Letters for May 28 

Readers debate the rent squabble at 138 Monte Cresta, plus which side are truckers on.

Page 4 of 6

Miscellaneous Letters

Reduce Your Meat Consumption For the Planet

It has been the leading story in major newspapers and TV news programs for the past week. More than 100 million people are being driven deeper into poverty by a "silent tsunami" of rising food prices, according to World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran. A dozen countries have experienced food riots and strikes.

Prices for basic food staples such as rice, wheat, corn, and soybeans have skyrocketed in recent months. They are driven by rising fuel and fertilizer prices, diversion of corn to produce biofuels, drought in key food-producing countries, soil depletion through overgrazing, and growing demand for meat in China and other developing nations.

The resulting hunger afflicts nearly one billion people, mostly women and children. It kills an astonishing 24,000 per day. It's not just a problem for strangers in faraway lands. It affects millions of Americans, and some US stores are already rationing food.

The good news is that even a small shift toward a plant-based diet in the United States and other developed countries would free up enough land, water, and fuel to feed everyone. More than 80 percent of US agricultural land grows animal feed. A plant-based diet requires only 16-20 percent of the resources of the standard American diet (SAD).

Every one of us can start abating the scourge of world hunger today by reducing our consumption of meat and other animal products and by supporting food distribution agencies. (For more information, see TheHungerSite.org.)

Evan Teller, Emeryville

Ditto

Earlier this week, the prestigious Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health concluded that factory farming takes a big toll on human health and the environment, undermines rural economic stability, and fails to provide humane treatment of livestock. Capping a two-year study, with agriculture industry participation, the report calls for a national phase-out of all intensive confinement of farmed animals.

The report is long overdue. For the past sixty years, animal agriculture has been devastating our country's vital natural resources, including soil, waters, and wildlife habitats. It has been generating more greenhouse gases than transportation. It has been elevating the risk of chronic diseases that account for 130 million deaths annually. It has been abusing billions of innocent, sentient animals.

The only long-term solution to this tragedy is to gradually reduce the consumption of animal products to zero. Help is available at: tryveg.org and chooseveg.org.

Earl Eppler, Emeryville

Don't Halt the Production of Food

The 2007 US Farm Bill is a multibillion-dollar farm subsidy bill renewed every five years. It is a continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill. The bill first became law in 1933 as a means of preventing farmers from taking a loss on their annual production of crops (corn, wheat, cotton, rice, and soybeans). The government paid farmers the difference between what they sold and what it cost to produce. At the time it was a brilliant means of "priming the pump" so that farmers could be temporarily shielded from the effects of the Great Depression on their industry. Today's Farm Bill is a clear example of a government program being continued way beyond its original intention. Essentially, the government now pays farmers to underproduce crops in order to charge higher prices. Adding to the controversy is that it gives two-thirds of the subsidy to the top 10 percent of farmers. As with most government programs, bureaucratic self-perpetuation has allowed for this subsidy to become corrupted. Not surprisingly, the government has it backward. Why not let the farmers produce as much crops as possible, sell what they can on the world market, and give their surplus to the poor. Whatever they don't sell, the government should pay them for their surplus and distribute it among those in poverty. In a world facing a food crisis never before seen in the history of humankind, we should never halt the production of food under any circumstances. 

Joe Bialek, Cleveland, Ohio

Work for Real Change

Some people think that government oversight is needed to prevent any more financial mismanagement. But instead of "watchdogs," these regulators would be "foxes" in charge of the chicken house! Wall Street finances political campaigns and the politicians will return the favor by playing favorites in how they "manage" the financial markets. When politicians talk about managing the economy: BEWARE! What they call "manage" means they will use their tax, regulatory, and spending powers to manipulate economic decisions. We don't notice the negative effects of this because only a minority of people pay most of the taxes while a majority of us enjoy the benefits. But there are negative consequences. For example, through its regulatory powers government forced lenders to loan money to people who could not afford their home mortgages. So when borrowers cannot pay and lenders foreclose, the politicians want to solve "the problem." Some would loan the lenders more "capital," while others would impose a moratorium on foreclosures. As a result, these conflicting policies stymie efforts to refinance mortgages. Each government "solution" has its own conflicting interest groups, complex bureaucracies, and layers of regulations that create unintended negative outcomes and new problems. This is how we get energy policies that promote use of scarce corn rather than abundant oil shale, electricity from Canada rather than nearby power plants, and oil from the Persian Gulf rather than the Gulf of Mexico. Government policies have made it more profitable to import oil and consumer goods and export jobs and wealth so that, in fifty years, we've gone from holding 75 percent of the world's "investment capital" to now only 25 percent. We didn't notice this because government just "borrowed" from Social Security and pension funds made "rich" by the contributions of 80 million "Baby Boomers." However, in the coming years, rather than save and invest, these retirees will try to live off the dividends of investments that are losing "capital." The more government borrows, the less funds are available (at low rates) for businesses and individuals.

The politicians have done nothing to repay the "national debt" and, in fact, some propose new taxes, regulations, and spending to further manipulate the economy. Doubling the "capital gains tax," for example, will only drive more "investment capital" out of the country. Politicians cannot "manage the economy"; they only manipulate it. They have too much power. Our constitution was altered to give Congress the power to take private property (our income) and redistribute it without any restraints (by the state legislatures). If we are to have "real change" we must restore the constitution's original system of "checks and balances" that limit government power and keep politicians accountable. We start by electing reform-minded politicians who will make this "real change" happen. Our liberties, livelihoods, and nation's economy are at stake.

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