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Decorah , Iowa
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November 24, 2011
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A-4 Decorah Journal ThUrsday., November 24, 2011 O0000INION Letters to the Editor Government should seek the well-being of people Dear Editor: Are you tired of being lied to and manipulated for someone else's gain? Do you like being seen as a clog in an economic-political system created to benefit a small group of people? Do you think that things could be done now to help most of us, but that our system of government is too tied up in its own self-interest to work? • Then please come join us on Saturdays at 1 p.m, We, the people, the 99 percent, are standing up to Ish corporations and our government to change their odrrent patterns. Here are a few ideas for change now. 1. Elimination of all private benefits and perks to politicians. 2. Term limits for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. "These positions •prominence should be sought to serve one's country and not to provide a lifetime career designed to selfishly increase personal wealth and accumulate power." 3. Elimination of the corporate state. The merger of the political system of democracy with the economic ststem of capitalism has resulted in corporations luying our government for their own benefit, not the Inefit of the 99 percent. ,'.14. Jobs for all Americans. "Passage of a cbmprebensive job and job-training act like the American Jobs Act to employ our citizens in jobs with specialized training and putting people to work now by €.opairing America's crumbling infrastructure." • ,5. End outsourcing. Eliminate corporate tax Ibpholes. "Offer tax incentives to businesses to ntmain in the United States and to hire our citizens rather than outsource jobs. An outsourcing tax should be introduced to discourage businesses from sending bs overseas." "o 6. Banking and securities reform. "Immediate D enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act and increase /-egulation of Wall Street and the financial industry by the SEe, FINER, Justice Department and other financial regulators." There are 22 items on the evolving 99 percent Petition of Grievances. You can get the current list of the Working Group on the 99 percent Declarations at Peace and Justice Center on Winnebago Street. The above are a brief and rough summary of six of them. I do not yet agree with all 22. It is a working group document at this point. I do agree that our government should seek the well-being of the people, not short- term gains for corporations. All people -- poets, musicians, teachers, lawyers, ministers, unemployed, over sixty-fives, the young, well-meaning and generous rich, well-meaning politicians, sinners and saints -- please join us on Saturdays at 1 p.m. in front of the courthouse to move us toward truer democracy• • We, the people, the 99 percent, are Too Big To Fail. Lynne Sootheran Decorah Have some concerns With 'Way It Is' column lear Editor: We have two concerns in relation to your "Way It Is" column in the Nov. Decorah Journal. First, the people attending the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in Decorah were expressing the opinions of many people a])out the failure of the "trickle down theory." The theory is that giving tax breaks, flattening taxes and deregulating industry will create an economy that will lift everyone to prosperity. Greed has destroyed that theory. The rich are getting richer and the rest of us are falling further and further behind. ', There were no anarchistic outrages here in Decorah, mid we say expressions of the need for economic rbform like Occupy Wall Street are genuine examples of our First Amendment rights. Second, we believe in freedom of the press and the The Decorah Journal (USPS# 150-960) is published weekly by DECORAH NEWS COMPANY, 107 East Water Street, Decorah, IA 52101. Periodicals postage paid at Deoorah, IA. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Decorah Newspapers, P.O. Box 350, Decorah, iowa 52101-0350. f Phons 563-382-4221 Rick Fron, Managing Edl Sarah Strandberg, News Editor Julia Ude, Advertising Manager Subscription Rates ......... One Year .................... Six Months Decorah Trade Areas ....... $35•00 ......................... $20.00 Elsewhere in iowa ............ $40.00 ......................... $25.00 Elsewhere in the U.S ....... $45.00 ......................... $30.00 Single copies 75¢, mailed $2.00. Official for Decorah and Winneshlek County, Iowa, Periodicals postage paid at Deoorah, iowa. DECORAH NEWS COMPANY DEADLINE POLICY Display advertising - 12 noon Tuesday & Friday. Classified advertising - 8:30 a.m. Monday & Wednesday. News - 9 a.m. Monday & Wednesday - Society and Club news - 3 p.m. Tuesday & Friday. Publisher reserves right to reject or cancel any advertisement at any time. responsible expression of one's opinion. The Decorah newspapers are doing a disservice to responsible jOurnalism by printing anonymous letters under the title "Way It Is." The title of the column is misleading. The comments are the writers' opinions, not statements of fact. If a person has enough strength of conviction to write to the public through the newspaper, they must have enough courage to put their name to their comments. Tom Hansen's letters are good examples for the anonymous writers to follow. We believe that the Decorah newspapers should' not print letters without the writers' names made public. Lyle and Sue Otte Decorah Ask every candidate about climate change Dear Editor: "Ask every presidential candidate who comes to Iowa: 'What will you do about climate change?'" This was the urgent message of State Senator Rob Hogg to the full-house audience Tuesday at the Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center. Senator Hogg reviewed in depth the research findings of the most authoritative scientific climate consortia. All concur: human activity, causing increased release of greenhouse gases, is the engine behind dramatic global wanning. The build up of these gases is triggering the severe weather consequences we have seen in the past few years: more floods, droughts, hurricanes, forest fires. And, if we do not act now as individuals and as a country to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, we can expect to pay even more dearly with food scarcity around the globe, an increase in tropical diseases and accelerating species extinctions• In Iowa alone, 2008 saw 85 of our 99 counties declared federal disaster areas. A document by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that "changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent." Because we in the U.S are the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, we must take the lead for change. Ask the candidates. Write to your Congressmen. And stop by the NEI Peace and Justice Center to read for yourself the compelling documents Senator Hogg has left with us. Julle Fischer Decorah Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer Dear Editor: Yes, wouldn't it be quaint to return to the dreamy free market system of yesteryear as-Tom Hansen suggests• Perhaps after a nuclear winter. We'll call it the Free Market spring. We are experiencing the logical end results of the free market economy now. Where the rich have gotten richer and the poor get poorer until we have to learn to fix our own TVs so we can keep watching what the rich want us to see. It's huge corporations running the show here, not big government. We are squandering this presidency and our honorable form of government simply to support extreme wealth. Perhaps it would be truer if our currency read, "In Greed We Trust." Jon Rotto Decorah Middle class disappearing from American landscape Dear Editor: I was recently saddened and somewhat shocked at the anonymous yet adamant objections in "Way It Is" about several members of the community gathering to express their First Amendment rights and stand in solidarity with the Occupy movements happening globally. Why are people so outraged that the struggling middle class is standing up to voice its concern over the growing schism of wealth in our country? Watching Democracy Now! and their wonderful coverage, I saw a middle-aged man carrying a sign that read "I've fallen from the middle class and I can't get up." Touche• According to U.S. Census data, the number of American children living in poverty rose by one million last year. Nearly one in every three U.S. children now lives in poverty. Is this acceptable? In one of the richest nations in the world? While the CEO's, big banks and oil tycoons rake in record profits and award themselves enormous bonuses. the middle class is disappearing from the American landscape. Yet our government has found the money to fund cowardly and shameful drone attacks that have killed more than 160 children in Pakistan. Is this really who we want to be? I believe that most of the individuals who wrote these disparaging and inaccurate remarks should openly engage in citizen democracy and first, identify themselves. Even if they disagree with the Occupy supporters, at least the individuals in front of the courthouse are showing their faces and standing up publicly for what they believe, which is commendable. Should the faceless folks who wrote these responses actually come down and engage ir a respectful discussion with the demonstrators, I think that they would find that we have far more commonalities than differences. Come on down. Let's talk. I believe that most of these responses are (alas) truly rooted in a deep fear of real change. Waking up from the American dreamland isn't easy. I know. With the corporate media telling most people who to be and what to think, it isn't easy. My compassion runneth over. But this movement isn't going anywhere. A better world is possible and the people have tasted its possibility. Isn't that exciting? We have to go about the work of rebuilding our world together in the spirit of love, community and sustainability. It can be done. The first step toward hurdling over all that fear? Turn off your television. Go outside. It's a brand new day. Cerrisa Snethen Decorah Cemmgmar_00 Do we play their game or ours? By Robert Wotf Decorah Lewis Mumford called America's military-indus- trial complex a megamachine, meaning "big machine." Like a giant machine our system is composed of in- terlocking subsystems or functions, including transpor- tation, banking and finance, education, government, housing and more. Each is and has been for some time in crisis. The proximate root of the crisis lies in our central- ized government and economy. The latter is centralized by virtue of market concentration, which entails small clusters of corporations (oliogopies) dominating each market sector. Thus four mega-banks (Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, followed closely by Gold- man-Sachs) dominate banking and finance. They are the "too-big-to-fail banks." With their financial melt- down, the world's economic system was pushed to the brink. In agriculture, concentration has meant that a hand- ful of corporations control various facets of food pro- duction and distribution. Eighty-three percent of seed production, for example, is controlled by multination- als. Monsanto and DuPont (which bought Pioneer) control almost half of that 83 percent. The rest is di- vided up in small shares by scores of others. Four beef packers control 83.5 percent of the beef- packing market. Three of those four (Tyson, Cargill and Swift) are among the four packers that control 66 percent of the pork market. Fifty-eight percent of all broilers are raised and processed by another four cor- porations. The same situation occurs in all other aspects of food and seed production. Media is controlled by nine giant corporations whose business spans the globe• The five largest are Time Warner, Disney, Bertelsmann, Viacom and Ru- pert Murdoch's News Corporation. And so it goes in each sector of the economy, m which many of the giants have interlocking boards of direc- tors, So what is the problem with market concentration? Papers written by economists laud the efficiency and lower pro- duction costs gained through market concentration, which in turn enables giant corporations to pass lower retail prices to consumers. The trouble is, the system is not working for most Ameri- Robert Wolf cans. Fifteen percent of work- ing-age Americans are unemployed and 50 percent of all families live below the federal poverty level• Let us think of the megamachine with all of its sub- systems as a kind of game that can be played only so long as enough players agree to the rules. If enough players opt out, the game collapses. Disgruntled play- ers, finding that the rules are rigged in favor of the deal- er, may decide to play a different game. For example, tired of not getting a fair shake from the game that agri- business plays, the people of the sustainable agriculture movement have opted to play their own game. If the people in a region have not devised their own economic game, they must play by the rules that the culture at large sets for them and remain subject to the whims of a game they cannot control. £_omme, aml:0000 Turn fuel tax from a negative into a positive By Randy Uhl, Executive Director Winneshiek County Development I There are some things you just hate to do, even though you know the short-term pain or inconvenience will reduce bigger pain or greater difficulty later on. • 1 It's easier to put it out of your mind and hope it goes away. One of those things we'd really rather put off or not even think about at all, is addressing the need for an increase in the Iowa fuel tax. Pain from an aching tooth will only grow if we don't  go to the dentist and get it taken care of. Pain from de- teriorating roads and bridg- es in Iowa will only grow if we don't start paying a little more for the privilege of us- ing them. Iowa has not raised its fuel tax since 1989. Who wants to run their household with today's prices for food, fuel, rent, mortgage, car payments, clothing, medical and entertainment costs on a 1989 salary? That would be '1 pretty tough to do. Randy Uhl But basically that's what we are forcing city, county and state governments to do with Iowa's infrastructure system. Iowans, and those oftet passing through our state, are taxed at 21 cents per gallon for gasoline and 22.5 cents per gallon for diesel. That was the rate that was' approved in 1989. , If Iowa's tax rate had kept up with the Consumer Price Index, that same 1989 tax rate would be 35. cents per gallon for gasoline and 39.6 cents per gallon. for diesel. Certainly nobody is advocating jumping the tax rate all the way to those levels, but Iowa is falling far be7 hind in its infrastructure and we're going to have to qui! pretending that isn't the case. An Iowa Citizen Advisory Commission recently, recommended raising the fuel tax by 8 to 10 cents per gallon. But Gov. Branstad rejected that recommenda tion and instead is calling' for squeezing more fat out of the system• "I think with the financial circumstances that many people are in today, rather than being the first thing you do is raise the fuel tax, I think we've got to look at additional efficiencies," the governor said re-, cently. ! In almost all circumstances with govemment, that's good advice. But consider this regarding the Iowa De, partment of Transportation. The DOT has: • Reduced staff by 750 since 2002 • Eliminated 39 field offices/garages • Reduced the number of vehicles in the fleet • Achieved annual savings of $45 million That's a lot of fat squeezing and there may not be much fat left• What is left though is a dropping in Iowa's infra-' structure rankings when compared to other states throughout the nation. Consider this: • Iowa's Rural Interstate Condition went from 34 th in the nation in 2009 to 38 th in 2010 • The state's Urban Interstate Condition kept at the same level in 2010 as in 2009, but that level already was a lowly 43 rd best in the U.S. • The Rural Arterial Condition went from 43  il 2009 to 46 th in 2010 • Iowa's bridges slipped from 30 th best in the nation in 2009 to 34 th just a year later The Citizen Advisory Commission said Iowa is fac- ing the "perfect storm" of bad elements coming togethr er to cause the state considerable pain later on. Those storm elements include: • A large and aging system - many of Iowa's road and bridges were built in the 1940s through the '60s. Many county bridges are even much older. • Increasing demands • Flattening revenue • Increasing cost of construction The Commission forecasts revenues will fall short of meeting critical funding needs by $215 million per year if current funding streams are maintained. So what impact will this deficiency create? • There will be an increased number of bridges with weight restrictions and bridge closures • Deteriorating conditions across the system - in- cluding high-level roads critical to the movement of goods and people • Increased costs to transportation providers and uS: ers . • Potential economic losses to the state of Iowa Any call for raising taxes is a political nightmare'. Politicians will privately tell you that they know there is a need to increase the fuel tax, but they are unwill- ing to commit a potentially fatal political blow to vote for it. t Perhaps leaders should turn the tables on their think- ing. Instead of wondering how they would apologize to voters for raising the fuel tax, they should think instead of how they can turn that into a positive. They can brag that they had the courage to vote to save Iowa's tranSr portation infrastructure. .,