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Forum, Aug. 2: Middle Class Problems; Peace in the Mideast; Fast Times on Route 4

Rise and Fall of the Middle Class

To the Editor:

As a teacher of a course on the declining middle class at OSHER@Dartmouth in the past and again this fall (“The Puzzle of Our Time: Can the Middle Class Be Saved?”), I was particularly interested in the recent letter (“America’s Game: Wealth,” July 30) by Al Stevens. I agree that the growing income and wealth divide in this country is unsustainable.

We are becoming a nation of “income tribes,” and this does not bode well for our future, economically and socially.

Where I part company with Mr. Stevens is in the way forward. I do not believe that change will come “from the top.” In my opinion, power (corporate and government) is concentrated in the hands of a white, male, moneyed aristocracy, and this group collectively has little or no motivation to loosen its grip on how our classes are structured. Change will come only when a growing number of folks become more educated as to why this growing income gap really matters.

I have written extensively on this. The causes are many and complex. Policies that will help create a better balance between socio-economic income groups within our society can come only from the grass roots, from the passion, the outcries, the footsteps and votes of the informed citizenry. It has happened in this country in the past century a number of times (early 1900 Progressives, the New Deal of the Thirties, the civil rights revolution of the Sixties), and it can happen again. But don’t count on those at the top, the power brokers of business and government, to all of a sudden “get religion.” Better for the rest of us to get educated, then get our “boots on the ground.”

Jim Wilson

Strafford

Fast Times on Route 4

To the Editor:

The best teacher I ever had was my first high school English teacher. He had a theory about speed limits, which I thought of when I read the July 14 report in the Valley News, “Vermont Sets Lower and Consistent Speed Limit Along Route 4.”

Mr. Kimball’s theory was, and I agree, that speed limits are essentially dares. He lumped them with other, “don’t-stick-beans-in-your-nose” laws, where people are told to not do things they wouldn’t do anyway. People might not think of going 50 mph in Quechee, but signs telling you how fast you can go might as well be telling you how fast you must go. Certainly, the driver behind you feels that way. If you don’t slow down in villages, before intersections and curves, and anywhere people might be on or near the road, you belong in Formula 1, not on the way to your cubicle. But we are so used to having authorities tell us what we can and can’t do that roads without speed-limit signs might be drag strips interspersed with cars traveling at a crawl. We’d all speed over to see that, eh?

Gene Cassidy

Wilder

A Real McCoy Fan

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading Jon Gilbert Fox’s Valley News commentary on cartoonist Glenn McCoy, which was reprinted in my local daily here in Illinois, the Belleville News-Democrat. McCoy is a homegrown talent whose local fan base is spoiled by being treated to his work on almost a daily basis. Like any straight-shooting non-PC artist, he has his share of detractors.

I’m an admitted fan, but even I don’t always agree with his pictorial expressions. I certainly do respect his right to present them in his own distinctive way.

McCoy skillfully and thoughtfully demonstrates on a consistent basis that “a picture (or cartoon) is worth a thousand words.” Like him or not, his cartoon offerings generate much discussion, both for and against his opinions, which is a tribute to his effectiveness. Isn’t that what editorial cartoons are supposed to be all about?

How can you not like a cartoonist who once said that the best part of being one was “no-pants Fridays”?

Bill Malec

O’Fallon, Ill.

Living Expenses and Taxes

To the Editor:

Among the legislative decisions to be made during the upcoming 2015 session, the issue of funding New Hampshire state government will be hotly debated.

Depending upon one’s perspective, balancing the state operational budget may be viewed as a revenue shortfall or a spending problem. As with the family budget, the state operational budget must be balanced and sustainable.

Per-capita income and household median income vary widely from one New Hampshire community to another. For example, if your local property tax is above $28.55 per $1,000, your community is among the highest 25 taxing towns in the state.

Living with high property taxes may be more manageable depending upon one’s personal income, debt and living expenses, and we know that since 2000 living expenses have skyrocketed. In a 14-year period, a barrel of oil has gone from $24.11 to $100. Annual health care spending (per capita) has jumped from $4,550 to $9,300. Ground beef has increased 96.3 percent from $1.90 to $3.73.

Some may contend that growing income offsets living expenses. According to U.S. Census figures, median New Hampshire household income rose from $49,467 in 2000 to $64,925 in 2012. Although average household income here has increased by more than $15,000, this is not the case for Haverhill, where the average household income is $43,307, well below the state’s average 14 years ago.

The local tax burden, along with disparity issues among less affluent communities, provides reason for closely scrutinizing the upcoming state budget. Before voting on the next biennium budget, representatives should carefully consider and balance state-level financial decisions based upon impacts to local taxpayers and job-producing businesses.

Rep. Rick Ladd

Haverhill

Violence Begets Violence

To the Editor

The tragedy in the Middle East unfortunately will continue its death spiral consuming many more innocent lives. I am neither Jewish nor Muslim, but as a Christian I feel the need to appeal to my Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters.

Extremists from both religious perspectives have committed atrocities, during the Crusades and the pogroms in Europe; Christians have perpetrated barbaric acts on Jews and Muslims; as well as being recipients of brutal acts. We all carry a collective guilt.

Imagine if in the United States today, Native Americans or blacks, as a group, were unable to “forgive” the ancestors of our European settlers; or as with other immigrant groups, Catholic Italian-Americans were unable to “excuse” the injustices that they experienced? The whole world needs to adopt a concept of “not forgetting but… needing to forgive.”

Unfortunately, I don’t see a Martin Luther King or a Gandhi rising up in Palestine anytime soon, and until there is an individual who will champion the principles of non-violence, current events will continue to grind up innocent lives on both sides.

Our government leaders need to:

∎ Foster an environment which will bring about a cease-fire.

∎ Have international observers, acceptable to both parties, to guarantee a demilitarization of Gaza (attempting to arm Palestinians will only justify Israeli incursions into Gaza).

∎ Normalize economic trade with Palestine, both with Israel and the rest of the world.

∎ Palestinians and Israelis need to recognize the right of the other to be able to exist peacefully.

∎ Encourage the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission as was created in South Africa to validate the suffering of the victims and allow the perpetrators to apologize for their actions.

∎ Offer reparations for economic losses.

∎ Free the prisoners.

∎ Work cooperatively to bring about a just peace to all of the Holy Land.

Although some will scream “non-violence is impractical,” it has worked: Martin Luther King, for civil rights; Gandhi, for Indian independence; Nelson Mandela’s realization that violent insurrection was not working. Albert Einstein aptly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Paul Manganiello

Norwich