Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

November 08, 2003

Pension rollback leaves retirees with very little

The Sun's article suggesting how lucky I am that there is a Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) pretty much ticked me off ("Pension safety net is one federal program that works," Nov. 2).

I am a Bethlehem Steel retiree who worked for 36 years at a dirty, dangerous job. My goal was to retire at a young age so I could enjoy a life of sleeping at night instead of working, going to social functions with my friends instead of begging off because I had to work the afternoon shift, and living long enough to collect the pension I had worked all that overtime for.

Well, I lived that life for a little over a year. Now, because the PBGC is cutting my pension by $1,100 a month, I have to try to find a job. I have to do that not only because the PBGC is cutting my pension, but also because I have to pay back money that it overpaid me because of its own ineptitude.

To now suggest that I am lucky because at least I have what is left of my pension is ludicrous. The board may as well take it all because what is left is useless to me.

Once I pay federal and state taxes, my health benefits, life insurance and the "payback," I cannot even afford to buy groceries to feed my wife and me. And forget a car, car insurance, telephone, utilities, a roof over my head -- you know, the necessities of life.

I once fought a war that I did not believe was justified, for this country. During my working life, I paid more than my fair share of taxes and did my very best to be a good citizen. On Tuesday, Veterans Day, I will honor those like myself who fought in the nation's wars.

I once believed that my government cared about me. Now I know better.

And sadly, there are thousands worse off than I, scared to complain for fear they will lose what little they have left. That's another level of poverty in an already declining society.

How sad.

How very, very sad.

Edmond D. Groff

Baltimore

Need national policy to protect health care

It is a tragedy that our retired steelworkers were promised health care coverage but had it dropped recently ("Pension safety net is one federal program that works," Nov. 2).

The unions gave concession after concession to protect their health care coverage. Many of the hard-working, proud steelworkers are men who never ask for anything but what is due to them. They earned their health care.

In addition, many of these steelworkers have serious health problems because of where they worked. But now they are being asked to insure themselves.

The best assets from Bethlehem Steel were allowed to be sold to International Steel Group Inc., but ISG was allowed to walk away from the legacy costs. There is something wrong in our bankruptcy laws when we allow the assets to be sold off but working people have to foot the bill for the liabilities.

Our country needs a national health insurance plan to protect retirees and workers who earned their benefits. We also need a plan to protect the millions without health insurance.

One way or the other, our society as a whole will pay for the lack of a national plan.

Thomas E. Quirk

Catonsville

An economic menace to the middle class

If economists think we can maintain our present standard of living through a service- and knowledge-based economy, it's time for them to revisit their foolish assumptions ("Industry for the future," Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 3).

This week I received my first telemarketing call from out of the country. The caller identified himself as being in New Delhi, India, and as calling on behalf of my credit card company.

It is quite obvious that with satellite and Internet technology, many service and knowledge professions can be shipped offshore.

As major industries downsize, merge or simply disappear, retirement pensions and health benefits vanish as well. A good example is seen in the plight of former American steelworkers and their families.

It is time -- no, it is past time -- to demand that our leaders stop trying to police the world and face the reality at home.

The only way a democracy can survive is by maintaining a healthy and sizable middle class. The concept of a "post-industrial age" is frightening.

It would create a country split into two parts -- the very rich and the very poor.

Rosalind Nester Ellis

Baltimore

Razing landmarks, ruining urban areas

As a transplanted Baltimorean, I am sorry to discover the intention to raze the Odorite building ("Lawsuit seeks to save UB building," Nov. 1). That building gives the area, and all of Mount Royal, its distinctive flavor

If that building were in New York City, where I live now, it would be worth a fortune. The University of Baltimore should hold onto it and find a creative use for it. In New York City, this is done all of the time.

The beauty and eccentricity of the architecture is part of what attracts people to New York. On the other hand, one of the reasons I left Baltimore was the sad state of most of the city's downtown buildings.

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