One can't succeed starting out in a hole

President Obama has finally taken a step in the right direction ("Obama unveils plan to ease student debt," Oct. 26). This is exactly what our nation needs. In this time of economic turmoil, we cannot afford to have our nation's youths coming out of college with vast amounts of debt or not even going to college at all because of the cost. The education of young people should be a priority, because the youths of America are the future of America. We must prepare the next generation to take on the challenges that will most certainly face them.


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I hope that the recent news regarding college debt reaching an all-time high prompts parents to advise their college-bound students to consider choosing a college within their means. Our recent high school graduate was ranked in the top of her class, received high honors, participated in sports and community service, and even held down a part-time job. It was her dream to attend a private college in the fall, and even her teachers, knowing her potential, encouraged her to pursue this dream. She diligently worked on applications for scholarships her senior year, a handful paid off by her efforts. Even after all the scholarship awards were considered, the bottom-line expenditure and debt she would incur at the end of her college career would still be in the tens of thousands of dollars. As her parents, we recognized the dream but also realized the nightmare of personal debt that would plague our daughter for many years. If anyone deserved to go to a good private school, it was my daughter; however, we fought the attitude of entitlement, which is so prevalent today, and chose an affordable public college. Obama will not have to forgive my daughter's debt, because it will be minimal and within her means to pay off.


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The continuing commodification of every aspect of life has reached education. This has two effects -- fewer people will be educated (and they will be of the upper class) and America's ability to compete effectively in intellectual and creative capital internationally will plummet precipitately. Those bright young people determined to complete their educations despite incurring enormous debt will find themselves little more than indentured servants to the corporate oligarchy, bound, as it were, to the "company store." Saddled with student debt and then perhaps mortgage debt and then perhaps college expenses for their children, these young people will have hocked their freedom to participate in an economic system that will own and exploit them for their entire lives.



A stable oil ally -- just to our north

We see images of unstable countries in the Middle East all the time, and, unfortunately, we rely on many of those countries for our energy needs. Any of these countries' actions could dramatically affect our energy supply and prices. So wouldn't it be nice to rely on a stable ally and our very own North American energy rather than questionable sources?

We'll get exactly that with our great northern friend Canada.

Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world. The United States already receives 591,000 barrels of oil per day from the Keystone Pipeline. If the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is approved, that would be nearly doubled.

A reliable supply closer to home will help Minnesota small businesses and families ease the pain at the pump that everyone has experienced in recent years. Keystone XL also will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Americans in construction, retail, restaurants and hotels.

I support working with our ally Canada for our nation's energy needs, especially when it means economic and security benefits for America.


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An Oct. 27 letter writer would have us believe that fly ash, created when coal is burned, is a harmless byproduct, and that government is holding back progress by regulating it. In fact, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, much of it is now removed from flue gases before it is spewed into our atmosphere. This is important, because fly ash can contain many harmful elements, including arsenic and mercury. As for the EPA studies from 1988 and 1999 that the letter writer cited, I would refer him to more recent information. Earlier this year, the inspector general reported that the EPA had not sufficiently assessed the risk of fly ash, which, in its second life as wallboard or a road surface, still contains the original toxic compounds.


Bachmann on Iraq

Someone point her to our actual impact

Several hundred thousand people died during the Iraq invasion and subsequent turmoil. Four million were displaced. About 7 million Iraqis now live in poverty. Our Iraqi allies (translators, guides, and friends) face imminent reprisal, but rather than promised visas they find themselves cast adrift in America's security bureaucracy. Today's Iraqi government remains one of the world's most corrupt, and human rights remain fragile.

Years ago, the colloquial Arabic term for disaster was Labnana (Lebanonization, a nod to that country's bloody civil war). Today, the term is Arqana (Iraqization; to make like Iraq).

Against this backdrop, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann goes on national television and argues that Iraq should reimburse the United States for the cost of the war.

Why do they hate us? Exhibit A.