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Thursday, March 17, 2011 04:46 pm

Letters to the Editor 03/17/11


In last week’s cover story, “The longest war,” writer Don Jones explained: “After nine years, it’s still hard to tell what American troops are fighting for in Afghanistan. Except one another.”

Although I agree that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have lost all purpose and reason, I caution you not to hope that the invasions will end anytime soon [See “The longest war,” March 10].

The reason is simple: In order to end the invasions and bring our people home, Washington, D.C., will have to admit that the invasions were a stupid waste of time and resources. The Republicans would have to admit that George Walker Bush committed illegal and criminal acts (for which he could face prosecution), if the troops come home and the invasions end.

I would be willing to place a huge bet that, just before the final pullout, there will be a sudden rash of new violence, with our barracks, compounds and embassies facing brutal attack, all of which will be orchestrated from Washington, D.C. When this violence erupts, the Republicans will insist upon sending in even more American troops.

This invasion, as the article pointed out, has nothing to do with American scapegoat Osama Bin Laden. Nor does it have anything to do with Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. These are just scapegoats. The only reason the invasions will continue, long after you and I are long-since dead, is because the Republicans don’t want to deal with the ugly question of: “Why did we do it?”

Norman Hinderliter

I would like to respond to Tala Hamdani’s article “Investigating Muslims or coming together as Americans?” regarding the hearings going on in D.C. [Guestwork, March 10].

Ms. Hamdani seems to be offended that these hearings are taking place. But, I see nothing wrong with having a discussion as to why American Muslims are becoming radicalized. No one is being asked to “out” their neighbor or coworker. No one’s livelihood is being threatened. Why is it becoming more and more forbidden to even talk about this issue? When you make things taboo to talk about, you are starting down a very dangerous road.

The Muslim community should, instead, be asking why certain Muslim Americans turn against their own country. Why would they try to halt hearings trying to determine the answer to this? There are Muslim men handing out pamphlets on the streets of New York City calling for “actions against Americans.” Don’t we need to know why they feel this way? And why do some Muslims consider themselves Muslim first, American second? I resent being told that we can’t even talk about this. It should be talked about more, not less.

Sherri Boner

The Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois welcomes Rep. Dwight Kay’s call for an audit of TRS, as mentioned last week in a letter from Philip Chapman of Highland. We are confident that any new audit will only confirm the results of previous annual audits conducted by independent accounting firms. The result of the latest TRS audit is available at trs.illinois.gov. There is no fraud, mismanagement or conflict of interest at TRS.

However, in describing Rep. Kay’s proposal, Mr. Chapman’s letter left the mistaken impression that TRS will not be able to pay pensions because of a funding “shortfall.” The truth is TRS will have enough money on hand to pay pensions well into the future.

The “shortfall” Mr. Chapman refers to is the system’s “unfunded” liability. TRS currently has assets to cover only 48 percent of its total $77 billion liability. The liability is composed of what TRS owes current retirees plus what it will owe all future retirees. The piece that Mr. Chapman misses is that the total liability never comes due at a single point in time because active teachers cannot collect until they retire. Thus, only a small portion of the total liability must be paid each year.

The important number to focus on is the amount TRS does pay annually in pensions and benefits – $3.9 billion in 2010. This makes TRS one of the largest “payrolls” in the Illinois economy. With that said, TRS revenues in 2010 totaled $6.8 billion, more than enough to cover all obligations. With $34.6 billion in assets currently and a 13.5 percent investment rate of return for the last six months, TRS will have the money to fund pensions for years to come.

TRS is the 39th largest pension system in the United States with 372,000 members, and despite carrying an unfunded liability since 1953, the system has always paid its retirees on time.

Richard W. Ingram, executive director
Teachers’ Retirement System

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