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Letter: Solving the Inequality Problem

Solving the Inequality Problem

To the Editor:

I recently attended a Dartmouth College debate between two well-known and highly respected economists, Greg Mankiw and Jared Bernstein, on the topic of income inequality. I also teach a course on this topic for ILEAD. What I found particularly interesting was that, despite the fact that each has a very different philosophical, ideological and political stance on public policy, there was also a notable measure of common ground. In addition to debating the question, “What is the problem?” each economist also addressed the “What is the solution?” And on at least four substantive policies they were in basic agreement in how policymakers might address this problem. First, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, an already highly successful program. Second, reduce or eliminate corporate tax loopholes. Third, institute a significant carbon tax. And finally, increase support for education at all levels. And had there been more time, my guess is that there would have been even more overlap and agreement.

While none of these policies is particularly radical, in combination they would at least begin to address this critical issue. But sadly, both agreed also that the political polarization and gridlock in Washington (described by Mr. Bernstein as standing for “Dysfunctional Congress”) make such legislation impossible. Yet, if these two persons of very different ideological persuasions can agree, wouldn’t one think that possibly our elected representatives could also find some comment ground?

Dream on.

Jim Wilson

Strafford

Background Checks and Vt. Polls

To the Editor:

In Montpelier last week, GunSenseVT introduced its agenda for the 2015 Vermont legislative session with some extraordinary polling numbers. GunSenseVT President Ann Braden launched a campaign to pass a bill in the next session to require criminal background checks for all gun sales. “Criminal background checks on all firearms sales is the most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Braden said.

GunSenseVT and its lobbying firm unveiled results of a Vermont poll at a May 6 Montpelier news conference that included Vermont gun owners. The poll by political consulting group Lincoln Park Strategies, taken between April 22 and April 24, indicated that 81 percent of 600 Vermont respondents strongly or moderately support requiring all gun buyers to pass a criminal background check. Current law allows private gun sales and gun show sales to go forward without background checks. The poll indicated 77 percent of gun owners support criminal background checks.

Vermont has among the most lenient gun laws in the country. Citizens can, for example, carry and conceal a firearm anywhere they want with just three exceptions: inside court buildings, the Statehouse and schools. In most other states, conceal and carry is illegal or regulated.

In 2013, warrant articles supporting universal background checks passed overwhelmingly in the Upper Valley towns of Woodstock, Norwich, Strafford, Bradford and Hartland. This year, Burlington voters approved measures on Town Meeting Day that would ban guns from any establishment with a liquor license, allow police to seize guns after domestic abuse incidents and require firearms to be locked at all times. Burlington voters passed the changes by a 2 to 1 margin, despite heavy push-back from pro-gun groups.

It’s time the rest of Vermont started letting their legislative representatives know where they stand on universal background checks.

Paul Regan

Member, GunSenseVT

South Woodstock

An Honest Man, a Good Man

To the Editor:

The ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes carried a lighted lantern during the daytime, searching, searching, searching for something he could never find: “I am looking for an honest man.”

Let me tell you about an honest man.

Dave Ring (“A Life,” May 12) serviced my cars for the past 25 years as owner of Tip Top Tire. For a long time, when I was getting started as a teacher and didn’t make much money, I drove junkers: a ’75 Plymouth, a ’78 Buick, a ’79 Plymouth and finally a dilapidated money-guzzler, an ’88 Continental with air-shock-absorbers that cost $1,000 each, which I found out the hard way.

One day around 2002, as I was sinking even more dollars into that Continental, Dave took me aside and said, “Have you ever considered buying a new car?”

Well, no, I hadn’t. I had always driven junk and thought a new car was out of my league. Dave pointed out that with the nickel and dime-ing I’d been doing on the Continental, I easily could have afforded monthly payments on a new car. So I bought one. And Dave lost a goldmine: me.

But he knew that. He had even joked that if I bought a new car, I could stop making his repair shop a second-home for my credit cards!

Now that is an honest man!

There are hundreds of folks Dave helped, too, by grubstaking them when they needed transportation — letting them pay off cars they bought from him with monthly installments based on trust. The same with apartments. As a landlord, he helped dozens and dozens of folks get on their feet by offering reduced rents if they would agree to fix the leaky faucet and change the broken doorknob themselves.

An honest man, a good man, lived right here for 61 years, in little old White River Junction, thousands of miles and thousands of years from ancient Greece. He will be gratefully remembered and sorely missed by thousands, too.

Paul D. Keane

White River Junction