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The Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Coal in the Stocking of Congress

Dear Santa,

Merry Christmas. Sorry for writing to you this way - you know in such a public forum - but there's less than a week now before your big ride and we're in need.

By the way, I love that reindeer alternative energy thing; imagine what you would've spent on gas this year!

That reminds me, about Congress, those folks deserve nothing but coal. But please don't fill their stockings with it. Even though the icebergs up your way keep shrinking; you give those people coal and they'll just burn it. Maybe if you put little windmills or compact florescent bulbs in their stockings they would get the hint.

By the way Santa, you knew Congress when they were little and you know who's naughty and who's nice and I don't want to tell you how to do your job, but couldn't you tell when they sat on your lap as kids that they had one story for you and another story for everybody else?

Actually, I think they got the wrong message in those days. And now our government uses that same "sit on my lap and tell me what you want" routine with the oil, drug, insurance, banking, mercenary and military industrial machines!

Never mind, back to my list. The first item is rather unoriginal. "Peace on earth, good will toward men."

World peace probably topped a lot of lists over the years. I used to think that you never brought it because it's too big for you to carry.

But now it seems more like Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" when Ebenezer Scrooge asks the ghost of Jacob Marley for some small comfort to help him cope with the whole haunted thing, and Marley replies, "I have none to give. Comfort comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men."


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Maybe peace on Earth doesn't come from other regions, Santa. But if you really do know naughty from nice maybe you would prefer to give it to other kinds of men - people who could love each other - even love their enemies. Maybe you would prefer people who put humanity above profit.

Alas, I wish I could promise that we would keep the peace if you gave it to us, but I can't. So let's see what's next.

Santa, our state colleges need help. The Christian Science Monitor reports that funding to our state colleges has been slashed so significantly that some schools have increased tuition by more than a third of what it cost just eight years ago. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education states that the single largest determining factor for a college education now - above intellectual ability - is money.

Over the last two decades the ratio of grants to loans for higher education has flipped. Our society used to fund 80 percent of the cost of higher education for our kids; now we cover 20 percent. And I won't ask you to divert war funds; I finally get your whole peace thing.

But look, Exxon Mobil Corp. reports something besides the cost of a kid's education that has gone up about a third: their profits. So here's an idea.

Santa, may we please have a 10 percent tax on oil company profits and a law that precludes them from passing that tax onto us. And please designate all that money for our state colleges. (I might suggest starting with the universities of Maine and Southern Maine, and other really cold states where folks suffer miserably from soaring oil profits). In just three months of 2006, such a tax on Exxon alone would have given our colleges $9 billion. And Exxon would still have kept $81 billion!

Oh Santa, there are a whole bunch of ways that we could reverse the Dickensian reality our country has been free-falling into these last few years. Look how simply this oil tax could help our kids.

Unfortunately, this letter's too short to list all the creative ways we could tackle our problems. So Santa, maybe you could just remind us how much we need to love each other, and treat each other fairly? Then like Scrooge and Marley learned - the greed of a few won't ruin the lives of the many.

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Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is due out in late spring.

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