The Role of Big Business in an Ailing Economy

Regarding the front-page article "With US Jobs at Stake, Congress Takes Wary View of Trade Pact," March 17: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a disturbing and clear-cut indication that big businesses should "wake up and smell the coffee." They grumble about how they are losing money because of our dying economy and fail to realize that they play a major part in its recovery. American consumers can't buy their products if they don't have jobs.

Concerning themselves only with how to become wealthier, American businesses are closing their doors, laying off their employees, and relocating to other countries. There they prey on the weak, knowing that people are willing to labor without safety and health protections, work for very little, and operate under poor environmental standards.

Although trade opportunity is a necessity, it shouldn't give American businesses the opportunity to discriminate against fellow citizens for their own selfish gains. Pocketing profits will hinder rather than help them.

We all should take responsibility to evaluate what sacrifices we need to make, including big businesses. Working together is the only possible way to return to a stable economy. C. Coleman, Idaho Falls, Idaho President's popularity

The Opinion page article "A Second Look at Clinton's Polls," March 19, downgrades the favorable reception Americans are giving to the new US president. The author says, "It is ludicrous to suggest that Clinton has taken the populace by storm." He makes the point that Mr. Clinton's approval ratings are much lower than those of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and other former presidents in the early stages of their presidencies.

It is easy to score points when you promise major tax reductions as Reagan did, or "no new taxes" as Bush did. But here we have a new president who fights for fiscal responsibility and expects taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets by paying higher taxes in many different ways, and - nevertheless - scores an approval of roughly 2 to 1. To me that's truly amazing and indicates a definite shift away from the selfish `80s. H.E. Mehring, Hyannis, Mass. Education standards

Regarding the article "Clinton Education Policy Pushes National Standards," March 16: I am a college student and my dad is a fifth-grade elementary school teacher. The article gives me comfort that something is being done to improve the quality of education in this country.

Over the years, I've seen my father teach many children and find myself appalled at today's students' lack of basic skills. In my father's class of 30 students, nine are unable to do basic skills such as reading, writing, and telling time. Yet these students are being automatically passed through our educational system.

A national standard would help. In such a competitive world, if something isn't done, America will find itself in a real predicament. The upcoming generation might be a lost one. Devan Greenhalgh, St. Anthony, Idaho Arts in school

I appreciate the Opinion page article "Arts Offer Crucial, Active Learning for Kids," March 15. Arts education is not just to "make art." It gives students practice in important skills - the same skills that lead an individual to succeed in today's "real world." To cite a notable example: President Clinton had a music education. He is lauded for his ability to listen. I suggest that his listening skills developed through participating in musical groups during his school years. Carolyn Purser, Bellevue, Wash.

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