Letters to the editor: 08-27-2013

August 27, 2013 

Failed fire policy

The Fairfield District of the Sawthooth National Forest was closed even though the fires burning were about 20 miles from the camp sites. The Forest Service knew that this district was a mass of dead, dying, deadfall infested timber like most forests in the West and could erupt at any time causing death, destruction and devastation.

This is the result of the environmentalist movement to restrict cutting and thinning resulting in the closure of 34 lumber mills across central-southern Idaho, only two are left. We know how to manage and prevent wildfires from the past.

Those that think controlled burns, or fire, are a solution are either naive or have the soul of a serial killer. Millions of animals are incinerated in a wildfire; others slowly starve. Some species may return after decades, others - never.

These forests have not seen the intensity of fires since before the Little Ice Age when Idaho mountains were under perpetual snow. Fire is not a part of forest growth - few tree species expand after fire. Lodgepole expanded with or without fire.

It's time for the Congress to step up and reverse a failed policy that will take decades to rectify.


Fighting wildfires

When a situation reaches a critical point, traditional methods of addressing the danger must be changed to protect life and property.

Wildfires this year are not only deadly and expensive but totally addressable. They reflect a national concern. Such tragedies can be reduced significantly.

Consider the C-17: 1. Load capacity of 170,900 pounds (21,250 gallons). 2. Can drop loads near ground level. 3. Range is 2,400 nautical miles loaded. 4. Can operate from airfields with 3,500-foot runways and 90-foot width. 5. Their mission is to: "Provide services and support, which promote quality of life and project global power through combat-proven airlift and airdrop." 6. Squadrons are in New Jersey, South Carolina and Washington state.

Five Globemasters with 106,250 gallons of water or fire suppressants could provide saturation of a fire front. We have assets at hand that can effectively address wildfires.

The U.S. maintains squadrons in Florida to track and report on storms and hurricanes to protect the Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. There is also the Coast Guard to protect and rescue. How many more people need to die, and how much property needs to be lost until we realize what is truly possible?


CATO Institute

Audrey Dutton's article on welfare could not be more obviously biased, and I'm surprised the Statesman ran this propaganda piece as journalism. Ms. Dutton never once examines the source of all her material, the CATO Institute, which is in fact a conservative think tank inspired by 18th century anti-government essays; in short, it's a tea party tool.

The subheader refers to a "complete welfare package" being on par with an entry-level job. How about asking why an entry-level job in Idaho pays little more than welfare benefits? And how does the word "complete" apply?

Ms. Dutton seems to be saying that anyone relying on SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) or unemployment benefits has an incomplete package. The article provides absolutely no information on how many people actually have this "complete" package the CATO Institute is basing its study on. The entire article presumes that welfare benefits are too high, without examining the fact that average wages in Idaho are well beneath the national poverty level.

True economic recovery will begin when employers pay the labor force a wage with which they can support themselves and participate in the economy, instead of forcing them onto welfare by paying them as little as possible.


The article on the Aug. 20 front page: "Think tank: Idaho welfare benefits too attractive" was blood-chillingly cruel and ultraconservative but did remind me of two things. First, thought is individual, not collective, and think tanks are places where thought is drowned rather than developed. Second, collective decision-making is always less compassionate and less thoughtful than decisions arrived at by individuals, unless the individuals involved are all sociopaths. I cannot swear that the members of the CATO Institute are sociopaths, but they are not worthy of the media attention given to their studies and (especially) their conclusions.


It disappoints me that the front page of the paper would parrot, wholly unchallenged, a CATO Institute report with the headline "Idaho welfare benefits too attractive."

The CATO Institute is no less of a political advocacy group than the Center for American Progress. A different editorial decision could have led with "Payoff for full-time work in Idaho not worth it."

The article didn't even consider whether it is possible for a single mother of two to support her family on $15,080 per year — that's $1,250/month before payroll taxes or withholdings — and also pay for child care and health care.

CATO happens to be the same organization that decries employer-mandated health coverage for the family (or even any expansion of Medicaid or CHIP) because the "free market" should dictate such market benefits along with the minimum wage. The article quotes Rep. Wood expressing sympathy with the CATO premise, explaining that the state Legislature's hands are tied from lowering benefits. Maybe the Legislature should consider making work a little more attractive. Why don't you ask Fred Wood if he would like to take the $15,000/year experiment?

We can get this drivel and small-government whining from the Opinions page, it certainly shouldn't be passed off as critical analysis.


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