I recently read this subject line in a legislative update from Senate President Justin Alfond: “Greater Portland Best Place in America to Find a Job.”

He touts an article appearing in Forbes magazine and repeated in the Portland Press Herald (“Survey: Seeking work? Portland is promising,” March 13) and Bangor Daily News.

I read the Forbes article. It’s a feel-good promotion for mid-level and higher executive types to move in from out of state.

Alfond and these articles quote a survey done by Manpower, the temp agency. They’re assuring out-of-state businesses that there are plenty of drones in the metro area to man their phone banks and bus their tables.

I have been out of work for almost a year due to layoffs of entire departments at Anthem Blue Cross in South Portland. I have applied for 90 jobs since then. If I don’t qualify for an extension of my unemployment benefits in April, I will have no income. Many others are in the same situation.

I moved to Maine seven years ago, leaving a career in Massachusetts to join my partner in Portland. Neither of us knew it was impossible to get professional work here. It took two years just to get a customer service job. I have a master’s degree and years of experience.

The only things available are “high school diploma or equivalent” jobs in call centers or Starbucks. I know. I’ve done both.

Try explaining that away when seeking a professional position. Try being upbeat with recruiters who consider you middle-aged and over-educated when applying for anything else.

Despite this “good news” from Forbes, Sen. Alfond and the local papers, nothing is changing here.

John Degon

Tax revenue builds nations, funds services we depend on

Our nation needs a reality check. According to the article “Poll: Voters want austerity — and more services” (March 9), there is a disconnect between what we want and what we are willing to pay for.

We want high-quality services (education, defense, public safety, infrastructure, etc.), but we consider the tax dollars needed to elevate them to excellence as odious.

Our nation is sinking into mediocrity, influenced by those who imply that taxes are an evil instrument of an untrustworthy government.

In fact, taxes helped build our nation by funding the programs, institutions and workers that advanced us to superpower status in the world. Perhaps our credit-plagued citizenry does not understand that you cannot buy services without paying a fair price.

If we want exceptional schools, unrivaled defense, effective public safety, secure infrastructure and safety nets for our retired and disabled community, we cannot achieve them through miserly allocations.

Our tax dollars should be spent efficiently, with controls in place for eliminating waste and maximizing productivity. They should not, however, be viewed as some sort of evil conspiracy to part us from our wages.

If we want to be the best nation on earth, we will not get there by cutting corners and eliminating our foundation; in fact, we will get there by investment in rebuilding what we have lost in the last few decades.

Remember, public workers are also people who pay taxes, buy products and contribute to our economy. We are not the enemy; we are this nation’s foundation.

Claire Crocker

Letter’s wording helps fuel distrust between countries

A response to the letter by Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, “Armenian enclave continues to be targeted by Azerbaijan” (March 6):

I am a recently Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in the Republic of Azerbaijan. I in no way wish to defend Azerbaijan’s foreign policy nor downplay Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte’s tragic experiences. I do, however, want to highlight that the rhetoric with which the author writes is the same language that perpetuates this terrible conflict.

The author assigns all of the blame to Azerbaijan in this ongoing war. How can Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte measure the tripling of “Azeri rhetoric” against Armenians?

Additionally, Nagorno-Karabakh has not rejoined Armenia because the U.N. Security Council officially recognizes it as the rightful land of Azerbaijan.

She vilified an entire nation without any consideration for the “innocent” Azerbaijanis who have also suffered. She speaks of two Azerbaijans, both rich and laden with “skyscrapers” and “caviar.” That is not the Azerbaijan I know.

It is the responsibility of both sides to recognize their culpability in this war. During my 27 months in Azerbaijan’s outer regions, refugees and locals only ever wanted to stubbornly blame the other country for their national and personal woes. Most of these people were uneducated individuals whose opinions were fueled by personal tragedy and government propaganda.

Unilateral blame and partisan rhetoric, like that used by Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte, will only contribute to the protractedness of this tragic conflict.

Members of the diasporas of these countries, especially people like Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte, impartially educate the general public here and attempt to foster peace and reconciliation.

Both countries suffered from Soviet oppression, together. Now, both must accept responsibility and reconcile, together. Ms. Astvatsaturian Turcotte could and should do more to bridge the gap. Letters like the one she wrote do nothing to encourage a much-needed peace.

Jacob Winn
RPCV Azerbaijan, 2010-12

Impact of racism deserves our continued attention

Thank you to Wes Pelletier for a cogently argued letter (“Less visible now, racism still hurts many,” March 6).

The rhetoric about a “post-racial” society reminds me of the “end of history” rhetoric at the end of the Cold War, and makes as little sense in the face of overwhelming evidence of continued backlash. I would add to his list: the prison industry, voter suppression and the disproportionate impact of the Great Recession on people of color, just for starters.

On top of that, misogyny is alive, well and disturbingly on display in the last election (“legitimate rape,” anyone?).

On top of that, First Peoples in our country continue to be treated poorly, deliberately misunderstood and violently targeted.

When any of us is diminished and weakened, we are all diminished and weakened. Let us continue to be aware and attentive.

Jeffrey Hotchkiss