Split the difference

The biggest obstacle facing the two parties in the "fiscal cliff" debate seems to be a dispute about the mechanism to make high earners pay more ("No give on tax, spending positions," Monday).

Both Democrats and Republicans agree in principle that most earners - singles who make less than $200,000 and married couples who make less than $250,000 - should not have their federal income taxes raised. They also agree in principle that high earners should pay more. President Obama insists that their rates increase from 35 percent to 39 percent. Republicans counter that they will not accept rate increases, but that they would limit deductions for this group. It seems that true compromise would split this difference. Increase rates to 37 percent and limit deductions to provide the other half of the revenue to be raised.

Each side could sell this to its constituents as the best deal possible, but more importantly, it would signal to the nation, and the markets, that bipartisanship is possible.

Tom Gavin, Philadelphia, thomaspgavin@gmail.com

Won't get fooled again

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, or thrice?

Democrats snookered Ronald Reagan and George H.W. "Read My Lips" Bush on tax increases. Those two presidents were promised that if they raised taxes, Democrats would reduce spending - later. Now President Obama is trying to pull the same trick again.

Oleg Dudkin, Berwyn

Constituents first

It is good to see that U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) and Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) are putting their obligation to serve their constituents over their pledge to right-wing lobbyist Grover Norquist not to raise taxes, even for America's millionaires. ("Runyan, Meehan rethink pledge," Wednesday).

The congressmen said they won't rule out raising taxes as part of a solution to avoid the upcoming "fiscal cliff." But they need to go further and support President Obama's proposal to preserve tax cuts for middle-class Americans, while ending the cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

Reinstating higher tax levels on the rich would raise about $800 billion over 10 years, helping to avoid deep, painful cuts for schools, health care, our returning soldiers, and other vital services.

Christopher Sharp, Philadelphia

Pursuit of excellence

Changing demographics and a pervasive idea of dependency on central authority promoted by the various institutions, including academia and the media, have ensured America's decline as a world power. By fanning the flames of class envy - "make the rich pay their fair share" - and highlighting racial and gender differences, the Democrats continue their stay in Washington.

The idea that capital is created by individuals, not government, is overlooked in the political posturing that is rampant in America. Those who invent, develop, and promote a product or service with their own energies and imagination are what make an active and healthy economy. The constant and relentless pursuit of equality should be replaced with the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Henry Coxe, Ambler

The 'trickle up' economy

It's heartening to know that some lawmakers realize that their primary responsibility is to do what is best for their constituents (and, by extension, best for our nation). Money spent in a "trickle up" economy - through funding in social-service sectors such as health care, education, food assistance, Social Security, and Medicare - provides more economic benefit than money saved by the very wealthy on their taxes.

The "elephant in the room" is military spending. Ask U.S. Sens. Robert Casey and Pat Toomey, and your House representative, to put our nation on a fiscally responsible path that includes cutting Pentagon spending by $1 trillion over the next 10 years and allowing tax rates to rise for those who can most afford it.

Deborah F. Faulkner, Lansdale, footefaulk@comcast.net

Fear of tyranny

Grant Calder missed the point of the increasing interest in secession ("We the oppressed," Thursday). It has nothing to do with President Obama's reelection or Mitt Romney's defeat. The issue is the growing realization that the federal government, as intended by the Constitution at our nation's founding, has morphed into an unrecognizable and unsustainable entity that is clearly operating outside the boundaries of constitutional authority or intent - and that, for a variety of reasons, it is never going back.

It has become clear that, as a result of mass communication, social media, improved voter organizing, educational indoctrination, media bias, and the creation of an ever-increasing government dependency, certain political entities and their minions are succeeding in usurping the freedom of many citizens in the name of "fairness" or the "environment" or the "middle class" or the "common good." It has also become clear to many that these changes will undoubtedly lead to tyranny by our national government in the future.

Mike Morgan, East Goshen

Ode to Philadelphia

Your editorial "Tourism lacks marketing cash" (Nov. 25) states that it takes a "sustained effort" to nurture a region's visitor industry. This idea calls to my mind the song "Philadelphia (Philly, I Love You)," written by Henry and Bobbie Shaffner. I know about this wonderful piece of music, having been associated with the Philadelphia Boys Choir, which premiered it at the Walnut Street Theatre, 40 years ago, under Robert Hamilton.

To my mind, this should be adopted as the official city song, and widely publicized. If the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is smart, it will get on this ASAP.

Carole Wallowitch, Philadelphia

Contempt toward firefighters

Although we appreciate The Inquirer's coverage of the city's plan to transfer 300 of the department's most veteran firefighters, we were dismayed that you chose to emphasize the anger our members directed at Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, rather than the City Council members' outright repudiation of this illogical and dangerous plan ("Firefighters heckle chief," Wednesday).

If enacted in January, the transfers will rob companies of valuable institutional knowledge, destroy veteran teams, lead to confusion and longer fire-response times, and endanger civilians and firefighters alike. It has never been attempted elsewhere. Ayers could not offer a shred of data to support it. City Council was right to decry the nonsensical plan and we thank its members for their leadership.

As for the anger toward Mayor Nutter and Ayers, it's more than justified. Three times now - twice by a neutral arbitrator and once by a Common Pleas Court judge - our arbitration award was upheld and deemed to be fair and affordable. Yet we remain without a contract. The city has messed with our hours, disrupting our family life. It's shut down engine companies, demanding that we do more with less, while withholding our nominal raises for four years. It's punished us for getting injured in the line of duty. Despite these indignities, we keep doing our job - saving people's lives.

This administration treats firefighters with contempt. It's a disgrace and it has to stop.

Bill Gault, president, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 22, Philadelphia