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Where the poorest members of Richmond live there are no supermarkets but only liquor stores and quick-stops. This has been the case for years. Richmond has a very high rate of unemployment, particularly among its minority population. Richmond has a high rate of drive-by shootings and homicides. Its schools are not known for their high academic performance and they have been cash-strapped for years. These are many of the daily stressors under which the poorest members of Richmond must live. As a result of these and other stressors they suffer from serious stress-related health problems. The abuse of sugar drinks is a symptom, not the cause, of these health issues, which affect a large portion of Richmond's residents. There is a proven correlation between poverty and serious health problems, including obesity. You don't need to be a scientist or a doctor to Google "what states have the highest rates of obesity?" and then Google "which are the poorest states in the US?" to see that the results indicate the very same states. Clearly, the relationship between serious health problems and rates of poverty is glaring. Health issues are class issues.
So then, why would these obvious social facts lead "progressives" to support a regressive sugar tax in the first place? The answer is that capitalism teaches us to attribute our economic problems to our own inadequacies rather than to the economic system itself. Rather than fight capitalism we blame the most oppressed members of our society. We blame them for the consequences of being poor as if it were their fault. This is the reactionary response to our problems, which creates the cynicism that leads well-intentioned people to support regressive taxes.
This is precisely the same strategy that is currently being used by the media to blame public workers' pensions and benefits for the failure of state and local governments to balance their budgets. The attacks on public workers' benefits are merely distractions so that citizens forget the impacts of nonstop wars and the largest theft of public funds in the history of the world that we, the taxpayers, are paying for.
This strategy is so effective that even the most liberal citizens are falling for it. People who are still comfortable understand that their economic situation is changing fast. They are getting caught up in the downward economic spiral. When they are told that the increased cost of their health insurance is due to other people's unhealthy lifestyles, they quickly support a regressive sugar drinks tax. They support increasing the health insurance rates for obese people or smokers — or just denying them health care altogether. The same attitude is being applied to public workers who have paid into their retirement plans but are now under attack for having a retirement plan at all. Politicians and the media clamor for the reduction of their benefits while advocating for them to work longer before retirement. Voters who have fewer benefits or none at all are now supporting these shortsighted attacks. They don't understand the causes of their own current economic situation. The easy answer for them is to attack their neighbor. We need to stop these mean-spirited, divisive, reactionary attacks on our friends and neighbors, and focus instead on the real problem: work to defeat capitalism before it crushes all of us. Progressives should never support regressive taxes.
Charles Smith, Richmond
"Larry Reid Touts Police, Again," Election 2012, 10/24
Walking for Walton
Going door-to-door for Sheryl [Walton], I have never had such an easy time getting a yes. Seems most folks have never seen this council member in the district, and unless they vote for Sheryl, they never will.
Pamela Drake, Oakland
A Wake-Up Call
I hope this article proves to be a wake-up call to the voters in District 7. Public safety should be about more than partisan finger-pointing and the same old platitudes being offered to the victims of crime. If we want a change, then we should vote for a change.
Allene Warren, Oakland
"School Closures Drives Races," Election 2012, 10/17
School Closures Are Not Common Sense
Having analyzed Oakland Unified School District's finances for over two years as a member of the OUSD Audit Committee, I'm very disappointed by this one-sided reporting from Mr. Gammon. The article assumes — without any analysis or actual numbers — that school closures are common sense and paints those who oppose them as misguided, idealistic neophytes. Had Mr. Gammon done his homework like Katy Murphy of the Oakland Tribune, he would know that closing Lazear Elementary and reopening it as a charter actually cost the district millions of dollars. (According to a fiscal analysis by district staff, approving the charter "would cost OUSD $1.4 million," "Oakland School Closure Savings Estimate is Missing Something," 8/3). We need experienced, thoughtful school board members who will analyze the fiscal and educational rationale behind each decision, instead of accepting without question the wisdom of Superintendent Tony Smith's recommendations, as Mr. Gammon appears to do.
Daniel Morris Hutchinson, Oakland
"Redefining Sex Work," Election 2012, 10/17
Leave Us Alone
I entered the profession at the age of 49, after three years of unemployment, hundreds of résumés sent out, and dozens of interviews. I don't know what took me so long — this is the best job I have ever had! I don't consider myself an "escort" or "prostitute." I consider myself to be an independent businesswoman, and I act appropriately. I do research into what is desired by my target market, and track my income to see how it's affected by the weather, time of year/month/day, etc. I have a bachelor's degree in business administration and use my education more in this profession than any other I have had since graduating.
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