A couple weeks ago an old friend drove from Austin to Waco to have lunch with me. Both he and his wife have diabetes so twice a year they drive from Austin to Mexico and purchase a six-months supply of drugs. The cost of American-made drugs in Mexico is less than half what the same drug costs in Austin.
For years people living in northern Maine drove across the border into Canada where they could buy American-made drugs for half what these same drugs cost in Maine. Recently the legislature in Maine passed a law making it illegal for Maine drug pushers to charge more for American-made drugs in Maine than what these same drugs sold for in Canada. This cut the cost of drugs in half for Mainers. Great happiness. It also reduced the big drug companies down to a good profit instead the killing they been a getting.
Several years ago I was in a shop in Hong Kong waiting on my wife when I observed the negotiations between two enormous black women, the wife and daughter of the head of an African nation, and the people in the store. All Hong Kong natives are fluent in both Chinese and English. The black women could speak their native tongue and French. Without a common language the women were having to draw what they wanted. At one point both women opened their large purses and produced a wad of American hundred-dollar bills that was as big as a wheel of cheese. This is a language that is understood in the far corners of the planet earth.
Our legislature goes back in session next January. If we can find a mouse that is brave enough to bell the cat then that mouse should introduce a bill making it illegal for Texas drug pushers to charge more for American-made drugs in Texas than what the price is for the same drugs in Mexico. When this took place in Maine it was observed that there are only 1.25 million people in all of Maine so doing this kicked up a cloud of dust about equal to a three-horse posse. But when the big drug pushers see 20 million Texans about to get their drug bills cut in half they will come. And since they are all rich as Croesus they will bring several wheels of cheese. If our state legislature can refuse to be bought out we will get a law which will be worthy of a great deal of singing and dancing in the streets. If they elect to take the bribe then someone needs to point out to them that being bribed by big drug pushers is like buying a ticket to the lottery where the winner gets a free vacation in Huntsville [headquarters for the state prison]. Since this is so bad for their reputation they need to be sure to get heap big moola for it.
I must disagree with your editorial in the 6/1/00 PP. Rather than supporting the sales tax for purchases made over the Internet I think the thrust should have been just the opposite. End the sales tax for all businesses and consumers. As you stated in your editorial the sales tax is an extremely regressive tax that falls on those that can least afford it.
The issue of not taxing Internet sales should be taken as the beginning of the end of all sales taxes. Ending sales taxes helps small local businesses and consumers alike. To replace lost tax revenues I recommend and advocate progressive taxes. Tax shifting from the regressive sales tax to Green/Pollution Taxes and collecting rent on Land Site Value without the possibility of tax abatements are two of the best strategies progressives can use.
See for instance:
Thank you for your wonderful paper. One suggestion though, actually a request, is could you supply the content in PDF format for those of us that use computers. These issues could be e-mailed to subscribers. This would save the cost of paper and ink and give me a more convenient means of reading and storing the issues.
MICHAEL J. CYKANA
Editor Replies: We currently provide as an alternative to the printed edition email text which is particularly useful for reading impaired and overseas subscribers as well as those who are mindful of saving trees. Readers who would be interested in a PDF format please email us at email@example.com.
[Re. "Your Precious Presidential Vote," by Donella Meadows, 7/1/00 PP]: There is only one issue in the coming presidential election that should engage every woman voter: the upcoming openings on the Supreme Court. How any woman, concerned with the fate of Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose, could waste a vote on Ralph Nader (and thereby handing it to George Bush) is beyond me. I'd like to remind Ms. Meadows that George W. is the son of the man who gave us Clarence Thomas and I see nothing in the current Republican candidate that reassures me that he is capable of improving on his father's record.
I am a dedicated conservationist, but I am greatly concerned that three seats on the Court will becoming up in the next four years and that this is our only chance of preserving the fragile right given us by Roe v. Wade. Or is it possible that you think it should be rescinded? I personally think all politics need a good cleaning, but until that remote possibility presents itself I am sticking to the one candidate who is openly supportive of a woman's right to choose -- Al Gore.
Los Angeles, Calif.
I applaud Donella Meadows' call for more precision in the language we use to describe consumer goods, directing, as she puts it, a "kick" at those who would "muddle the words we use to distinguish mediocrity from something better" (Global Citizen, 7/1500). However, I don't feel that the term "organic" should be sacrificed to the use of corporate agribusiness, just because they deign to practice what Meadows terms "mildly good agriculture". The term should in no way come to mean less in terms of food safety and sustainable growing practices than it does now. If corporate agribusiness wants to use the term "chemical-free", when appropriate, that would at least be less muddlement. The terms "green" and "natural" have already been rendered almost meaningless by being co-opted by those who saw a way to capitalize on the feel good fallout from early ecological and environmental activism. Let's call things what they are, in as precise terms as possible. Maybe we can put bumper stickers on all the SUV's -- labeling them for what they are, vehicles that Suck Up Valuable resources.
STEPHANIE J. WEIGEL
Those were two excellent articles, "In Hot Economy, Why are so Many Left Out in Cold?" by Tim Styer etc. and "Working Parents Labor Below the Poverty Line" by Marcia Duffy [7/15/00 PP]. These are the people always left out when new solutions are created to solve their problems. There is a certain wisdom in helping this group of people help themselves.
Here's a possible solution for many of these on the bottom of the pay scale. Let us imagine that an employer who pays a person minimum wage, or near that, might also offer to pay the education expense to any accredited school, for any subject that the employee would attend and pass. It could be for English as a second language or an engineering degree -- whatever. This would be a perk of the job.
The key to making this happen would be a tax "credit" to an equal amount for the employer. Maybe the credit is worth more than the actual cost, but some members of Congress would have to have this incentive to approve such a tax break for small businesses. A nice feature of this plan is that it would be an easy system for the IRS to monitor and any scheme to falsify a tax statement would subject an employee to a tax audit.
Duffy's article ends with the quote "training the low wage workforce is the long term answer. The problem is that people get stuck in low-wage jobs and have no way of getting out." This plan might even have people seeking low-wage jobs with a cooperative employer, just to get an education. The military used that gimmick for a long time.
Eugene, OR 97403
Howard Pellet, in a Letter to the Editor (7/1/00), defends his anti-immigration stance and claims his anti-immigrant argument is not racist and that he isn't immigrant bashing.
Pellet ignores how immigrants contribute to our society in a variety of ways. He ignores that the immigrant is often trying to escape the very global economic programs that we impose on the world and how we have:
(ogonek) Stolen billions from third world countries for debt repayment.
(ogonek) Stolen resources that belong to third world countries, but which go to support Pellet's standard of living. (It is stunning how people like Pellet ignore the direct benefits they receive from exploitation of third world prison/slave labor and our domination of the natural resources of other countries. Like a modern day British colonialist Pellet sees only what "they" take from us -- not how much we have taken from them now and historically.)
(ogonek) Imposed structural adjustment programs that drive people deeper into poverty worsening immigration flows.
Pellet claims that he is merely about civil discourse, but there is nothing "civil" about saying, "I don't care if you starve, just don't interfere with my standard of living."
As for "discourse," Pellet knows only one repetitive refrain: "Keep 'em out." But turning the US into a giant gated community solves nothing. The bottom line, Mr. Pellet, is that if we don't address the underlying economic/political issues desperate immigrants will come here whether you like it or not. They have no choice. Only a sustained political movement/holistic approach will address global poverty, resource allocation issues, and overpopulation.
There are ways that can global poverty can be ameliorated. Oxfam International, for example, has proposed a "debt-for-poverty-reduction" program. Under this scheme, debtor governments would be granted relief on the condition that 80 percent of the savings generated is channeled into social investment projects. Debt relief would thus be coupled with national plans for poverty reduction.
Finally, Mr. Pellet, it is your cavalier willingness to cast aside so many (especially when there are solutions to these problems) that I find so reprehensible.
Bedford Hills, N.Y.
Well, there they go again, trying to make us feel guilty for attempting to stem the tide of illegal aliens flooding into the Southwest United States. It seems that, in the minds of Gonzales and Rodriquez, the United States does not have the right to control its borders nor to protect US property from the vandalism and wanton destruction which is wrought by illegal aliens from Mexico and points South. I wholeheartedly disagree and will argue that point with fellow liberals who have been brainwashed by such propaganda.
And don't forget, we are just getting one side of the story, their tale where innocent Mexicans and others are "killed with impunity" by the Border Patrol, where "a war on immigrants by politicians" has resulted in untold butchery along the border. For once, I'd like to hear the other side of the story, that of an understaffed and outnumbered Border Patrol trying to hold the line so that the US Southwest will not become overrun by illegal aliens.
The solution to avoiding the situation "that results in thousands of deaths and vigilante violence" (their words, not mine) is to start vigorously applying employer sanctions for hiring illegal aliens and also to raise minimum wage laws so that US citizens, such as poor blacks and resident Hispanics will want to apply for those jobs instead of illegal aliens. Sure, we might have to pay more for foodstuffs and other products, but we would be providing jobs for needy Americans instead of illegal aliens.
Instead, Gonzales and Rodriquez want the presidents of both nations to hammer out a labor agreement that would decriminalize illegal immigration and regulate the flow of labor in this country. Well, I disagree with this concept. If we can't control our borders with a Border Patrol and vigilantes that are reputed to kill illegal aliens with impunity, how will some vague, "decriminalized" version of controlling illegal immigration work? The answer, as Gonzales and Rodriquez well know, is that it won't.
HOWARD A. PELLETT
It's apparent that a "progressive" movement is doomed if we continue to suck on the same pacifiers which divert our attention from our primary objective. Gun control, abortion, the death penalty -- these are complex issues which need to be addressed; but not at the expense of a possibly successful movement. If we all focus on the issues which separate us the progressive movement will be divided into many small parties, all subscribed to different strict agendas. Only when we focus on what binds us all will we be successful. There is strength in numbers, especially in a democracy. Until we bind into one unstoppable force we will continue to be seen merely as left-wing dissenters who do nothing but complain. As the election nears it's important to keep our common goal in mind and leave the moral, right-vs.-wrong issues on the side until a more appropriate time.
P.S.: I urge all to write the Commission on Presidential Debates, 1200 New Hampshire NW Box 445, Washington DC 20036, and protest the exclusion of Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan from the debates because of their financial inferiority in comparison to Gore and Bush.
As a passionate supporter of the same issues that you champion, I volunteered in 1996 to be a coordinator of your presidential campaign in two counties in South Jersey: Cape May and Atlantic.
In the upcoming election season the Green Party of NJ asked me to run for Congress under your banner. With the four years passing my greatest passion as both a public citizen and physician is to raise consciousness on the insane Drug War holocaust occurring in America. I think you are missing a great opportunity to galvanize the greatest groups of activists, drug policy reformers.
Major issues you remain silent on include:
1) Initiatives to move toward decriminalization of victimless crimes, including possession of small amounts of marijuana.
2) Debate oil hemp as a major potential source of pulp and paper substitute
3) Acknowledgment that the war on drugs has failed and the drug problem is greatly worsened,
4) Support for drug counseling and treatment for those who need it.
5) Opposition to mandatory drug testing on civil liberties grounds,
6) Support for new sentencing policies, including community service for first-time offenders and "Drug Court" diversion programs.
The Gore/Bush drug warrior blather needs to be challenged and if not you, who?!
Drug Czar McCaffrey visited China prior to the congressional vote making China's trading status normalized This last week China executed 52 people for alleged Drug Crimes. The FBI is pursuing office space in Beijing.
Colombia's military recently received one billion dollars plus in military aid. This military is considered to be one of the world's worst abusers of human rights.
Needless to say the people need a genuine hero and that courageous warrior needs the energy of the people.
I truly believe that if you accept this drug war insanity challenge it will lift your candidacy, but more importantly, your soul to the heavens.
STEVEN FENICHEL, MD
Ocean City, N.J.
In 1998, the National Commission on Small Farms called on Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to take action to clearly define and aggressively prohibit price discrimination and volume premiums that are destroying the livestock markets and decimating family farm and ranch livestock producers.
We can't afford to wait until the next market free-fall. Inaction will most assuredly lead to a countryside dotted with a handful of very large, vertically integrated, industrial hog operations. These operations have every intention of removing the economic benefit of livestock production from our rural communities and have little or no regard for the quality of life in rural America.
(1) Write Vice President Al Gore. The Vice President came to Iowa in the caucus season and told family farmers that he would fight for them. This was a message meant for all farmers. Write him and tell him that now is the time to reaffirm his commitment. Urge him to call the Secretary of Agriculture and ask him to immediately issue rules on price discrimination. Write Vice President Al Gore, c/o John Winski, Old Executive Building Rm 286, Washington, DC 20501; Fax: (202) 720-5759
(2) Write Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, 14 th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20250; Fax: (202) 720-3631
Thanks for your help.
Center for Rural Affairs
PO Box 406
Walthill NE 68067
I just read my brother's copy of PP's 6/15/00 edition. Terrific work. Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins are two of the most "with-it" Texans around. And I must agree that Arianna Huffington does have something worthwhile to say despite reader Sabo's image of her [see Letters]. But my favorite writer in this issue was Ted Rall, the Bob Dole movie critic. If he can peg 'em THAT well with never having seen the flicks, think how effectively he could skewer the movies if he actually looked at 'em. Keep up the good work!
We should all be asking everyone: Why don't Gush and Bore stop taking votes from Nader or any other candidate who may be qualified, since Bore and Gush have no qualifications for the job. We should stress that the major parties have chosen total zeros and we need better.
In 1948 I cast my first presidential vote. My father had managed to persuade me that a vote for Henry A. Wallace (the Ralph Nader of his day, but an actual politician) was a vote for the loathsome Republican, Thomas E. Dewey. I have regretted voting for Truman ever since.
I won't make the same error this time.
ROBERT C. SOMMER
New York, N.Y.