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Letters: Backlash over city pensions undeserved

The Sun-Times recently reported that City of Chicago employees could face a backlash over their stand in the underfunded pension crisis, but the ones who should be angry are the employees.

I have been a policeman for 18 years, and since day one I have had my pension payment deducted from my salary twice a month. I have done my part and will continue to do so until I retire. City employees are not to blame for the pension crisis — politicians are. And the one most at fault is former Mayor Richard M. Daley. We did our job, but he didn’t fund the police and fire pensions properly. The pension crisis happened on his watch. Mayor Emanuel inherited this.

Richard Barber, Mount Greenwood

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com (Please include the name of your neighborhood or town, and a phone number for verification.)

Doesn’t matter whether Boston bomber is remorseful

Regarding Sister Helen Prejean’s testimony at the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial:

If one opposes the death penalty on moral grounds—and the Catholic Church’s doctrinal development on the matter leaves very little room to support capital punishment—it shouldn’t matter whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime expresses remorse or not. To a believer, only God can know if someone is truly remorseful for committing an evil act.

Matt C. Abbott, Edgewater

 

Trade deal critical to Illinois business

Global trade may be a topic that many Illinoisans don’t think about, but international trade is one of the key drivers for our state’s economy – and it has a huge impact on taxes, revenue and jobs in our community.

In Illinois alone, agricultural exports reached an estimated $7.9 billion in 2013. This boosted farm prices and income, while supporting about 60,000 jobs. On the national level, U.S. global food and agricultural exports reached $150 billion, which supported more than one million jobs nationwide.

And while the statistical impact looks impressive, it is the thousands of small business success stories that demonstrate how promoting trade has a positive impact in our community.

When I established our distillery, Few Spirits, in Evanston, Illinois in 2010 it was a way to honor my Grandfather’s legacy of brewing beer in what is now the Czech Republic prior to World War II, and create something new and uniquely American.  Over the past four years our business has grown significantly.  We recently expanded our operations; installed three new 30-barrel fermenters and a new column still; and moved our barrels and bottling to new 8,500-square-foot facility.

In addition, we are seeing first-hand how exporting to foreign markets can grow our small business.  In fact, our products are now distributed in 11 countries in Europe, Japan, Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada, accounting for a large portion of our sales.  Since we entered foreign markets in 2012 we have hired 8 more employees.

Currently, the U.S. government is negotiating a new trade agreement with countries in the Pacific Rim (Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP) to open new markets for small businesses. For us at Few Spirits, this would mean lower import duties for our gins, bourbons, and rye whiskeys to key emerging markets in Asia.  However, a successful TPP agreement is contingent on Congress passing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

TPA is a critical tool that ensures Congressional input and oversight of U.S. trade negotiations, thus ensuring that the President can negotiate and complete trade agreements that are in the United States’ best interests. Without such authority, the United States’ trading partners will be hesitant to put their best offers on the table.

Concluding high standard trade agreements is critical for Few Spirits and other Illinoisan small businesses to expand into key emerging markets.  In the TPP countries, U.S. spirits currently face duties as high as 45 percent, which effectively blocks many small companies, including ours, from exporting to those markets.  Trade negotiations offer an important–and in some cases only — vehicle to address these barriers.

Our small business has benefited greatly from access to foreign markets — and expanding that access is not only good for the country as a whole — it has a direct and significant impact right here in Illinois.

It is critical that Congress pass TPA to help U.S. exports flourish in markets abroad. We are proud of our American made spirits products and know that the world is ready and willing to buy them.  All we need is access – and TPA can make that happen.

Paul Hletko, founder and master distiller, Few Spirits, Evanston