Tax changes will help N.J. seniors

New Jersey has traditionally been a difficult place for many people to retire because of the estate and inheritance tax and the low exemption for retirement income. The recent transportation funding deal included some very positive tax changes that will benefit senior citizens.

The changes will exempt more retirement income, allowing more seniors to stay in New Jersey, near their families. This will help grow our economy and will make our state a more competitive place to retire, compared to Pennsylvania and New York.

Many seniors also qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is also being increased under the transportation funding agreement. I strongly support both changes to our tax code, and I credit State Sen. Stephen Sweeney for his role in making sure they got passed and making senior citizens a priority. Without his leadership, these tax reductions might never have happened.

|Tom Bianco, mayor, Clayton Borough

Think before you repeat

Regarding the article, "Drivers feel pinch at the pump in N.J." (Wednesday), I need to point out a basic problem with blindly printing what someone says.

A Conshohocken woman said the cost of her 100-mile round-trip to Hamilton, N.J., would jump more than $50 a week. Assume five days a week and 20 miles a gallon - that works out to 500 miles, divided by 20 miles per gallon, or an additional 25 gallons a week. Rounding off the 23-cents-a-gallon tax increase to 25 cents, that's $6.25 a week, a far cry from $50.

I make this point as an example of a larger problem. In our busy lives, we often re-Tweet and repeat what someone has said and allow it to become fact through repetition. It is important to think objectively about what we hear and apply common sense to those statements, particularly before we put them out there in such a manner that they might be quoted and an erroneous statement becomes fact.

|Douglas K. Smithman, Dresher

Bring back visiting orchestras

I must once again voice my disappointment with the leadership of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, starting with president and chief executive officer Anne Ewers. While they won't appropriate one cent toward reviving the Visiting Orchestra Series, they are poised to buy the Merriam Theater for $11 million ("Sale of Merriam Theater to Kimmel Center delayed," Philly.com, Wednesday). I am not writing to criticize this move but to make a point about funding.

Inquirer culture writer Peter Dobrin has noted that visiting orchestras play in New York and Washington, yet bypass Philadelphia. It is obvious that Ewers is not interested in allocating the necessary resources to procure the services of these groups to perform at the Kimmel Center. I urge her to do so.

|Doug King, Pennsville

'Israel is not David but Goliath'

Columnist Charles Krauthammer's commentary condemned long-overdue measures by the United States and the international community to address the egregious human-rights violations of Palestinian Christians, Muslims, and non-Jews in the Holy Land ("Two-state decree would bring war, damage Israel," Oct. 31).

He failed to mention the explosion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, the theft of vital resources, the obscene detentions of children, the ongoing home demolitions, and countless other well-documented abuses and humiliations of the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation government.

Modern-day Israel is not David, but Goliath. Every one of these abuses is in clear violation of international law in accordance with the Fourth Geneva Convention, United Nations resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and official U.S. foreign policy dating back decades. What is "an insult" to Judaism and Christianity and "makes a mockery of the Gospels" is the unfathomable and unchecked brutality that Israel engages in with immunity, paid for by U.S. tax dollars.

|Anne French, Lansdale, afrench1600@gmail.com

Stop adult bullying at work

It is encouraging that there are programs and increased awareness of bullying of children and emerging adults ("Candidates send a message that bullying is acceptable," Oct. 25). Bullying in the workplace, however, has not been similarly addressed.

Mobbing is "bullying on steroids," says Sophie Henshaw, a clinical psychologist. A bully enlists coworkers in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a hapless target. The watchers see it but never take a stand against it. This horrifying trend is on the rise in the United States, the only western industrialized country lacking laws against it, Henshaw says. Millions of Americans are bullied on the job every day, threatening or destroying their professional standing.

The most toxic environments are law offices and government departments. The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that adult bullying is a form of psychological violence shared by victims of domestic violence, child abuse, and school bullying. Thirty percent of women who are targets of workplace bullying suffer post traumatic stress syndrome, an indescribable hell.

|Marilyn A. Peterson, Marlton

Invest in mental health care

Your article, "Long ER stays for psych patients cited" (Oct. 18) raised an important issue: a dearth of mental health services. We need to revisit our society's unfulfilled promise and invest in community-based programs.

During deinstitutionalization, a promise was made to invest the money that funded state hospitals in a robust, community-based service system. Unfortunately, states have dramatically reduced funding for community-based mental health services over the years. In 1955, the United States spent the equivalent of $262 billion on state hospitals, but by 2006 spent less than $31 billion annually on mental-health services. Community-based care works only when it is adequately funded.

Investing in prevention and early intervention programs would allow people to get care when it's most effective, preventing costly emergency-room visits. It's time we invested in care, not crisis.

|Cortney Bruno, social work intern, Advocacy Division, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, cbruno@mhasp.org

Community banks play a key role

The role of community banking and bankers is critically important to the economic strength of our country and the quality of life we all enjoy. Despite the politically motivated rhetoric of candidates for public office and the occasional negative headline created by the country's largest financial institutions, we should not allow the critical role of community banks to be obscured. Community bankers make a difference every day by focusing on serving the financial needs of their customers and by contributing to the quality of life in their communities. We do not want that fact to be obscured or misrepresented by political posturing. Look around and you will come across a banker who cares deeply about his or her community and is determined to contribute to the promise of economic vitality for all of us.

|William P. Hayes, chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Kish Bank, State College, Pa.