Letters to the Editor, Dec. 22

"Thank you" from Boyscout Troop 332

To the Editor,

The Manchester Boy Scout Troop 332 would like to express its sincere appreciation and thanks to all the families, friends, visitors and neighbors of the Manchester area communities that supported our troop by stopping-by the Christmas tree 'corral' we erected on Depot Street in Manchester. Most families took home a beautiful Christmas tree, which we hope they are still enjoying. Several good folks stopped by just to make a generous donation and encourage the scouts to keep doing good work. The funds generated by the Christmas tree sales and donations exceeded the scouts' expectations for raising money to be able to go to their 'high adventure' summer camp in 2018. With the funds raised, as many as 10 scouts will now be able to go to camp! That is a wonderful holiday season gift for the boys. Perhaps the largest part of the Boy Scout experience - over many years of teachings and experiences - is learning how to be responsible and respectful members of their families, communities and the country. The boys are often involved in community service projects. Over time, they engender a natural habit and enjoyment in helping others and making a positive impact on all the environments they encounter - social or physical. It is in that context that it is so beneficial for the scouts to experience first-hand how the community can 'give back' in appreciation of their hard work and efforts - by virtue of such a great turn-out for their Christmas tree fundraiser.

The scouts wish to extend special Thank You's to Manchester Designer Outlets for donating the use of their property on Depot Street, to rkMILES for their long-standing support, and to the Vermont NewsGuide and the Manchester Journal for their promotional support. Happy Holidays to All! We'll long remember your generous support - especially around the campfires next summer!

Gary Saunders, Troop Leader

Tax cut could hurt those with disabilities

To the Editor,

The "Tax Cut and Jobs Act" winding its way through Congress will seriously burden those of us who have a disability. We're already twice as likely to experience poverty and this bill is about to make it worse while handing corporations a substantial tax break.

This tax "reform" intends to eliminate most of the itemized deductions and credits that have led to our improved health and access to employment. Repeal of the medical expense deduction will be a major blow to the nearly 9 million taxpayers — many of whom have a disability who currently use it to offset some of their high "out of pocket" medical expenses for drugs, long term physical and occupational therapies, medical equipment (including wheelchairs), and the cost of long term care services and supports (including in-home care).

Without the deduction, disabled people who can live independently in the community only with the aid of a personal care assistant may be forced into nursing homes. The Republicans also plan to repeal the disabled access credit (DATC) which helps small businesses comply with the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Without this credit 50% of eligible expenditures up to $10,000—many small businesses who build ramps, hire sign language interpreters, and the like will, in effect, pay more in taxes in order to comply with the ADA. Compounding the problem, there's a separate bill pending in the House (HR 620) designed to make it harder for disabled people to sue businesses that do not comply with the ADA.

The ADA has few "teeth" to it now and HR 620 will make it even less enforceable. And none of this takes account of the fact that the tax bills will trigger the "PAYGO Act" rules on preventing deficit increases. These rules will result in automatic spending cuts to more social programs. One estimate is that as much as $25 billion will be cut from Medicare alone. Conservatives say that we should be working, not living "on the dole," but they are determined to cut services and supports that help us do just that. And if repeal of the DATC is accompanied by passage of HR 620, they will also reduce the ability of people with disabilities to simply live in our communities, let alone enjoy them by going out to restaurants, movies, and other local businesses.

Charlie Murphy, Bennington

Thank you from Fisher Elementary

To the Editor,

On behalf of Fisher Elementary School, I would like to thank several local organizations and individuals for their continued support of our students during the holidays. First, thank you to the Northshire Bookstore for including Fisher students in its annual Book Angel program. Second, thank you to Nathalie Caler and the Red Stocking Project for making sure children have presents to open on Christmas morning and to the Arlington Food Shelf for the donation of food baskets for the holidays.

I also want to thank the Bennington County Sherriff's Department which adopted a Fisher family for holiday gift giving, as did other Arlington residents who wish to remain anonymous. And, a thank you to Battenkill Grange #487 which chose to forgo its annual member gift exchange, instead purchasing winter clothing items for the Fisher Health Services Office. A final heartfelt thank you to Jim and Buddy Edgerton who donate a tree each year to make the front entrance of Fisher Elementary very special. We greatly appreciate the commitment of all of these organizations and to the businesses and individuals who donate their time and money to these causes.

Deanne Lacoste, Principal of Fisher Elementary School

Are you opposed to legalization in Vermont?

To the Editor,

Legalized pot brings with it more than just pot for those who are currently using it illegally; that is not the only dynamic that will change.

Are any of these things you want to see in Vermont? More traffic deaths, more ER visits, more psychotic issues, more crime, jump in homelessness, employers are challenged to find workers who are clean even for good paying positions, and jump in the use at soup kitchens and food shelves from out-of-state folks. There's more cartel influences and black markets and more use among teens.

Marijuana has been tested and shown to impair brain development in MRI image studies at Mass General along with Harvard. Young peoples' brains are still developing until they are 25. Who will keep marijuana brownies from being in their refrigerators and smoke from their living rooms and even school grounds? Shouldn't youth have rights to clean air in their own homes?

For many, marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to opioids. Those who use marijuana are more than twice as likely to abuse opiate prescription meds. Do we need more opioid issues in Vermont? Colorado had record high overdoses in 2016 after legalization. We don't need more opioid deaths. Last year opioid deaths were 112 in Vermont, another new high. We certainly don't need additional expenses of more drug abuse. Currently 3% of our national GNP goes dealing with opioid issues.

So are you someone who might now stand in opposition to legalized pot in Vermont? Vermonters, wisdom says learn from someone else's bad choices. Are you opposed? Are you willing to help? Act now. Your voice matters. You can make a difference. Vermonters, keep a clear head - say no to pot in Vermont.

Martha Hafner, Randolph

Cutting Social Security and Medicare clearly in Republican plans

To the Editor,

While Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell issued a joint statement on December 1 "reassuring" everyone that the GOP tax cut bill's ballooning of the deficit wouldn't trigger automatic cuts to programs like Medicare, on December 6 Ryan publicly announced "We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit."

How do we reconcile the two statements? Through the usual semantics — the "reassurance" only said the cuts wouldn't come through the "automatic" reductions called for by the "Pay as You Go Act"; it said nothing about attacking social programs in separate, deliberate legislation unconnected to the PAYGO Act. Mr. Ryan tends to speak in fine print, and Mr. McConnell lives in fine print.

Ryan's not the only powerful Republican in Congress determined to rip up the social contract under which we've lived for decades. Days before the Ryan-McConnell "reassurance," Senator Marco Rubio publicly said that "We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future." No semantics there, and no nuance, either. They are coming for those programs.

Ryan himself addressed the issue again just last week when he told a gathering of reporters "Baby boomers are retiring and we have fewer people following them in the workforce. We have something like a 90-percent increase in the retirement population of America but only a 19-percent increase in the working population in America." He didn't explicitly say it—that small print tendency again—but he pretty clearly implied that Social Security and Medicare depend on either magically increasing the number of working people, or cutting benefits for the people who will be retiring.

And the capper comes from a Republican member of Congress who told reporters off the record that he had broached reform of what Republicans disdainfully call "entitlements" and Trump said he would not go after Social Security "until the first day of his second term." Listen to that "fine print" there—Trump said "he" wouldn't go after the programs. But if Congress should — and it will — happen to go after them...

Lee Russ, Bennington

"Wreaths Across America" a success

To the Editor

Fellow residents of Bennington and the surrounding area, we at the Vermont Veterans' Home want to thank you for participating in this year's National Wreaths Across America Day at the Vermont Veterans' Home.

Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, the mission to remember, honor and teach is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as over 1,100 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad. Again this year the day was cold, windy, and snowing, yet as resilient Vermonters, over 375 of you attended and participated in honoring those who had served our great nation. Incredibly, we had sufficient wreaths to

lay a wreath, call out the Veteran's name, and salute all Veterans interned at our Vermont Home.

Thank you to Amy Maroney for spearheading this amazing and never to be forgotten accomplishment. Also in attendance were several youth groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and church groups. This was our largest turnout ever, we are extremely grateful for you setting aside time during your busy holiday schedule to

join us and participate. We appreciate our State Representatives who joined and participated, Mary Morrissey and Kiah Morris.

You all attended not to "decorate graves" but to commemorate their sacrifice and dedication to these United States and to the cause of Everlasting Freedom. A profound Thanks to all who attended. Semper Fidelis.

Colonel A. M. Faxon Jr., Deputy/COO Vermont Veterans' Home

"Organic" animals must suffer too

To the Editor,

The Trump administration ruled on Friday that animals raised for food under the "USDA Organic" label need not be treated any less cruelly than those in conventional farming. The decision reverses years of U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, which held that the "organic" label should impose minimal ethical, health, and environmental standards. For the animals, this included adequate space, light, and access to the outdoors.

Under the Trump administration, this will no longer be the case. "Organic" farm operations will be allowed to cram laying hens five to a small wire cage that tears out their feathers and to grind or suffocate millions of male chicks at birth because they don't lay eggs. Mother pigs will spend their miserable lives in tight metal crates, as their babies are torn from them and mutilated with no anesthesia. And dairy cows will continue to cry for their babies torn from them at birth, so we can drink their milk.

Caring consumers opting for "organic" animal products, to reduce their role in subsidizing these abuses, will now have no choice but to switch to plant-based foods, including the widely available nut- and grain-based meats, milks, cheeses, and ice creams.

Brent Regan, Brattleboro


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