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Friday, April 6, 2012: Health insurance, communism and oil companies

Government-run, good enough

BDN columnist Matthew Gagnon, a Republican strategist, knows that there’s a problem with our health insurance system (March 30 column). He also knows that we are “simply never going to get (good coverage at an affordable rate) from a government-operated system.”

And yet, when I asked the many students in my Penobscot Valley Senior College class how many of them wanted to give up their government-run health insurance called Medicare, and to enjoy instead the “liberty” of getting their health insurance from the free market, free of government interference, not a one raised his or her hand. Not a one.

Sol Goldman


Communism is …

I’m prompted to write after reading two recent letters that semantically misuse the word “communism.”

I learned from a friend, a retired professor from Penn State University, that semantics usually are an obstacle to understanding. Communism is not totalitarianism, communism is the Benedictine Monks of St. Mary’s Abbey who were the greatest teachers a young man could have, or it is the Trappist’s of Gethsemane who harbored Thomas Merton.

I understand that the late infamous Joe McCarthy and the other Joe — Stalin — did distort the meaning of the word but they knew nothing of real communists. Yes, we should rail against totalitarianism but communism should not be confused with totalitarianism.

William Ward


Don’t waste Maine

Having returned from a town comprehensive plan committee discussion about preserving agricultural farmland and critical natural resources, I am filled with inspiration from having gathered with neighbors to talk about how better to care for this great land. I also cannot ignore a nagging feeling of utter despair when I think that state officials would pass LD 879 which seeks to expand the dump in Norridgewock.

What can town committees and governments actually accomplish when our representatives in Augusta actually passed a bill which would allow out-of-state trash to freely come into the state to poison our woods, fields and watersheds with God knows what? Toxic medical waste and city construction debris? How could they possibly have overlooked that this dump has already had major problems?

In 1989 the Norridgewock dump, at the time owned by CWS and servicing only 30 Maine communities, collapsed under the weight of trash and doubled the size of the dump from 12 acres to 25 acres! The bed of soft clay couldn’t handle the amount of trash then, let alone if it were to be expanded and receive trash from out of state.

Maine’s pride is its pristine and undeveloped environment. Gov. LePage may have put that sign up, but I believe many Mainers would agree that we are not open for just any business.

But this isn’t over yet! Contact Gov. LePage and ask him to veto LD 879.


Elizabeth Smedberg


Cutting off oil companies

Congress recently voted to continue oil and gas subsidies. I find this quite depressing, but understandable. To run a campaign and get elected, politicians need lots of money. The oil companies supply funds to many a politician. Voting against the subsidies would be biting the hand that feeds them.

In Maine, where 40 percent of fuel use goes to heating our homes, we actually have the power to cut the amount we send to oil and gas companies. We can do this by making our homes more energy efficient. Most buildings in Maine are so inefficient that fuel use can cut by 40 percent easily.

To start saving on heating fuel costs, contact an Efficiency Maine participating energy adviser. They will identify the least costly home upgrades to cut your bills and keep some of the money you’ve been spending on heating in your own pocket. Efficiency Maine even has low cost PACE loans to finance the work.

The time to defund the oil companies is today. Start with your own home; from there, move on to encouraging others to weatherize, too!

Laurie Osher


Maine Interfaith Power and Light

Oppose mine law

The Legislature should oppose LD 1853, An Act to Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Mining in Maine.

In the early 1970s while working in Ohio under contract to the Army Corps of Engineers, I witnessed firsthand the harmful impact of acid mine pollution associated with the coal industry. If LD 1853 is passed, Maine faces similar and irreversible damage to groundwater, streams and lakes through sulfuric acid pollution originating from metal mine seepage, tailings and overburden. Aquatic organisms cannot survive such conditions.

Once LD 1853 weakens Maine’s metal mining regulations, the Bald Mountain mining operation will be replicated throughout the state’s metal ore-bearing areas and the pollution will be extensive. Private corporations will have made their profits, and the people of Maine will be left with the expense of dealing with the pollution.

LeRoy Bandy


Out of touch Republicans

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget along party lines that would reduce low income program spending by $3.3 trillion over 10 years, including cuts to Medicaid (20 percent), food stamps (17 percent), housing assistance, job training and Pell grants. Mitt Romney said “It’s an excellent piece of work” and Rick Santorum said it didn’t cut enough. This budget also includes substantial tax cuts for the rich.

According to a New York Times article on a study conducted of 2010 U.S. tax returns by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, 93 percent of the additional $288 billion created that year (compared to 2009) went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers, those with at least $352,000 in income, for an average increase of 11.6 percent to each of those households.

The super-rich got even richer faster. In 2010, 37 percent of this additional income went to just the top 0.01 percent or about 15,000 households, having average incomes of $23.8 million. These fortunate few saw their incomes rise by 21.5 percent.

The bottom 99 percent received an average $80 increase in income after inflation. The top 1 percent, whose average income is $1,019,089 had an 11.6 percent increase.

Acceptance of these ideas by Romney, Santorum and every single House Republican indicates how out-of-touch they are with the reality faced by 99 percent of our country. The last thing we need is more concentration of wealth in those who can‘t spend it fast enough and at the expense of the rest of us.

Frank John


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