Thursday, March 15, 2012: Bipartisanship, texting while driving and carbon-based energy

Posted March 14, 2012, at 4:27 p.m.

Bipartisan history

Never has Congress been so polarized. It is now almost impossible to pass legislation to improve the nation — the parties are more intent on self-aggrandizement and the status of their political party. It has gotten so bad that Sen. Olympia Snowe decided in disgust last month not to run again.

It was not always this way. There was a time when the country came first. Mainers don’t have to look beyond our state for excellent examples of bipartisanship and cordiality. Sens. Edmund Muskie, a Democrat, and Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican, were good friends who forged major legislation that benefited the nation and Maine. Later, Republican Sen. William Cohen and Democratic Sen. George Mitchell worked in unison to sponsor major bills for the common good. The close friends even co-authored a novel. No wonder President Bill Clinton crossed party lines to appoint Cohen his secretary of state.

Out-of-state models of mutual respect and common goals are plentiful. In the 1996 Massachusetts Senate race, Republican Gov. William Weld challenged Democratic incumbent John Kerry. The two moderates agreed to wage a positive campaign based on issues, not personality or party. They even agreed on the financial parameters of their campaigns. The two politicians remained friends after Kerry defeated Weld for the seat.

Also, who can forget President Ronald Reagan’s amicable relationship with House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill? The two Irishmen from opposing parties were known for their good-natured ribbing of each other and their collaboration on major beneficial legislation.

This country should follow the example of these effective and intelligent politicians.

Ross Paradis

Frenchville

Texting and ticketing

Let’s get real. Only one ticket for text messaging and driving given out between four police departments is a joke.

Last week as I was driving down Union Street I observed three people texting while driving. I phoned the Bangor police and turned one of the drivers in. The problem is that the police can’t stop drivers who they think are texting. They have to break some other law so the police have a reason to give a ticket.

If texting and driving is becoming a major problem then it should be treated as such. A fine of $140 is also a joke. Let’s treat it the same as drunk driving and let the fine reflect as much. Also, the person’s right to drive should be suspended. The trouble is that the people doing the texting know they have nothing to fear from the police because it is not treated as a grievous crime.

It’s time to change the law and the punishment.

John L. Clark

Bangor

Fee and dividend

The price of oil and coal is controversial because we all depend so much on those fuels for almost everything we do. We are not sure how the oil companies come up with the price we are forced to pay (many subsidies and tax breaks confuse the “fair market”).

Renewable energy sources don’t enjoy such large subsidies and tax breaks and aren’t likely to get any under the current economic system — that is, oil and coal companies are not likely to give up these advantages willingly or easily.

Here’s an emerging simple idea that we might all think about, called “Fee and Dividend”:

The government assesses a carbon fee on the oil or coal producer at the point of production, based on carbon content of the fuel, for the privilege of using our nation’s natural resources. The government passes 100 percent of income from this fee to us, citizens and consumers, on a per capita basis (this is the “dividend”).

The producer will pass along the cost of the fee to the consumer by raising the price of the product. The consumer will have more money to pay for the increased price of oil or coal, or could spend it on other forms of noncarbon energy which would not be subject to the carbon fee and therefore relatively less expensive.

The market could then be made more “fair” for renewable energy sources. This is just a thought for chewing on as we all struggle to make ends meet.

Sam Brown

Parkman

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