Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a visit to a plastics plant in South Carolina…
Perry's taxing ideas
Re "Perry announces plan for economy," Oct. 26
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has hit the GOP trifecta: knee-capping Social Security, Medicare and the progressive tax system all in one blow.
Perry's proposed private retirement accounts would abandon millions of younger workers to the volatility of the stock market, while decimating the essential revenue base for Social Security. Replacing Medicare benefits with a payment or credit toward purchase of commercial insurance would force millions of elderly Americans to buy individual policies at much higher rates.
His 20% flat tax would mean an instant 15% cut for the rich — to be paid for by radically increased levies on lower wage earners.
The candidate who threatened bodily harm to the Federal Reserve chairman now threatens the future of all Americans.
The flaws in Perry's tax plan are drawing attention from the right and the left. Here's another that will cause the heads of his small-government base to explode when they figure it out: Under Perry's plan, the IRS will have to administer two tax systems — the current one and the flat one.
By grafting the new system on top of the old one, he has given the IRS a reason to increase in size. That is anathema to what his supporters want.
How long before he starts walking this one back?
Gary R. Levine
Grading the teachers
Re "State bucks U.S. teacher grading trend," Oct. 26
As others have stated before, student achievement tests are poor indicators of teacher effectiveness, the prime reason being that students simply do not care about them. These tests have zero effect on their grades.
For example, one of my best fifth-grade math students did so well on his math placement exam that he qualified to take pre-algebra as a sixth-grader. Then he took the easier state math test a month later and fell 150 points from the year before. My smartest girl went snorkeling in Central America the week of standardized testing. Her scores declined from the year before.
These kinds of situations are common, yet politicians insist that once-a-year achievement tests be used to determine teacher effectiveness. It doesn't take an education expert to see that this plan is unfair and flawed. California should be commended for resisting this trend.
So far, California schools have resisted blaming individual teachers for their students' performance on test scores. After 37 years as a public high school teacher, here's why I agree with the state:
- I wasn't pals with the principal, so I usually got the hardest-to-teach classes.
- Kids have no reason to try hard on tests that have no effect on their graduation.
- School budgets have been cut, adding to class sizes and even causing libraries to close and badly needed aides to be laid off.
When I started teaching in 1970, at least I got respect. Now teachers may face firing because of a test.
Imperial, except when it isn't
Re "Empire building? In Iraq?," Opinion, Oct. 25
Jonah Goldberg chastises President Obama's decision to leave Iraq as a "strategic blunder." Then he acknowledges that Obama is honoring a commitment by the Bush administration, without mentioning it was set in consultation with the Iraqi government.
Then, when distinguishing between the U.S. and genuine empires, he says, "When asked to leave, we've done so," without mentioning that the Iraqis have repeatedly asked us to go.
I suppose we're to conclude that, first, one administration should dishonor a predecessor's commitments if they're inconvenient, and second, that America shouldn't behave like an empire, except when convenient.
But the implied alternative is scary: that the U.S. should remain until Iran no longer wishes to influence Iraq. Since that will never happen, Goldberg's is effectively a call for permanent American hegemony in Iraq. How much does Goldberg want our taxes raised to pay for it?
Rancho Santa Margarita
Goldberg writes that the goal Obama pursued in Libya is what critics of the Iraq war denounce as American imperialism
That may be true if you discount the fact that the Iraqi people were not trying to liberate themselves. In fact, many on the left would say that America should not be in the business of liberating those who will not fight.
That Libyans were in armed rebellion to achieve national liberation makes a difference. Iraq was about removing Saddam Hussein, not liberation.
Re "Malware myopia," Opinion, Oct. 23
Mark Bowden rightly points out the dangers that accompany our increasingly interconnected online world. However, he places too much blame on the architects of the Internet.
Bowden writes: "The Internet was born, after all, in that brief period of inanity before and after what was dubbed the Summer of Love. Openness was the point." He asks — after quoting Paul Vixie as saying "What were they thinking" — "Were they thinking?"