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Where the Bucks Stop

Great issue on money [“The Great American Divide,” Oct. 10]. I for one am getting very tired of political conversations based on untruths and misconceptions. Regarding the “How We Spent” chart on page 32, I think it is about time we examined the impact of the cost of transportation on family budgets. I’m willing to bet it is right up there with health care in reducing the funds available for food and clothing. It is also a significant factor in the “great divide,” since transportation from affordable housing locations to work locations is often too pricey, reducing job opportunities and worker opportunities for business.


Your analysis of what we spend gives little attention to savings and philanthropy. For several generations, our family has first saved 20%, then given 20% to charities and lived quite nicely on 60%. As a trustee or director of five foundations, I am constantly appealing to people to give back for their good fortune in life. It works for us. It could work for all of us.

Henry Pierson French Jr., PITTSFORD, N.Y.

The Missing Middle Class

Thanks to Jeffrey Sachs for “Why America Must Revive Its Middle Class” [Oct. 10]. What should be a key issue leading up to the 2012 election–the loss of the middle class and the rise of poverty–has barely been mentioned in three Republican primary debates. A nation so extremely divided along the lines of rich and poor cannot long endure. Selfishness and greed divide us; 365-days-a-year compassion unites us. Giving tax cuts to the rich while cutting spending for vital social programs is a recipe for social and economic upheaval, in addition to being a morally and spiritually bankrupt solution.

Paul L. Whiteley Sr., LOUISVILLE, KY.

How depressing to know that Sachs’ exhortation to Congress to start having serious discussions about how to fund our nation’s future competitiveness will go absolutely nowhere. No one in Washington has the fortitude or vision to do what it will take to make our middle class strong again (and I say this as a registered Democrat). Politicians are all too beholden to the special interests that fund their re-election. I fear it will take our own version of the Arab Spring to enact the changes we will need. Until then, I guess we can all just eat cake.

Jeanne Andrews, PHILADELPHIA

The Fine Print

I looked forward to reading the article about extreme couponing, and I think I would have enjoyed it [Oct. 10]. However, I may never know because it was set in small, white type on a dark background. I could have gotten through the article if I had held it directly under a light, but I’m not interested in putting that much effort into reading.


Early Education’s Promise

I wanted to thank Kayla Webley for her article on the importance of preschool in the future success of American children [“The Preschool Wars,” Oct. 10]. For the past year, I have worked for Jumpstart, an affiliate of AmeriCorps that has partnered with the University of Texas at Dallas, among other colleges, to prepare low-income preschoolers for kindergarten. Jumpstart has shown me the enormous impact that individual interaction has on the life of a 4- or 5-year-old over the course of a year. Our future is in the hands of these children. Let’s give them the chance they deserve.


Every legislator who chooses tax cuts for the wealthy over preschool education, which is a guaranteed way to reduce poverty and unemployment in the next generation, needs to be recalled. Today’s politicians are obviously more concerned about support from their donors than about the future of America.

Lynda Washkoviak, WAUTOMA, WIS.

Voice of Middle America

Joe Klein is right that the Midwest wants compromise, because compromise is the way to achieve balance when two sides are so far apart [“Stuck in the Middle,” Oct. 10]. Successful marriages and businesses are built on this simple principle. But until we see a return to the separation of church and state, until the population stops getting its information from vitriolic talk-show hosts instead of investigative reporters and until the Internet and social media stop fueling a culture of incivility, I’m afraid the nation will be doomed to swing back and forth between the extremes and the extremists.


While the essays emerging from Klein’s road trip have offered excellent peeks into the political climate of smaller-town America, I was disappointed to find that they nonetheless retain his distinctly liberal viewpoints. His comparison of the size of presidential missteps (Obama’s “snowballs” to George W. Bush’s “avalanches”) and labeling of Michele Bachmann as an “extremist” were subtle examples of the political polarization his article attempted to highlight.


Remembering Hank Williams

Thanks for the article on the newly recorded collection of Hank Williams’ lost songs [Oct. 10]. By the end of this gracefully written piece, I was in tears, and it reminded me that, yup, there really still is love out there in the world.

Berne Miller, AUSTIN

Politicians ‘R’ Us

Re Joel Stein’s “Honk if You Love Congress” [Oct. 10]: I don’t like Congress, but I think Congress is doing a good job as representatives of us–and of our expectations. Our expectations are to have social benefits (including corporate welfare) and to lead the world. We do not want to pay for these things, so we elect those who make illusionary promises. Do not blame Congress. Look inward.


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