The Portland Press Herald’s praiseworthy articles on company tax breaks (“City reflects on tax breaks,” Aug. 6) indicate that Portland is reconsidering the easy granting of public funds to private companies.

These firms, which normally espouse rugged capitalism, are perfectly willing, like the CEO of Auto Europe, to threaten their departure unless public funds are given to them, despite having received a financial break for 15 years.

Economic development and employment are, of course, much to be desired. Yet the sense of entitlement of the CEO for corporate welfare is breathtaking.

Companies routinely engage in what I call “capital strikes” — that is, threats to move, not to expand, or merely not to move to a locale initially, unless they are awarded some kind of tax or other benefit. Studies show that most companies do not actually make location decisions based on these public grants. Instead, locations are chosen first, and then efforts are made to garner free tax breaks. Few communities insert “clawback” provisions to return funds should the company leave early or fail to hire the promised number of workers.

Auto Europe, and I don’t mean to especially pick on them, is a call center which can easily move, given that it only needs space, phones and outlets. Note that it has already moved to Portland from Camden.

It is not surprising, I suppose, that such public benefits are routinely granted, as the publicity benefit alone is of great value to elected officials. It’s way past time, though, to study whether these grants of public money actually benefit the community, especially at a time when local communities and states are laying off workers.

James Atleson

Cape Elizabeth

Any means that the city can conjure up to promote development on the peninsula and generate much-needed tax revenues should be wholly supported by the City Council, by the voting public and by all the players in the lawmaking process.

Why any council member like John Anton, et al, would oppose such projects is an example of misguided, small-minded civic recidivism. Especially along the eastern waterfront, which promises to become a vital neighborhood, all the help that developers need should be supported by the city. As it is, too much land lies fallow, producing nothing for city coffers and putting continued strain on the average taxpayer whose property taxes continue to rise without relief.

If all these projects materialize, it will invigorate a moribund housing stock to create quality options — rentals or condos — for a vital sector of the population that gets usurped by the city’s overuse of affordable housing doctrine.

Wake up, Portland, and make this town a fine place to live.

John Golden


Shame on media for noting shooter’s Army connection

What relevance does the fact that the Sikh shooter was once in the Army have (“Armed man kills six at Sikh temple,” Aug. 6)?

The first thing the media does when something like this happens is to trumpet the fact that the perpetrator was at one time in the Army or a former Marine or whatever branch of the armed services.

So what? How many veterans are there? How many of those commit atrocities?

The fact that service connection is the most expedient cheap-shot way of journalists to pump up their stories is an insult to all who have honorably served their country. Why not wait until there is evidence that the service connection had anything to do with the incident before making it an issue? The media should be ashamed — but, of course, it isn’t.

Robert E. Blanchard, Lt. Col. (ret.)

U.S. Army Special Forces


ER bill raises question about who is responsible

Regarding the Aug. 5 Maine Voices column, “Everyone deserves access to health care”: I agree.

The last paragraph states: “Every person in Maine and in the United States needs and deserves access to health care.”

I was in a Melbourne, Fla., emergency room this winter for 1½ hours. My bill was $9,786. My question is for these doctors who wrote the article: What part of these rising costs should be a responsibility for the medical community?

Gregory Clifford


Tax cuts for rich help other rich folks, not the economy

Tax cuts can help boost an economy, but only if the money is spent. Money saved and invested can have good long-term effects, but if the immediate problem is a lack of jobs, then you need people spending money. Business needs customers; only when they return in sufficient numbers will hiring pick up in response.

My wife and I are far from rich, but we’re comfortable enough economically that a tax cut sent our way wouldn’t be spent on Maine goods and services. We’d probably use it to buy stocks. Now, Wall Street and all the companies that trade there already have plenty of money. They’re just not spending it. Our contribution to their pile will do nothing to lower Maine’s unemployment rate.

What’s true for us is even more true for the really wealthy — those making over a quarter of a million dollars a year, say. That’s why it makes no sense — at a time of record deficits and urgent public needs — to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for these upper-income folks. I’m glad Sen. Susan Collins recently rejected an extension of this expensive and counterproductive tax plan.

Instead, let’s extend the tax cuts for the middle-income families that will spend the money, and use the increased revenue from the well-off to reduce our debt and pay for important public services, like efficient mental health services for the poor. In my job I see needy patients turned away every day because of budget cuts. We can do better.

Gary McNeill

East Waterboro

Mainers looked down on? LePage himself is to blame

The only reason that ANYone would have to look down on Mainers is because of our governor.

Betsy Curtis