Attempting to buy the local election
Lately I've received a stack of glossy mailers from a group calling itself "Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes."
The group is fighting a November ballot measure in Richmond that would tax sugary drinks to fund children's anti-obesity efforts.
An Aug. 12 Wall Street Journal article revealed that the attack ads are funded by the American Beverage Association, a powerful industry group representing huge soda corporations. The article stated the corporate interest group is "paying local residents to lobby against the tax."
Recently, our dinner was interrupted by a phone call from the Community Coalition. As the woman launched into her script about why we should oppose the soda tax, I asked her: "Are you a volunteer? Do you live in the Richmond area?" Heck no, this paid telemarketer was calling from northern Pennsylvania.
The American Beverage Association is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to invent a "community coalition" to defeat a local initiative in Richmond -- it may be legal, but it's wrong. Our local election shouldn't be purchased by big soda corporations.
Deanna Gates Wallis
Fund tech fixes to help stop climate change
Tom Barnidge's column on Berkeley professor Richard Muller's review of past global temperature data was
While one of the first lessons a budding skeptic learns is "correlation is not necessarily causation," Muller's analysis seems more persuasive because he was initially so skeptical about the validity of some of the data.
There are also well accepted scientific principles that explain why more CO2 in the atmosphere should warm things up.
The issues seem to boil down to: "how fast the frog (Earth) is being cooked in the pot" and "what (if anything) we should do about it."
As I understand it, he's saying "not very fast" and "switch to natural gas." That's reassuring since we seem to have a new abundance of gas. Yet we still have an abundance of coal.
If we are moving closer to climate-change consensus, what does Washington intend to do about coal -- and more broadly -- slowing the release of CO2 into the air?
At the very least, we should be funding research into technological fixes such as carbon sequestration.
Richmond soda levy is a ruse to raise taxes
The soda tax in Richmond is authored and promoted by Councilman Jeff Ritterman.
Dr. Ritterman's current position is that sugar drinks are responsible for the high rate of obesity in Richmond's minority community and it is in the community's interest to discourage the consumption of such drinks by adding a hefty city tax on them.
In a 2008 National Geographic special, "Stress: Portrait of a Killer" (view on YouTube), Ritterman expressed a broader view, stating the daily stress of being poor is what leads to health problems. The relationship between the stress of poverty and obesity was one of the primary points in the documentary.
So what could change in four years that would lead Ritterman to change his emphasis to focus exclusively on the issue of a sugar drink tax? I suggest a $1.5 million to $1.9 million budget deficit and the deal the city made in 2010 with Chevron, which sacrificed citizens' right to levy any new taxes on Chevron for 15 years.
There is nothing progressive about a regressive tax.
Charles T. Smith
Hidden welfare in the tax code
Politicians from both parties continue to tell us they did a wonderful job reforming welfare. Unfortunately, this is another example of our elected officials misleading us.
What they leave out is that they turned the income tax code into a welfare program by instituting "refundable credits." Even if an individual owes no tax and has not paid anything into the system, we send him a check that can easily go to thousands of dollars.
These credits come in two flavors: the "earned income credit" is sent to low-income taxpayers and increases with the number of dependent children claimed on the tax return. The "additional child tax credit" is once again paid per child. It is easy to game the system with claimed cash income made up so the credits can be claimed.
I have seen various estimates that show there are about 5 million welfare recipients, but there are 27 million earned income credit and many millions more additional child tax credit recipients. Welfare is now hidden in the tax code, and more kids still means more money.
Voters weren't given chance on labeling
The Aug. 16 editorial about Proposition 37 gave the impression that the voters of Vermont and Connecticut voted no to labeling genetically engineered food.
Vermont legislators never got the chance to vote on H-722 to label GMOs. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and legislators caved in to big biotech's threat to sue Vermont if the bill was passed.
I received an email dated April 13 from Shumlin explaining, "I don't think it is fair to ask Vermonters to bear the burden of the cost of those legal challenges." I find his email troubling when more than 90 percent of Vermonters want GE foods labeled.
Is it right for these special interest groups to have such control over our lawmakers? Who's really running this country? President Barack Obama or Michael Taylor, an ex-Monsanto official who is now the FDA food safety czar? Why can't media dig deeper to get the facts? These are the questions I have when I read the editorial.