Mail April 28, 2004 

EYE SORE

I read the question and answer about wind power generation in the Earth Talk column (BW, April 14). I am sure this will prevent chemical pollution but wind power generators are the ugliest abominations of natural beauty I have ever seen. These atrocities ruin any and all natural beauty for 50 miles in every direction. I would rather suck soot.

—Jerry Simonson, Nampa

RATE HIKE UNJUST

Generally speaking, the Idaho Power rate increase proposal has been considered mainly from the perspective of how it would affect homeowners, especially in the state's cities. But urban and rural Idaho still rely on each other, and what happens to one, affects the other.

The proposed rate hike will have an affect on businesses and industry located in major cities. A lot of that industry is food processing whose raw material is now sourced from Idaho farms. Cities are where people go to buy cars, appliances, obtain medical care and other services that are not available in rural areas. 

If Idaho Power is allowed to raise rates on irrigators by 25 percent as it wishes, that will pretty much spell the end of a large part of Idaho's economy. Our sugarbeet grower/owners have approximately 500,000 acres statewide relying on Idaho Power electricity for water to grow various crops, including sugarbeets. Hard hit will be southern Idaho, where affordable electricity is essential to sustain sugarbeet production. For example, the Bell Rapids Irrigation Company, a farmer-owned business, uses 62 million kilowatts to pump water vertically 550 feet out of the Snake River near Buhl. About 18,500 acres of farmland rely on the water, and those acres produce nearly $12 million in crops. A 25 percent rate hike would put Bell Rapids out of business and wipe out the sugarbeet production tied to it.

Since 2000, electricity has almost doubled in cost. Fertilizer, gasoline and diesel have also escalated. Prices for sugar remain at low levels, and prices for other commodities have also been at or near historical lows in recent years. Farmers do not have the mechanism in place to pass along their increased production costs to the consumer, as Idaho Power does. If a farmer's costs become more than what he receives for his products, the only choice is to go out of business or drastically scale back his farming operations. This surely will happen to many farmers should the proposed power rate increase become a reality. This will have a serious economic impact on Amalgamated Sugar Company's processing plants in Nampa, Twin Falls, Paul and Nyssa, Oregon, and adversely affect its 1,200 grower/owners and 2,000 employees.

Idaho Power says it must raise rates to pay for power plants needed to keep up with growth. The real injustice of the rate hikes is that irrigators are not the cause for the increasing needs for electricity. Raising energy rates 25 percent on irrigators will damage the economy and seriously impact livelihoods throughout the state. On behalf of Idaho's agricultural community, I urge you to contact the Idaho Public Utilities Commission and ask them to reject the 25 percent rate hike.

—Mr. Ralph C. Burton, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC

DISAPPEARING SOCIAL SECURITY DOLLARS

The President has broken his promise! In his February 27, 2001 State of the Union speech, George W. Bush promised "to pay down 2 trillion in debt over the next 10 years, "fund the nations priorities with money left over ..." and "protect all $2.6 trillion of the Social Security surplus for Social Security and for Social Security alone ..." But Social Security surpluses are being used to replace lost revenues created by huge tax cuts the country could not afford. To date, Bush has spent $485 billion of the Social Security Trust fund as if it were part of the Federal Budget.

Social Security was never supposed to be a part of the general Federal Budget. Unlike most other federal programs, Social Security is self-funding. The 1935 Social Security Act created a special payroll tax to be used exclusively for funding Social Security. General revenue funds were not to be used to pay Social Security benefits, and Social Security tax receipts were not to be used for any purpose other than Social Security. The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 was legislated to ensure that payments into the Social Security system would be kept separate from general revenue funds.

In 1983, Congress enacted a Social Security tax increase to cover the ballooning benefit payments that would result from the retirement of the "baby boomers" beginning in 2010. The increase began generating large Social Security surpluses that didn't go unnoticed by the Reagan and Bush administrations which began "dipping" into these new and enticing surplus revenues and using them for non-Social Security purposes. President Clinton followed suit.

Our nation's debt has increased 1.2 trillion in three years to 7.1 trillion, growing at the average rate of 2 billion per day, half of which, at current low rates, is interest. Approximately $1.5 trillion of your hard-earned Social Security Trust Fund dollars, legally set aside for your retirement, have been "borrowed" and spent without your knowledge or permission. This represents 22 percent of our National Debt.

When the government borrows from itself (i.e. trust funds), "special issue" Treasury securities are issued as bookkeeping markers. Unlike Treasury bonds issued on the Public Debt, these have no value until the government decides to repay the money.

Both former Congressional Budget Office Director June O'Neill and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill have stated that the trust fund "holds no real assets." President Clinton said trust fund benefits are "... claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes or borrowing. This is double taxation folks!

It was expected that Social Security would begin running annual deficits by 2018. However, Allen Greenspan recently reported Social Security revenue shortfalls and has recommended a reduction in benefits. It is clear that the impending crisis is prematurely manifest.

FICA tax revenues are disappearing into the ether. This shakedown of America's working people is detailed by the distinguished economist Allen W. Smith, Ph.D., renowned author of The Looting of Social Security: How the Government is Draining America's retirement Account. The book creates a vivid awareness of what is at stake if something isn't done about the mismanagement of Social Security revenues.

—Jerry Grusell, Horseshoe Bend, cofounder of Citizens Coalition for Social Security Restitution, www.restoresocialsecurity.org

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