In defending the current Social Security system from those who are pushing for privatization ["Five Big Ideas," September 4-10], Harold Meyerson states, "As things stand now, of course, Social Security funds are invested in those low-yielding U.S. government securities . . . How safe!" And, one might add, how incorrect! Social Security taxes will, until the year 2012, bring in more revenue than the system pays out in benefits. The surplus theoretically accumulates in the much-touted "Social Security Trust Fund." Yet as everyone except Harold Meyerson knows, there is no trust fund. For years, the federal government has used this idea to hide the actual size of the budget deficit, borrowing money from this fund to pay current operating expenses and replacing the money with government bonds - in other words, IOUs the federal government has written to itself. Roughly half the supposed trust fund consists of these IOUs; the other half is the imaginary interest the government pretends to be paying itself.
What will happen in 2013 if we have not yet privatized Social Security? Due to the fact that at this time benefits will begin exceeding revenues at an astonishing rate, only three outcomes are likely: 1) Workers will continue to pay 12.4 percent in Social Security payroll taxes, but SSI benefits will drop dramatically; 2) benefits and taxes will remain the same, while the budget deficit skyrockets; or 3) we will "preserve" Social Security benefits at their current level by raising SSI taxes from 12.4 percent to an estimated 18.3 percent - by far the largest tax increase in U.S. history.
Presumably, the preceding scenario does not faze Harold Meyerson.
DON'T FEEL SLIGHTED
Re: Adrian Maher's "Culver City Confidential" [September 11-17]. Interesting article about the Culver City P.D., although I have to make a quick general comment about traffic tickets, and the instances when people don't get them. The people who were interviewed said that they felt they had been stopped because they were minorities, pointing to the fact that the police had not issued them tickets. As a working police officer, I hear too much of this in the media. First of all, I am not in a position to judge what the criteria for the stop are; as long as there is probable cause (usually a vehicle-code violation), a "pretext stop" is legal. So . . . someone gets pulled over, and the officer does a quick check of the driver. (In my case, I am primarily looking for a DUI.) Then the officer lets him or her go with a warning. Sounds like a good deal to me. I guess now we are going to have to take the time to write up a ticket for everyone we stop so they don't feel harassed.
Re: "The Grand Inquisitor" [September 18-24]. Suppose that Monica Lewinsky had taped President Clinton in a private conversation calling the Black Caucus "a bunch of niggers" for opposing his welfare-reform and fast-track-trade legislation. I'll bet that Harold Meyerson, Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson and all good progressives would be leading the charge for the immediate resignation of the president. Concerns about protecting a sitting president's "sanctuary of privacy" would be brushed aside.
Using the "N" word is not a high crime, nor is it an assault on the constitutional framework of government. However, such a performance by the president could cripple him so badly that he might not be morally capable of leading this diverse nation. Is it so hard to imagine that "non-progressives" in the American public might find it equally reprehensible that their president habitually tells bald-faced lies without flinching?
In Harold Meyerson's article on "grand inquisitor" Kenneth Starr, he asserts that Eleanor Mondale is a "certifiable babe." And he expects readers to give any amount of credence to his opinions after that?
ONE MAN'S JUNK . . .
Your September 18-24 OffBeat item on the free-speech suit filed by the ACLU against the city of Pasadena on behalf of me and three other community activists was inadequate and inaccurate. The point of our complaint was not pizza-delivery ads or auto-insurance solicitations, but the effect of the so-called anti-littering ordinance on political and civic advocacy. The neighborhood activist, the underfinanced candidate and the small business are the inevitable targets of such laws. Our concern is that the City Council has acted precipitously, without serious consideration of First Amendment concerns, and has enacted a law that endan-a gers both the right to speak out and the right to receive information.
Yes, there are legitimate privacy concerns. What the council ought to do is revoke the ordinance and sit down with the ACLU and the plaintiffs and work to fashion a law that does not violate the Constitution of the United States or the state of California.
STILL DOGGING THE WAG
Marc Haefele often writes interesting articles on interesting topics, such as the Ballona-Playa Vista controversy. However, I must object to a passing remark of Haefele's in his September 4-10 City Limits column: that the original proposal for Playa Vista "would have been about as ecologically friendly as Rockefeller Center," implying, of course, that Rockefeller Center is ecologically unfriendly.
I beg to differ. Rockefeller Center concentrates a huge number of activities on a relatively small plot of land. Virtually nobody drives to Rockefeller Center. (People arrive there by walking, subway, bus and even bicycle.) Those who come in automobiles generally come in taxis, which by operating all day avoid the cold starts that are the main source of automotive pollution.
High-density development, properly designed in the right place with the right infrastructure, can be ecologically friendly. Let's hope that someday high-density development not based primarily on single-occupant autos will be possible in Los Angeles.
When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I walked a mile and a half home from school every day. And every day I would have to walk past a house that kept a large dog of indeterminate breed in the front yard. Every day, even if I crossed to the opposite side of the street, that dog would howl bloody murder at the sight of me, running across the yard and hurling its body at the fence, barking its head off. Its eyes didn't track, it stayed pretty much in one spot - it just wanted a reason to bark.
I think of that dog every time I read what Marc B. Haefele has to say about Playa Vista and the environmental community's opposition to this giant development scheme from hell. Why the Weekly will not or cannot rein in its idiot pit bull on this issue, I no longer even care to guess. But please at least remain cognizant of the city's leash laws and be sure you never walk him without a scooper and a trash bag (extra-large).
Sierra Club Ballona Wetlands Task Force
Some months ago, I wrote to you asking for an alternative to Jonathan Gold and his excellent coverage of the ethnic-food scene. So thank you for adding Michelle Huneven to your restaurant staff. She's a welcome addition.