The remarkable review of the welfare situation in Maine reported by the Portland Press Herald presents a rather stark commentary on the economic stress being experienced within our communities.

The idea, promoted by the political right (as in Cal Thomas’ columns), that most people in such circumstances are somehow riding a “gravy train” is a sad commentary on a serious problem. Providing the employment opportunities to help those in need, and are able, out of the level of dependency they experience is the desired goal.

Education, job training, and job creation are obvious parts of improving the situation. New jobs in the private sector that pay a living wage are much needed, but the consensus is that this achievement will be a slow process.

At the present time in our great country, the top 20 percent of Americans hold 84 percent of the nation’s wealth. The bottom 40 percent control all of 0.3 percent for 120 million people, including 43 million living below the poverty line.

With such a huge disparity, is there any question as to the major cause of people needing to seek help within their communities, or of people struggling to pay the taxes needed to keep their communities functioning? Is it really some kind of “class warfare,” or socialism, to suggest that the wealthy should contribute far more to the general welfare of our nation and its communities when, in fact, they control nearly all of the wealth?

Yes, we may be able to reduce budgets by limiting aid to those at the bottom and cutting back on the educational, safety, health, civic and other public service jobs which, for a perceived rich country, are hardly excessive.

But, shouldn’t those with the means be required, if not willing, to share more of the burden?

Roger Addor

Scarborough 

The article “Voter anxiety centers on public aid” (Oct. 17) led me to wonder: Who exactly is responsible for economic hard times in Maine?

1. Bankers who devised credit default swaps.

2. Mortgage companies who tricked buyers.

3. Corporations that have kept wages stagnant for the last 30 years so the middle class cannot buy anything without credit.

4. The 1 percent of the people who hold almost a quarter of the wealth in the United States.

5. People on welfare.

Blaming the poor for needing help because the wealthy have ruined the economy was popular long before Thomas More labeled it as part of the “conspiracy of the rich” five centuries ago. Shame on the Portland Press Herald for perpetuating this conspiracy.

Cristina Malcolmson

Portland 

On Oct. 19, a letter writer asked why working-class people would vote for Republicans. Here’s why.

1. The Democrat-controlled Congress tripled the budget deficit in Obama’s first year. This year’s deficit is the same. Huge deficits are projected for the next couple of decades.

2. The national debt has increased from about $8 trillion to about $11 trillion during the past two years, and is projected to reach $14 trillion by 2012. That is $40,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.

3. The unemployment rate has at least doubled, and exceeds 20 percent in some places. Democrats say it will continue for years. The stimulus is a generally recognized failure and even Obama recently admitted the non-existence of “shovel-ready projects.”

4. The Democrat-controlled Congress wants to “reverse the Bush tax cuts,” saying this isn’t really a tax increase. The working class recognize a tax increase when they see it. That half of the population who actually pay income tax know it will reduce their income, and prevent employers from creating jobs.

5. Health care costs will rise substantially, not fall, as advertised by the Democrat-controlled Congress when they passed a “health care” bill that most opposed. The Congress implies we oppose it because we are too dumb know what’s good for us, so they have to tell us.

6. Congress wants to pass a “cap-and-tax” bill, which aids non-American oil producers. But they refuse to exploit our own less costly oil and coal resources.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The question is not, “Why vote Republican?” Rather, why should we put up with the ineffective leaders now in power?

Incidentally, we’re all part of the working class.

Paul S. Bachorik

Falmouth

Sen. Susan Collins makes one proud to be a Maine conservative Republican. Not.

She runs as, and claims to be, a Republican, but she epitomizes the acronym RINO. She supports the Senate Republicans when she feels they deserve her support. Otherwise she wanders off into the “can’t we all just get along” dead end.

It’s dead-ended in one major way: The Democrats never move across the aisle to “get along,” to be bipartisan. Never.

The story ending your report on Collins’ thoughts gives one example of not getting along.

Presidential adviser David Axelrod remembers that all but three Republican senators wanted to defeat the stimulus. The implication is that they wanted to thwart this new, young, black president.

No, what they wanted to thwart was an ill-conceived plot to spend upwards of a trillion dollars. Twenty months later we realize they were right.

The money goes down numerous ratholes and any jobs “created” cost us hundreds of thousands each. As to the jobs “saved” by the stimulus, well, saved jobs has never been a benchmark to evaluate a job-filled economy. Saved jobs is an Obama illusion that the press has bought.

I suggest Sen. Collins, who has brought good stuff to Maine, change the “R” after her name to an “I.” She wants to be independent of the Republican caucus when she believes she can help save the nation through, perhaps, what only a woman can foresee.

Of the three “Republicans” voting for the stimulus, allowing it to pass, one, Arlen Specter, 1) changed parties, and 2) found the new party didn’t like him and, thank goodness, will soon disappear from the Senate.

The third one voting for Obama’s stimulus, our own Sen. Olympia Snowe, may be seeking re-election in two years. It will be interesting to see if RINOs are back in style, or if a conservative Republican advancing smaller government and less regulation into our very lives will challenge her if she chooses to run. My hope springs eternal.

Arthur Thoms

Kennebunk 

It seems that a lot of voters don’t like the idea of using taxation to take money from all of us and to use it for needs that our elected representatives, after serious debate about the interests of all of us, decide are the best uses for it.

They think it can be done better by creating jobs for a bunch of gamblers to do what gamblers do best — take money from those who do not understand the odds of the game.

They keep those players happily paying by randomly giving what seems like a lot back to a few of them, while constantly keeping the most of it, part of which goes to a few pre-selected lofty-sounding causes.

No new wealth comes out of this to make it easier for anyone to either play or to pay taxes. It’s just a way to take existing money from most players and give it to a few others, including the relatively few who are hired to collect, not taxes, but bets.

Who gets to get back some of it depends, not on debate and decision, but on luck. Mostly, the money just goes round and round, some of it disappearing during each lap, until

Just the thing, brought to you by voters whose education included no economics and even less about representative democracy.

Richard B. Innes

Gorham