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Letters: Solutions lacking from pols for pension mess

Illinois Capitol. File photo.

In criticizing the five major municipal employees’ unions for not engaging in a “comprehensive settlement with mutual sacrifice,” Ed Bachrach merely covers old ground that has already been settled by the Illinois Supreme Court in its recent holding against such a solution (“Where is Labor on Chicago pension crisis?” — Sept. 15).

The Supreme Court is not simply “opining,” as Bachrach suggests. Rather, its opinion has the force of settled law. As a result, the unions no longer even have the standing to reach an agreement that would be binding on membership because the pension benefit itself accrues to the members themselves and not to their unions, whose representation is limited to other matters. Thus, the unions can bargain over the formula for the pension contributions of their members but not over their basic pension rights.

As far as the budget crisis is concerned, one thing the state legislature can do to help is to begin taxing retirement income, perhaps making it subject to a deductible and then really walloping the six-figure retirement incomes by making them fully taxable after the deductible is reached. In short, it is incumbent on our leaders to accept the judgment of the court and try to come up with workable solutions that will ease the budget crisis instead of wasting everyone’s time with continued wishful thinking.

Edward D. Lasky, Edgewater

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Open the door wide on sugary drink tax

The article “Emanuel cracks open the door to tax on sugary soft drinks” (Sept. 9) highlights the extensive lobbying resources that are being devoted to oppose Alderman George Cardenas’ proposal.

But all the money from the special interest groups doesn’t change several important facts.

The proposal is popular. A poll conducted last spring about the ideas in the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Act, a similar proposal pending in Springfield, found that 69 percent of Chicago voters favored funding health care (Medicaid) and community prevention programs with a penny-per-ounce sugary drink tax.

Contrary to what opponents claim, research shows that this proposal would not lead to job losses. Dr. Lisa Powell, an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, testified at Wednesday’s hearing that a sugary beverage tax would have a zero net effect on employment in Illinois. These findings were published in a study Powell and three colleagues authored in the American Journal of Public Health. Another study by Dr. Powell and her colleague Dr. Frank Chaloupka found that in the first year, a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugary drinks in Illinois would reduce childhood obesity by 9.3 percent and adult obesity by 5.2 percent while saving more than $170 million in healthcare costs for the state.

Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the American diet and a proven and prime culprit in the obesity and diabetes epidemic. The science on the health effects of sugary drinks is as clear as the merits of funding health and prevention by taxing them.

Elissa J. Bassler, CEO

Illinois Public Health Institute

The wrong message on rape

In “Rape case sends mixed messages on prostitution” (Sept. 12), Mary Mitchell claims law enforcement makes “a mockery of rape victims” when they prosecute men who rape women in prostitution. The contempt for prostituted people that Ms. Mitchell displays, and the myths she promotes, have real consequences for policy and people. They paralyze community institutions from acting against perpetrators, making everyone — especially girls and women bought for sex in Chicago — less safe. By singling out prostituted women as undeserving of the protection of law, Ms. Mitchell suggests that men who buy sex should be free to commit sexual violence against a group of already marginalized and stigmatized women. As evidence that it is Ms. Mitchell — and not prosecutors — adding insult to the injury of rape, I remind her of the survivor she quoted in her column, the woman who said, “No human being should ever be treated like he treated me.”

Lynne Johnson, policy director

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation

Cheney fails again on Middle East strategy

Once again, Dick Cheney has the temerity to engage the U.S. in another conflict. At a recent appearance in Chicago touting his new book, he suggested President Obama take a harder line on Iran. (Here is a man who helped splinter religious unrest in the region years ago). Of course, he would like us to enter into another imbroglio there. His past efforts did not benefit the U.S. at all, just his corporate relationships. America does not want to lose more American lives in the Middle East. Wars have never been the solution there for us; allow a consortium to also aid in oversight of Iran’s defensive posture. President Obama has done his best to keep American out of harm’s way during his two terms. We have coaxed others there to embrace a larger role as the Saudi government has done. Mr. Cheney represented a failed administration that got us into the region. Let the countries there resolve their own (religious) differences without us interceding anymore.

Vincent Kamin, Streeterville

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