Dump the tax cap for U.S. payrolls

As a retiree, about half of my income comes from Social Security, a program that even Republicans value. But I am concerned that the government is looking for ways to reduce benefits, and I just don't think this is necessary.

Why is there a cap on the amount of income subject to the 6.2 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security benefits? About 5 percent of working Americans make more than $113,700 a year but pay no tax on this additional income.

Simply eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap -- and thus ending this regressive exemption for the top 5 percent of earners -- would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, solve the financial crisis facing the Social Security system.

So why don't we talk about raising or eliminating the cap -- a measure that has strong popular, though not elite, support?

Karen Engel

Oakland

Leave trees alone in Oakland hills

In 1660, there weren't enough tall trees left in England to make warship masts. In 1700, you could traverse Ohio without seeing the sun. In 1900, northern Wisconsin was denuded by Weyerhauser Lumber.

Land Managers ask themselves "Isn't there a way to solve my problem cheaply by cutting down some trees and looking good on my resume?"


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Fire Danger? In the late '80s, home building on Grizzly Peak Boulevard was banned -- water was needed for fire control. Then the Oakland Chief said "We have other ways to handle fire," and allowed real-estaters to construct homes. There wasn't enough water for the 1991 fire. Fire protection is having water.

Whenever we humans have a picture of progress, we wipe out en masse whatever the obstruction. We eliminated the native population of Hispaniola, most of the North American natives, half of those in South America. Ninety percent of edible fish are gone.

Need we keep acting like termites? Have we no pride? Leave the trees in the Oakland hills alone.

Gordon V. Oehser

Oakland

Public denied input on tree removal

I have seen evidence of tree removal in Oakland and Berkeley already, and it concerns me greatly.

As the planet heats up and our leaders do nothing, one of the very few ways in which we can purify the air (absorption of carbon monoxide, creation of oxygen) and, even more simply, provide any sort of cooling system (shade) is with trees. This tree removal is mystifying and dangerous.

In addition, I am greatly concerned that there has been no broad public announcement, with media coverage on many fronts and adequate time for people to weigh in and attend meetings. The way it appears, those cutting down trees wouldn't want that, as it would interfere with what was clearly a fait accompli.

Stephanie Zappa

Oakland

The undocumented don't get enough aid

There is much talk about creating fair immigration policy so that millions of people who reside permanently in the U.S. without "permission" can regain a modicum of basic rights that we have deprived them of.

Both parties echo the mantra, yet Gov. Jerry Brown has declared that he will take away state funding (from counties) that provides health care for the indigent. Among the 20 million-plus people not eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare), the undocumented make up about half.

Brown knows full well that Congress removed the undocumented from insurance coverage under the health care reform. In California, these folks rely upon county-funded clinics. Like the removal of driver's licenses, Brown's intention denies common sense, as it will create greater risks to all.

People denied coverage get sicker and end up at emergency rooms. California will have to reimburse hospitals, at higher cost, under the Hill-Burton act.

Does not our nation's founding Declaration read: We hold "that all men are created equal"?

Marc Sapir

Berkeley