(If you have something you think Montecito should know about, or wish to respond to something you read in the Journal, we want to hear from you. Please send all such correspondence to: Montecito Journal, Letters to the Editor, 1122 Coast Village Circle, Montecito, CA. 93108. You can also FAX such mail to: (805) 969-6654, or E-mail to tim@montecitojournal.net)

MERRAG Needs You

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank all of the active MERRAG volunteers who thanklessly donate their time to learn about disaster preparedness and how they can help bring the Montecito community back on their feet in the event we experience a local disaster.

The Montecito community lies in wait of a major wildland fire, earthquake, flooding, tsunami, and power outage (just to name a few scenarios) on any given day. MERRAG volunteers learn how to prepare for these events, and how to work with your local public service agencies: Montecito Fire Protection District, Montecito Water District, Montecito Sanitary District and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department. While all of these agencies provide the very best services available to their constituents, they may be limited in the event of a large-scale disaster until additional resources can be sent. (Think “Katrina” and remember how long the Federal Government took to come to their aid.) MERRAG volunteers ARE your aid, and will be there to help when the time comes.

Volunteering with MERRAG provides this community with a sense of connectedness and wellbeing. It allows us to participate in bringing people together—in church corridors, in schools, on playing fields and in conference rooms—for good reasons and common purposes.

So once again, thank you to the active members of MERRAG for all you do! And for those of you who are not active, consider coming to a training session and become one of our MERRAG volunteers.

We hold training sessions on the 1st Thursday of every month at Montecito Fire Protection District headquarters at 3:15 pm. You can find out more by going to www.merrag.com. You can also call me at 805-969-2537 or email me at gsimmons@montecitofire.com for more information.

This is National Volunteer Week, be sure to reach out and thank someone you know who volunteers.

Be Safe,

Geri Simmons

Montecito

(Publisher’s note: MERRAG was activated a little after 1 am Friday April 13 in response to the downing of a series of utility poles on Hot Springs Road by high winds; thanks to all the volunteers that jumped out of deep sleep to respond! – TLB)

Rightwing Retreat

I appreciate that you printed David Bostick’s criticism of the ultra rightwing retreat at the Biltmore (www.montecitojournal.net/archive/13/15/916/). But I found your response to his letter reprehensible. To imply that Clinton “scandals” are in the same universe as the criminality of the Bush regime is nothing but obfuscation. Clinton was a brilliant president, one of the best, who was humiliated because of a single error. Bush is without doubt the worst president ever; his entire reign has been nothing but crime, corruption, and errors, many of them murderous. For shame!

Thomas J. Scheff

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: In my notes I did not suggest that Bush was a better president nor did I compare Clinton’s “scandals” to anything more than just that. I pointed out that even if someone is under political scrutiny, a chance to have a one-on-one is something as editors and journalists we couldn’t pass up. But let’s be honest, it wasn’t just a “single error,” Clinton had plenty of questionable “errors,” business and personal, not to suggest the Bush/Cheney camp is squeaky clean either. To characterize the Bush administration, however, as one of “crime, corruption, and errors,” is simply left-wing hyperbole. Errors, yes, but crime? Corruption? Please. – TLB)

Tax Cuts for the Rich

It’s April 15th and I’ve just sent the federal government 35% of my income, but boy do I feel guilty. I’m one of those top 10% of Americans who earn over $100,000 a year. I work for the federal government from January 1st until May 8th each year before earning one cent for my family. And that is before I pay my local property taxes, state sales taxes, gasoline taxes, airline ticket taxes, utility taxes, liquor taxes, vehicle taxes, corporate taxes, FICA, FUTA and state income taxes, none of which existed before my father was born. Still, I can’t get over the guilt of sharing in the benefits of “Tax Cuts for the Rich.”

I know that everyone who pays taxes got a cut under the Bush plan. Taxes paid by middle-class families with children dropped substantially. But the top tax rate was cut from 39.6% to 35%. Do you realize what awful things happened? Since the Bush tax cuts in 2003, the government has recorded the highest tax collections in the history of this country. In 1995 (the middle of Clinton’s two terms) the federal government took in $1.5 trillion in tax receipts, while in 2005 (the middle of George Bush’s two terms) the federal government took in $2.1 trillion, or 40 % more than under Clinton. Why did the federal government collect more in tax receipts? The largest increase in tax revenues in American history occurred because lower tax rates for everyone liberated hundreds of billions of dollars for new investment in economic growth in the United States and around the world.

In addition, more than 7.8 million new U.S. jobs have been created since the last Bush tax cuts, the longest string of uninterrupted monthly employment gains since 1980. Robust job creation has caused the unemployment rate to fall to 4.4%, down from 4.7% a year ago and lower than the average rate for the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s. The Democrats, and their friends in the mainstream media, call this robust job creation and falling unemployment “A Jobless Recovery.”

Over the past 12 months, workers’ pay has increased by 4%, faster than the rate of inflation, improving the purchasing power that drives the economy. Those on the Left call this the worst economy since Herbert Hoover. They claim that American workers are no better off financially than they were 10 years ago, while the richest people are astonishingly so. Having demonized “Tax Cuts for the Rich” and “A Jobless Recovery,” the Left’s new theme is “Income Inequality,” ignoring the fact that illegal immigrants and those disadvantaged with the least education hold down worker wages and earnings.

The truth is the Bush tax cuts are a model of the successful application of economic theory to the real world. Lower tax rates mean more prosperity for everyone. We in this country, on balance, are healthier, wealthier and freer than anywhere else in the world. We breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, enjoy the best healthcare system, earn higher incomes and live in less crowded housing than anywhere else. Innovators and entrepreneurs, in the last 100 years, and not government or central planners, have created more wealth for everyone than in the last 100,000 years—and we work fewer hours. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said it best: “The true measure of a nation’s success is measured by how many people want to come in vs. how many want to get out.”

Congress could help by making the Bush tax cuts permanent instead of inciting class warfare and looking for new ways to “soak the rich” to pay for greater entitlements. Have you ever read in The New York Times that the top half of taxpayers now pay 96.7% of all taxes? Or that the top 1% of taxpayers now pay a record 37% of all taxes? So much for “Tax Cuts for the Rich.” Now I feel better!

Bob Hazard

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: Well said [written] Bob; there’s not much we can add except the observation that what would blowhards and populists have to rail against if not “the rich”? It has always seemed curious to us that über-wealthy Democrat politicians like Kerry, Feinstein, Boxer, Kennedy, Corzine, et al, are never lumped into that evil “rich” category; only Republicans are, but there we go again trying to be logical when hysteria is called for. – TLB)

Can Caruso, Do So?

I hope Rick Caruso is successful in his Miramar venture. Nonetheless, we are talking about a first-timer in the hotel business needing to make good on a $50 million purchase and a $30 million revamp.

I remember the cheerleaders who blindly thought Ian Schrager had enough money. I remember the cheerleaders who thought Ty Warner could offer something simple and not over-stuffed. But now the same lot has its back up against the wall and pushing for a first-timer? Sounds desperate.

Gena Methuen

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: Ian Schrager’s timing was unfortunate; he ran into 9/11 and the subsequent collapse in travel. His “boutique hotel” concept was particularly hard hit. Mr. Warner ran into so much frustration attempting to better the properties he already owned that he simply threw in the towel, figuring, we assume, that life is short and he didn’t need the added aggravation. Mr. Caruso is a successful and savvy mall developer. He has jumped out of the starting gate with his Miramar project and the guessing around here is that he will finish it on budget and on time. We fully expect to see the new Miramar open by Spring 2008. – TLB)