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LETTERS for March 24 issue

By Staff | Mar 24, 2016

Celebrate spring by eating healthy

After another winter of severe snowstorms and floods, I look forward to March 20 – first day of spring, balmy weather and blooming flowers.

Hundreds of communities welcome spring with an observance of the “Great American Meatout,” asking neighbors to explore a healthy, compassionate diet of vegetables, fruits, legumes and grains.

Indeed, 56 percent of respondents to a GlobalMeatNews poll said that they were, or are, reducing meat intake. U.S. per capita red meat consumption has dropped by more than 16 percent since 1999.

Mainstream publications like Parade, Better Homes and Gardens, and Eating Well are touting vegan recipes. Even the financial investment community is betting on plant-based meat start-ups, like Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods, while warning clients about the upcoming “death of meat.”

The reasons are ample. Last year, the World Health Organization found cancer to be associated with consumption of processed meats. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended reduced meat consumption.

The media keeps exposing atrocities perpetrated on factory farms. And, animal agriculture remains chief contributor to climate change and water scarcity and pollution.

Each of us should celebrate our own advent of spring by checking out plant-based foods at our supermarkets and vegan recipes on the Internet.



Upset at changes at Piilani Homes

Shame – a most reprehensible act! The Hawaii Public Housing Authority has removed from Piilani Homes a community of elderly and disabled, as well as lime bushes, Surinam cherries, tomatoes, a noni tree, stands of bananas, rose bushes, various shrubs and bushes (including cacti and ti), and a mature pomelo tree.

HPHA has no respect for humans (the elderly and disabled), nor plants (food, medicine, shade and beauty). Shame on you!



Trump’s creators

The Donald Trump phenomenon is indeed the creature of the Republican establishment, but there’s more to it than that.

For decades, the Republican leadership (committed to corporate privilege and costly empire) encouraged a base of jingoists, protectionists, nativists and other “politically incorrect” types, whom it then largely took for granted. The leadership wanted their votes but not their opinions. It never expected those folks to one day embrace a presidential candidate who said aloud whatever they were thinking. So it underestimated Trump and now is in big trouble.

But the Republican elite is not the only Victor Frankenstein in this story. There’s another, related creator of the Trump creature: government.

Americans have been assured for ages that the government in Washington could competently manage the economy, their retirement benefits, medical care, the culture (through immigration control) and foreign affairs. But with each passing year, the government’s foolishness across the board has become blindingly clear. The national debt soars; the annual budget deficit is enormous; Social Security and Medicare have huge unfunded liabilities; recessions strike periodically; taxes are onerous; economic growth is anemic; and wars go on forever. But privileges for the well-connected keep flowing. The politicians’ response consists of little more than bailouts for the rich and symbolic gestures for the rest.

Trump capitalizes on all this and blames the ruling elite for its impotence. He often alludes to what has been called democratic sclerosis, complaining that politicians are “all talk, no action.” (We should be so lucky). In contrast, he would act decisively. When he describes his prowess as a deal-maker, he seems to be promising that he will fix things single-handedly.

Lately he talks about cutting deals with Democrats in Congress, but that has not been the theme of his campaign. America’s problem, he says, is stupid leaders who don’t know how to negotiate. He will be a smart leader – and America will be great again.

But Trump is wrong about the cause of democratic sclerosis and therefore about the solution. Sclerosis results not from weak leadership but from a government with the power to engineer society. The more government tries to do, the more it bogs down in legislative sludge and gridlock. After years of frustration, people unschooled in political economy become vulnerable to a strong man who promises to “get things done.”

In his classic book “The Road to Serfdom,” F.A. Hayek discussed this particular danger of the social-engineer state. Although Hayek was warning of the consequences for individual liberty of replacing the competitive market process with central economic planning, his analysis applies to our situation as well.

With Trump, we don’t hear calls for autonomous bodies of experts. Instead, Trump presents himself as the expert – the master of the deal – who will not let the talking shops stand in the way of our “winning again.”

Importantly, Hayek added that “the fault is neither with the individual representatives nor with parliamentary institutions as such but with the contradictions inherent in the task with which they are charged.” He was being too kind to the politicians, but nevertheless, he made a good point. No other leaders could do better, because what they try to do cannot be done competently in the political arena. That is, outside the realm of voluntary exchange and social cooperation, particularly in the marketplace – unencumbered by privilege, regulation and taxation, where decentralized competition and market feedback through profit and loss reveal inevitable errors and reward correction.

So Trump is right: the politicians can’t be relied on to manage our lives or society. But he’s also wrong: society should not be turned over to a Great Man – not him or anyone else.

We shouldn’t aspire to be a great nation. We should aspire to be fully free persons.



Remember U.S. manufacturing when you choose a candidate

Voters are going to the polls this year with economic worries uppermost in their minds. Although the “headline” unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent, the labor force participation rate remains near historic lows, indicating that many people who might work are not doing so.

Discouraged workers have given up looking for work, and middle class jobs with benefits are scarce. One issue ties these troubles together – manufacturing.

America’s factories are struggling. In spite of economic growth, U.S. manufacturing is in a recession. The sector has now contracted for four straight months, with exports lower due to a weak global economy and a strong dollar. But competition from illegally subsidized foreign producers is the main culprit.

Federal data shows the United States has lost roughly 5,000,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. The loss of so many skilled, high-paying jobs has profoundly hurt America’s middle class, with formerly well-paid workers forced into unemployment, early retirement or lower-paying service jobs.

No wonder voters are angry. To restore the viability of domestic manufacturing, voters need to choose candidates who will tackle the big problem facing the nation’s factories: namely, bad U.S. trade policies.

When Americans are asked why U.S factories are moving overseas, they usually think “cheap labor.” But labor is only a small part of the picture. What really hurts America’s factories is the massive subsidies that foreign governments provide to their industrial sectors. China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and some European Union countries deliberately intervene in currency markets to weaken their currencies, making their goods artificially cheap against American-made products. That’s why the annual U.S. trade deficit with China has exploded over the past 15 years, jumping from $83 billion in 2000 to $366 billion in 2015.

That’s a lot of lost jobs, and both the Bush and Obama administrations failed to take action. Voters should be asking, “Who will stop this hemorrhaging of our manufacturing base?”

In 2013, bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress urged President Obama to include strong, enforceable currency measures in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Congress did so again in 2015, when they passed negotiating objectives for the TPP. Inexplicably, the Obama Administration ignored Congress, and there are no penalties for currency manipulation in the TPP. That means the deal, if passed, will allow even more artificially cheap goods to enter the U.S. market, further weakening domestic industry.

America’s manufacturers are beset by a host of other unfair trade practices. China massively subsidizes its energy sector and props up key industries like autos, steel, glass, paper, rubber and electronics. These subsidies are actionable under world trade law, and could be countered if only a U.S. president enforced existing trade laws.

Most countries have cohesive industrial strategies to grow their manufacturing sectors, but not the United States. That’s why Germany, and not America, enjoys a trade surplus with China and the world, successfully exporting its products while restraining imports.

A strong manufacturing base is critical to America’s economic future. Manufacturing jobs pay better than service jobs, and they provide better benefits. They support related jobs throughout the economy. And manufacturing undertakes 70 percent of private sector research and development, spawning future industries.

Voters must help rebuild manufacturing. Step one is to identify candidates who support action against currency manipulation and subsidies by China, Japan and others, as well as candidates who reject outsourcing deals such as the TPP. When voters listen closely to candidates on trade issues, they’ll quickly find out who wants a robust future for America’s factories, jobs and middle class.

KEVIN L. KEARNS, President, U.S. Business & Industry Council