Letters to the editor for August 8

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

As cancer cures near, research funding is threatened in Washington

Joann Fitzpatrick’s commentary in the July 14/15 Patriot Ledger was accurate, sensitive and inspiring. She calls attention to the progress that’s been made in treating cancer, and that’s a blessing for many of us.

Yet, as a fortunate six-year breast cancer survivor, and a poster girl for early detection, I’d like to inspire not just emotion, but action on the part of every Ledger reader to sustain and extend that progress.

Cancer affects three out of four Americans as patients, caregivers, friends, and loved ones. While the word “cancer” refers to the condition of abnormally rapid cell growth that can kill its host, the disease actually consists of hundreds of specific varieties; even cancers of a given site (breast, prostate, etc.) have multiple variants.

Because cancer is not just one disease, there is no one silver bullet that can treat it. Yet, the U.S. Congress is about to approve a federal budget that will starve some of the most promising cancer research programs in their tracks.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest public funder of cancer research in the country. NIH cancer funding has been flat for several years, so its purchasing power has shrunk. Now President Bush’s current budget proposal would actually reduce that funding level in absolute dollars. A congressional conference committee reconciling different proposals from the House and Senate may allow a minimal (one to two percent) funding increase, but that will be nowhere enough to keep the pipeline of promising new breakthrough treatments flowing. As a nation, we are spending more in one day in Iraq than we do in a year on federally funded cancer research. Our 30-year war on cancer is at risk.

What we need is for each of Fitzpatrick’s readers to mobilize, together with their friends and family from every state, to write to their U.S. representatives and senators demanding more cancer research funding. We need to hold elected officials accountable for this at the polls. And we need to contribute to organizations like the American Cancer Society, which is the largest private funder of cancer research in the country.

Cancer can be controlled in our lifetimes, if we get up from our easy chairs and mobilize to make it happen. Thirty years after President Nixon declared a “war on cancer,” and given that any one of us could hear the “C-word” at any moment, can we do any less?

DEBORAH J. CORNWALL

Marshfield Hills

Board Member

American Cancer Society

   New England Division

State, not federal, constitution rules on gay marriage amendment

This is in response to the July 16 letter from Barbara Baxley regarding the “People’s right to vote.”

Baxley was kind enough to quote Article and Section numbers from the U.S. Constitution to support her erroneous contention that her rights were violated by the Legislature’s refusal to approve the Marriage Amendment.

Unfortunately, this was a proposed amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution, and approval, therefore, was governed under Article XLVIII, Part IV, Sections 4 and 5, of the Massachusetts Constitution entitled, “Submission to the People.”

The language here is clear: “... or if an initiative amendment or a legislative substitute shall again receive the affirmative votes of at least one-fourth of all the members elected, such fact shall be certified by the clerk of such joint session to the secretary of the commonwealth, who shall submit the amendment to the people at the next state election.”

The framers of this great document understood that it should not be able to be easily changed, and required our legislators to perform their sworn duty to block any amendments they felt would be harmful to the commonwealth.

As a taxpayer and registered voter in Quincy, I want to personally thank state Sen. Michael Morrissey for his courage in changing his vote, and for his obviously heartfelt conviction that this amendment was hateful and deeply harmful to many of his constituents. He has my gratitude and support for his re-election campaign.

MARK W. KASINDORF

Quincy

  Numbers speak for themselves – everyone including small business benefits from sales tax-free weekends

I'm writing to correct the numerous factual falsehoods that guest columnist Chris Sands authored in his “Speak Out” column about the sales tax holiday and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

First, Sands claims that as a result of past sales tax holidays, sales in Massachusetts in August and September are weaker than normal. This is not only completely false, but the opposite is true. A review of the state’s monthly sales tax collection figures – the indication of statewide sales for an entire month – shows that collections have been up over the previous year in the month of August each and every year Massachusetts has held a sales tax holiday. Just last year, according to the Department of Revenue, collections for August, 2006 increased 1.6 percent and for September 2006 a whopping 8.2 percent! This clearly shows that the tax  holiday spurs economic activity and stimulates consumer spending into September.

Second, he claims the sales tax holiday is impossible for a small business to cope with. Ninety-five percent of the more than 3,000 members of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts are small businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Over the past few years we have fielded thousands of calls in support of the tax holiday and received rave reports on the success of the holidays from our small, family owned retailers. In addition, over the course of numerous hearings at the State House on the issue, not a single complaint has been heard about administering sales during a tax free weekend.

Third, he claims sales tax holidays only benefit the big box stores. A bizarre conclusion given that these big box stores operate in New Hampshire and have online stores where it’s always tax free. The reality is the sales tax-free weekends are the most beneficial to the small Massachusetts based retailers that for a weekend are placed on a level playing field and capture sales that would otherwise be made online or across the border to the north.

Finally, Sands offers this, “It will cost the average resident money and jobs.” Obviously, not paying sales tax saves people money and stimulating economic activity by capturing more sales in Massachusetts results in more jobs.

JON HURST

President

Retailers Association of Massachusetts