Campaign Finance Reform?
To the Editor:
The much anticipated US Supreme Court decision in the pivotal campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. FEC, was issued earlier this month, and once again the court ruled on the side of big money in knocking down aggregate campaign contribution limits. The case challenged the limits on the total contributions from an individual donor to candidates and political committees that were designed to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.
The importance of this decision cannot be overstated. While McCutcheon dealt with a technical and arcane matter of campaign finance law, in the end it is all about more money and more influence. As a result of this decision, another loophole in campaign finance laws has opened, allowing political parties and PACs to become huge funnels for corrupting elected officials across the country.
The court has used the McCutcheon decision to continue dismantling the wall of protection against big money dominance in our political system—case by case, brick by brick. As in previous decisions by the Roberts Court, the chief justice ignores the corruption he is turning loose in America’s election system.
Simply put: The McCutcheon decision means more power for big money and more corruption for the rest of us. Now, more than ever, we need to fight to make every vote count and give every eligible voter free and fair access to the polls. In the end, the only reliable response to a flood of money in our elections is a flood of voters at the polls.
Catherine Rader, East Montpelier
Cut Pentagon Funding
To the Editor:
I’m unhappy to learn that 40 cents of my 2013 federal tax dollars went to fund current and past wars, according to the Quaker advocacy group the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
We have critical needs as a country—how to respond to effects of climate change, how to repair our crumbling bridges and roadways and how to bridge the growing divide between rich and poor. I want more of my tax dollars going to these priorities, rather than to the Pentagon.
I hope that my senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, will work to make this happen in the coming year. They can start by eliminating the more than $100 billion of documented waste, fraud and abuse found in the Pentagon’s budget every year. We might disagree about the need to invest in the tools for war, but surely we can agree on the need to spend our tax dollars responsibly.
Joel Trupin, Montpelier
Preserve the Tradition: Safe Gun Use in Vermont
To the Editor:
Vermont has a long history of safe and appropriate gun use, as evidenced by generations of local hunters and sportsmen. In recent years, however, tragic misuse of firearms in our state is all too common.
• Vermont has the highest rate of gun deaths in New England—twice that of Massachusetts.
• States with safer gun storage laws have reduced accidental shootings of children by as much as 23 percent and have reduced suicides of adolescents by 8 percent.
• Vermont’s growing guns-for-drugs trade is being fueled by extreme accessibility of guns in our state. A 2009 study found that Vermont exports more guns per capita than any other state in the Northeast and ranks 16th nationally. Currently, Vermont has just one of 10 laws proven by other states to be effective in reducing gun trafficking.
• Over the past 10 years, 50 percent of Vermont’s homicides have been domestic violence related. In states that require a background check for private sales of handguns, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners, compared to states like ours. For more statistics, please visit GunSenseVT.org.
The evidence points to an urgent need for revision in Vermont’s gun laws. With a few strategic changes, we can help secure our long tradition of safe and respectful gun use. It’s time for universal background checks, tougher gun trafficking laws and safer storage laws. It’s time for better communication between state agencies and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and for bringing state laws in line with the federal law to prohibit felons from possessing weapons.
As a member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, I’m committed to life-affirming, peaceful resolution to local and global issues.
Neville Berle, Vermont chapter of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Montpelier
Early Educators Have a Right to Organize
To the Editor:
I support Vermont Early Educators United’s right to organize. I hope my legislators will also support this right during the legislative session. Providing quality early education for every child is the key to fighting the cycle of generational poverty. Early childhood educators care for children so their parents can go to work or school.
I am glad that Vermont Early Educators United is working with providers so they can have the right to form a union. Those who are interested in learning more can visit kidscountonme.org.
Stephanie Muller, Montpelier
To the Editor:
Vermont’s Senate recently passed S.239 that concerns “chemical regulation in consumer products” (from toys to cosmetics). I believe that the bill is very well written and feel very fortunate that Vermont is dealing with this very serious problem. A few states have recently passed laws protecting consumers from chemical toxins. These regulations require the chemical industry to test chemicals put into consumer products and to show that their products are safe prior to distribution.
There has been a significant increase in a number of medical conditions including certain childhood and adult cancers, asthma, reproductive disorders (especially male infertility), birth defects, autism, learning problems and other neuro-developmental disorders. There is an abundance of studies that link exposure to toxic substances to many of these conditions. Most of these chemicals, for example Bisphenol A (BPA), Phthalates, flame retardants and mercury, act as endocrine disruptors (which interfere with hormone signaling) and/or neurotoxins. All of us and our children have at least some of these chemicals in our bodies. Currently most of the medical organizations including the American Medical Association recommend improvement of toxic substance control legislation.
The next step for S.239 is to be passed by the House of Representatives. As a grandparent, retired pediatrician and concerned citizen, I feel very strongly that this bill be passed in order to protect Vermonters (especially the most vulnerable—children and pregnant woman) from further chemical exposure. I hope that many Vermonters feel that they can support S.239 and if so to please contact their representatives as soon as possible.
Sally Cargill, MD, Montpelier
Workers Deserve a Livable Wage
To the Editor,
I am writing this letter because I believe a livable wage bill should be put on the front burner. I support H.552 which would put the minimum wage up to $12.50 per hour. This is a good start towards reaching a livable wage. It would give thousands of Vermonters a chance to access things like mental health services or much needed dental care, both of which are out of my reach and many of your neighbors’ reaches. Shuffling money from program to program hasn’t worked in the past. This might help to stimulate the economy, give Vermonters a chance to live a more dignified life and better take care of our families. Please join me and call your Reps about H.552.
Stauch Blaise, Randolph