Helium Stockpile Isn't Just Hot Air
The article Aug. 22 about the helium "pork barrel" illustrates an important change that must be made within the federal
government if we are to have our tax money better spent and control the deficit.
This is a prime example of the need for the line-item veto. Although I have not been one of President Clinton's strongest admirers, I do believe he is sincere in his conviction to achieve more fiscal responsibility in the government.
However, when shameless, self-serving and powerful members of Congress such as Rep. Charles Stenholm of Texas recruit a group of weak-thinking novices such as Kweisi Mfume and Albert Wynn of Maryland to blackmail the president by saying, "If you want your bill to pass, you must give this pork," we're never going to solve the deficit problem.
I would appreciate it if someone from the press would publicly ask our two Maryland representatives why they voted for the continuation of this wasteful program.
Just think what the city of Baltimore or the state of Maryland could do with a share of $20 billion over the next five years.
I have always admired Mr. Mfume for the way he has worked his way to the position he now holds. However, he has a responsibility to his constituents in Baltimore. He promised to get funds to help fight crime, poverty, and improve schools.
Instead, he committed a crime; he supported a plan to continue to waste taxpayer money -- in another state, at that.
Douglas C. Burdette Jr.
Business As Usual
. . . We have heard of big deficits at the federal, state and local levels. We have all been told how tough everything is and that the only way out is to sacrifice, which means more taxes on us, the taxpayers. . . .
I recently read an article that reported two extraordinary events . . .
The first concerned the governor's efforts to find (or make) a job for an ex-legislator who bailed out of his bid for a judgeship because of sexual harassment charges. Of course, the fact that he was an unquestioned supporter of the governor's agenda had nothing to do with it.
The second was an across-the-board pay increase granted to state department heads -- more than $3,000 per year for each one. This, of course, was the result of the extraordinary success in statewide education, law enforcement, crime control, cost containment, departmental efficiencies and other exemplary state services.
Your tax money could hardly be better spent to bring cost-of-government under control. Tomorrow, you will be asked to make new sacrifices.
Frederick C. Lange
A letter to the editor Aug. 25 from William G. Myers III, representing the National Cattlemen's Association, argues that increasing grazing fees for public lands is bad policy. A few facts should help to illuminate this matter.
Western public federal lands supply only about 2 percent of all livestock forage used in this country. The fee for grazing a cow for a month is now only $1.97, and if that were increased by 130 percent it would be $4.53. The going rate for grazing a cow for a month on private land is $9.22.
Congressional estimates are that the Bureau of Land Management loses about $110 million each year on cattle grazing operations and that doesn't include environmental damage. Cattle grazing destroys vital riparian areas, turning streams into barren gullies in violation of existing laws and the grazing permits themselves.
It may be true that the rate increase will force some to abandon cattle-raising operations. Maybe, but if so it will be very marginal ones. . . .
The claim that the fee increase will cost the federal government money is pure Alice in Wonderland reasoning. Why would new land managers be required to replace ranchers? The land managed itself for many millennium before ranchers came on the scene. Let alone it will recover -- as that which has been barred to cattle grazers has -- over time. . . .
The statement that Western public lands are in better shape now than at any time in this century is true only because cattlemen are improving the lands, reluctantly, in response to recent laws. But it begs the question: What was the condition of the land before cattlemen came on the scene -- well over a century ago?
If cattlemen do not want the subsidy -- which they now receive in below-market grazing fees -- and want to pay a fair price for Western public lands forage, they should gladly pay the new fee, which is still below the fair market value of the forage. I doubt that a single cattleman would agree to sell forage at a loss year after year as the taxpayers are currently being forced to do.
J. Wayne Ruddock