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OK, you’re kidding me, right? Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is searching for ways to cut back on the cost of him flying home to California every weekend on government aircraft (“Panetta says he regrets cost of trips,” article, April 18)? I agree with Pentagon spokesman George Little that Panetta shouldn’t be sitting in “the middle seat on a crowded commercial jet.” But what makes Panetta think he has to go home every weekend, considering he can commit a soldier to a foreign land for 12 months at a time? He should really be ashamed of himself for whining about the commitment he has made to his family.

This guy has access to data that will show him the thousands of armed forces personnel that family separation has caused the demise of their marriages. Since he opts to maintain his home on the opposite coast [from his workplace] and, taking into account that we, as leaders, do so by setting the example, then he should make some sacrifices. I don’t imagine a man his age has preschool and middle school-age kids running around, so he should suck it up, put his wife on a plane and bring her to Washington. That way there is no cost to the taxpayer.

If that is a little extreme for such an important man, then he should cut way back on the number of weekends that he flies back home. It is outrageous that he makes a dilemma here, and this makes him totally insensitive to the people he is charged to lead.

Larry C. Bostick

Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

Lawmakers frustrate all moms

The writer of “All agree ‘Every mother is a working mother,’” the Chicago Tribune editorial that appeared in Stars and Stripes’ April 17 editions, rightly attempted to stop the beating of the dead horse that is paycheck moms vs. stay-at-home moms, but wrongly asserted that being a stay-at-home parent is a luxury of the elite.

For those households with the luxury, yes, it’s a choice. There are, however, a lot more households where there is no luxury of choice: The single parent or the lower-earning parent has to stay home because daycare expenses exceed the highest paycheck he or she is qualified to earn. Contrary to popular (read: ignorant and fortunately inexperienced) belief, government assistance doesn’t elasticize dollar bills or make the month any shorter. For many people, what used to be living paycheck-to-paycheck is now living paycheck-to-many-days-before-the-next-paycheck.

It’s a conveniently and easily categorized world in which the far left and far right live but, between Lefty’s high ideals and Righty’s lofty standards lives a majority population concerned with making ends meet — even as those ends move further apart. The powers-that-(can afford to)-be seem to have become bored by the economic issues that are exhausting everyone else.

Our representatives, both incumbent and hopeful, could be putting their heads together to come up with workable solutions that involve everyone. Instead, they’re catapulting nonissues across a political divide of their own making.

It makes a mockery of the people who struggle when those with time, resources and ability to effect change have little more than a cartoonish regard for those who have to live in the crossfire of ongoing, unresolved economic issues.

Diana Hartman

Böblingen, Germany

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