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Thursday, April 24, 2014: Climate change action, pay-to-play sports, corporate welfare, healthy eating

Climate legislation now

Michael Brune and Jim Frick wrote a great article April 21 on the need for the people’s voices to be heard in elections instead of the raucous sound of expensive campaign ads paid for by tycoons who want to maintain the status quo. Absolutely fantastic, except for one thing. If Americans who say they are concerned about climate change had been calling or writing their senators and representatives every day letting them know they want climate legislation, legislation would already have been passed. It is not enough for us to vote on Election Day and then set aside our civic responsibilities. We must make our voices heard as regularly as tycoons write checks to lobbyists.

I urge Mainers to call Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and their U.S. representatives and ask them to sponsor national legislation to charge fossil fuel producers a fee for the emissions their products cause. The legislation should also rebate the fees collected to the public so we all can have extra income to pay for rising energy prices.

Brune and Frick claim that the Koch brothers have subverted our democracy. That is only partially true. We have sat quietly and let them and their money derail climate legislation.

It’s time to tell Collins, King and everyone else, “We’re as mad as hell and we aren’t going to take this any more!” Let’s get climate legislation passed now.

Rabbi Judy Weiss

Member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Brookline, Mass.

Pay to play system

I am very concerned about the requested increase in the Bangor school budget. I feel that there are better ways to increase the budget rather than dip into the taxpayer’s pocket, which seems to be the fan favorite of our councilors.

I would be very interested to know the cost of the sports programs in our school system. I would also like to inquire as to whether a pay-to-play system has been looked at. I understand that not all of our student-athletes would have the funds to compete, but I believe the booster clubs and students could organize fundraising efforts to supply funding for the sports and deserving students.

The taxpayers do not have endlessly deep pockets, so let’s be inventive and proactive. Cuts always hurt, but look at the benefactors of all funding (the taxpayer) and for once start supporting them.

Wayne LeVasseur


Corporate dependence

Food stamps, otherwise known as SNAP, cost approximately $80 billion per year. Sure they are misused occasionally, but if you are familiar with business practices you will know the abuse of food subsidies is far greater by corporations. Any time a corporate executive wines and dines, you and I, as average taxpayers, help foot the bill through tax write-offs that amount to $12 billion a year.

Welfare subsidies for private planes are as follows: accelerated tax write-off, avoidance of personal taxes by claiming private planes are for security, and use of air traffic control — paid for by you and me flying commercial. The cost is $3 billion annually.

Welfare for yachts and second homes let the rich write off the interest on these at a cost of $8 billion.

Federal tax breaks for hedge fund managers allow them to pay only a 15 percent tax rate on their magically reclassified income. This carries a lower maximum tax rate of 23.8 percent versus a maximum earned income rate of 39.6 percent. The cost to us? $4 billion a year for the 25 richest hedge fund managers.

Big banks borrow money cheaply because of an implicit government promise to rescue them that costs us $83 billion.

Indirect subsidies to fast food companies, since the government pays for public benefits because the companies’ pay to employees is so low, cost us $243 billion.

Other welfare to oil companies, corporate farms, state- and city-level tax incentives, sport stadiums and more cost us billions more.

I’m afraid these corporations will be labeled lazy and become addicted to entitlements.

Verne Flood


Healthier options

Is it not a contradiction how we can encourage healthy eating during school but promote unhealthy foods at after-school events? Why is it that we do not promote healthier snacks when children need increased nutrients to help enhance their physical activity?

Most children are replacing the necessary healthy nutrients with high-fat and -sugar snacks before after-school activities. While healthy eating is supported during the school hours, few schools have policies regulating after-school events.

As dietetic interns at the University of Maine, we are passionate about the healthy eating habits of children and feel it is necessary to advocate for healthier foods sold at concession stands. The Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards are new guidelines for snacks sold during school set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will be implemented in the fall of 2014. These guidelines only regulate snacks during school hours and do not include after-school events. Therefore, right now would be the opportune time to expand beyond these existing guidelines.

Within Maine, Portland has had success with piloting healthy options in concession stands and has set a great example for other schools to follow. Some ideas for creating healthier concession stands include: increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains, decreasing portion sizes, increasing the price of the traditional foods and lowering the price of healthier foods. Creating a balance of healthy options and traditional choices is the first step to making a successful change. Let’s unite to encourage healthy eating during school hours and during after-school events.

Victoria Dorman



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