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December 17, 2003, 8:00 A.M.

Mailbag: On Tuesday, December 16, 2003 Walt K. wrote:

Hi Ed,

I'm one of your Republican friends, and I agree that Dick Gephart is a good guy. I also think that Joe Lieberman has some of the right ideas. If I had to choose between them, I would vote for Joe. I like tax cuts, and I don't care if the REALLY RICH (Income over $200,000 per year) get soaked. That seems to be Lieberman's position.

I really am not convinced about all the Bush hate stuff. The big picture is not all that bad. I didn't vote for the guy either. The ticket should have been McCain - Lieberman. They get along together.

I share your concerns about the cost of education, the dumbing of America, and the loss of industry to foreign competition. I attribute it to greed at the large corporations and money centers of power. BOTH Republicans and Democrats are guilty. Somehow, we have to break the cycle of big money buying votes.

But don't count on me changing parties quite yet.

Walt K

Walt, thank you for your note. In my observation, neither party is doing much to help us. For years, the Democrats have professed to be the party of the "working class" and protectors of labor. They have not lived up to their promises. The Republicans never promised help to the traditional middle class, but their economic policies help rich corporations, industries and individuals to our detriment. We need a candidate who is able (because he or she is not beholden to large campaign contributors) to speak for the middle class before we no longer exist. The key is campaign finance reform. If candidates could be elected on their message, and not their ability to outspend opponents on slick, misleading ads, those of us in the middle who pay attention and vote will be better served regardless of which party is in power.

Ed

Thanks for reading and taking the time to write. It's great to hear from you.

December 15, 2003, 7:35 P.M.

Whither Saddam. A lot of my Republican friends have been asking what response the Democrats will have to the capture of Saddam Hussein for Election 2004. Yes, I actually have friends, and some of them happen to be Republicans.

I have to admit that it’s a good question, but not one that I haven’t thought about. From my perspective, Dick Gephardt is the only Democrat who comes close to having an answer. The answer is that the next election is not and should not be about the capture of Saddam, or the conduct of the war. It should be about integrity and it should be about the economy, and it should be about sound international policy.

The deficit is about to balloon to an unprecedented $500 billion, Halliburton is gouging the military on gas, and American jobs are quietly being shipped abroad on an unprecedented scale. Middle class Americans are no longer assured that they will be able to give their children more than their parents gave them. In other words, the American dream for them is an illusion. The very thought of sending a child to college is daunting. In 1976 a high school graduate could attend a state college or university for a few thousand dollars per year. By 1986 the same education was decidedly more expensive and in 2003, a semester at a school like UNH is out of reach without financial aid or parental assistance.

The fact is that as college becomes less affordable, less of the next generation who will theoretically support me in my retirement will be qualified to enter the work force at a level that will allow them to make their children’s lives better than their own. In my parents’ generation, and to a lesser extent in my own, a college education was not essential. With the loss of an industrial and manufacturing base in this country, there are few well-paying jobs for those without a college or trade school education.

Dave Jenkins of Laconia, writing in the Laconia Daily Sun on Monday, exemplifies this condition. The United States is no longer providing goods for world consumption. Most of the goods sold in world markets, with the notable exception of airplanes, tanks and SUVs, are produced outside of this country. There has been a shift in our economic base from industry to information. Here again, our less educated are at a disadvantage here and abroad. Workers educated less expensively outside the U.S. compete for jobs with our own graduates in increasing numbers.

The Bush administration has ignored the middle class while pandering to its friends and supporters. Worse yet, it has lied about its programs and the support given to the oil and pharmaceutical industries, to name a few, at the expense of average Americans.

Even software jobs are now leaving our country. IBM is planning to move 4,700 programming jobs in a growing high tech industry trend known as “offshoring.” This trend was also highlighted in a September 21, 2003 Doonesbury strip where Bernie’s company closed its doors in the States, but continued to do business by having the company phone answered from India. So not only are manufacturing jobs being lost, service industry jobs are also migrating away from the beleaguered American middle class. IBM chief Sam Palmisano defended the practice of going offshore, saying that Asian nations not only offer lower wages but also have invested heavily in education and modern communications networks.

We have really got our priorities screwed up. We are sending high tech, low tech and no tech jobs overseas because the labor there is better educated, lower paid and supported by a better infrastructure. What we are not doing is supporting the standard of living of our own work force, supporting education at home or investing in American infrastructure. I guess that the good news is that these major corporations are now so “global” that they will survive the collapse of the American economy that they are helping to bring about and they can come back and offer low paying jobs with no future to the decimated, bankrupt and hungry former members of the now non-existent middle and working classes in this country.

Just so the connection is not lost, the Bush administration has given billions in tax breaks to allow this entire process to happen. Capturing Saddam Hussein will have no impact on that reality.

December 14, 2003, 9:50 A.M.

Saddam Hussein Captured. Deposed Iraqi leader taken alive. Read the NY Times account filed this morning.


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