Union Democrat staff

Firefighting priorities

To the Editor

I wonder if there had been firefighter fatalities on the recent Rim Fire if the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors would have been so quick to pen their letter demanding an explanation of fire fighting tactics concerning the Rim Fire from the USDA. Are we so quick to forget the sacrifice of Eva Schicke, a firefighter who died in the same canyon on an initial attack on Sept. 12, 2004? Or how about the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished in Yarnell Arizona Just weeks prior to the Rim Fire. Fire fighting priorities are first to protect life, second to protect property and third to protect the resource (wild land). As far as I'm concerned, loss of life was nil and property damage was minimal given the magnitude of the event. My personal opinion is that anyone involved in the fight against that fire should be given our utmost respect whether they were primary fire fighters, support staff or concerned citizens aiding in the efforts.

It seems to me that a more important question would be to ask how to manage the resource in anticipation of these major fires in order to minimize their impact on the resource. This question necessarily gives rise to the bigger question of whether or not there are enough resources available to prepare for and minimize the damage these fires can have.

Mark Johnson


Demeaning the disenfranchised

To the Editor:

Columbus praised the native Arawaks to Queen Isabella as "well built…quick intelligence…good customs." The Arawaks were a highly organized egalitarian society. Yet Columbus' second voyage included 17 ships, 1,200 men, cannons, crossbows, guns, cavalry and attack dogs. By 1516, through slavery, Columbus had reduced 8 million Arawaks to 12,000. By 1555 they were exterminated…replaced with African slaves.

Columbus justified himself on religious technicalities. Arawaks didn't comprehend the Latin edict requiring their religious conversion. So Columbus began characterizing the natives as "cruel…stupid…warlike."

When your beliefs don't match reality, it's called "cognitive dissonance." No one likes to think of himself as a bad person. To treat another person badly we first demean them, thus cleansing our harmful behavior by changing our attitude toward them.

When a politician or pundit calls Americans "takers" or "moochers," he demeans them. We are to believe, "They're cheating us." The wealthy who do cheat us manufacture attacks misdirecting our attention to blame innocent citizens.

For example, vital food aid largely benefits children, the elderly, disabled and veterans, averaging $134 a month with an abuse rate of 1 percent. The attacks shame the families into embarrassed silence. Silence leaves Americans unaware of the needs and value of those food stamps for struggling families. Without the facts Americans' inherent decency gets expressed as demeaning indignities. The better angels of our nature are thwarted, diminishing our conviction that the "general welfare" is right, good and fair. "Misdirection" hides misdeeds while unjustly discrediting needed programs.

Privilege cleanses itself by degrading our citizens to disenfranchise them, to marginalize their rights, to exclude them from our communities, to pay wages so meager it starves their bodies and diminishes their hopes. Americans should reject this unethical campaign, which leads to the darkest and least honorable reaches of the American character.

Robert Carabas


'Trickle-down' theory doesn't work

To the Editor:

Lawrence Kudlow, former Reagan Administration economist is still trying to sell "trickle-down economics" long after the theory has been debunked. In his syndicated column (Jan. 21), he once again equates economic growth with policies that call for decreased corporate taxes and even promoting abolishing the corporate tax altogether!

Why? Because he believes by reducing taxes on corporations and businesses, it will raise GDP and somehow, magically, corporations will throw open their doors and start investing and hiring workers, thus improving the economy. Look again at reality. The effective tax rate for corporations by 2011 was a 40-year low of 12.1 percent, while corporate earnings to date has been skyrocketing.

"Bruce Bartlett, an economist in the Reagan administration studied tax rates versus countries' growth rates since 1979 and found there's virtually no correlation. In our country, President Clinton raised tax rates in 1993 and Republicans insisted it would cripple the economy. Instead, the economy boomed. In 2002 and 2003 President Bush lowered taxes and Republicans insisted the economy would flourish. Instead, we got the weakest expansion of the past century" (Kevin Drum, Mother Jones Magazine).

Drum expresses a valid point when he cites the National Federation of Independent Business report that it is sales - i.e., lack of demand-as the number 1 concern, beating out taxes, regulations, inflation and everything else. "What the problem businesses face isn't lack of cash but rather a lack of confidence that consumer demand will pick up in the future. So they're not expanding or hiring at the rate they should be." Add to that, the dysfunctional Congress that toys with shutting down the federal government and not paying the governments' bills by raising the debt limit, and you can understand some of their hesitation. Kudlow is living in a state of denial.

Wayne Kirkbride

Twain Harte