The Press Herald’s Sept. 5 piece describing an increase in Canadian spending in Maine was good and timely economic news.

Attributing this to advertising and good bilingual skills deserves the credit received, but there is a more important factor here that needs to be emphasized because it is fundamental to our economy.

It is the matter of health care costs. Canada, with its universal health care and single-payer system, spends only about half what we do on health care. Canadians enjoy more money in their budgets for other things. Naturally, shopping and travel enter this picture.

This is another example of our need for health care reform. Unlike in Canada, our nation sits around in fear of getting sick and going bankrupt. The situation is now worse than ever as depicted by the recently released statistic by The Commonwealth Fund documenting that 44 percent of American adults were either uninsured or underinsured last year – an appalling increase.

The bottom line is that huge numbers of everyday Canadians are visiting here, having fun and spending statewide, to our delight. Meanwhile, for Americans, stifling health costs orchestrated by greedy special interests prevent our economy from turning around.

The fact that this situation is perpetuated by a Congress that seems more concerned about themselves than its people earns a 10 on the discouragement index.

All Americans are urged to address our own broken-down system and consider joining to develop one like that of Canada – where life might just be good again.

Richard C. Dillihunt, M.D.

Portland

Why focus on potatoes when economy is a mess?

I had a “don’t know whether to laugh or cry” moment when a report on NPR said that representatives and senators were weighing in on a USDA rule to limit starchy vegetables in school lunches – potatoes, corn, lima beans – to 1 cup per student per week. Why? To combat childhood obesity.

There was a mention of too many french fries, but the solution, it seemed, was the 1 cup limit.

Being from Maine, coming from a family with Scotch-Irish roots, I know the potato to be a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin C, fiber, no fat and comfort.

This report followed on the heels of the standard GOP/tea party “news”: “No new taxes; cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and for goodness sakes, deregulate everything! It’s good for business.”

So when the potato piece ended with the claim that “Maine senators would undermine children’s health to favor agricultural interests!”– well, that was the moment.

I don’t know about you, but the elephant in my living room is that 1 percent of the population controls 40 percent of the wealth. A quarter-century years ago, 12 percent controlled 33 percent, so you tell me who’s better off now.

Create jobs? Stabilize the economy? Do what’s in the best interest of the people who elected you? Nope, our Congress is content – no, downright determined! – to let the rich keep paying no taxes, to let the too-big-to-fail bankers collect millions in bonuses while the taxpayers eat the bad debt and to deregulate away every protection for anyone not in that top 1 percent (because, hey, the taxpayers can always bail ’em out again).

Oh yes, and let’s make sure to limit those potatoes to 1 cup a week.

Pauline Hunneman

Freeport

Maine has lots of people for a pro-business mural

If Gov. LePage’s intent is to make Maine’s Department of Labor equally “friendly” to business and labor, why not commission a Maine artist to create a mural commemorating the contribution of some Maine business heroes to exhibit in the halls of the Maine Department of Labor along with Judy Taylor’s returned mural?

I am no Maine historian, but legends leap to mind. A mural celebrating Maine’s captains of industry could, for example, honor the men and the story captured by Maine author Dean Lawrence Lunt in his “Here for Generations: The Story of a Maine Bank and its City,” in which Lunt “uses the 150-year history of Bangor Savings Bank and the adventures of its founders to tell the dramatic tale of Bangor as it transformed from frontier town to Lumber Capital of the World to vital commerce center.”

Their establishment of savings accounts for laborers in a period pre-pension, pre-Social Security exhibited prescient concern for the welfare of their work force.

And what about honoring Leon Leonwood Bean and Harold Alfond for the manufacturing and retail jobs they created, and William Underwood and some of the local entrepreneurs who provided jobs in plants that dotted the coast from Jonesport to South Portland, making sardine packing one of Maine’s largest industries for decades, and then lauding eminent shipbuilder Gardiner G. Deering?

And show the achievements of John D. Rockefeller, whose efforts are narrated and preserved by Ann Rockefeller Roberts in her “Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads: The Untold Story of Acadia’s Carriage Roads and Their Creator.”

That story of a summer resident who created jobs for Mainers during hard times, preserved quality of place and opened up the enduring tourism business that has sustained Mainers for decades, (vaulting tourism to its current position as Maine’s No. 1 industry,” could be combined with other compelling stories in an artistic rendering.

It could be called, “Two Murals, One Maine.”

Sara Lambert Bloom

South Portland

Old Orchard’s bikefest was motorcycle-unfriendly

Once again the organizers of the so-called “bikefest” in Old Orchard Beach managed to mess things up.

In past years the event was intended for motorcyclists and starting attracting a decent-sized crowd. This year the event was more of a charitable bicycle marathon with emphasis taken away from motorcycles.

I’m all for charitable fundraisers, but a bicycle marathon during a motorcycle event? There might have been 50 motorcycles there, but many others left town disappointed.

The square that is usually reserved for motorcyclists to show off their bikes was blocked off and used as the finish line for the bicycle marathon.

If organizers don’t want motorcycles in their town, don’t call it a bikefest. This event was a joke!

David Canning

Saco