Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of May 2, 2011

Readers write in about changing the dominant two-party political system in the US, concerns over nuclear power, and the relationship between obesity and the American food stamp programs.

Change the two-party system

In David E. Skaggs's April 4 commentary, "Cooperation in Congress? It's in our constitutional DNA," he observes: "This constitutional scheme itself tends to drive policy to the center."

However, as an independent voter, I have also seen how the present party system could lead to stalemate before the center is reached.

Many candidates are often centrist. But in order to get elected, they sell their souls to a party. Once elected, they are leaned on by party officials to take extreme party positions. These extreme positions do not induce compromise but lead to stalemate.

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The present party system needs modification. Just changing the party in power will not, in itself, fix the system.

Robert A. Brown

Reading, Mass.

Concern about nuclear power

Regarding the April 11 editorial "Keep nuclear power in the mix," I have additional concerns about nuclear power. The editorial mentions the associated risks of terrorist attacks, the possible spread of nuclear materials that can be made into bombs and weapons, and the lack of a permanent solution for the disposal of nuclear waste.

Let's also remember the necessity of mining uranium, which causes pollution as well as health hazards. In addition, nuclear power plants release toxic radiation as they operate, and truly there is no safe level of radiation.

Safe alternative power sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal can make up a much larger percentage of our electrical needs if the loans and subsidies promised to nuclear companies are diverted to incentives for renewables. And let us not forget that our country uses much more energy that any other. We can learn to cut back and conserve on energy usage. This is a challenge we each need to take on.

Deanna Homer

Stillwater, Okla.

Obesity factor: food stamps

In response to Mattea Kramer's April 11 commentary, "Obesity's hidden factor: high cost of healthy meals," I'd like to point out another hidden factor. Food stamps can be used to buy nearly anything that goes by the name of food. This includes soda, sugary snacks, and chips.

If the food stamp program were to be altered so that these kinds of nonhealthy "foods" could not be purchased with food stamps, there would be more left in each beneficiary's allotment for healthier foods.

There are models for changing the entire program. For example, the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) food program is extremely limited, only allowing healthier foods. The food stamp program should be similarly limited.

In the long run, giving thought now to promoting healthier diets for food stamp recipients can save taxpayers much more in public health-care costs later.

Edith L. Koenig

Burns, Ore.

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