Our country is more divided now than at any time since the Civil War, and for the same reason: unfettered greed. Then, people whose wealth depended on slavery unleashed an angry horde of self-styled "patriots" to prevent Big Government from taking away their right to brutalize blacks.

Their modern-day counterparts are Wall Street robber barons who crash economies for fun and profit, and a military-industrial complex that embroils us in wars benefiting nobody but themselves. If greed were a virtue these guys would be saints, and to many Republicans they are.

The GOP has joined Ayn Rand's cult of selfishness and Paul Ryan's budget proposal is its mission statement: Take from the poor and give to the rich. Slashing vital social programs to fund tax cuts for people who don't need them is cold, even for Republicans. They're still peddling the "trickle-down" Bushonomics that gave us the recession.

As we hack away at education and other essential services, keep in mind the U.S. is as wealthy as ever — it's just in the hands of fewer people. Tired of getting trickled on? Support social justice and redistribution of wealth. Not only is it patriotic, it's the Christian thing to do. — Michael Steely, Medford

In her recent column, Kathleen Parker comes down hard on the Obama administration. She calls it "filthy politics" for Mr. Obama to criticize the Supreme Court, especially when he "broke decorum" and "scolded" the justices during his State of the Union Address.

Perhaps it would help temper her sense of outrage if she would remember two other recent presidents who criticized the court during their own State of the Union Addresses. Their names were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. — Robert Keim, Talent

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of working with a group of students from North Medford High School. Together with students from RCC's construction program, we built picnic tables for the local Girl Scouts to use at camp. I was impressed with how focused on their task the high school students were.

While intent on doing a good job, I think they also had fun. I know I did.

I want our community to know about such a positive event. Donations by local lumber yards and construction companies made it possible to bring together students from two programs for a worthwhile project. It felt great to leave a day of work tired, but with a smile on my face. — Jeanne Schraub, Rogue River

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