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Jim Hightower - Buying a president for 30 bucks and change

For today's report, I have a bunch of statistics for you. Wait — don't run away! Where are you going? Come back here and sit still while I drill these stats into your head! It'll be fun, and you'll learn something.

I realize that numbers can numb the brain, but this is a good story, and I promise that these statistics are easy to absorb. In fact, the number 400 pretty much sums up this story of political intrigue and corruption involving some of America's wealthiest families and corporations.

Let's start with the "Billionaire 400", a clique of the elite organized by the conniving Koch brothers. These ultra-rich right-wingers gather each winter in some warm-weather resort for a secretive, invitation-only retreat. There, they plot strategies and pledge money for electing politicos who'll support their vision of corporate rule in America. For the 2016 elections, they've already committed nearly a billion dollars to impose their vision of plutocracy over our democratic ideals — double the combined amount that the Republican and Democratic parties will spend. I wonder: what do they think they're getting for that price?

Then there are the secretive super PACs that are sacking-up tens of millions of dollars to back various presidential candidates. Again, a few hundred corporations and rich families — each writing checks for hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars — have put up nearly half of all the money in these electioneering committees.

Keep that 400 number in mind when I offer my sincerest congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Middle-Class America, since they are all the rage in this present presidential contest, for Jeb, Hillary, and all the rest — even The Donald — say their campaigns are all about the hurting middle class that hasn't yet recovered from the Great Recession.
Well, don't look now, but after each one promises that they'll do the most for the Great Mass of the Middle Class, they disappear into the shadows and scurry off to schmooze with the little group of Americans they truly love: The exclusive club of multimillionaires and billionaires, who are shoveling those big bucks into those campaign pockets.
Now, back to our statistics: Jeb Bush got a million dollars each from 26 of his super PAC backers; Hillary Clinton took a million each from nine funders; of the $16 million in Marco Rubio's PAC, 78 percent came from only four donors; and Ted Cruz got the most from the fewest, taking practically all of his $37 million from just three fat-cat families.

So while candidates for the highest office in our land are soaking up applause for the grand rhetoric they're giving to the middle class, they're also quietly sacking up millions of dollars by pledging their steadfast fealty to the ruling class. Donating millions is not an innocent or noble political transaction. Written on the backs of each of their checks is their own corporate agenda, trumping the people's agenda.

Ironically, it's Donnie Trump, the bombastic billionaire, who candidly admits that these so-called "gifts" amount to the outright, plutocratic purchase of politicians. He's long been a campaign donor in order to secure political favors, he confesses, and it works: "When I need something from them ... they are there for me." There's a word for that: corruption.

But now, here comes the antidote to this corruption of our politics by fat cats. Instead of being financed by 400 special interests, Bernie Sanders' campaign has raised its $15 million (as of July) from over 400,000 ordinary Americans. In fact, the average donation to Bernie is a heartwarming, soul-saving $31.30!

You can't buy a president for just over 30 bucks — but you can help elect one who isn't owned by Big Money. And isn't that the way democracy ought to be?

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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‘Bush tax cuts’ provided us with 50 straight months of growth

To the Editor,

This is in response to the letter of Attorney/Professor Dave Pollak, that was printed in the Thursday issue of the Laconia Daily Sun. On occasion, when someone is critical of what I have written, rather than getting into a spitting match in the paper, I will send them some information so that they can see the pragmatism that went into creating my viewpoint. In the case of the attorney/professor, he seems to prefer the spitting match, so here goes.

Since prior to the implementation of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka "Obamacare"), I have been somewhat involved in helping people become aware of the resources that were, and are available to help them through the basic understanding of the PPACA and its procurement processes. While I don't consider myself an expert, I will claim a reasonable amount of knowledge. Now, to the attorney/professor's comments.

— He argues against my claims that the sheer volume of words in the PPACA have created a level of uncertainty. Perhaps the attorney/professor is not aware that as part of that act, an employee is considered to be "full time" if he or she works 30 or more hours per week. That has resulted in many people being limited to under 30 hours per week. Depending on the number of employees, if the employee is full-time, the company must provide them with access to the PPACA. Perhaps too, the attorney/professor has not read much about how employers have reacted to the negative impact that has had on both the employees and the employers. Here's just one of many articles he may want to peruse, http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/07/businesses-push-for-40-hour-workweek-in-obamacare-definition.

— The attorney/professor then goes on to state, ". . .since the provisions of the ACA have gone into affect, more than 11 million jobs have been created, and the unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half." He seems to ignore the fact that 10,000 "Baby boomers" are retiring every day, that is 3.6 million per year. Some of those "jobs created" are simply to fill ones that have been vacated and are not a net gain. In a recent column I provided information on how the Department of Labor arrives at the unemployment number. I also provided facts and figures on the actual Department of Labor figures on the Labor Participation Rate, which just happens to be the worst rate since 1978. Another fact is, that since January of 2000 our population has grown from 282.2 to 321.2 million people, a 13.8 percent increase. However, during that same period, our Labor Participation Rate has gone from 96.28 to 98.3 million, only a 2.1 percent increase. What that tells us is that we are adding jobs at a rate of only 15 percent of our population growth . . . that's a road to serfdom and is unsustainable.

— He then goes on to talk about "Bob and his fellow fundamentalist free marketeers", and claims that I am an "evangelist for unrestrained capitalism." He then lists all the reasons he feels the government should regulate ". . . child labor, minimum wage, and anti-trust laws and the eight-hour workday . . ." While I agree that things such as child labor should not be permitted, the minimum wage issue is worthy of vigorous debate as it is now being used more as pap for unions and a salve for those who have not invested in developing the skills necessary to earn a higher level of income. The anti-trust issue should also be hotly debated, particularly since the government does not want any private enterprise to be so large as to stifle competition but they, the government, feel they can dictate themselves as a bona fide healthcare monopoly. As to the eight-hour workday, the attorney/professor might want to thank a gentleman named Henry Ford, not the government.

— As to words about ending the "Bush tax cuts" he might want to do a little research at the website, http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/. He evidently doesn't recall that prior to President Clinton leaving office, the internet "Dot.Com" bubble burst and it had a devastating effect on our economy. That was followed by the terrorist attacks that took more lives than did the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. These two events drove our economy down severely and caused a serious downturn in Federal Revenues. Those "Bush tax cuts" turned around that downturn and provided our country with fifty straight months of revenue growth. Liberals continue to try to denigrate President Bush over those tax cuts, but they did the job immensely better than our current president has done with his failed trillion-plus dollar "jobs ready," and "Solyndra" stimulus investments.

— I would also like to point out a few problems that probably concerned most businesses and millions of citizens that seem not to concern Mr. Pollak. For example, prior to the PPACA being rolled out, the president vigorously assured every citizen that they could keep their doctor, their insurance policy, and their hospital. We know that to have been a lie that was, knowingly, often repeated. We know too, that MIT professor Jonathan Gruber acknowledged that passing of the PPACA was dependent on the people being too stupid to understand it. We know too, that the software budget for processing the PPACA information from the citizens was an absolute mismanaged nightmare. The system was brought on line with no security for all the private information that the system demanded the citizens provide.

We know too, that the system did not have the ability to have an electronic, digital handoff to the appropriate insurance companies the citizens selected. Everything had to be printed and forwarded to each company . . . an unbelievable situation. We know too, that Oregon never could bring their exchange on line and Maryland and Massachusetts also had significant problems (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/obama-administration-prepares-to-take-over-oregons-broken-health-insurance-exchange/2014/04/24/ff9aa220-cbc4-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html)

And of course, right here in our own state, our single insurance provider only included 16 of the state's 26 hospitals in their coverage. This was a gross and unforgivable injustice to many people in the state, particularly those in our northern areas. Not to be overlooked is information easily available in Wikipedia that the federal system was budgeted to cost $93.7 million, but a whopping cost overrun for the failed system drove the cost up to $1.5 billion. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_failed_and_overbudget_custom_software_projects)

As long as this response already is, I have chosen not to include other "uncertainties" or some cost and deductible information for New Hampshire, when the plan was kicked off. If he would like, I would be happy to send a chart with the detailed information to the Attorney/Professor. As I mentioned at the beginning of this (too) long letter, I usually prefer to not get into a spitting match.

Bob Meade


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