Letters to the Editor

Acceptance and Outrage

Just a short note to reinforce your astonishment and outrage at the lack of an outcry by the media et al. for the GAO report findings about the $19 billion in overpayments [Bureaucratus, "Waste not, want not," FCW, Feb. 21]. You consistently and astutely observe and inform your readership of inequities and gaffes, and I for one appreciate your efforts. I have looked forward to reading your column with each succeeding issue. Thank you.

Sadly, Americans have — to a large extent lost (in a few cases, perhaps, repressed) — the capacity for outrage, and that alone is a terribly dangerous cultural signal for the state of the citizenry. Please continue your valuable work in your meaningful and insightful commentaries.

The above may not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or those I interact with on a daily basis. They are purely personal and not to be construed as in any way related to any official policy.

John Folkomer

Chief of Industrial Hygiene

Defense Depot Susquehanna, Pa.

I am bothered by the GAO report. I've been bothered over recent years regarding same kind of reports. This is apparently the worst. Where is the media? Where is the rage? No wonder we can't cut taxes. I noted that the Coast Guard gets high marks but can't get an extra dime, while others squander almost as much or more than the entire Coast Guard budget. That is the reward it gets for conscientious management and dedication to duty. Seems to me that if you can't do it right, stop. Billions are being wasted that aren't helping the intended beneficiaries. Find another way.

Name withheld by request

The tone of the General Accounting Office report that [concluded nine agencies collectively reported improper payments totaling $19.1 billion in their fiscal 1998 financial statements] merely reflects the tone of their bosses — the Congress — who tell them what to say, what not to say and how to say it. This is where the true heart of the problem lies. As far as your point that were these agencies private firms, their CEOs would be forced to resign, agency heads can be, or just fired outright.

Name withheld

Foreign Invasion

Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R-Utah) bill to amend Title 8 of the U.S. Code to allow more foreign information technology workers into the United States is the same scenario, but in reverse, in which companies are moving their operations to other countries for cheaper labor and more profit ["High-tech workers needed," FCW, Feb. 21]. The result puts U.S. workers out of work and without medical insurance.

There is no shortage of IT candidates in this country. The problem is that companies want to hire foreign workers at a fraction of the salary and benefits paid to U.S. citizens and thus increase their profit margins. Why is this issue never raised by the media?

Houston Hammac

Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA

No End In Sight

In your column ["Use P/E ratio to measure stock value," fcw.com, Feb. 25], you mentioned the absence of competing investment opportunities is pushing up the price of stocks and that stocks can't just keep going up. While logically this is certainly true, there's one thing I've wondered about.

More and more people are putting tremendous amounts of money in things like the Thrift Savings Plan and other retirement accounts, IRAs, etc. Historically, this has not really been the case. As long as these people are working, this money is going to continue to flow into these plans to be invested regardless of whether the stock market goes up or down. Professional fund managers, stockbrokers, etc. will move money between investments, but the large inflow of funds is going to continue because people sure aren't going to put it in bank savings accounts.

How is this continuing large influx of funds going to affect overall investments? Is this perhaps part of what's pushing stocks up regardless of the conventional wisdom regarding P/Es? I don't pretend to be too knowledgeable about this sort of thing, but it seems to me if the money keeps flowing in and other investments such as real estate aren't competitive, won't the stocks keep being pushed up overall regardless of what "logically" should happen? Individual stocks will go up or down, but will the continuing trend be up because of this seemingly unstoppable flow?

Gary Bell

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

U.S. Citizens Exempt From Echelon?

Regarding the Echelon situation ["NSA moves to defuse Echelon controversy," fcw.com, Feb. 29], a line that one of your journalists might like to look at is that Echelon "respects the rights of U.S. persons." Other reports said "U.S. citizens."

Say an American citizen is overseas and Echelon intercepts an e-mail message. How can it decide that the person is a U.S. citizen and therefore no action should be taken? Conversely, for non-U.S. citizens in the United States, how can it identify and extract their e-mail, or does it just ignore U.S. e-mail traffic?

Unless they have a copy of an e-mail provider's account lists, how can they identify one account as being targetable — specifically, foreign-based — and another as not?

John McLean

Zurich, Switzerland

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