Soda tax would be bad policy

The recent coverage regarding a bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature to tax soft drinks deserves clarification, particularly on the limited impact soda actually has on obesity. Taxing soft drinks is not the correct approach to combating the complex issue of obesity. Singling out one product for taxation is bad public policy and will not have the intended effect of lowering obesity rates in individuals.

Science supports the fact that obesity is not uniquely caused by any single food or beverage. By every measure, the facts show that sugar-sweetened beverages actually play a small and declining role in the American diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute only about 7 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet.

Furthermore, the caloric intake from sugar-sweetened beverages has declined by more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2010, yet obesity rates continued to rise during that same time period. Studies have shown that 48 percent of overweight and obese individuals drink no sugar-sweetened beverages.

As common sense dictates, higher taxes do not make people healthier — a balanced diet and physical activity do.

C. Wayne Parks, Lincoln

President, Nebraska

Beverage Association

Big bill for small businesses

As I was reading Bobbie Ann Thompson’s Jan. 24 letter regarding Gov. Dave Heineman’s tax proposal, it struck me that for every $1,000 she doesn’t pay in state income tax, she would need to purchase $18,180 worth of goods subject to Nebraska sales tax for her to be “revenue-neutral.”

Realizing how unlikely that is, I think I know where the shortfall would be made up:

According to my calculations, as a small businessman, I would see a 500 percent to 700 percent increase in my state tax liability under the governor’s proposal. I guess the old adage still applies: A fair tax is one that we can collect out of some other person’s pocket.

The proposal may or may not be revenue-neutral, but it darned sure is a tax shift.

Keith Boeckenhauer, Wakefield, Neb.

Extreme views only divide us

Chuck Hagel’s views on nuclear arms reduction are considered “extreme.” A recent letter to the Pulse referred to President Barack Obama’s inauguration as a “coronation.”

I have to say that the problem of hyperbole in this country may be among the most dangerous threats we’ve ever faced.

Vincent Winkler, Omaha

Words come back to haunt

Now isn’t this quote interesting:

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally.

“Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

— Sen. Barack H. Obama, March 2006.

Wally M. Jernigan, Omaha

Nice work if you can get it

Non Sequitur had the best picture of our Congress in action; it was the comic strip of the year!

It showed a room that was occupied by a bipartisan House committee on “avoiding actual work.” The head of the committee was telling the members they knew what the stakes were if they didn’t come up with a new ominous economic euphemism for the necessary distraction of the media. The words on the board behind the table were “dollar danger,” “budget apocalypse” and “what looks like the start of Armageddon.”

What are our members of Congress doing besides making fools out of themselves, as we saw during the committee hearings last week, and to what end? We are paying them $174,000 a year to dress up, stand in front of the camera and call each other names?

Cecil Case, Omaha

Accountability seems absent

I listened to Hillary Clinton testify before Congress concerning the incident in Benghazi, Libya. A congressman brought up Harry Truman’s saying, “The Buck Stops Here.” It seems that Clinton and the Obama administration just pass the buck on.

Dave Konecky, Mead, Neb.

That’s some job creation, huh?

An Associated Press story in the Jan. 23 World-Herald about technology replacing workers focused on a brake parts company in Alabama.

The president of the company was quite proud of a new machine that doesn’t take vacations or “complain about anything.” The company hasn’t had to add a factory worker in three years while increasing productivity.

I guess this is one of the “job creators” who can’t have his taxes raised.

David Feyerherm, West Point, Neb.

Change how firearms are sold

Ownership of firearms is guaranteed by a constitutional amendment. Our knee-jerk politicians are proposing laws that may not pass the test of sanity or constitutionality.

Some things obviously need to change, however. One facet of firearms control that I feel needs immediate consideration regards where weapons are sold. They are just too accessible.

Corporate greed can be the only reason that the nation’s largest seller of firearms also happens to be the nation’s largest retailer. There is something inherently wrong with walking out of your local supercenter with a case of “Natty Light,” a bag of charcoal, a box of diapers for the baby and a semi-automatic rifle, a banana clip and a couple of hundred rounds of ammo.

The majority of firearm sellers and owners know that weapons are not toys, do not operate like a video-game controller and have no reset button. Firearms should be sold only by people who deal with and sell them on a daily basis. That would include sporting goods stores, stand-alone gun dealers and the like.

The people who work behind those firearm counters are no-nonsense serious, know what they are selling and do not have a problem reminding the potential buyer of what type of hardware they are about to purchase.

This plan would not be the solution, but it would be a reasonable place to start.

Max Handbury, Persia, Iowa

On morality and religion

I disagree with the folks who believe that morality cannot exist without religion.

I know many atheist/agnostic law-abiding citizens who don’t drink and drive, cheat on their spouses, steal from others or commit any other crimes against humanity. I have known people who have committed these offenses but figure that they can show up for church on Sunday morning and throw something in the offering and that makes it all OK. They try to buy their way to a clear conscience.

Morality being taught in schools and at home is a wonderful thing. If you want religion taught to your kids, then send them to a church-based school. It is wrong to say that Christians pay taxes and help support public schools so Christians therefore have a right to demand their religion be taught. The word “public” is the key here.

As a taxpaying atheist, I have as much right to say that religion should not be forced on anyone in a public place. I stand behind your right to believe anything you want. Please be considerate of my rights as well.

I am also child-free, so I’ll quit paying the school taxes that support your kids. Is that fair to you?

Julie Nielson, Springfield, Neb.

Act meaningfully on climate

Viewing the movie documentary “Chasing Ice” was a sobering experience. We all know the Earth is warming; the National Climatic Data Center reported that 2012 was the hottest in recorded U.S. history (i.e., since 1895). But yet we seem to be in a collective state of inertia.

How bad must it get before we lose this inertia and start doing something meaningful? The movie shows us very graphically how little time we have left, but we could make a start. Greenhouse gases could be reduced by:

>> Putting a steadily rising fee on carbon-based fuels at the first point of sale.

>> Returning revenue to households to offset higher costs.

>> Imposing tariffs on goods from nations that do not have similar carbon pricing in order to protect American businesses.

A predictable, steadily rising fee on carbon would send a price signal to investors that clean energy would be more profitable than fossil fuels in the future, creating incentive for a shift to renewables. Exxon, Shell and BP have recently expressed support for a clear and predictable price on carbon that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The International Energy Agency has warned that we have a window of five years to start reducing greenhouse gas emissions before we enter an era of unmanageable carbon dioxide levels. The assumption that we must choose between the economy and a safe climate is false. A carbon fee that returns revenue to households would actually spur the economy and create new jobs in the clean energy sector.

Patricia Fuller, Council Bluffs

Dog rescue story is reassuring

Kudos go to Kevin Cole for writing such a great human-interest story about Tippy the Shih Tzu (Jan. 23 World-Herald). Kudos also to Jason Nelson, who went down into the sewer and retrieved the frightened dog.

This kind of story warms the heart and reassures everyone that there are still a lot of caring people who will step forward and help others. Keep up the good work, Kevin and Jason.

Robert Christensen, Omaha

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