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Letter: Data worries over IRS collections

Among the millions of delinquent tax debts owed to the Internal Revenue Service, there obviously are some recalcitrant cases where the engagement of a private debt collector would be appropriate ["Bill to privatize IRS collections," News, May 18]. However, legislation proposed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that would require the IRS to use private collectors for certain debts goes too far.

Dysfunctional taxation systems have led to violent upheavals in many lands and eras, including ancient Egypt, Colonial America and India under British rule. The philosopher Maimonides wrote of the evils of tax collectors who were not directly answerable to the sovereign. As unpopular and abusive as a government's own taxation personnel may be, private tax collectors invariably are all the more so. There is no limit to the collateral damage this misdirected system might wreak.

We have already seen data security breaches by IRS employees. Entrusting personal information of taxpayers to employees of the private collectors would only attenuate the IRS's less-than-perfect control over what should be secure data. This is especially dangerous now that Obamacare has effectively made personal health care information a parameter of the taxation system's databases.

Kenneth H. Ryesky, East Northport

Editor's note: The writer teaches business law and taxation at Queens College and formerly served as a lawyer for the IRS.

Appalled by delays in veterans' care

It is outrageous that our veterans are not being taken care of properly ["Aide: Obama is 'Madder than hell' over VA woes," News, May 19].

Veterans Affairs needs to get its house in order and investigate why there are major treatment delays for our veterans. These brave men and women have fought to preserve our way of life, and our country owes them big time. No veteran should have to wait for medical care. This travesty must end now!

John Amato, Fresh Meadows

Why would industry fight GMO labels?

I take great exception to a recent letter writer's assertion that labeling genetically modified organisms in processed foods may desensitize consumers ["GMO labels would be confusing," May 16].

Sensitivity to and education about ingredients are exactly what consumers need. Reading food labels is an education. Labels allow consumers to make educated choices.

The tobacco and alcohol industries fought labeling for years.

Vermont's governor just signed the first labeling law in the country. Products containing GMOs must be labeled by 2016 in that state. At least 10 other states have bills pending, including New York. Other Northeast states also have passed labeling laws, but industry has successfully lobbied for riders requiring four adjacent states to pass laws before they go into effect.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has announced that it will file suit against Vermont. That group and major corporations have spent millions fighting labeling.

GMO labeling is the law throughout Europe. Russia, China and many other countries have outright banned GMOs.

Should it not concern us that those who promote GMOs are desperate to keep the public from knowing more? Are they not proud enough of their products to boldly promote them and announce their inclusion in foods?

Dan Cignoli, Coram

Countywide school districts integrate

Even though it has been 60 years since the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education ["Brown v. Board at 60," News, May 18], it is apparent that segregation is active today in Long Island schools.

Those visiting schools in Roosevelt, Hempstead, Wyandanch and Central Islip, to name a few, would think that Brown v. Board never occurred. Nor would they were the visits to schools in Shoreham-Wading River, Bayport-Blue Point, Great Neck or Jericho.

It's unlikely the same visitors to schools in Topeka, Kansas, where the lawsuit began, would reach a similar conclusion.

No, here on Long Island, integration never happened in many districts. Perhaps we need countywide districts to solve this situation. Countywide districts also could save taxes, create more sports opportunities and allow for better resource sharing.

Leslie King, Bellport

Add statistics on student enrollment

Newsday does a great public service by providing information to help voters decide on school budgets and board candidates ["School voters guide," LI Life, May 18].

As a former school board member, I note that there is no information about the rise or fall in the number of students in each district. This can significantly change costs and also distort the relative financial performance of districts.

Districts with increasing student populations will always identify that to justify cost increases. Those with declining enrollments may not be so open and take in unnecessary tax revenues.

Edward J. Smith, Plainview