Suffering small business
I generally agree with Max Brantley’s view on issues but must comment on his article commending the state sales tax office shutting down offenders. Max has obviously never owned a business that happened to get into arrears with this draconian agency. Once you get behind with them, their penalties and interest compound beyond belief, and it is near impossible to catch up. You can call them five days in a row inquiring about your balance owed and get a totally different answer each time, and, when you ask for an explanation of how they arrived at the figure, they will arrogantly deny your requests to speak to a supervisor — you can only communicate through a case worker/collector.
It is true that there are some bad offenders out there that need to pay. But the truth is many small businesses are suffering and often must unfortunately use their sales tax monies to pay rent and the electrical bill, just to keep the doors open another month. When the sales tax department cracked down on my now-defunct business, I pleaded with them not to drive me out of business. Their brazen reply was that they didn’t care if I went out of business or not; they would padlock my door and auction everything off to collect their due, even though I was making every effort to pay them.
The average citizen would be shocked to find out how many small businesses are shut down by this method. I used to think that we live in America, but these days I am not so sure.
North Little Rock
Freedom’s just another word . . .
Ironic, isn’t it? Consider:
• The Pilgrims left Europe for America to escape having a state religion crammed down their throats. Now, thanks to aggressive neo-Puritans, Americans may have to immigrate to Europe to keep a state religion from being de facto established and shoved down our throats.
• For today’s neo-Purys it’s ok to covet thy neighbor’s wife as long as you do not covet thy neighbor’s ass.
Hurrah for David Koon’s column “Post-cards returned to sender” Feb. 3. Children must be carefully taught to hate and discriminate and, boy, howdy, are those sanctimonious Christian Republicans hard at it.
Thank goodness he and Bob Lancaster and others of their ilk are on your staff. They are saving me from clinical depression.
Fifty years ago some extremely far-sighted citizens in Little Rock developed a plan to create one of the best water resources in the nation. They named it Lake Maumelle. The leaders included Houston Burford, Jack Pickens, Lawson Delony, Frank Lyon, Bill Williams, Leslie Jackson, Jack Wilson and others. They persuaded Little Rock voters to use condemnation proceedings to assure a pristine water supply. Without the power of condemnation, it never could have happened.
Now, 50 years later, special interest groups have put in motion a plan to revoke these condemnation rights. Such action is not for the good of Central Arkansas water users, but rather for profit to land developers. If this is allowed to happen to Central Arkansas Water it is clear it can happen anywhere else in Arkansas. It should be made clear that this is not a local issue but a statewide issue.
It boils down to this — should a public water supply be controlled by public or private interests?
Good and bad
Check me and see if I’ve got this right:
Weaselly lawyering used to frivolously sue companies is bad.
Weaselly lawyering used to redefine “torture” to not include things like pulling out fingernails is good.
Weaselly lawyers of the former class are going to get laws passed against them.
Weaselly lawyers of the latter class are sworn in as attorney general of the United States.
For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be an Arkansan. How can it be that my home — the state that produced Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, Bill Fulbright, Dale Bumpers, the much lamented and missed Pulitzer Prize-winning Arkansas Gazette and the unspoiled beauty of the Buffalo River — could produce such a man as Sen. Jim Holt. The legislation proposed by Sen. Holt regarding undocumented aliens in Arkansas reeks of the worst of our shared past. Conjuring images of Ross Barnett at Ole Miss, George Wallace in Tuscaloosa and the lines of armed troops surrounding Little Rock Central High, Holt’s proposal is an affront to 50 years of public policy.
As a minister of the Gospel, I believe that we are all capable of changing. My prayer for Senator Holt is that he will seek out the better angels in his heart and withdraw his proposal. My prayer for the people of his district is that they will give him the chance to reflect on his ways by not burdening him with another term in the legislature.
Rev. Robert W. Lowry
Ann Arbor, Mich.
While I can’t argue with the masses, I can take you to task about the way you conduct the vote counting for your choice of best pizza in your recent dining poll. The last time I checked there was only one Vino’s, one Iriana’s, one Pizza Cafe, two Damgoode Pies, two O.W. Pizzas, one American Pie and FIVE U.S. Pizzas, your “runaway winner.” So which U.S. Pizza actually won? The Levy store or perhaps the Hillcrest location?
Surely having five restaurants in a poll should be taken into consideration. The Times wouldn’t want to appear Floridian in their vote counting, would they?
La Hacienda? Have none of you guys eaten at Taqueria Karina on 65th Street?
The Bush budget
Bush 2006 budget plans include cuts to Arkansas children, elderly and disabled. The National Governor’s Association came out against these cuts to vital Medicaid programs and asked the Bush White House to not to cut Medicaid funding. Obviously their efforts had no effect on Bush’s considerations for the less fortunate in our nation.
Republicans can say what they want about wanting less government. But what less government really means is fewer jobs, less healthcare, less protection, less housing, less utility assistance. In short, less everything needed to not only get by, but to survive.
Social Security crisis
The president and vice president are misleading Americans once again in asserting that allowing middle and low-income persons to invest in stocks or bonds will assure them of security in their old age. The market hasn’t been too kind to persons with know-how, much less novices. Furthermore, how can persons who cannot pay their monthly bills invest?
There is no way for ordinary persons to get a leg up the economic ladder without being frugal, thrifty, and hard-working, and by setting standards and priorities. Instead ordinary Americans are encouraged to buy gas-guzzlers and to spend and waste in order to help the economy grow. Not only do most Americans have more than they need or can use, but most do not save for the inevitable “rainy day.”
Trash dumps, waste facilities, rural roadsides and city streets all attest to the fact that we are a throwaway, wasteful society, for the most part.
William Safire just wrote a piece on “Character Counts,” and how Americans can be relied on to come through in a crisis. Well, a crisis that affects all Americans is brewing, and that crisis can be averted only if the people are aware of what is going on and why. Character is not spreading misinformation, nor relying upon it. Character is not taking care of one’s friends over the truly needy or deserving. Character is showing leadership where and whenever it is most needed. Character leads one to be truthful and honest.
Marilyn Fish Bryan
One of the most pressing issues facing our country right now is the president’s plan to “privatize” Social Security, or to create “personal accounts” as he now says after a focus group found that a majority of voters (especially seniors) do not like the idea of “privatizing” the system. Instead of responding to this finding by changing his plan, he merely changed the words used to present it to the public. In the same way, he no longer talks about the “crisis” in the Social Security system since that didn’t fly with the public either, because it is not true.
One way to find the truth behind all the PR is to look at the experience of other countries which have privatized their retirement systems. For example, the retirement system in Chile was privatized in 1981. Workers were given a choice to stay with the old system (similar to ours) or to invest in private accounts. Now that they are reaching retirement age, those who kept the old system are getting approximately $700 per month until they die, while workers of the same pay level and length of employment who chose the private system are seeing almost no return on their investment. Investor fees and other administrative costs ate up almost a third of the money they invested and they are now facing an uncertain economic future. Chile, by the way, is being touted as a shining example of privatization by the Bush administration.
Facts do matter. We need to speak out when these facts are disguised, lied about, and totally ignored in the making of policy that affects all of us.
In last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush tried to sell us a lemon, and I’m not buying it. He’s trying to dress up a risky Social Security privatization scheme — which, in reality, would guarantee benefit cuts for the American people, and divert billions in taxpayer money to the president’s Wall Street friends.
President Bush talks about Social Security as if the sky were falling! Everyone agrees that there are things we should do to make Social Security stronger, but, the real Social Security crisis would be the president’s own privatization plan.
Rather than limit solutions to privatization, I think the president should focus on solutions that don’t involve taking money out of my pocket. For example, the president himself pays Social Security taxes on less than one quarter of his salary. That’s right; the law today exempts every penny of income over $90,000 from Social Security taxes. If we raised that ceiling to the president’s salary, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Without Social Security, almost half of today’s seniors would live in poverty. It just doesn’t make sense to replace a guaranteed benefit with a guaranteed gamble.
I grew up on Ridgeway Street. I lived at 305 Ridgeway until I was 8 and then moved up the street to 478 Ridgeway. My heart is sickened by the demolition photo in the Arkansas Times (Feb. 10). Mother and Daddy loved that neighborhood so much they could not move away.
I remember when the estate on Kavanaugh and Cedar was torn down. Mother and the Garden Club fought to keep that fine home with its formal gardens hoping that yet another generation would be blessed by its history and beauty. At the time, I couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 but I was so moved by my mother’s spirit. While sleeping, I remember having dreams about some generous benefactor buying the house for me and giving me the blueprints. I longed to protect my mother’s dream of preserving not only a building but a treasure for our community. My mother and the Garden Club managed to keep a service station from being built on the remains of that estate. Today there is an apartment complex that is not in keeping with the style of the area, but in my mind’s eye I can still see the high hedges surrounding the perimeter of the old property, a wonderful, white, swinging gate facing Kavanaugh, inviting the guests to enter and climb the welcoming stairs across the rolling lawn up to a grand front porch of the now lost piece of Hillcrest’s historic soul.