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Letters to the Editor

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Don’t give the Pentagon a pass

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The American dream of a better tomorrow is slipping away. The middle class is stressed as real income shrinks and prices creep higher. Families work hard and still can’t get ahead.

To make matters worse, there have been deep cuts to programs that help struggling families. Food banks are running out of goods. Head Start has had to send children home, keeping parents out of work or left with child care costs. Food stamp benefits dropped at the beginning of the month.

Politicians and talking heads tell us we need to cut entitlements and welfare to save our country from financial ruin. They never point to the elephant in the room: the Pentagon budget. There are no audits and little accountability and waste and fraud are rampant.

Although sequestration requires cuts, Pentagon spending will still be almost as high as it was at the peak of the Cold War. Reducing military spending is supported by the Project on Defense Alternatives, the Cato Institute and Taxpayers for Common Sense. All agree we can save $1 trillion from Pentagon spending in this decade.

Let’s not give the Pentagon a free pass. Let’s cut military spending and reinvest in domestic programs that help people when they need it most.

Julia B. Hebner. Henrico.

Ballpark study contained many flaws

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Mayor Jones’ proposed Shockoe ballpark is not logistically possible, given the current and expected volume of traffic and the available street infrastructure. I requested a copy of the underlying traffic study relied on by the project. The study, dated Aug. 14, 2013, and performed by Timmons Group, was released to City Council at the Nov. 19 committee meeting and was supposedly made available to the public as well.

I believe the Timmons traffic analysis is flawed in so many fundamental ways that it cannot be relied on in any way, shape or form. Absent any effort by the city to let the public know about the traffic analysis, I sent a copy of it along with my critique to City Council and the media.

The list of errors and omissions is too long for this letter but includes relying on traffic counts from a 2008 study, expecting 300 apartments instead of the 750 proposed, no mention of a hotel, and no accounting for the traffic and parking implications of any Shockoe development already in the pipeline.

The analysis provides no expected numbers for stadium traffic “because stadium visitors will routinely arrive and depart during off-peak hours, when background traffic volumes are significantly lower.”

A project of this magnitude requires a scientific determination that the development and all its traffic and parking implications can be handled by the available infrastructure — the business community makes its living by following this rule. The Timmons analysis does not prove the Shockoe development is possible.

I am calling for a new and more intensive traffic and parking analysis, monitored by City Council with citizen input. Once it has been proven that Shockoe can handle the traffic and parking implications of such a development, then we can go through the contentious process of deciding whether we want it there.

Rick Tatnall. Richmond.

Carbon tax is a bad idea

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Robert Samuelson is one of the nation’s best economic writers. However, his support for a carbon tax is not well-informed. A carbon tax, like Europe’s value-added tax, would provide the government an easy mechanism for raising more revenue and to continuing spending. Europe’s VAT has close to doubled from its initial level. Without spending constraints, a carbon tax would likely follow the same course.

A carbon tax is regressive, hitting hardest people with fixed or low incomes. Once the process of exemptions began, special interests would have a field day and what began as a simple tax would become as complex as the rest of the tax code (see the George C. Marshall Institute’s “A Skeptical Look at Carbon Taxes”).

Samuelson seeks a cost-effective way to reduce emissions but U.S. emissions have declined and are not projected to reach 2005 levels before 2035. The climate models, which he implicitly accepts, project steadily increasing global temperatures but there has been no real increase in almost 17 years. Apocalyptic climate models are similar to the 1970 Limits to Growth models that predicted resource exhaustion and widespread famine by the end of the 1990s.

We need better control over government spending and real tax reform, not a new tax on top of all the others that are paid.

William O’Keefe, CEO, George C. Marshall Institute. Arlington.

New York can take care of itself

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I had to read the recent news story “Panel to seek action against cigarette trafficking” twice. Because some politicians use cigarettes as a cash cow, Virginia taxpayers should cough up enough money to stop cigarette smuggling to New York? You’ve got to be kidding me. If people don’t pay the Virginia tax on cigarettes, throw the book at them. Otherwise, sell them tractor-trailer loads. Let New York take care of its own trash.

Bill Keller. Midlothian.

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