It should come as no surprise that the economic downturn appears to be slow to recover and consumer spending has not increased as much as expected.

The reason for this I believe is the slow but irreversible change in the age of the population. The increase in senior citizens has been constant for many years and will probably accelerate.

As a member of that group I can tell you why we are not shopping for merchandise the way we once did. I believe that most of us have all the “things” we need.

As parents and grandparents, we are spending our money helping our children and grandchildren. They need improvements to their houses, funds for college and for some, graduate school and internships. We try to keep down their college debt as much as we can.

When I spend money for myself, it is for essentials like food, heat, etc. I also need help here at home and repairs for things including medical repairs for myself.

That is why my age group is so opposed to privatizing health insurance and continuing to deny coverage to those less fortunate, probably the sickest of us all. It’s not humane and we’re the only nation of our stature that abandons them.

The battle over tax increases is a curious development. Those who refuse to increase taxes are the same group that is calling for a constitutional amendment that will require a balanced annual government budget.

How on Earth do they propose to get from here to there? I make nowhere near a million dollars in a year, but I am willing to annually pay higher taxes and keep the country solvent in a realistic way.

No more bleating from the tea party people about loading debt onto our children when we are fighting two wars they support but refuse to finance with tax increases.

Tea party people and other nay sayers, take notice. My age group votes.

Margaret T. Hollingsworth

Kennebunkport

Could there be a relationship between the reluctance or intransigence of the economy to achieve or sustain reasonable growth and the disenchantment of the public with Washington, D.C.? Is the political posturing of the Democrats and Republicans over the debt ceiling helping or hurting the country?

If Democrats and Republicans worked together for the good of the country, would our economy still be in the doldrums? Would the tea party have ever been born? What effect would “term limits” have on lawmakers’ willingness to compromise?

If corporate America behaved responsibly would derivatives have ever existed? If derivatives had never existed would the meltdown of the economy have occurred anyway?

If Congress had paid attention to securing the border with Mexico when the influx of illegal aliens was still a stream and not a flood, would we be faced with the issues surrounding the 12 million illegal immigrants now in our country?

Why should Big Oil continue to receive taxpayer subsidies? Would the oil companies simply raise prices to keep profits high? Would raising prices encourage or discourage development of alternative fuels? Would cessation of subsidies lower taxpayer tax rates? The elections of 2012 are fast approaching.

Roy Quinn

Saco

Can you believe that we have Republicans in Washington who are so out of touch with what is happening in our country that they make ridiculous statements about the middle class and the poor?

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who has been in politics for years and years, said: “It is time for the poor to start paying their fair share of taxes!”

It is up to those of us who are middle class or poor to remind Hatch that he should take a good look at the country of Greece and what had happened in that country. He is so out of touch because he has lived his whole life in Washington.

The middle class is again having to fight for its survival. It is truly a war between the “haves” and the “have nots.”

And to all seniors who depend upon getting back from the government what they worked so hard to pay for, Social Security and Medicare — beware, you will have cuts and no more COLA if the Republicans have their way.

The final result will be “privatized pensions.” Also, Medicare and Medicaid will be changed drastically.

They want to balance the budget on our taxes. We must ask: “What are you as a senator or representative willing to give?”

J. Robert Chasser

Wells

Republicans are stupid. For example, they say they believe that raising taxes in a weak recovery from recession will hurt the economy.

But Obama wants to raise taxes. Why are they not only fighting him on it but also taking a hit in the media for doing so? Just do it. The economy will get worse and Obama will be gone.

In 1990 the total spending by the federal government was $2 trillion. In 2008 the budget had risen to $3 trillion. That is an $1 trillion increase in about two decades.

In 2009, the Obama administration raised spending by over half a trillion dollars in just one year! He now says we have a revenue problem and have to raise taxes. Seriously?

Let’s hear from an expert: “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Obama was correct when he said those words in 2006, and he is right today. America has a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

He complains (about everything they do) that the GOP isn’t helpful. This from someone so frivolous that his own budget proposal was defeated 97-0 in the Senate and he blames everyone outside of his own incompetent administration for today’s economy.

Washington seems rudderless and Obama is still doing the blame game. Most of us are now “hoping” for “change” from this bad dream.

Doug Crosby

Portland

I’m normally not a whiner. I do, however, whine when I feel provoked to do so, and right now I feel provoked.

I’m one of what the media refer to as “Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.” As with so many others, I work but am wholly dependent upon my Social Security disability benefits, MaineCare and Medicare.

The airways are ringing with possibilities that cuts in these necessary and potentially life-preserving “services” may force many good-hearted, well-educated and productive citizens into extinction, as well as others reaching the once promised land of retirement — money they’ve “earned” throughout their livelihoods.

And, yes, those who I myself view as in far more dire straits than I. We all deserve protection. Deadlines are being thrown about by our government; our leaders threaten to abandon us. An imperiled species, indeed.

The shake-up is causing stress, and stress is known to kill, dishearten, force people to give up and “let the other guy do it.” However, at this time, it doesn’t appear to be “another guy.”

In some ways I feel lucky as my income is low enough to maintain my health benefits — at least for now. I am grateful to fall significantly below poverty level. How bizarre.

It was just a year or two ago that I really began to listen to the crackles in the air and began to take wonder how my life might change when all is said and done. What will be left over when block grants are cut by the federal governments to states that cannot afford the revenue required to take care of “Maine’s most vulnerable citizens”? Health care is fragmented at best.

I find no solutions in the crackling airways. I find even less hope. I know there is something I should be doing, but what?

I whine because to whine is to be human. I whine because I’m scared.

Betsy Fecto

Portland

A historian once noted that farmers tend to be conservative in their approach to their work “for the very good reason that no one wants to starve to death as the result of a bright idea.”

If only the Republican-led House of Representatives shared the same common-sense conservative values.

No one can deny that the nation’s economic resources are under tremendous strain from a wide range of competing interests.

For the sake of convenience — selling newspapers, rousing political support on the stump and making sense for ourselves of the myriad philosophies, laws and regulations by which we live — these are usually divided into only two camps: supporters of an unfettered (or lawless) free-market economy, and supporters of a mathematically unsustainable (and morally debasing) welfare state.

Such a black-and-white world view is a grotesque and dangerous simplification. The welfare net exists not to get people elected and make jobs — that’s the purpose of political patronage and government contracts — but because for all its positive qualities the free market cannot guarantee “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all.

Today a group of intransigent and mostly neophyte congressmen with a deep-seated grudge against government — and how better to express it than to run for public office — has created a political crossroads as arbitrary as it is absolute.

With little genuine understanding of politics, economics or history, they want to bet the house by freezing the nation’s debt ceiling for a completely untested theory of political economy — one that business leaders and economists from across the political spectrum warn could produce catastrophic results for all of us.

These greenhorn representatives, whose approach is anything but conservative, can sing along with Bob Dylan that they ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more. But no one else should risk starving to death to find out whether their ideas will yield anything but deadly fruit.

Lincoln Paine

Portland

“Members of Congress don’t have a clue” was the headline on Voice of the People July 8: In response to these letters, which are well-written and thought out, I fully concur with the argument, but not the headline: We need to see that Congress is doing exactly what it wants, taking money that is ours and wasting it.

For example, when Social Security was established it was supposed to be an untouchable fund, only to be used for its intended purpose, to guarantee a good quality of life for hardworking Americans after long years of service.

But the game changed when Congress added the Social Security surplus into the debate on spending and taxation. It was a move destined to enrage and threaten all who have worked so hard and paid so much into the system.

This is how our government, more accurately, our elected officials work to spark dissention, get press coverage, and gain votes in the fall.

One thing is for certain, they do have a clue and most of America is clueless. And they like it that way.

For example, they dragged the budget debate out for months, only waiting till the zero hour to wage a “compromise.” Do you remember all the talk of federal jobs on hold and buildings shutting down back then?

Well, they came out smelling like roses when they “forged a compromise” then, and guess what: It will be no different at the zero hour of this debt ceiling debate. It will be resolved only after every possible hour of media coverage is exhausted and the actually cutoff is at hand.

I have news for you: This issue was hashed out on the golf course weeks ago by Speaker John Bohner and President Obama over a 10-foot putt.

When all is said and done, they will all look like political heroes just for doing the job that they were all elected to do. I wish I could wait till the last minute to finish everything I am given and still look like a hero.

Of course they have a clue.

Greg Sundik

Gorham