Progressive or regressive?

Cheers for the opinion-page column ``Where have the Republican progressives gone? And why has `liberal' become a dirty word in America?,'' Oct. 31! Pollution is the major symptom of overpopulation in the United States and Europe. Yet this is the first I have read of a connection between pollution levels and the number of people generating the pollution.

The capacity for handling waste more efficiently is limited, and may eventually be exceeded, if it has not been already. The time has come to begin considering a national population policy. Norman Matthews, Cincinnati

This column shows remarkable insight into the Republican Party's rejection of progressive and reformist influences earlier this century. It reveals a remarkable ignorance, however, of the contemporary issue of spaceflight by placing it at the top of the list of wasteful government spending. In light of growing public awareness of the immediate benefits as well as the resource and industrial potential of space development, such criticism expressed by otherwise well-educated people seems extremely undeserved.

NASA's budget is less than what Americans spend annually on each of the following: pizza, cosmetics, drunken-driving accident costs, support for young teen mothers, and defense contractor price gouging; the list goes on and on.

I agree that solutions to homelessness and more support for education are necessary, but a more vigorous civilian space program could provide new jobs at all levels while requiring higher educational standards. As a long-term investment the space program is not tied to any ``cycle of greed,'' because future generations will reap even greater rewards. Robert Walker, North Highlands, Calif.

This column merely rehashes many of the superficial and erroneous assertions about the ``progressive'' movement which one might find in a high school history textbook. The polemics about ``plutocrats'' and ``robber barons'' ignores the economic scholarship of recent years, which discloses that the turn-of-the century corporate giants aided the development of the middle class, both by steadily lowering consumer prices and by providing more and better-paying jobs. This scholarship also suggests that many railroad magnates were anti-free-enterprise connivers who wangled handouts from Washington, and that these advocates of government intervention all eventually went broke, while James J. Hill made his Great Northern a success by virtue of his own entrepreneurial genius and without government aid.

The original concept of Uncle Sam was not to serve privilege, or special interests, but to ``promote the general welfare.''

Rather than being ``progressive,'' Marxian graduated income taxes, the erosion of the federal system of government, and government dictating to business are regressive. They lead to a greater centralization of power and the age-old problem of tyranny, which the Founding Fathers - the true progressives - fought and labored against. Jack Miller, Portland, Maine

A kid's vote counts Regarding the article ``Voter up! Kids get poll smart,'' Oct. 21: The Arizona plan, established nationwide, could be a forceful prod to get parents to the polls. It's not too unrealistic to believe that the United States of America could begin to approach Costa Rica's 90 percent voter turnout.

Sen. Alan Cranston is sponsoring a national bill to allow voters to register on election day. That makes real sense! It's time to throw out the present complicated and demanding system that discourages countless numbers from registering, especially the poorly educated and disadvantaged, as well as many minorities. It should be made easy for every American citizen to have a voice at the voting booth.

Another innovation being tossed around is scheduling election day on a holiday or on a Saturday or Sunday. Why not Veterans Day? This would add even more significance and importance to the date and give people the chance to vote without having to leave work early.

Let's hope that, as a step in the right direction, US Senators Cranston, DeConcini, and McCain will be able to whip up support from the Federal Election Commission and the public for adopting ``Kids Voting'' in other states. Young people could lead their parents to the polls throughout the whole country! Marjorie Darling, Waco, Texas

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