I am writing to you today in response to Jesse Virgil's coverage of the Working Families Win town-hall meeting at St. Ambrose on January 17. (See River Cities' Reader Issue 565, January 25-31, 2006.) I was present at the town-hall meeting, the purpose of which was to raise awareness and to engage citizens on various levels to push for a new economic direction for the state of Iowa.

To begin with, the headline, "Economic Forum Outlines Sluggish Economy but Offers Few Solutions," suggests the forum was unproductive. Nothing could be further from the truth. The forum was meant to first educate and then engage folks in the process of doing more of the same so that the larger community can also be informed and better understand the actual cause and effect that various policy decisions have on our livelihoods.

The first paragraph - "Left-leaning organizations argued at a forum last week that the economy - on a national and local level - isn't recovering quickly enough but offered few solutions" - is a loaded statement that reflects a bias. I don't recall anyone "arguing" about anything, and I am just curious to know what Mr. Virgil expected in terms of solutions other than actively engaging people around the issues. Perhaps he could suggest a good solution that he feels would be more practical than those offered at the forum.

The truth is: You only get out of anything what you put into it, and only the people themselves can create change. It takes people to make things happen. Working families are struggling all over America, and Iowa is no exception. Corporations that own stock may be making record profits right now, but middle-class America is having to work harder and longer for less pay and benefits. Health care is out of reach, whether it's access to services or the cost of prescription drugs. To imply that the situation is overblown is to be in complete denial of the facts. Poverty has gone up for the fourth year in a row.

The increase in the "bottom line" for the wealthiest in our country as been at the expense of everyone else. This has been due to policy. Only an actively engaged citizenry can offset this negative trend by first educating themselves, sharing that which they learn, and then addressing the policymakers themselves. If our policymakers cater to the special interests over serving the greater good, then it is up to all of us as citizens to put pressure on them to do the right thing, or elect someone else who is up to the task. We need policymakers who will first address the needs of people before addressing the need to make a profit. As Gandhi once said, "We have enough to meet everyone's need; we just don't have enough to meet everyone's greed." I know that's right!

For those of you who would like to learn more about the State of Working Iowa, go to (http://www.iowapolicyproject.org) and (http://www.workingfamilieswin.org).

Caroline Vernon

Taxpayers Have Opportunity to Speak Up

Business and individual taxpayers collectively spend more than 6 billion hours per year to comply with the tax system, based on 2005 estimates from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) relies on taxpayer input to improve the services it provides to taxpayers, many citizens don't know what avenues are available for voicing suggestions or concerns.

Soon, Davenport/Quad Cities taxpayers will have the chance to speak up.

On March 8, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) will hold a community town-hall meeting at the Rogalski Center at St. Ambrose University from 6 to 8 p.m. TAP, a federal advisory committee of volunteer members, was established to listen to taxpayers, identify taxpayer issues, and make suggestions to the IRS to improve customer service and satisfaction.

TAP members, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, and IRS representatives will listen to taxpayer comments and use direct feedback to drive change in IRS customer-service practices. I encourage all local taxpayers to take advantage of this opportunity to be heard.

Attendees can also meet their local taxpayer advocate and learn about assistance available to individual and business taxpayers from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). As an independent organization within the IRS, TAS provides a system to ensure that tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels are promptly and fairly handled.

This meeting is a chance for taxpayers in the Davenport/Quad Cities area to speak up, drive change, and tell the IRS how customer service in their community can be improved. I urge you to help answer the question: "How can the IRS better serve you?"

Steve Landauer
Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

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