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Large farms taking advantage of system

Rep. Kathy Hochul needs to understand New York State farming. While she supports small businesses, she does not understand agriculture's large, corporate businesses that compete with small businesses. After meeting with a group concerning H-2A visas for immigrant workers, Hochul asked the U.S. Labor Department to ease their paperwork. However, she did not ask crucial questions: What problems does it solve; what problems does it create? The H-2A was designed to be a temporary agricultural program for seasonal workers. She does not examine how the program weaves into big business. Under H-2A, visas are distributed for a one-year period. The worker is not to remain longer than 30 days, unless work is available. Then a three-year extension can be granted. Large dairy farms take advantage of this for milking cows twice a day, 365 days a year.

There is no limit on the number of foreigners that any industry can hire, which means businesses can rely on "cheap" workers. A farmer must first post the job (which is low-paying and offers no overtime pay beyond 40 hours of work) for Americans' view before turning to foreign help. The foreigners get no health care, but can be driven to the nearest social service building for assistance. Their children, at no fault of their own, can attend our schools. It is only right. We invite these people into our country, and yet we get angry because they are here.

Large businesses are taking advantage of a broken system and worsening it. On his third journey to federal jail, one immigrant was deported for the second time at taxpayers' expense. He stated he won't come again -- we'll save so much paperwork! Citizenship and better working conditions will help our tax load, and make for sensible immigration reform with fair competition.

Patrick J. George

Sheldon

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Americans have lost too many freedoms

Americans younger than 30 will never know that the United States was once a free country, despite the Independence Day rhetoric of politicians. Instead, younger Americans are so accustomed to the intrusion into their lives by elected and unelected bureaucrats that they do not miss the benefits of freedom that they never experienced.

Examples of this gradual reduction of our freedoms since the Franklin Roosevelt administration are too numerous to list here. I would need several volumes to mention them all.

We are told by government that we must buy health insurance; that bureaucrats, not the doctor, will determine the treatment a patient is to receive; that California farmers are driven out of business and into unemployment because an environment-obsessed bureaucracy deprived them of water in favor of a minuscule fish; while yet another bureaucracy in Cleveland removes a child from his mother on the grounds that he is overweight.

Other bureaucrats seize the homes of citizens and hand their land to business interests that have more political clout than the victims of these seizures, which are made under the "public domain" umbrella when in fact the beneficiaries are politically connected sycophants.

The list of these efforts to turn this country gradually into a police state goes on and on. The lesson is clear. Unless we vote for those who believe with our third president, Thomas Jefferson, "that government is best which governs the least" we will not be different from any other dictatorship in this sorry world.

Gerhard Falk

Buffalo

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President broke promise to protect environment

President Obama has capitulated once again to lobbyists opposed to environmental protection. The Republican candidates for president want to remove the protections now in place. What is a pro-environment voter to do?

The latest disappointment came when Obama turned down recommendations from Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her recommendations were based on a report from her scientific advisory panel concerning an emission standard for ozone.

During his inaugural address, Obama had said that he would "restore science to its rightful place in governmental environmental policy." Jackson, a trained chemical engineer with a degree from Princeton, believed him.

The recommendation was that the standard for ozone emissions be set at 70 parts per billion. At present, 84 parts are allowed. The scientific advisory panel had said that cutting this to 70 parts per billion would stop 7,200 deaths, 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 cases of acute asthma per year. Evidently more concerned about political considerations and the contributions of business interests, the president turned the recommendations down. Jackson considered resigning but decided that would be futile.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, stated that this is "the worst thing a Democratic president has ever done on our issues."

What is a pro-environment voter to do? No Republican candidate for president is advocating sensible environmental regulations, and Obama has backed away from his promises. At least we need to bombard him with messages expressing our disappointment and urging him to stand up for the welfare of the people.

Charles Lamb

Youngstown

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Retirement system is in need of reform

The New York State Retirement System needs reform. It denies disability retirement benefits to its permanently disabled members. If a disability retirement applicant suffers from an undiscovered or rare disease, such as mitochondrial disease, his application is denied.

The system makes no accommodation for the reopening of an application. This situation needs to change. I suggest that a process similar to the Social Security Disability process be implemented. A case should be allowed to be reopened at any time if there is new and material evidence to support the applicant's original claim of disability (including being disabled by the original condition for a reasonable period of time to merit being considered permanently disabled), if a clerical error was made or if the evidence shows on its face that an error was made in the original determination.

The retirement system is under the auspices of the state comptroller. The physicians who examine disability applicants are paid through the comptroller's office; the medical board that makes the decision on an application is appointed by the comptroller; and an appealed decision is determined by a hearing officer who is paid through the comptroller's office. The persons involved in the application process may have a vested interest, such as keeping their income flowing in, in denying applications, at the will of the comptroller.

The comptroller's website states that there is $146.5 billion in the retirement fund, so the taxpayer need not worry. I have been totally and permanently disabled for 21 years and the comptroller's office still has my money. Reform is needed.

Lois Reid Schroeder

Amherst