Maine’s real tax rates

I attended Gov. Paul LePage’s recent town hall meeting at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. I would like to express thanks to the governor for the opportunity to hear his view points and for his service to our state.

There was discussion about the 3 percent surtax for education, which the governor claims creates an income tax rate of 10.15 percent on all income is someone earns over $200,000. If, however, you do an analysis of how income taxes are calculated in Maine, you can come up with a very different conclusion.

I calculated taxes due in 2017 for a single individual with taxable income of $210,000, under Maine Revenue Services Schedule 1.

For income up to $21,100, taxed at 5.8 percent, taxes owed are $1,224. For income between $21,100 and $50,000, taxed at 6.75 percent, taxes owed are $3,175. For income between $50,000 and $200,000, taxed at 7.15 percent, $13,900 in taxes is owed. For the $10,000 in income over $200,000, taxed at 10.15 percent, $1,050 would be owed in taxes. The total taxes due are $14,915.

If you calculate the effective tax rate — taxes due divided by taxable income — you get an effective rate of 7.1 percent.

If I am correct, we should let high income Mainers know they are not being taxed at 10.15 percent so they can accurately assess their situation and perhaps decide to remain in our great state.

Greg Cyr

Fort Kent

Backwards gun restrictions

The president speaks to the National Rifle Association, and guns have to be checked at the door. But it is OK, apparently, to permit guns in schools and churches and walking on the public streets, threatening children, worshippers and casual walkers.

Something is definitely wrong with that picture.

Patricia Wiggins Schroth

Sedgwick

Fund addiction treatment

The Maine Council of Churches strongly supports all efforts to fully fund drug and alcohol treatment programs in Maine.

In the early 1930s, when people addicted to drugs and alcohol were viewed as “drunks and bums,” medical treatment was nonexistent. This began to change, in part, when Sister Mary Ignatia Gavin, an unassuming Catholic Sister of Charity, began to secretly admit alcoholics to an Akron hospital. For the first year, in direct disobedience to her superiors, she hid her patients in the flower storage room of the gift shop. In time, with the help of Dr. Bob Wilson, co-founder of AA, the first hospital recovery unit in the U.S. was founded at the hospital.

Today there are many types of treatment, but in general a multi-pronged approach is best. Unfortunately, treatment can be seen as costly. To ignore addiction and hope it goes away is magical thinking, and to be stingy with funding for treatment will only result in higher costs down the road from lost work, ruined relationships, child neglect and crime.

At the Maine Council of Churches, we embrace the compassionate spirit of people like Sister Ignatia. We advocate for comprehensive treatment strategies that address the whole person with dignity and understanding. We see an ethical imperative to take care of the most vulnerable people in our society, including people with addictions. We believe no cost is too great to save a God-given human life.

Rev. Dr. William M. Barter

Lewiston

Policing fake news

In the wake of the “fake news” claims, a widespread media and social media hysteria has erupted, and Facebook has attempted to solve the problem.

Their solution? New tools that let users to flag what they consider “disputed” stories will then go through a review process by “Facebook researchers,” then “third-party-fact checking organizations.” If a story is found fake it won’t be taken off the site — instead, it will be flagged as disputed and include a link to why this is so.

This solution is flawed. The largest problem revolving around fake news is the exact definition of the word. The second problem is who is being entrusted to be the so-called gatekeepers of what is real news and what is not?

Many media outlets and fact-checking organizations are biased, and if these organizations are given the power to filter through what they believe is fake or not, the public can be misled as to what really is fake, and some are concerned this initiative will allow people to rid the site of a lot of right-leaning reports.

Completely inaccurate information to hateful and seething blog posts can be called “fake.” This judgment call is hard to make and could work to police free-speech disliked by people in power.

The problem of fake news cannot be solved so quickly because of conflicting values and competing agendas. It’s instead up to the citizens to police the content they read and become more informed consumers of the news.

Aysha Vear

Orono

Tell refugee stories

The world is experiencing a refugee crisis of vast proportions. More than 65 million people are displaced all around the globe at this moment. That is the highest number since World War II. Today, the clear majority are fleeing ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

Justifiably, most people in our country have been made aware of the refugee crisis already. So the question is, if so many people are conscious of the immense amount of need, why isn’t more being done to help?

The fact is, facts don’t work. News reports of refugees packed into half-sinking boats, footage of screaming children injured by bombings and blurred videos of beheadings serve as methods of creating awareness of the severity of the issue, but these scenes that are so far away from the realities of most American citizens seem to only push the conflict further away. Perhaps taking the route of telling individual refugee’s stories could produce more positive effects. Finding ways to forge connections between refugees and people who can help is essential; humanization is key.

Approaching the refugee crisis with a mindset that realizes that these people aren’t just numbers and statistics, but rather people with families and lives just like ourselves who had to experience the immense loss of a home fear for their lives, is an essential action that needs to be taken in order to create valuable change.

Marta Denny

Rockport