Third parties as antidote to corporate power

Your June 15 editorial on the lack of third-party access to presidential debates is particularly important to me since I learned recently that the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sets the rules on who may participate, is a private foundation, supported by, and answerable exclusively to, large corporations and private foundations. The public has absolutely nothing to say about these important political events.

This is but another example of the erosion of democracy, which is leaving this country and the rest of the world subject to a little understood, but nonetheless extremely powerful, world corporate government.

The multinational corporations need to have a Democrat or Republican as president of the US because their massive donations and lobbying investments can assure them of wealth-friendly legislation. A candidate such as Ralph Nader, who accepts no corporate donations and is not beholden to them, can speak out, while the "Demopublicans" duck the issues and mislead the public, and so he must be, and is, barred from the presidential debates.

One must wonder how the immense power of defining the presidential debates came to be handed over to private interests. But they have it now, and it is unlikely that anything short of massive public outcry will ever get it back.

Jean Schanen Eau Claire, Wis.

Your June 15 editorial fails to mention the largest political party besides the two "major parties" - the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party has far more people in elected office (166) than all other "third parties" combined,is rapidly growing with a half-million members, and has a good record of getting on all 50 states' presidential ballots.

Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader may have more celebrity power than the Libertarians, but based on which party has struck a chord with the most Americans, the Libertarian Party deserves the first seat at the debate table if and when the unconstitutional debate rules are struck down.

Kevin Myatt Roanoke, Va.

Child care deserves limelight

Congratulations for tackling the topic of child care as a campaign issue in your June 9 editorial "Gore's take on child care." You wisely cite the need for child care as a given: We have the ability to provide excellent care; we lack not resources but will. The good news is that we all win when children get what they need during those important early years - wherever they are cared for.

And there's a terrific financial return. Most studies report $7 saved for every dollar invested in quality child care. Savings are from the cost of remedial and compensatory education programs, income taxes, social welfare programs, and in criminal justice costs. When voters let politicians know that early education is important to all of our futures, we'll have the will as well as the way.

Marlene Weinstein Philadelphia Child Care Matters: A Quality Child Care Initiative of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Father absenteeism isn't one-sided

Your June 16 article "Fathers may be 'in,' but many are still absent," expresses bewilderment about why fathers are still absent after so many campaigns about the problem.

The answer is that these campaigns target fathers, but fathers are often not able to see their children. Almost three-quarters of divorces are initiated by women, and they almost always get sole custody of children. After that, mothers frequently prevent the children from seeing their fathers. Father absence will decline only when courts award true joint custody, and penalize mothers for keeping the father away.

Neil Steyskal Washington

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