A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

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The social contract

We expect the president to keep us informed of our own business

Editor, The Times:

President Bush said he would not negotiate with himself — by speaking to the media about his plans, whether they be for Social Security privatization, the Iraq war or anything else (“Bush’s agenda no lock on Hill,” Times, page one, Dec. 20, and “Bush: Insurgents ‘having an effect’ ” page one, Dec. 21).

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This means, of course, that we, the public, do not have a right to know what is being planned for our country or our retirement money or anything that might affect us.

The president has a sworn duty to keep the country informed of the details of any plans he may have, especially when those plans impact the millions of Americans who supposedly voted for him. By failing to be forthcoming with the American people, he fails as president.

It’s one thing to keep details of national security out of the press, but it’s another thing entirely to keep Social Security plans behind closed doors and out of view from the very public those plans will impact.

This is yet another example of how the far-right faction of the Republican Party abuses the power it was supposedly entrusted with.

— Philip Ryburn, Seattle

No harm in swearing

In ancient Greek civilization, the Hippocratic oath sworn to by physicians and the Oath of Themis, sworn to by lawyers, represented truth, justice, peace and values. In the recent Republican presidential campaign, emphasis was placed on values.

It is the plan of president Bush to reshape Social Security, immigration and tort reform, to list but a few. Therefore, it is important immediate consideration be given to establishing a committee to redraft the Presidential Oath to be administered to George W. Bush by Chief Justice William Rehnquist to read, “Do you solemnly swear, each by whatever he or she holds most sacred, that you will exercise your role doing no harm to the utmost of your power, holding yourself far aloof from wrong, from corruption, from the tempting of others.”

— Marie Whitener Hindery, Seattle

Can you spare a lifetime?

When President Bush laid out his goals in his Dec. 20 new conference, he dismissed Social Security out of hand by stating that the system was designed in an era that is long gone. For the wage earner, the era that spawned Social Security — i.e., the era of no fair labor laws, no retirement plans, no medical benefits, no vacation — has returned. The only ingredient missing is an economic depression matching the scale of the 1930s. See John Snow’s summary in “Crash course: How to retire at 100” (Letters to the editor, Dec. 27).

The current system that provides 2 or 3 percent of something is better than a privatized one that may provide a higher percent of nothing.

If the government can borrow $2 trillion to pay banks and lawyers to implement a privatized system, why not just put the $2 trillion into the current system and support the wage earner?

— Robert Dickie, Bethesda, Md.

No gold watch

Basically, George Bush is trying to (cheat) all the old and poor people in the United States by allowing private firms to skim enormous profits (in management fees) off the top of our Social Security fund.

As Bush put it at the press conference, he wants to go from a “defined benefit program” to a “defined contribution program.” The big difference between the two is that with his defined contribution program, there is absolutely no guaranteed benefit when you retire.

Bush wants to destroy the most successful social program in the history of the United States. He wants to destroy it so his rich fat-cat buddies can skim enormous profits out of the accounts of poor and middle-class Americans.

What Bush fails to mention is that Social Security is remarkably efficient, requiring a minuscule 1 percent in overhead to keep this system running. What he also fails to mention is the huge amount of IRA and 401(k) programs that all Americans have access to already. Why turn Social Security into another 401(k) or IRA? Greed is the simple answer.

I thought Bush could not possibly get more corrupt after the disaster in Iraq, but this Social Security fake crisis is just as immoral. The difference is, this time bomb has a very long, delayed fuse. This bomb won’t go off for years. When it does blow, it will devastate old and poor Americans.

— Mike Reinholz, Seattle

Retiring to a cold state

We have been hearing a lot about the “crisis” in Social Security. One would think we have only months left in which to avert a disaster. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, “Social Security is currently running an annual surplus.” With no changes made, payroll taxes will no longer cover benefits around 2018. Then, the Social Security Trust Fund will cover the difference until around 2052. After the trust fund is gone, payroll taxes will still meet about 80 percent of the obligation.

Crisis? We have 13 more years of annual surpluses and 47 additional years of trust-fund cushion. The crisis is only for those who wish to kill social programs regardless of their effectiveness.

The current proposals would change a guaranteed safety net for all into a risky investment system. The appeal is to our greed for higher returns and lower taxes; but the risk is very real. Ask anyone whose retirement funds disappeared in the Enron scandal. Without Social Security, many of those people would have nothing!

— Steve Taylor, Bellingham

Bishop’s move

Oblique obstruction

How terribly discouraging to read that Seattle’s Catholic archbishop fought with volunteers and experts in child sexual abuse who were trying to make the church safer for our children. (“Board members rip archbishop over sex-abuse issue,” page one, Dec. 21).

For years, Archbishop Brunett allowed priests (who are the objects of) credible accusations of sexual abuse to remain active in parishes, with access to computers and children. He only pulled them from service once their names were made public by The Seattle Times. Only then did he set up a review board to deal with the problem, and now he wants to disband it before its job is done.

What saddens me most is the continuing secrecy. If Archbishop Brunett won’t even share information and tell the truth, how can we believe he’ll ever really change his secretive, self-protective behavior?

— John Shuster, Port Orchard

Manipulating ballots

The hand is quicker

Oh joy, our governor’s election has clearly proved man’s ability to triumph over machines! (“It’s Gregoire by 130; is it over?” page one, Dec. 24.)

The first act of our state Legislature should be to enact our “Uniform Voting Process Law,” which would require all counties to throw out all voting machines, electronic or otherwise, to require voters to manually fill out all ballots, not just the absentee ones, to manually validate all signatures and to manually count all votes.

We have just proved that this is the most accurate way to count votes, and it would clearly save a lot of time, money and frustration.

— Dick Hughes, Enumclaw

Cross your fingers

Count every vote! Count every vote! What, I’m ahead?

Stop the count! Stop the count!

— Jason Richard Hochstrasser, University Place