We’ve got mail

Kai Ryssdal Jul 12, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: You can hear the music, so you know where this is going. Time to sift through the e-mails you’ve sent us over the past couple of weeks.

We got a pat on the back about a story we found in Indiana. That state has leased its toll roads to a private company, trying to patch a $3 billion hole in its transportation budget. Rob Mara is a native New Yorker, but he’s recently moved down the New Jersey Turnpike a ways . . . down to Baltimore.

ROB MARA: There isn’t enough debate in the anniversary year of the Interstate system. I find it deplorable that Interstates still have tolls on them, especially when conservation of fuel and money is becoming normal. The solution is simple: remove the tolls and add a 10-cent tax. But powers like the Port Authority in the New York would raise a huge stink because they would lose their earning power. We liken the Port Authority to the sixth crime family of New York City. But public is public. Remove the tolls.

I bet Warren Buffet doesn’t have to worry much about tolls. He is the second richest man in the world, after all. So it was big news a couple of weeks ago when he announced he’s giving most of his personal fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The person getting most of the complimentary mail after our story aired was, of course, the Oracle of Omaha himself. But commentator Benjamin Barber complained on the program that Buffett’s gift would just contribute to a philanthropic monopoly.

Susan Clair is a board member of the National Coalition Against Censorship. She lives outside Boston.

SUSAN CLAIR: Finally, the media airs criticism of the Buffet gift to the Gates Foundation. I have been waiting to hear this point of view and thank you Marketplace for presenting it. Not-for-profit organizations need to be able to “shop” their ideas to a marketplace of foundations. The public benefits when not-for-profits compete for resources in a vibrant, open way. Buffet should have created a new, separate source of grant funding and not consolidated wealth and power.

And finally a note from Rebecca Bigler of Siler City, N.C. Just outside Raleigh. She was pleased by a report from our documentary unit, American RadioWorks. It disclosed a number of fishing trips Republican senators took with oil executives to raise money for breast cancer research.

“My taxes,” Ms. Bigler wrote, “are subsidizing their vacations to hang out with the most powerful people in the energy industry. If these elected officials want to help the breast cancer cause, I’m sure the NIH and CDC would welcome budget increases.”

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