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Letters: Hopeful, hopelessness, pension funds

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Man, singing: I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter…

Kai Ryssdal:Our Weekly Wrap last Friday afternoon left a lot of you down in the dumps. We had a pair of our regulars on, Heidi Moore and John Carney. Me too, of course. And I guess what really bugged a lot of you was my fault. I quoted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who said this fall’s election is going to turn on the question of whether people think we’re better off now than we were in 2008.

John and Heidi thought not — that in fact, a lot of Americans are feeling hopeless. That’s what got to people, including Princeton, N.J.’s Trey Gillette.

Trey Gillette: In 2008, not only were we scared of losing our jobs, but the entire economy was falling apart around us. We might not like Wall Street and the banks, and while unemployment is still too high, the recovery of these sectors gives us hope.

Ever the multi-media journalist Heidi’s been continuing that conversation with listeners on our website.

Speaking of hope, there’s a lot of it on Wall Street nowadays. Multi-billion dollar mergers and acquisitions, and the, yes, hope that they mean better times ahead.

Sandi Campbell of Siler City, N.C. says nuh-uh.

Sandi Campbell: When will the talking heads quit touting all the merger and acquisition activity as actually benefiting the economy, when it clearly only benefits a select few? The Wall Street investment banks, the shareholders, and that’s about it.

We talk about budget deficits and trade gaps on this broadcast all the time, but our story last week on a trillion dollar gap in pension funds left many of you fuming. Local, state and federal governments are grappling with how to pay out on what’re called defined benefit plans, even though tax revenues are down and the economy is too.

Ellen Knopf from Greenwich Village, New York City doesn’t see a problem, provided people are smart.

Ellen Knopf: There is no problem with defined benefit plans unless the state or employer puts pension money in risky investments or in the stock market. A prudent investor may still make a profit.

On the topic of profits, China’s making a ton of ’em on rare earth metals. Beijing’s pretty much cornered the market on minerals that’re used in everything from smartphones to electric car batteries.

Kyle Robinson from Queen Creek, Ariz. offers this suggestion.

Kyle Robinson: So, if our batteries, magnets, motors, etc. have so many rare earth elements, is it feasible to mine these elements from our waste? It would be nice to have other options than begging China for rare earths, or sending all of our high-tech manufacturing to China.

Send your letters our way, please. Compliments or complaints.

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