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College and democracy

EDITOR: I disagree with Isabel Sawhill (as quoted Sunday in "Does college pay off?") about who should pay for the non-monetary benefits of college education. We taxpayers should be eager to pay for social benefits such as less crime, more political participation and "overall well-being."

In the long run, the social benefits probably bring a much higher return on investment for us taxpayers than the increase in tax revenue from a higher income that a college degree could bring. It's up to each individual to assess whether the investment of time and money makes monetary sense for him or her.

The real issue is that those in the 1 percent have been sucking wealth from the rest of us for several decades, so we can no longer adequately support our educational system. That wealth should be returned to the common good so that we can provide each person with an education, be that college, trade school, high school, etc., that encourages him or her to reach full potential. That's what makes a healthy democracy.

ROBERT PLANTZ

Professor emeritus, Sonoma State University

Shun Levi

EDITOR: Why is a cheater, guilty of doping, Levi Leipheimer, featured on your Monday front page ("Levi: 'I'm retired,' ") along with his "career highlights" accumulated while cheating? Did some politically correct, new age junior editor from Sebastopol slip one by the regular editor?

What part of the anti-doping message do you not comprehend? It's not acceptable behavior.

He didn't retire. He was fired because he took drugs to enhance his inability to win. No one will put him on a team again. He needs to be shunned just as his friend Lance Armstrong is shunned, not put on the front page of The Press Democrat as an example of what he got away with.

That sends the wrong message to young adults who enter sports that if you're remorseful enough, when caught, you can get away with cheating.

STEVE McGOWAN

Mill Valley

Organic food

EDITOR: I'd like to comment on Saturday's article about the rising influence of organic food companies ("Organic companies' influence grows"). During a House Agriculture Committee debate, one lawmaker complained about organics' "continued assault on agriculture," and Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., expressed concern about the organic industry's "lack of respect for traditional agriculture," while admitting that he and his wife buy organic food themselves.

What they and other agri-biz supporters are really worried about is the public's growing concern about the safety and quality of the food they're being offered at the supermarket. They realize that a shift in demand toward healthier food will take money out of their pockets.

Progressive ideas always rock the boat of the status quo, and because billions of dollars are at stake "traditional agriculture" is trying to protect its profits. One important aspect of this debate involves the safety of genetically engineered food, and pro-GMO lobbyists are hard at work trying to influence lawmakers.

As more people begin to understand the relationship between their health and the quality of the food they eat, the more heated this debate will become and the more media exposure it will receive. It's about time.

TIM HUDSON

Rohnert Park

The right thing

EDITOR: What's the only real, almost overwhelming risk we all face? The effects of climate change. Hello?

What is the most cost-effective, relatively easy-to-implement step we can take locally to reduce our carbon footprint? Clean energy, i.e. Sonoma Clean Power.

I'm so pleased I live in an unincorporated community where I will automatically be converted from PG&E to Sonoma Clean Power. Thank you to all those forward-looking supervisors who voted "yes."

OK, cities, it's your turn. Kudos to Cloverdale Mayor Joe Palla for his wise recommendation and to the Windsor Town Council.

Come on, everyone, it's time to do the right thing.

MARGARET SPAULDING

Glen Ellen

IRS doublespeak

EDITOR: We truly live in Orwellian times. Steven Miller, the former head of the IRS, keeps insisting that while the acts of his Ohio office staff were "intolerable," they were not "partisan."

Let's see, the agents flagged every application with the words "tea party" in it. And yes, while others nonprofit groups' applications were also flagged — including some liberal nonprofits — all of the tea party applications were flagged and held up.

What part of this is exercise was not partisan?

BRIAN BAKER

Santa Rosa