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"We pay orthodontists an average of $350,000, and no one would say that their impact on the lives of kids is greater than a teacher's," writes Dave Eggers in Mother Jones (May/June). "I vividly remember, while growing up in the Chicago suburbs in the '70s, knowing that my sixth-grade math teacher was also--even during the school year--a licensed and active travel agent, and I recall seeing a number of my high-school teachers, all with master's degrees or Ph.D.'s, painting houses and cutting lawns during the summer. This kind of thing still happens all over the country."

If this is "running out of oil," what would having plenty look like? The U.S. Geological Survey's estimates of recoverable petroleum in the world: in 1987 it was 1,796 billion barrels; in 1994, 2,272; in 2000, 3,021 (Science, May 21).

"The Bush Administration has effectively destroyed the [Small Business Administration's] 7(a) loan program, the most important source of long-term capital for small companies," writes Joshua Kurlantzick in Harper's (July). "The consolidation of the U.S. banking sector has created significant obstacles to bank loans for small companies, to the point where the SBA loan programs now account for 40 percent of all long-term loans to small companies. Yet the Bush Administration has repeatedly tried to cut the program, proposing in 2002 that it be cut by half, and so underfunding it the following year that in January 2004 the program ran out of money and had to shut down; 2,000 loan applications were returned unfunded. They are not likely to receive any better attention this year; the administration plans to eliminate all federal subsidies to the program in 2005."

How can you distinguish between conservative utopian do-gooding and productive "marriage promotion" programs? Theodora Ooms of the Center for Law and Social Policy had some suggestions when she testified before Congress on May 5: "'Healthy' marriage, not marriage for its own sake, should be encouraged and supported. Participation in marriage-related programs should be voluntary....Strategies should be designed based on the best available research evidence and should be carefully evaluated....Marriage programs and policies should not force or pressure women, especially young, poor, and vulnerable women, to enter or remain in bad, abusive marriages."

"If God died in the cities of the industrial revolution, he has risen again in the postindustrial cities of the developing world," writes Mike Davis in the March/April New Left Review (quoted in the June issue of Harper's). "Today, populist Islam and Pentecostal Christianity (and, in Bombay, the cult of Shivaji) occupy a social space analogous to that of early twentieth-century socialism and anarchism....Since 1970, largely because of its appeal to slum women and its reputation for being color-blind, Pentecostalism has been growing into what is arguably the largest self-organized movement of urban poor people on the planet."

By the numbers. From the spring issue of "PRAGmatics," published by the Policy Research Action Group at Loyola University: "There already is an excellent health insurance plan that provides secure, affordable health care. It's called Medicare--the nation's largest and most efficient insurance program....Medicare's administrative overhead is less than three percent. In stark contrast, the rest of the system wastes about 30 percent of total health spending on insurance company profits, bureaucratic red tape, and unnecessary procedures and equipment."

The last word on the cult of Reagan. Leon Wieseltier writes in the New Republic, April 4, 1981: "The poor, it is said, are corrupted by the expectation of charity. They are emasculated by a social system that accustoms them to alms, and there is some truth to that. Yet the reluctance to give alms is no less corrupting of the rich than the eagerness to receive alms is corrupting of the poor."


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