Letters to the editor

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Author: Readers

Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the autumn print issue are marked by a double ##.

Studebaker

##While I enjoyed the inspirational story about the rebirth of former Studebaker Building 84, “Rising from the Ashes,” the author repeats the myth that Studebaker went out of business in December 1963 when it closed most of its South Bend plants. By that time Studebaker, through acquisitions, had become a diverse holding company whose brands included Gravely lawn mowers, STP fuel additives, Clarke floor equipment and more.

Studebaker consolidated its rapidly shrinking, unprofitable automotive division at its more modern and smaller Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, facility from which it exported cars back to the United States into March 1966, when it finally exited the auto business. Studebaker kept its foundry open in South Bend until 1964 and exported engines to Ontario for assembly then sourced GM engines for the 1965-66 model years. Through a complex series of mergers and acquisitions it became Studebaker-Worthington, with a modern headquarters in New York and revenue of $1 billion in 1973. The Studebaker name finally disappeared when Studebaker-Worthington itself was acquired in 1979 by McGraw-Edison.

Tom Burke ’83MBA
River Grove, Illinois

Family counselors

##Your man, Terrence R. Keeley, in his item “Family Counseling,” is quite mistaken when he stated that “doctrinal evolutions” occurred in the Catholic Church regarding slavery, usury and ecumenism. The only thing that ever changed about what the Church expressed on these matters of morals was the historical context, the facts that pertained.

The Church abided slavery as an incident of the right of conquest by one nation over another. For example, the Roman Empire employed slavery as an alternative for prisoners of war to the annihilation of an entire gens. Slavery was the ultimate effective way for The Empire “to keep its enemies close,” not the slavery leading to commercial slave-trading into the Americas.

Likewise, the kind of usury condemned by the Church in the monolithic feudal social economy of the time in which money was neither conceived nor functioned as it does today in a modern democratic republic remains properly condemned. And the basic goal and intention of the Church immediately after the Protestant Revolution and the goal and intention of Vatican II ecumenism are the same. Ecumenism is dialogue as a form of evangelizing the immutable truths of The Faith, nothing more, nothing less.

What is actually Catholic Church doctrine has never evolved. References to slavery, usury and ecumenism are misleading and not helpful to pursuit of the truth in the doctrinal facts about marriage and life in the sacraments of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no “wiggle room” on these matters.

Kevin B. McCarthy
Indianapolis, Indiana

##There is a crisis in the family but the more relevant crisis facing the Synod on the Family is a crisis in the authority of the church. Many jobs carry with them authority (e.g. parent, teacher, bishop, pope) but it is easy to lose that authority. The author of the article indicates he has already decided the important issues and the only problem remaining is to get the faithful to accept what he has decided. That is not the way either of Vatican II or of Francis and is not the way to restore the teaching authority of the Church.

John Cantwell ’62
St. Louis, Missouri

The rich and the poor

##Brendan O’Shaughnessy’s accurate, if somewhat depressing, catalog of the rise of the rich in America comes ever so close to the truth. The underlying reality, which he did not state, is succinct, simple and unequivocal. In the United Sates, when the top rate of income tax goes up inequality goes down. When the top rate of income tax goes down inequality goes up.

The current situation in America should surprise no one since it is the easily predictable outcome of a deliberately chosen political policy that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Guy Wroble ’77
Denver, Colorado

##I appreciate Brendan O’Shaughnessy’s attempt at striking a balance between conservative and liberal viewpoints, and I consider them fair. Aside from that, O’Shaughnessy has done an excellent job of grasping both the problem and the solution. I especially enjoyed his comments about Gannett because I started Muncie Voice because of the poor journalistic quality at a local Gannett newspaper. I see the lack of journalism across the country as one of the primary components of why the problems have come about, and why the right and left cannot agree on the problem.

Quite frankly, the journalism industry — the Fourth Estate — is at fault for the corruption of the systems they were meant to monitor. A free and independent press is the cornerstone of democracy, but this country allowed it to become the property of the richest Americans and corporatists. Once that happened, the press served their needs, not ours.

Todd Smekens
Muncie, Indiana

##On a campus where the Ten Commandments are debatable, it may come as a shock that some things are immutable — one of which is the proper set-up of a chess board. Although I get the symbolism of the illustration accompanying “A House Divided” (i.e., the principal pieces versus the pawns), it is axiomatic that the square in the lower right-hand corner for each player should be light-colored. “White on right” is the term. Sent by one who attended Notre Dame when it was Notre Dame. I wish you all the best on your road to adulthood.

John Abbott ’67
San Mateo, California

“A House Divided” by Brendan O’Shaughnessy has some major flaws. The third rail of sociology, illegitimacy, is barely mentioned as contributing to limited social improvement. Seventy percent illegitimacy among black children certainly explains some disparity in income and prospects. The children of dysfunctional families are permanently scarred. However, they are not without opportunity. The “underclass” understands how to manipulate the system. Even the “Jets” gang members in West Side Story, 50 years ago, knew what liberal hot buttons to push. Listen to the Jets musical number “Gee, Officer Krupke” to get a lesson in sociology.

The author throws around conclusions with no foundation. What effect on real income are things like the low income tax credit, (easily and often abused), food stamps, rent subsidies, school lunch programs, free health insurance, college Pell grants of as much as $12,000.00 and even free cell phones? Contrary to the contentions of Pope Francis, this is a cascade not a trickle of benefits to the sometimes poor.

What is the effect of inflation? I can say from personal experiences in 1970, e.g buying a home, buying cars and groceries and other consumer goods, today’s prices of similar items are 10 times the prices of 1970. Even the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffet, concedes a multiple of seven. Thus some the salary increases merely match inflation, e.g. my daughter’s Notre Dame B.A. in accounting in the late 2000’s got her a job with a major accounting firm at about 10 times what my contemporaries were initially paid. Of course, an executive of today will make a multiple of what he made in 1970.

O’Shaughnessy’s personal vignette about Gannett newspaper shows that investors are not dunces. They punish excessive salaries that reduce corporate income, hence, their dividends and treat excessive borrowing to pay dividends, as self-devouring. The investors also viewed paying productive employees less than they were worth as diminishing the stock value. Those employees who felt under paid were going to leave and be paid the market price for what they were producing. Witness, such behavior diminished the stock value of Gannett by 90 percent. Management that held Gannett stock got their comeuppance. Incidentally, this occurred despite the fact that the Federal Reserve’s quest to prop up the stock market has forced those living on retirement saving to adjure bonds and instead buy stock.

If, as the author implies, profits should be reinvested in productivity increases, to whom are any increased profits to be distributed? It is the investor, who, foregoing return on his investment, has increased productivity. Today the hundreds of workers that sweated along with me in the automobile assembly line have been replaced by indefatigable machines that may need maintenance but never intentionally drop a bolt in the chain mechanism and thus hold up production while, by union rule, only a millwright could remove the bolt that was apparent to any bystander. Should any greater profits be allocated to the single operator of the machines on the basis of the operator’s doing the work of hundreds of workers, or to the investors whose forbearance of dividends purchased the machinery?

It may be Justice Roberts’ prerogative to identify a tax where one is not stated. However, payroll tax is not a tax on the employee. The funds are allegedly being saved to sustain that employee’s future Social Cecurity and Medicare benefits. Indeed, if there is a tax, it is the portion of the FICA paid by the employer. It’s not corporate management’s fault that the fund has been highjacked for other purposes. So any comparison of payroll tax to actual income tax is erroneous. God willing, I’ll get back what I contributed. 2015 graduates likely won’t get their contributions back.

Elsewhere corporate abuses are cited which are indefensible and though not illegal, at least toeing the line. Today’s globalization demands implementation of technological advances. However, the advantage of the U.S. in intellectual property and its assignment to other nations is not cited as an abuse. Companies avoid taxes by use of the investment tax credit, wherein the taxpayers pay dollar for dollar for companies to design new products. Unfortunately, those same companies disclose and assign the patents on many products to make foreign markets available. My suggestion, if a patent or product is developed with tax credits, upon assignment to a foreign entity, the tax credit must be repaid and the patent voided. Think any politician will touch it?

As a first generation American, I take umbrage at those who are jealous of the industriousness of my immigrant parents. They came to these shores with a will to work and a steadfast and simple Catholic faith. They produced within a couple of generations, physicians, physicists, biologists, CPA’s, engineers, steamfitters and way too many lawyers. While we never have reached the pinnacle of the social elite we have done far better than any British overseers thought we could. The United States of America far surpasses the british empire (caps intentionally deleted) when measuring opportunity. Now the progeny once again face a sinister threat of legislated discrimination, only slightly less burdensome than the penal laws once enforced against their ancestors. Applying misnomers of equanimity, the laws disguised purposes will limit the ability of my parents’ descendants to succeed, based on their heritage and faith.

Dennis Mackin ’66, ’69J.D.
Dunwoody, Georgia

The police

##The summer edition is outstanding yet again, but I particularly enjoyed John Rudolf’s article, “Police in the Streets.” With the media’s continuing siege on law enforcement, it is refreshing to read about ND grads who have dedicated their lives to the noble profession of enforcing the laws that form a society out of chaos. By blaming police, those who have no respect for laws and for those who enforce them have been empowered, and lawlessness is the result. In most of the current incidents, if the suspect had followed the officer’s lawful instructions rather than initiating a confrontation, the incident would not have escalated. Blaming the police for the suspect’s personal transgressions and failures is simply wrong. Those who carry a badge deserve our respect and support for they are frequently all that stands between us and evil.

John W. Nelson ’64, ’67J.D.
Montrose, California

##I threw out the latest issue of Notre Dame Magazine as soon as I saw the cover announcing an article glorifying the New York City Police Department. I just saw the latest video showing New York cops dragging a man from his car, throwing him to the ground and beating him. Need I mention that he was a black man? We who live here know that the NYPD is one of the most racist organizations north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The fact that you would glorify it, when you recently devoted an entire issue to a man who fought racism all his life, Father Hesburgh, is truly a disgrace. New York police are nothing more than playground bullies with guns.

Thomas Hoobler ’64
New York City

Kalaupapa

##I want to commend Tara Hunt for her insightful and inspirational article “Gifts So Ordinary,” regarding her group’s recent pilgrimage to the Kalaupapa leper colony. Her story faithfully captures the realities of Kalaupapa, from the rugged natural beauty to the heart-wrenching stories of forced family separations. Walking about these hallowed grounds drives one to silence in homage to the thousands who lived, worked and died here.

I was most touched by Hunt’s realization that it was, and continues to be, the ordinary that best captures the spirit of Kalaupapa — ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Will Friese ’73
Honolulu, Hawaii

Alumni Association list

In your Summer 2015 issue, the Notre Dame Alumni Association Officers and Administrative Staff are listed as part of the Classes Section of your publication, as they were in years past. The feature was missing in a number of previous issues. With is reappearance, you should know that it is a welcome reinstatement of those of us who are the school’s alumni. Thanks.

CDR Ronald Wong USN (Ret) ’53
Ventura, California

Editor’s note: That section now runs only once a year, as class notes grow longer and space is at a premium.


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