No Charity in the Term 'Corporate Welfare'

In the cause of good journalism, I urge the Monitor to be the first to retire the phrase "corporate welfare" (editorial, Feb.4). It is at best confusing, at worst a case of dishonest and destructive anticapitalism.

On examination, I think we would find that the majority of corporations are net contributors to the US economy and government through the goods and services they produce and the taxes they pay on materials, transportation, products, services, and, most of all, wages (which indirectly generate more economic activity and tax revenues).

Government support programs or favorable tax structures are really just means of reducing risk or the cost of business and letting companies keep more of their money. Maybe some programs are misguided and deserve to be terminated, but that is another story.

On the other hand, when someone receives food stamps, Medicaid, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, etc., they are taking other people's money. Sometimes this is reasonable and proper, but it is not parallel or similar to what is referred to as "welfare" for corporations.

Robert L. Braun

Stonington, Maine

Indonesia's view on East Timor

Regarding the opinion page article, "The US-Indonesia Alliance Against East Timor," Jan. 14: Only expatriate East Timorese activists are quoted in the article, an indication of the author's less-than-objective approach. Had he disclosed his visit to East Timor as a reporter, he would have been able to meet East Timorese who believe, as do the majority who voted for decolonization through integration with Indonesia in 1975, that self-determination has already occurred.

The hosts for the writer's clandestine meeting are the remaining members of a political party established with Portuguese support during the waning years of the early 1970s colonial meltdown. As the colonial army fled East Timor, the guerrillas were the beneficiaries of Portuguese largess - military hardware used to slaughter East Timorese opponents, triggering a civil war. The facts hardly seem fodder for a romantic account of guerrillas fighting a government that has done more in 20 years to enhance the East Timorese quality of life than 450 years of Portuguese colonial oppression ever did.

The Indonesian government stopped the civil war, ensured peace and stability, and enabled the East Timorese to develop their economy and focus on basic necessities.

Is there opposition to Indonesia in East Timor? Has Indonesia made mistakes in speeding development to a province long neglected by Portugal? Yes, but Indonesia has worked to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and that opponents who represent a violent minority are not able to impose their will on a people who chose to put war behind them more than 20 years ago.

I ask your readers not to automatically accept this one-sided perspective. For a more accurate picture, listen to objective analysis of East Timor, the views of East Timorese and non-East Timorese who work for peace and development there. The blame for East Timor's past lies with its failed colonizer, Portugal, not with the country working to ensure that the people of East Timor share equitably in the fruits of Indonesia's development.

Darmosutanto Budiman


Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia

Missing link in the Food Lion story

In reading the reports of ABC News and Food Lion in the Monitor Jan. 24, "Investigative News Reporting on Trial in US," and elsewhere, I have yet to find an answer to what seems an obvious question: Where were the public health officials in this story?

In my experience, all it takes is an anonymous tip to bring a surprise visit from local health inspectors. If it was ABC's goal to protect the public, it would have been faster and easier to notify the authorities of the violations. By taking the time to go undercover, ABC may have actually delayed the implementation of corrective measures.

James B. Toy

Monterey, Calif.

Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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