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Senator Gramm defends his reform plan

Regarding your editorial titled "Financial reform: overdue" (April 8):

I agree with the premise that financial reform is overdue. But I want to set the record straight about my position on the proposed expansion of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the two specific provisions affecting it in the Financial Services Modernization Act that is now pending in the Senate.

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Ever since CRA was enacted, it has been justified as a mandate for banks and savings & loans, because these institutions enjoy the protection of federal deposit insurance. Neither the securities industry nor the insurance industry have a similar government-sponsored benefit, so I don't believe that it's right to add a government mandate like CRA to their activities, whether they're affiliated with a bank or not.

Contrary to my position and the pending Senate bill, the House bill would change CRA by requiring banks to meet CRA criteria when affiliating with insurance companies or other banks. Such an expansion of CRA is not warranted in legislation that is aimed at improving consumers' access to financial services. We should be removing barriers, not building new ones.

As for relaxing CRA, you should know that the Senate bill contains two provisions affecting CRA. One would exempt small banks and S&Ls in rural areas from CRA quotas. This provision would apply to only 37 percent of all banks and S&Ls in the US, according to the Federal Reserve. The other provision would restore the integrity of CRA by curbing the unsavory practices of protesters who file complaints under CRA regulations and pursue them until they are paid cash to stop protesting. Those who protest against banks with excellent CRA records should have to show some evidence of non-compliance before they can stop a bank from opening a branch or merging. That's all the Senate Banking Committee's legislation would require.

But don't take my would for it: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week provided an assessment of the CRA provisions in both the House and Senate bills.

Phil Gramm Washington

Chairman, US Senate Banking Committee

Bridging the US-Vietnam divide

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Thanks for running Sara Terry's opinion piece "What unites us after war" (April 12). It crystalizes perfectly the contrasting perceptions of this defining war - one we call the "Vietnam War" and the Vietnamese call the "American War."

For Vietnamese, there is only one divide: prewar and postwar. Most Vietnamese coming of age in Vietnam before 1975 knew only war, with short lulls in the fighting; while the post-1975 generation is the first in more than a century to walk the streets of an independent country at peace. Let's hope children in both countries will have a better chance in their new century than we did in ours.

Nguyen Van Thang and Ms. Terry remembered what the war did to them, but they would not allow the past to redefine the present or hold hostage the future.

Vu-Duc Vuong San Francisco

Compassion for young offenders

Regarding your reprint of a Boston Globe editorial ("A knowing no," April 9): It's not a new thought, but one that bears repeating. Further, there is a current notion that we need to get tough with youthful offenders. Adults in our society have essentially relieved themselves of responsibility for how our young people turn out. We should at least have the compassion to work with our young people who have had the misfortune to follow the bad example we have set.

Carol K. Cummings Gaithersburg, Md.

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