How is it that with all the discussion about budget cuts, there is one budget item — the military — that is rarely spoken about?

More than half — about 60 percent — of the appropriations controlled by Congress are tied up in the U.S. military budget. U.S. sums spent on weapons, troops and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan total nearly half of the planet’s combined military spending. Congress is unwilling to cut even the outdated weapons systems that the Pentagon no longer wants.

Why is military spending so sacred? It’s because most politicians are afraid to touch it, claiming it is just not patriotic. Pentagon contracts affect almost every congressional district. How could politicians take those away from their constituents?

It appears that it is more patriotic to ignore the one in 10 unemployed workers in our nation, the number of frequently hungry children, the people losing their homes, and the education funding being cut.

Look up the word “patriotic” in the dictionary. It means “a person who loves, supports and defends his country.” Ask an unemployed worker or the parent of a hungry child what “patriotic” means to them.

Jean Fields and Sarah Mills

Portland

Our senators send us newsletters telling us, among other things, about their enthusiasm for Maine jobs building destroyers and other military hardware for the Pentagon. They never mention the cost to us, the taxpayers.

The letters frequently tell of them greeting National Guard units returning from Asia. They never speak of the purpose of the war, nor whether they think the aims are being achieved. They don’t mention the cost of the war, nor do they ever mention peace.

The Republican proposal for funding the government till Sept. 30 proposes defunding the only two government agencies specifically working for peaceful relations with the rest of the world: the Complex Crisis Fund and the United States Institute for Peace. The cost, at present spending levels, would be $50 million and $47 million. These agencies provide jobs and might prevent wars, and the cost is trifling compared to military appropriations.

Our senators want always to be prepared for war, but I hope they don’t believe that we will never have peace again. I hope they will support these projects to help reach that goal.

Charles K. Brown

Bath

The earthquake disaster in Japan finally demonstrates the need for a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and emergency personnel with special equipment for getting people out of collapsed buildings.

It does justify the expenditure in the military budget for an aircraft carrier, but that’s the only true military need in the foreseeable future. So why not cut our military budget equivalent to Germany’s, about 2 percent of gross national product?

Philip Thompson

Portland

Bill to revise seat-belt law would be costly for state

A bill proposed by a Maine legislator, L.D. 64, would make failure to wear a seat belt a secondary offense rather than a primary one.

We know seat belts save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved more than 13,000 lives nationwide in 2008. In a four-year period, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives — enough people to fill a large sports arena.

During a crash, being buckled maximizes safety and security inside a vehicle. Unbuckled drivers in head-on collisions often wind up brain-injured or dead, being thrown up against the windshield. In addition, seat belts are the best defense we have against impaired, aggressive or distracted drivers.

We also know that not everyone buckles up. In a 2008 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, seat-belt use continued to be lower among 16- to 24-year-olds than other age groups. Rolling back Maine’s seat-belt law would send a terrible message to Maine youth.

It’s not a right to drive a car, it’s a privilege. And with that privilege comes responsibility for personal and public safety.

Not only would this change in Maine law be dangerous, it also would be more costly. Lawmakers estimate that more than $1.35 million in revenue from fines would be lost. At a time when our budget gap is all-consuming, Maine doesn’t need bad public policy that would cost precious revenue for our state.

Dr. Christopher Pezzullo

President-elect

Maine Osteopathic Association

Cape Elizabeth

I’m flabbergasted at Sen. Ron Collins’ sponsorship of a bill that would make failure to use a seat belt a secondary rather than a primary offense. This defies logic.

When the state is under extreme budget pressure, we all stand to lose approximately $1.35 million in fine-generated income. What is wrong with the state senators who voted with him?

Seat belts save lives, and the law brings in income. If Mr. Collins is such a libertarian, perhaps he should move next door, where he can “live free or die.”

Legislators: We have elected you with the hope you will use reason in Augusta.

Sandy Banks

Portland

Add-on fee for license plate looks gift horse in mouth

For 13 years I have paid extra for a conservation plate for my car because I want to support those special causes that the revenue from the plates provides to our state.

Imagine my surprise two weeks ago when I went to register a new-to-me used car and transfer my old conservation plate to it. The state insisted that I pay not the usual $15 for my old plate but $20 because “this is a new transaction.”

I say shame on the state! That a person is willing to pay extra to support the conservation effort is a bonus to Maine. Let’s not be so greedy that you twist the words around in order to label the simple transfer of a plate in such a way that you justify charging a higher amount from the unsuspecting client. I might point out that my choice to reuse an existing plate saves the state money.

To add insult to injury, I still had three months left on my old registration, so I didn’t even get a full year’s use of the fee paid last May.

I think the state needs to take a good look at this unjust practice. It is not right, and I learned that the people at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are embarrassed having to enforce the extra charge. This is looking a gift horse in the mouth in the worst way.

I would hope if there are others in my situation that you all complain. Perhaps together we can get an unfair charge removed.

Isabelle S. Appleton

Portland