I am Dr. Peter DeBenedittis, New Mexico’s true progressive candidate for governor. I’m responding to your July 20-26 article by Joshua Lee, “Baked Goods: Dangerously Still.” Your article implies that I have never been explicit about being pro-legalization and that since I have said that legalization of cannabis is “inevitable,” I am somehow indifferent about the issue of legalization.
To clarify my position for Alibi readers. I am pro-legalization and have actually been quite vocal about it.
It’s not surprising some assume that since I’ve had a career in youth alcohol prevention, I am anti-cannabis use. However, that’s not correct. The programs I teach are designed to save lives and set students on a path towards success in college. While 1 out of 6 working-age New Mexicans die from alcohol caused crashes and disease, according to the CDC, no one has died due to cannabis consumption.
Legalizing marijuana and reaping the benefits of that for our state seems like the only smart choice to me. Legalization would generate $400 million in new economic activity and create 16,000 new jobs in its first year!
My focus is on fair and progressive regulation of cannabis when it does become legal. If you go on my website, it informs readers that I “will sign legislation legalizing marijuana provided mechanisms are put in place that protect children from its usage and remove all tax deductions given to companies for marijuana advertising.” We’ve seen how alcohol and tobacco companies continually produce advertising campaigns targeting children, which is why I want to close this loophole before it gets opened.
Peter DeBenedittis, Ph.D. New Mexico’s True Progressive
Be Happy with Enough
Booze, junk food, cocaine, sugar, meth, modern wheat, heroin, sodas, cigarettes are all awful addictions, but no addiction is more harmful than craving much more money, more stuff than we need.
I enjoy having enough—healthy food, one sunny room to live in, a garden for food and flowers. I lived well all of 2016 on $4,946 for my total expenses—rent, food, etc.—less than half the US poverty level for me as a single person.
The US has less than 5 percent of the world’s people, but the US steals and hogs 25 percent of the world’s wealth. How much worse the environment and global climate chaos would be if all 7.4 billion people on Earth now, and billions to come, consumed, traveled, polluted and ate meat and dairy like most USA-ans? Why hog much more than my fair share in the world family? Freedom is not having and not wanting so much stuff I do not need!
My time is more precious than millions of dollars. My close relationships are more precious than luxury mansions full of stuff. No high-paying job is worth selling out my conscience and silencing my voice publicly on important controversial concerns. I refuse to be an impotent wimp spectator in the bleachers of life.
I treasure wisdom, deep conversations, health, dear friends living and dead, men I have been in love with ... I aim to live truth as best I see it. Why have much more than I need while many millions worldwide have much less than they need?
Thank You, August March
On behalf of Listo NM and the NM Dream team we want to thank you for having worked with us on the immigration piece that ran on the week of July 19-26.
We appreciate the platform you provided through the newspaper to talk about the issues the immigrant community is facing under the current administration and how we are still fighting back to protect our immigrant families nationwide.
Once again, thank you and we hope to continue working with you to inform your public of what is happening in the immigration field in N.M.
Isaac J. De Luna Communications Director Listo NM
Taxes and the Poor
Listening to talk radio shows, I've heard several callers complain about the prospect of universal health care. “Why should I have to pay,” they ask, “for the health insurance of some guy who doesn't have any?” To keep it simple, one might respond, “In a universal system you would not be paying for the other guy any more than the other guy would be paying for you, and what's more, you'd both be paying less for your health coverage.”
“How so?” I can anticipate. “Don't tell me my taxes won't go up, and that other guy's probably not paying anything.” Here I think one needs to address what appears to be a growing misconception about the taxes we pay, especially income taxes. “It's true,” I'll allow, “that the amounts our citizens pay in income taxes differ widely, sometimes vastly. But it's also true,” I'd hasten to add, “that in our system of progressive income tax all citizens are taxed the same. If my annual income happens to be $25,000, I'm taxed at the same rate as, say, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are taxed on their first $25,000. True, by the time Bill and Warren pass their first million they'll be paying at a higher rate, but that rate does not apply for all of their income, and the increase kicks in only by increments, just as it does for any citizen. Yes, we are all taxed the same. If there are differences in the amounts we pay, that's because there are differences in annual income—sometimes vast differences.”
At this point I am reminded of the arguments which have arisen about the income tax rebates distributed during the present decade. The largest rebates went to the very wealthy, and the middle class was not overlooked, but discord arose when it was suggested that the poor should get something, too. “How so?” it was again demanded. “How can anyone get a rebate for taxes which were never paid in the first place?” That sounds reasonable, almost, but to go a step further one could add, “They never paid taxes in the first place because in the place before that they were never paid enough income.” Some might even go a step further and conclude that the poor—those who pay no income taxes because they don't make enough income—are the very citizens most in need of rebates.
Thus we arrive at a theory espoused by the occasional economist, a theory we seldom hear about, involving the concept of the “negative income tax.” Take, for example, a family surviving on an annual income of $18,000 ($1,500/mo.). If, eventually some day, we came to agree that no family should have to survive on less than $21,000 annually ($1,750/mo.), we might extend assistance to our family, not in the form of an illogical rebate, but by assessing them a negative income tax in the amount of $3,000, bringing their income to the minimum $21,000/year.
“Not much help,” some would surely say, but to those who dwell in a perpetual state of economic depression, who cannot qualify for Visa cards* or even loans except from predatory lenders who offer “payday advances” at ruthless rates, this slightly larger slice of the pie might seem momentous—salvation from that “payday advance,” for instance, when they approach that final week of the month. If nothing else, if might be perceived by those in need as at least a gesture of goodwill from the rest of America. And in time, perhaps, it might be perceived by most Americans as at least a step in the right direction, a step toward social justice and a better America for all of us to live in.
One cannot help but recall Lee Atwater's call to shrink government until it can be “drowned in the bathtub,” or President Reagan's pronouncement that “Government is the problem.” Not so. Instead of a shrinking and shirking government, we need a “government of the people” to stand up for the people against an un-governed capitalism and the blind inhumanity and aggressions it engenders: crime, speeding, road rage, invasions, “shock and awe,” torture, depressions, homelessness, hunger, poverty, loss of species, loss of clean water and air, etc. If unwilling to act for humanity, then we might as least act to save the Earth.
*It is probably well that they cannot, for they are thus spared entrapment in a trickle-up system in which the poor pay interest to the wealthy.
I had to chuckle when reading of Mayor Berry’s promotion of driverless cars in the “News City” section, because it seems to me that in terms of cognitive presence behind the wheel, Albuquerque’s always had an abundance of driverless cars. As for the new ones, with no physical human presence at the controls, isn’t the success of that predicated on some sort of predictability in the driving environment? Good luck with that here!
USA Needs Real Defense
Thinking on Cecil Adams’ “Advice From The Abyss” column in your 6/29 – 7/5/17 edition:
Although domestic terrorism has plagued America for centuries, the newer threat of terrorist acts from foreign sources consumes our attention, as do the heartrending conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Africa.
What we need is “real defense!” For too many decades our national security establishment has been overthrowing democratically-elected governments, intervening in sectarian and tribal conflicts, and conducting murderous wars. Countries and regions have been catastrophically destabilized.
“Allied” governments, arms merchants, military contractors and corporate interests have been determining which regimes are treated as friends, while others as enemies.
Two prominent “friends” are Israel and Saudi Arabia, a British colonized product of WWI. That Iran is on our list of “enemies” is in large part due to these friends’ fears and desires. Our tragic invasions of Iraq and more recent pursuit of regime change in Syria’s civil unrest were strongly urged on by these friends.
Real defense requires us to avoid conflicts and taking sides. Real defense in the 21st century must prioritize “cyber security,” diplomacy and enlightened humanitarian aid. Real defense will not be strengthened by a $1 trillion modernization of our nuclear weapons arsenal. Nukes are valuable only as “deterrence” until negotiations are completed. Past negotiations have been successful. The Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Treaty of 2017 is law; we need to sign, ratify, comply and move the other outlaw nuclear powers to do so. We must never use nuclear weapons again and, fortunately, don’t need to!
Appropriations for our national security establishment should not be sacrosanct and beyond public scrutiny. We deserve an effective and cost-effective real defense.
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