Feeding the problem

EDITOR: Wal-Mart's senior director of communications, Steven Restivo, expressed concern that more than 23 million Americans live in "food deserts" ("Wal-Mart responds," Letters, Monday). Wal-Mart's solution is to provide healthy, affordable food choices to people in "food desert" neighborhoods working for low wages with little/no benefits.

Let's examine this problem of food deserts more closely. Food deserts exist where there are large numbers of low-income people with high demand for low prices. This just happens to be Wal-Mart's customer base. Its business model relies on low incomes and high demand for low prices, with grocery prices made artificially cheap with heavy subsidization of the agri-business industry. If our vision for this demographic is continued reliance on Wal-Mart's taxpayer-subsidized low prices, then Wal-Mart's solution makes sense.

However, Wal-Mart's solution does not support a vision for increasing earnings and standards of living for those living in food desert neighborhoods. Wal-Mart's business model depresses wages and benefits for retail employees and reduces the total number of retail jobs. Conversely, communities with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses show greater income growth.

So Wal-Mart's solution would perpetuate the causes of food deserts.



Gorin's trip

EDITOR: Thank you to Staff Writer Brett Wilkison for letting Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin's constituents know that she was in Hawaii on Valentine's Day ("Weddings a new service," Friday). Just what county business was Gorin conducting? It's hard to believe that after only six weeks on the job as our new 1st District supervisor, Gorin is already taking a vacation. But then again, what would you expect from somebody who hasn't held a job in the private sector since 1988?



Guns and militias

EDITOR: I am becoming increasingly annoyed when I read or hear a gun possession advocate hijack the Second Amendment and misinterpret it to justify arming the American public. These advocates make it sound as if owning a gun is a patriotic endeavor. Interestingly, some of the most ardent advocates are stockpiling military-style assault weapons for the purpose of overthrowing the federal government when and if they believe it necessary. Is this patriotism?

The Second Amendment was written at a time when this county was young and vulnerable. The Founding Fathers thought it would be wise to provide for a citizens' militia if the country was threatened. Citizens were given the right to bear arms in a militia, not as individual one-man armies. Now, we have a National Guard and military reserve units to replace the need for a citizen militia.

I am not advocating the abolition of firearms, except for assault rifles. I urge that the debate over gun control be honest and sincere. There is no place for raw emotion and jingoism.


Santa Rosa

Time for radical shift

EDITOR: We need to raise taxes on the rich high enough that we can expand social programs, not just stop cuts to them. All around me people are struggling to find living-wage jobs. They are saddled with staggering health care debt because they are uninsured, using credit card debt to meet basic needs and struggling with student debt that will last a lifetime.

People are losing their homes and losing hope that their children might not face the same battles. Communities of color continue to face the harshest impacts of our economic inequality.

Meanwhile, the 1 percent are thriving, richer than ever. I know because I work with this constituency. And I know that collectively we have enough resources for everyone to have the food, housing, health care and education they need. We have enough for good roads and libraries and parks and public transportation.

I wish that House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans could see past their affiliations and loyalty to their party rhetoric to see that this nation needs a radical and more just shift. Raise taxes on the top 1 percent. The Buffett rule and a higher capital gains tax are just a start.


Santa Rosa