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Rep. Bill Paxon's whining notwithstanding, The News did a great service for middle-class Americans with its recent Donald Barlett and James Steele series. What Paxon doesn't understand is that working Americans are watching in horror as their hard-earned paychecks buy less and less -- when they can earn a paycheck, that is.

Working Americans want answers and explanations in order to understand the irony of working harder and having less for the trouble. Barlett and Steele present plausible explanations for the downward spiral many middle-class Americans are feeling. Mr. Paxon, on the other hand, denies the reality of most of us and shows his inability to grasp our anxiety by his contemptuous belittlement of those who do know and can offer some explanations.

While Mr. Paxon will be able to send his daughter to a first-rate college, he's against spending for education so the sons and daughters of the less affluent can go to college. He doesn't have to worry about how to pay winter's heating bills and still have enough left over to put meals on the table.

Mr. Paxon's reality is that of the elite, and he doesn't share the worries or concerns of the rest of us. Barlett and Steele expose the way our nation's laws favor this elite. Paxon disparages with contempt the facts and ideas that reveal many of the causes for the economic misery so many Americans have to endure. His reality has nothing to do with the reality of America's working middle class.

By choosing to give its readers selected excerpts of Barlett and Steele's newest work, soon to be a book, The News unveils many of the economic shrouds that politicians like Paxon like to adorn themselves with. By printing this series, The News offered its readers information for thought and dialogue that is in the best traditions of research journalism, akin to the muckraking of the Progressives at that beginning of the 20th century. Most people, then as now, know something's wrong when they work very hard for 40 hours a week, yet find it harder and harder to meet everyday expenses.

Could Paxon's criticism of "America: Who Stole the Dream?" be that of one whose own comfortable existence rests unfairly on the burdens placed on others? The revelation of such economic facts shake the moral foundations of those unwilling to more equitably share the nation's wealth.

Solutions such as more progressive tax codes, making corporations pay for deserting the communities whose labor secured their profits, affordable quality health care for all, and the right to a first-rate public education are unsettling because they threaten the balance of power between the "haves and have nots," and Paxon represents the "have lots."

Thanks to The News, some of the ideas of Barlett and Steele can possibly lead to a real debate about America's future. Bill Paxon may have good reason to fear such a future, but the rest of us don't.

Ray Peterson Buffalo

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