Sunday Forum: The Solar Display in Norwich; A Nation With Declining Health Care; How the Rich Prevail

Solar Tracker Is Beneficial

To the Editor:

It saddens me to think of what an ill reception the tracking solar panel on Union Village Road in Norwich has had (“Norwich Home Solar Panel Heats Up Green Energy Conundrum,” June 7). I no longer live in Norwich, though I did for over 20 years and we own a 10-acre parcel of land there and have offered a portion of it for a solar project that would help supply electricity to the town (Tracy Hall, police and fire stations and possibly even the school.)

Like many others, my family and I moved to the Upper Valley through choice. I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world and am grateful for having the opportunity to live here. The rolling hills, the farms with their green fields and low stone walls were part of what initially attracted us.

Unfortunately, we are all contributing to the destruction of our planet, and I worry for our children and grandchildren. We can try to conserve as best we can, but we may not be willing to give up enough of our comfortable lifestyle and the use of the energy that makes that lifestyle possible.

I wonder if any of those who see the new solar panel on Union Village Road notice the telephone and electric poles, the transformers and wires lining our streets. We have learned not to see all those wires, and pole after pole interrupting our view as we walk or ride around the countryside.

Similarly, we now take for granted the earlier invasions of the natural state: the bridges (some with ornate cement balls), railroad tracks, the paved roads and the interstates.

How many of us would be here were it not for the interstate system? Yet what a blight on the landscape and affront to the local residents were I-89 and I-91 when they were built in Vermont in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Even today they are visibly and audibly invasive to the farms and families living adjacent and yet we generally ignore them.

It is easy to condemn something new and seemingly out of place. But we all need to do as much as we can, whether that be through solar power, conservation or other means. I believe we need to accept and even promote positive change so that future generations may enjoy the countryside we so treasure. Perhaps we need to change our mindset so that we learn to see the solar panel as an aid to sustain us into the future.

Dori Galton

North Hartland

U.S. Health Performance Declines

To the Editor:

Someone had left old National Geographic magazines in the White River Junction VA waiting room. I opened the May, 1925 issue. In an ad by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. promoting “Child Health Day,” I found this quote: “The ideal to which we should drive is that there should be no child in America that has not been born under proper conditions, that does not live in hygienic surroundings, that ever suffers from undernutrition, that does not have prompt and efficient medical attention and inspection, that does not receive primary instruction in the elements of hygiene and good health.” The author was Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce and a Republican who four years later would become our president. Noble goals.

In the same 1925 advertisement, MetLife President Haley Fiske laments that, “Six countries have lower infant mortality rates than the United States.” According to today’s Central Intelligence Agency, “This rate (the IMR) is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country.” Currently, among the 55 countries with IMRs better than that of the U.S. are: Serbia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Canada, Cuba, Portugal, Austria, Australia, Israel, South Korea, Belarus, Spain, Italy, France, Czech Republic and Sweden. With respect to health, it seems that our political aspirations have slipped, and our performance has slipped even more profoundly. This slippage has occurred in spite of per-capita health care expenditures topped only by Norway and Switzerland (think North Sea oil and banking) and more than 10 times the level of health expenditures of Cuba.

James R. Hughes

West Fairlee

How The Rich Get Richer

To the Editor:

Rich individuals and corporations are getting richer because of tax loopholes; the household income of the middle class has improved slightly because more women are now working, and the poor are getting poorer either because whole classes of jobs have disappeared or employers are offering only low-paying part-time jobs. Last month a retail store manager told me the company was offering new employees $8 per hour, but for only 30 hours a week and no benefits. That’s $12,500 a year. Last year’s compensation for the company’s president was $8 million. That’s scandalous.

No wonder there’s a growing demand for an increase in the minimum wage, for food stamps, for help from food banks, for unemployment benefits and for subsidized health insurance. According to several studies, it means that we, whose taxes pay for these support services, are subsidizing the big box stores and fast-food companies to the extent of $4 to $5 per employee, per hour.

Corporations and wealthy individuals spend millions to influence Congress and regulatory agencies to oppose the closing of any of these tax loopholes, to oppose any significant increase in the minimum wage, to oppose health insurance for all, to oppose new controls on pollution, etc.

Does it matter? Of course, it does. The American Way has always meant that everyone shares in the growth of the economy. If they don’t, democracy as we know it will eventually be lost. The game’s over when one party holds all the chips.

There’s one thing each one of us can and should do in this congressional campaign season: Challenge each candidate with a series of questions. Does he (or she) believe democracy and the American Way can survive in an economy where CEOs make $8 million and workers make $12,500? What steps would he take to reduce this inequality? Would he support raising the minimum wage? Would he support some kind of health insurance for everyone? Would he favor closing the tax loopholes that favor the wealthy? Does he believe the names of all donors to all political campaigns should be made public?

Campaign season is the best possible time for citizen action.

Edmund Coffin