Starve the military beast

Over the years I have appreciated Jules Witcover's perspectives. But what he wrote in "War president makes case for his peace prize" (Dec. 15) went down with a thud. Mr. Witcover was unconvincing when he gave this alibi for President Barack Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "... he seized upon it to make a measured and rational defense for his decision to send 30,000 more Americans to Afghanistan, straightforwardly observing that 'some will kill and some will be killed.'"

The column is a misguided rationalization for this awful decision to escalate the war, ensuring more death and devastation in desperately poor Afghanistan.

Mr. Witcover well knows how a similar decision destroyed another presidency. While the masters of war greeted the decision to escalate with war whoops, this decision is an insult to the ideal behind the Nobel Peace Prize. It will cost $1 million for every soldier sent to Afghanistan. Yet we are closing recreation centers and fire stations in Baltimore. And we are in a depression unlike anything seen in 70 years.

We, the activists, will continue to march, hold vigils and demonstrate against this misguided use of tax dollars for weapons rather than for social programs and projects. But we need the support of the commentators to convince the legislators to fund health care, not warfare; small business loans, not drones; farms, not arms. We must lobby our legislators to starve the military beast in order to feed the people.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

Cap-and-trade: tax in disguise

The article "How cap-and-trade pays" (Dec. 16) should have been titled "How cap-and-trade plays." The idea behind cap-and-trade is that one party agrees to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for money that allows another party to increase greenhouse emissions. This makes it more expensive to generate greenhouse gases and more economical to reduce greenhouse gases. The Mid-Atlantic states' scheme described in this article does not do this. It takes money from power plant operators and uses 73 percent of that money to subsidize energy consumers through rate relief and low-income energy assistance.

This does nothing to lower greenhouse gas production and actually encourages energy usage. The consumer is paying less for energy and, therefore, is less likely to conserve. Not only that, but 73 percent of the money collected goes right back to the energy producers, giving them less incentive to reduce greenhouse gas production because it barely increases their costs.

When you take money from one party and use it to provide assistance to lower-income citizens, that is called a tax. How is this a model for the U.S. to limit greenhouse emissions, as the Maryland Energy Administration suggests? This is a great model for taxation, but we have plenty of those.

David Plaut, Reisterstown

Md. misuses cap-and-trade

I am appalled at Maryland's misuse of cap-and-trade funds ("How cap-and-trade pays," Dec. 16). That money is supposed to penalize the burning of fossil fuels, and it is supposed to be used to make progress on renewable, nonpolluting resources. It is an outright crime for Maryland to use only 6 percent of those funds for renewable energy (the objective) and to spend 73 percent of it on givebacks to consumers who will only use it to continue to consume more energy instead of learning to conserve!

This is particularly frosting to me as I try to invest in my own home conservation and energy savings and also invest in solar power, only to be told by the Maryland Department of Energy that there may be a shortage of funds for these grant programs this year due to their popularity and that they are backed up beyond April of next year.

Note: "Popularity" means many people are making changes and investments in energy conservation and solar power. The state should reward those investments and not spend that money to offset the electric bills of people still stuck in last century's mentality of mindless consumption so they can consume even more polluting fuel.

Something stinks here, and it is not CO2.

Bob Bruninga, Glen Burnie

Senate health care reform bill isn't good enough

There isn't enough good in the present form of the Senate health care bill.

It adds millions of premium-paying people to health insurance companies' income without increasing competition or mandating significant cost containment. I used to say the present system, generating an average 10 percent annual increase in premium costs, was unsustainable. Well, this current bill makes that prospect much worse.

The Senate couldn't even agree to lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 55.

That age-lowering provision would have added millions of younger and therefore healthier people to Medicare. Those younger, healthier people would be paying their way with their premiums into Medicare, requiring fewer services and thus helping the solvency of Medicare. That provision would add competition for the insurance industry. That provision wouldn't cost the taxpayer one dime. That provision would not add a new government bureaucracy. That provision would allow millions of people currently insured through auto industries' legacy health care programs the option of choosing this Medicare plan. Those legacy costs have helped to sink our auto industry. Finally, it makes the abortion issue moot. Not too many pregnant 55-year-old women.

They couldn't agree to do this. Why? The health insurance companies are the only constituency hurt by this.

Mel Mintz, Pikesville

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