Raise cigarette tax
I was happy to read of the great public and business support for the Fund for a Healthy Maine.
Ninety-one percent of voters and more than 150 businesses support using the fund for its intended purpose: to prevent chronic illness and promote healthier living. People and businesses recognize that the programs it funds help keep health care costs low, businesses productive and communities vibrant.
Preserving the Fund for a Healthy Maine is our best investment in the health of our children and the stability of our economy. That’s because the fund is about prevention. The governor’s budget proposes cutting more than a third of the fund and eliminating funding to 15 programs. This is shortsighted and will end up costing us more in dollars and lives.
Health care costs continue to be one of the greatest burdens on businesses and Maine taxpayers. Smoking, obesity and related chronic diseases result in hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary costs to the state and its people.
Instead of making cuts to the fund, the state should raise the cigarette tax by $1.50. This will reduce smoking among youth and young adults and raise nearly $35 million annually in new revenue. This money can be used to fill gaps in the Medicaid budget with money left over for business and job development projects and programs.
I strongly encourage the Legislature to consider such a proposal as they work to balance the budget.
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I was interested in the BDN’s recent story about the zip line across Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
My great uncle, Van Morrill, walked across the falls on a tightrope once! That is what he did for a living.
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Medicare visions compared
How do Democratic and Republican visions of Medicare differ?
Democrats want to close the drug coverage doughnut hole and negotiate better drug prices. They want to continue this wonderful program, with overhead costs of 5 percent, that guarantees America’s senior and disabled citizens are covered.
The Republican vision of Medicare includes the Paul Ryan plan, where elderly and disabled get a voucher to purchase private insurance. There are no guarantees to continue with Medicare as we know it.
If the voucher is $5,000, Grandma can shop around to find insurance that only costs her $5,000. Of course, her insurance probably will cost far more than that, so she will “be free” to subsidize that from her vast savings. So her $15,000 annual insurance plan, which covers a 33 percent overhead and profit, will cover her.
But what if she feels compelled to eat and doesn’t have $15,000 for health insurance? Fortunately, Republicans in Augusta have made it possible for her to buy a stripped-down insurance plan from whatever state has the least coverage requirements. So Grandma can use her $5,000 voucher to buy insurance that won’t even cover her yearly mammogram. But that’s OK, because it also won’t cover the radiation and chemotherapy she would need for the tumor smoldering away inside her.
Republicans want Medicare to become like health care for the younger crowd — great care for those who can afford it, too bad for those who can’t. Americans are realizing that Democrats are for people first and Republicans are for big business first. Where do you stand?
Dr. Stephen Blythe
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DIY bottled water
It is shocking to me that we Mainers are so gullible as to let private corporations pump water from our streams and aquifers, bottle it untested, put it in plastic bottles that add to our waste stream and sell it back to us. All we have to do is buy a stainless steel bottle, fill it with town-tested and regulated water from our taps and save money. Why are we all so foolish?
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The current field of GOP presidential candidates has been characterized by the pundits as “weak.” Lacking, of course, is the standard against which this description is ascribed. But that hardly matters, since this subtle pejorative puts all Obama challengers in a perceived disadvantage vis-a-vis the “strong” incumbent.
Surprisingly, even supporters of the GOP have adopted this less-than-flattering picture of everyone who has entered the race. The GOP debate in South Carolina featured a glimpse of candidates who felt confident enough to express their conservative-based ideas on national TV. From the crowd’s reaction, each in their unique fashion made a “strong” argument opposing the policies and performance of the current administration. So why was the current field diminished as “weak”?
Already, it appears that the strategy of the coming campaign is to attack the candidate’s character rather than to objectively assess the validity and strength of his or her ideas. At this stage of the 2012 race, the electorate should be listening to ideas and proposals that might reverse the downward spiral we are in and ignore the fatuous and hurtful characterizations which malign their proponents and, in the process, distract its attention.
Derision from the left is expected. Derision from the right is downright disloyal and irresponsible.
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Wind and birds
It never ceases to amaze me that groups such as Maine Audubon, who profess an interest in alternative energy and fish and wildlife and who ought to be on the same page as the president, continuously work against any proposals for wind.
Yes, I love the birds that surround us, and yes, some might die because of turbines. But what about the hawks, eagles, blue jays, owls, cars and other predators? Should we outlaw them?
How many birds are killed by other birds or cars or kids with BB guns or airplanes? There are two different hawks who regularly have been feasting off the birds at our feeders. Should I eliminate them so that they won’t reduce the chickadee or gold finch populations? I readily appreciate extinction and habitat loss as concerns, but they are bigger issues than wind turbines.
We can’t put wind towers on the ocean because they might be seen or interfere with some fishing and sailing; we can’t put them on ridges because they might be seen by some hikers or skiers; we can’t put them anywhere because someone will complain about the view, the noise, the three dead birds, the access roads that have to be built, etc. But we can drill off the Gulf Coast again, now off the coast of Virginia — maybe the Gulf of Maine should be next. That could give a whole new definition to NIMBYism.