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Rising prices of gasoline; dependency courts and foster-care kids; Social Security

March 14, 2011

Our fuelish ways

Re "Hands off the oil reserve," Editorial, March 8

The Times is correct: There is absolutely no need to tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. There is no shortage of oil, but there is a shortage of driver responsibility.

You would think that the higher prices would encourage drivers to economize, but I do not see any sign of that on the highway. In fact, it seems that the bigger and heavier the vehicle, the heavier the driver's foot. I have no sympathy for those who complain about how much it costs to "fill 'er up" when there is little or no attempt to conserve.

The federal government should substantially increase the gasoline tax, which would encourage conservation and provide additional income to maintain highways and bridges.

David Coulson

Huntington Beach

Cheap oil is not a right; it is a market distortion, and we should focus on eliminating it. It has contributed to our indebtedness to China, military misadventures in the Middle East and an addiction that is changing the climate and acidifying the oceans.

Better instead to lock in today's high prices with a gas price floor. Once prices inevitably drop, we should return the difference between the price floor and the actual price of fuel to households evenly. This would help the unemployed cover the costs of driving to interviews, create greater price stability and encourage businesses to innovate in ways that would end our addiction.

Daniel Richter

La Jolla

Reforming foster care

Re "Secrecy that hurts kids," Opinion, March 8

The foster-care system is not a good one in the first place, and simply opening the dependency courts to the public will do little or nothing to help the children.

Perhaps we ought to reconsider the old system of orphanages — places that can be managed with the best interest of the children. And they can be held accountable more easily than individual families whose psychological profiles are suspect, whose parenting skills are unknown, who are difficult to monitor because they are scattered over too large of a geographical area, and who often have too many charges and do it for the wrong reasons — read: money.

And what does it say about our society that we have 60,000 children in foster care in one state? That is the tragedy we ought to be exploring.

Stephany Yablow

North Hollywood

I am glad to see concern about the dependency system, but Jim Newton's column was disconcerting. He was vague and spoke in generalities such as "more accountability" without providing any clue as to what this might look like and why opening dependency cases to the public would benefit children. Newton sees the problem but not the solution.

From my limited experience working in the dependency system in law school and seeing underneath the "cloak of secrecy," it's not transparency these kids need. If you really want to improve the system, stop cutting funds so lawyers and social workers don't have dozens of cases at a given time.

Doug Skelton

San Francisco

What ails Social Security

Re "The key to Social Security 'lockbox,' " Business, March 9

Michael Hiltzik fails to understand that holding assets (balance sheet) is not the same as funding spending (income statement). The only asset the Social Security Trust Fund holds is U.S. Treasury bonds.

The surplus that was contributed to the fund every year has been frittered away by spending. There is nothing to show for it other than a promise from the government to pay it back someday.

There soon will be no excess contributions annually, and Social Security will be forced to cash in some of these bonds. In real terms, this means borrowing back from the federal government.

When Hiltzik understands this, he will realize what desperate shape the system is in.

Paul Debban

Rancho Santa Fe

Hiltzik's final paragraph reads, "It doesn't take a lockbox to guarantee that obligation, only the good faith and wisdom of our political leaders."

Since when have we ever been able to depend on the good faith and wisdom of our political leaders? Or was that a tongue-in-cheek statement?

Evelyn De Poister

Santa Monica

Budget fairness

Re "Back to the drawing board on budget cuts," March 10

So "neither the Republican proposal for $60 billion in cuts nor a more modest Democratic plan would win broad support in Congress."

I have the answer: The Democrats should agree to the Republicans' cuts on the condition that they also agree to cut an additional $60 billion from welfare for military contractors, foreign military bases that do nothing for our national security and yet another "more stealthy" strategic bomber that has no purpose in today's world.

Both parties' major constituencies would take the same hit. Fair is fair.

Joseph Bonino

Glendale

The few, the rich

Re "Slim tops Forbes list of billionaires," Business, March 10

I read with shock that 1,210 people own 2.3% of the world's wealth. Only one thousand, two hundred and ten people own four and a half trillion dollars. I intentionally spelled out the numbers to let them sink in while reading.

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