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US Economic Woes and Corporate Greed

Regarding the article ``Tsongas Launches Presidential Bid on Economic Patriotism,'' April 30: The 10-point proposal advanced by former US Sen. Paul Tsongas as a means of leveling the playing field for American industry has much merit. Most important, unlike the Bush administration, it sets some worthwhile goals to invigorate American industry. But Tsongas goes too far when he blames our economic woes on ``self-centered'' Americans who pursue ``personal gratification ahead of loyalty to one's fellow citizens.'' Perhaps American consumers would show the same loyalty to American products as the Germans and Japanese do to theirs when our own industrial leaders invest as much money in research and development as they throw at slick commercials, exorbitant shareholder dividends, and executive bonuses; when they focus on long-term development rather than on the short-term bottom line. Yes, America's manufacturing base is under attack, but criticizing the victims of corporate greed does not help the situation.

Neal Miller, Eugene, Ore.

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It appears that Paul Tsongas wants to replace George Bush's political jingoism with his own economic nationalism. Wouldn't that be trading Tweedledee for Tweedledum(b)? If Tsongas imagines he can turn the economy around by giving Detroit a captive market, he should go back to 1960 and rethink his economics from there. He would do us a better service if he could devise a workable plan to reduce our $10 trillion or so of public and private debt. If, at the same time, he can find a way to reverse the trend toward concentrating the wealth into fewer and deeper pockets, we might find ourselves on the way to a sustainable recovery.

Dispersing the power of economic decision-making among the many seems to me the surest way to avoid the economic catastrophes which, in the past, have resulted from too much wealth in the hands of the few. The wider the distribution of economic decisionmaking, the less likely that any one decision can cause an economic disaster.

Diversity encourages competition, and we need a competitive economy, not a sheltered one.

Minot Ring, Wilton, N.H.

Instead of trying to protect US industry from superior foreign products, Paul Tsongas and the Democrats should propose restrictions on importing goods produced using materiels and labor-practices banned in the US. Many articles of clothing, rugs, and even toys are made by children in other countries. Importing such products should be banned, or at least they should be labeled as products of child labor. Similar restrictions should be placed on goods produced under sweatshop conditions, or with forced la bor, or using pesticides banned in the US. There is plenty of opportunity to level the international economic playing field without resorting to blind protectionism.

Jeff Johnson, San Francisco

Paul Tsongas is right. All of the current social issues will hang on with Band-Aid solutions until we get our economic house in order. He will need to challenge powerful vested interests. The military industrial complex has been picking American pockets for decades with phony dangers and outrageous and unneeded weapons. A cleanup of transfer payments - income tax on Social Security benefits, means tests for those seeking other social payments, reducing the COLA to government and military retirees - is a high priority to free up additional much required capital. Mr. Tsongas will need an unprecedented streak of luck and support to win. But his voice may at least prompt changes and return America to economic health.

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Thorne J. Butler, Las Vegas, Nev.

The problem of teachers' unions I observe with interest Jeff Danziger's April 29 cartoon regarding the problems faced by schools because of budget cuts. What the cartoon failed to depict was why the schools' budgets no longer cover building repairs, books, facilities, and general needs of students.

When teachers unions demand 80 percent of the school budget, there's not much left for operating the school itself. George Bush should not be funding some ideal schools to be built across the USA. He should urge Congress to disband the teachers' unions. The unions themselves are going to put the teachers out of business, because business taxes can no longer meet their continual demand for annual pay raises and a disproportionate share of the school budget.

Mrs. Jerry Lewis, Basin, Wy.

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