Make stopping automatic defense cuts top priority

Notably absent from President Obama’s State of the Union speech (“Obama cranks up populist pitch,” Jan. 24) was any plan to stop the devastating defense cuts triggered by Congress’s debt-ceiling deal, which would torpedo not just our national security but also critical technological innovations and American manufacturing jobs.

At $1 trillion, the debt-ceiling deal’s unprecedented defense cuts would end all Pentagon modernization programs at a time when military equipment is dated and worn out from 10 years of war. Most fighter jets are older than their pilots, the average Navy ship is 20 years old and most bombers were designed before Eisenhower. According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, failing to replace this equipment will leave us with the smallest military force since before World War II and severely limit our ability to pursue al Qaeda, confront a nuclear Iran or contain an increasingly powerful China.

The cuts would also devastate military research and development programs that both deliver fearsome weapons to deter enemy attack and new commercial technologies such as compact discs, global positioning satellites and even a new breast cancer vaccine. And according to independent economists, 1.5 million Americans could lose their jobs, including many in our critical aerospace and defense industries.

Congress should make stopping these drastic defense cuts its top priority.

From retired Air Force Sgt. Adrian Cronauer, Troutville, Va.

Blame biofuels scheme for rising food prices

A recent news report showed how beef prices are skyrocketing, and typical of our Washington power-establishment-supporting media, they mentioned all the causes of food-price inflation except the biggest: Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny Russian social media is the modern-day Trojan horse Trump records robo-call for Gillespie: He'll help 'make America great again' MORE’s biofuel scheme.

We are wasting more than 41 percent of our corn crop and mountains of soybeans making biofuels instead of feeding it to our farm animals, which give us meat, eggs and dairy products. This does nothing to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, because we have to use huge amounts of fossil fuels to produce inherently energy-inefficient biofuels.

Global biofuel production has killed more people worldwide than all wars and acts of terrorism combined. Every day, enough men, women and children worldwide die of malnutrition and related illnesses. Global biofuel production has pushed up the cost of farmland, fertilizer and food all over the world, which automatically kills off more poor people who survive on less than a dollar a day.

We are not just putting more Americans on food stamps with this deadly fiasco, we are eroding our topsoil at a rate so fast that most of it will be gone in less than 100 years. What will we eat then?

From Christopher Calder, Eugene, Ore.

Many federal workers can’t afford pay freeze

Did Congress vote to freeze its pay as well as ours? 

They talk about getting raises through grade steps — most of the federal employees I work around do not get grade steps every year; most are every two years, and some more than that. Did Congress take that and put it on the table with all the other stuff? 

Most federal employees are middle class — some hardly make $25,000 per year, and the cost of living doesn’t stop going up. You can’t survive in the world without cost-of-living raises to go along with the cost to live going up every day (gas, food, power, medication and insurance). 

From Sherrill A. Maloy, Women Veterans Health Care .Washington

Patient advisory board will put cost before care

President Obama’s State of the Union speech did not make direct reference to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known in some circles as ObamaCare. His inspiring comment in the autumn of 2009, “I will ensure that no government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need,” was replaced in the State of the Union speech by a less-ringing promise: “I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage or charge women differently.” 

The trouble is that the ACA has been prepped to do just that, including widespread denials of coverage. 

Section 10320 of the ACA enables an appointed panel to ration diagnostic and treatment healthcare protocols. Section 10320 establishes the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which will be appointed, not elected. The IPAB appointees will be responsible to the politicians who appoint them, not to the public at large. This group of political appointees will be able to deny carefully conceived diagnostic and treatment plans by treating physicians. Because IPAB appointees need not be physicians, cost accountants will trump physicians’ judgments.

The purpose of the ACA and the IPAB is to control costs under the guise of quality. Congress, knowing that the IPAB will be the cost-control enforcement arm of the ACA, has exempted itself from the very law it has imposed on the rest of us. Now it’s our turn: We should encourage repeal of Section 10320 and the IPAB, a modest proposal that can be taken without voiding the entire law.  

From Dr. Robert L. Weinmann, San Jose, Calif.