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Robert Houk

Opinion Page Editor
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As I See It

What are your thoughts on these recklessly random rants?

August 8th, 2011 7:45 am by Robert Houk

This week I’d like to throw out a few thoughts I hope will generate responses we can use in Forum. I call them “Recklessly Random Rants,” and they are my observations on topics that often produce strong opinions.
Nuclear energy
The tsunami-damaged nuclear reactors in Japan have once again spurred debate on the safety and sanity of nuclear power. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Japanese leaders are now rethinking their nation’s nuclear policy. Coal-fired plants are certainly cheaper to operate, but they contribute to the dirty air that is suffocating the planet.
If environmentalists are serious about plunging a dagger in the heart of Big Coal, they must entertain the idea of developing safer nuclear technology.
Granted, this will not be easy or inexpensive. And the nuclear industry itself has not helped its cause by attempting to hide the risks. Even so, it’s time for a rational debate on nuclear energy.
Tax the rich
Twice now, President Barack Obama has dropped the ball on this issue. Despite giving lip service to the need for “everyone to pay their fair share,” Obama has conceded to GOP demands that the tax rate for top-level income earners remain unchanged. This is an issue that hits home with middle-class Americans, who have seen their paychecks shrink over the last decade. It’s an especially sore point with unemployed Americans still struggling to find jobs.
We’ve been told the Great Recession ended more than two years ago. That’s true for the lucky 2 percent who have seen a return of their fat corporate bonuses, but a majority of Americans are still praying for something extra in their paychecks.
Adam Smith
I always find it intriguing when people quote the writings of this 18th century father of political economics as if they were holy scripture. Do we similarly revere all the medical or scientific theories of the 1700s?
Third party candidates
As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported recently, the Green and Constitutional parties have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nashville claiming Tennessee law makes it too hard for them to get candidates on a statewide ballot.
It should be hard for third parties to get on the ballot. It’s costly to print up ballots and to conduct elections, so there ought to be a level of viability for a candidate to participate.
Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bear the cost of propping up the ego of the candidate from the My Taxes Are Too High Party. A lot of people think the same thing, but they don’t feel the need to run for governor.
Balanced budget amendment
Do we really need a balanced budget amendment? Such an amendment would likely place additional expense on taxpayers at the state and local levels.
It sounds great to talk about shrinking the size of the federal government, but putting it in practice usually means shifting the burden to local governments.
Tell me what you think about these or any other topics by sending your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at

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