Let diplomacy work in Iran

 

In his Jan. 16 op-ed for The Hill’s Congress Blog, “Iranian sanctions must continue,” state Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-S.C.) rightly points out that most Americans “do not want to be involved in another military engagement, and ... do not want to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon.” He then advocates for passing a law — S. 1881, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013 — that would make either of those outcomes infinitely more likely. 

Rather than provide the president “generous” veto authority, as the author suggests, the bill would tie the president’s hand by creating impossible conditions for the Iranians to meet. It would impose new sanctions even as the First Step Agreement struck between Iran and world powers would, bit by bit, remove sanctions in return for Iran halting its nuclear program. Importantly, that sanctions relief is instantly reversible.

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This is why 22 Democratic senators have spoken publicly against acting on S. 1881 at this time. First Step came into effect on Jan. 20, 2014, and the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran is in compliance with its end of the bargain. Both sides will continue to negotiate the tough issues toward a comprehensive agreement. Passing new sanctions would threaten to collapse negotiations, not move them forward. 

If we are unable to continue diplomacy with Iran, the alternatives are bleak. The president has already made clear that he would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon. Indeed, as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stated recently, enacting S. 1881 would be a “march toward war.”

From Sandy Pappas, Minnesota Senate president, Arlington, Mass.


Making politicians into celebs brings downfall

The comparisons to Adam and Eve in the corruption case of former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are inevitable — woman leads the weak and willing man astray. But to characterize this as a henpecked husband’s misuse of political power to placate a harridan would be too simple an explanation for the 14-count federal corruption indictment the couple now faces. There has to be more.

It costs beaucoup bucks to burnish an image just to prepare to be considered for running for higher office. “Fake it ’til you make it” often involves going into deep personal debt. And then there’s the money thrown candidates’ way, thanks to Citizen United, during the campaign. The spigot gets turned off upon election, which might be a particularly bitter pill to swallow in a state like Virginia, where the governor is term-limited to four years. Not much time to cultivate and reap the perks of public service. 

A taste for the “good life” once acquired doesn’t just disappear. “Nice” becomes “necessary,” “wants” morph into “needs.” It’s addictive, particularly in a society where “style” and “stuff” are increasingly more revered than staid and sober “substance.” 

This should give us pause — beyond our fleeting fascination with the McDonnells’ plight — as to how far astray we have gotten. The sad saga of the once rising Republican star, quid pro quo and/or conviction or not, is a symptom of the saturation of the sickness of perception as reality. As long as we require our politicians to primp, pose and posture and be “cool” like celebrities, we cannot act surprised when they stumble and tumble, and we continue to get the “democracy” we deserve. 

From Karen Ann DeLuca, Alexandria, Va


Switch from income tax to a consumption tax 

 A 2011 study by noted economist Art Laffer estimates that U.S. taxpayers wasted 3.16 billion hours and shelled out $431.1 billion just to comply with the income tax code. This excludes the opportunity costs due to lost productivity, and it costs our economy $216.2 billion annually.

With approximately 140 million taxpayers in the U.S., that means on average each wastes 23 hours per year pulling together and filing taxes. 

There is a better solution. We should switch from an income tax to a consumption tax. This would eliminate the need to file taxes altogether — you would pay your taxes when you buy something. This would encourage people to work and save their money. We could make it fair by excluding taxes on essential spending like food, clothing shelter.

That better solution is H.R. 25 / S. 122, the Fair Tax. It would also create millions of new jobs, tax the shadow economy on their spending, and level the playing field for U.S. companies competing in a global marketplace. And, it would eliminate the IRS.

From James R. Donnell, Cameron Park, Calif.


Prevention best solution 

As we remember the recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade and this cultural divide in our country’s history, we should stop the political nonsense and look for a solution. A solution can only be found if we address the root cause of the issue: that there are women that are pregnant that don’t want to be. 

We can continue to debate how to handle this for the next 50 years, or we can admit the only solution is prevention. I would suggest right-to-life people adopt the call for a women’s right to choose — to not get pregnant —and take a page out of the Mother’s Against Drunk Driving advertising playbook. The best thing that MADD did to reduce drunken driving was not to pass legislation but to make it socially unacceptable to drink and drive. The same thing can be achieved by a pro-life campaign.

The best advertising campaign might include the history of abortion, the numbers involved (54 million dead) and the results of people’s choices. I encourage every American to look at this issue from a historical perspective — not of our past but our future history. How will our descendants look back at our society and judge us? 

This is a challenge with no 100 percent solution, but if we can work together and have a clear target with strong leadership, we can help bring this country together.

From Andrew Pierson, Flemington, N.J.