Real cost of TheBus is borne by taxpayers
Bus fares remaining the same for five years is a policy that only a tax-collecting government can do in the face of fuel price hikes ("City plans no fare increase for TheBus," Star-Bulletin, June 19
The focus on keeping the fare the same for five years being good news to residents fails to note that for every $1 collected at the fare box; $3 must be paid by city taxpayers (according to the story, the fare box collects only 27 to 30 percent of operating costs).
Just look at the tax and fee increases in Honolulu over the last five years and one can quickly understand how a $125-plus million bus subsidy can be hidden by city politicians.
The media and the taxpayer just do not get it!
Feeling good by paying low bus fares out of one pocket while being nickel-and-dimed with high taxes and fees out of the other pocket is a politician's dream for getting re-elected. Maybe this is what is called public funding of elections?
Residents should look at the taxes and fees they pay as part of their rent, grocery or medical bills, sewerage and water bills, and property taxes to see if they really feel good about the bus fare staying the same for five years.
Paul E. Smith
Conserve oil but seek new sources, too
I found Paul Lucey's letter ("Drilling more in U.S. won't lower prices," Star-Bulletin, June 19
) both amusing and interesting. Several times he emphasized his disagreement by writing there is "no possibility" further U.S. drilling will alleviate gas pump prices. That goes against common sense. You mean, world market prices wouldn't soften if more, reliable sources of oil were found? There's not even a possibility?
It's OK to disagree with new drilling, but present meaningful, sensible arguments. And what specific alternative did he offered in place of using oil for transportation? Oh, that's right, he didn't give any.
The most sensible course for the United States would be a three-pronged approach: seek out new oil sources, promote conservation and fuel efficiency and invest in new technologies.
Higher gas prices can be good for us
Regarding "Offshore drilling won't lower prices at the pump," (Star-Bulletin, June 19): We just got back from a 10-day trip to France. Gas prices there are 1.5 euro per litre -- equivalent to $8 per gallon. Interestingly, most cars on the highways and roads there are small to very small.
Our rent-a-car was large enough for three persons, plus three suitcases and three carry-ons. To drive about 400 miles, it used about 7 gallons of diesel. That's an average of about 55 miles per gallon -- and it was not even a hybrid, but a regular diesel engine car! Just small.
Americans are cutting back on driving; there has been a decrease in SUV sales and increased demand for fuel-efficient cars. It appears that if we are hit in our wallets, we do learn.
I hope our car manufacturers start to get the message too, so they will be able to sell their products around the world again, and not just in the United States. I hope our businesses seize the opportunity to develop and produce products that take this new situation into consideration. Maybe we can again become technological leaders in this world.
So, yes, the gas prices are painful for me, too. But I am happy to suffer, if it means that all of us are learning the lesson, and stop taking resources for granted.
'Illegal' workers come to U.S. in desperation
While Honolulu's papers have been filled with letters of righteous indignation about City Councilman Rod Tam's un-PC use of the term "wetback" to describe undocumented workers, I have been trying to learn more about the overall undocumented worker situation.
I started by watching an award-winning film titled "Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary" by Arturo Perez Torres (distributed by the National Geographic Society). I now understand that you have to be very desperate to do what these undocumented immigrants do. Some of the greatest dangers they face are in travel through Mexico where they are robbed, beaten, raped and killed. The film made it clear that most of these people would rather brave these dangers and try to skirt immigration laws than to survive through theft and violence in their own countries.
The other point made in the film is that most of these undocumented workers do pay taxes -- billions of dollars in payroll withholding to fraudulent Social Security numbers used to obtain employment. Of course, the workers will never obtain benefits from this taxation, but the money does benefit the rest of us. For seniors like me, it is extending the viability of our stressed-out Social Security system.
To those who come to the United States to earn an honest living, my heart is with you. I hope my country can find a solution that provides you with refuge from oppressive conditions and the opportunity for honest work at an honest wage. My government should have handled things differently long ago. But with undocumented workers filling one out of every four agricultural jobs, 17 percent of all office- and house-cleaning positions, 14 percent of construction jobs and 12 percent of food service workers, it is clear our economy depends on your labor. The least we can do is treat you as fellow human beings.
If you haven't seen "Wetback" yet, I urge you to rent it. It might just change your thinking -- and your choice of words.
Waiting for IRS check stimulates frustration
I'm one of those who has not yet received his IRS direct-deposit stimulus-rebate of $1,200.
I filed on April 10. In mid May, the IRS automated phone system told me that if I filed after April 4 I should wait eight weeks before inquiring again about my rebate.
OK. On June 17 I inquired again. This time the automated system told me my rebate is scheduled to be deposited on July 4 (a bank holiday), but "wait at least eight weeks before making another inquiry."
Also, the IRS Web site gives directions for contacting our local IRS office and offers us a local IRS telephone number. Try call. You get a recording that says the IRS office in Honolulu does not respond to phone calls!
Anti-McCain TV ad a display of hypocrisy
The latest MoveOn.org television ad features a mom holding a baby and telling John McCain he can't have her son to fight in Iraq.
It's odd MoveOn.org is against a child growing up to be a man and defending his country by volunteering to serve in the military for the reason that he might get hurt when MoveOn.org would have fully supported the decision of that baby's mother to kill her son if she deemed his life an inconvenience just a few months ago, when he was defenseless in her womb.