Dear editor:

At least three things amaze and depress me about the raft of vitriolic responses the Reader has received to Linda Lutton’s recent column about the federal tax cut [Letters, August 24]:

(1) Their collective assumption that every person’s value to their nation is measured solely and completely by their salary–when in fact, that only measures one’s direct value to one’s employer. And even that is determined by an imperfect economic system that is great at measuring direct, immediate financial returns–which I’m not pooh-poohing–but not so good at determining the value of a patient nurse, a thoughtful teacher, a scrappy journalist, or a talented artist.

(2) Their collective assumption that the nuclear family is solely responsible for the raising of children and that anyone whose income does not enable them to become totally independent of government aid (and Lord knows what that amounts to) is “irresponsible” for foisting their “burden” on the rest of us. Never mind that those “burdens” will one day be toiling away for the companies these angry conservatives’ nest eggs are invested in, teaching their grandchildren to read and write, or cleaning their nursing-home bedpans.

(3) Their collective ignorance/amnesia about the realities of the federal bud-get, in which a vast majority of expen-ditures (something like three-quarters the last time I checked) go toward FIVE items: defense, social security, medicare, medicaid, and interest on the national debt. Surely conservatives wouldn’t favor cutting back defense, and who among us thinks that any of the big-three entitlement programs will be reworked in a way that saves significantly? As for the interest, on

a debt primarily run up during the Reagan-Bush years, it claims a dime or more of every tax dollar we pay. Who knows how much that figure will jump after the Bush II cuts?

One parting thought: The other quarter of the federal budget is only the “people’s money,” as Bushies like to call it, if one assumes that safe streets, decent schools, college loans, clean air and water, safe workplaces, main-tenance of our nuclear-weapons stock-pile, the interstate highway system, air-traffic control, drug interdiction, the federal courts, surveillance of terrorists, the Peace Corps–well, I don’t want to fill a whole page here, but to call that other quarter of the budget the “people’s money,” one has to start from the standpoint that all of these governmental functions are really somehow “optional.”

Speaking as someone who will shortly receive a check from George W. and probably draws less than his share of government largesse, I have to imagine that even the wealthiest Americans don’t have that luxury.

Ed Finkel