The Twists in the Long Debt Drama

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  • What ‘Succession’ Tells Us About America
  • A.I., in Perspective

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Agreement Is Reached to Increase Debt Limit, With Cuts in Spending” (front page, May 28):

The Republicans have done it again. They’re putting the onus on the needy, the poor, but give the wealthy a free ride. Many of the needy will have to work in order to receive benefits.

Additional funding for the I.R.S. to crack down on tax cheats has been reduced. That, in effect, means it’s less likely the very wealthy will be audited. Beyond that, there will be no income tax increases, which further helps the wealthy.

So rather than pursuing the wealthy to pay their fair share, the G.O.P. is cutting costs on the backs of those who can least afford it.

Heartless people, those Republicans.

Marshall Cossman
Grand Blanc, Mich.

To the Editor:

Regarding the framework agreement negotiated between President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the fact that both the hard-right Freedom Caucus of the G.O.P. and the progressives on the left are howling in outrage means that it must be a reasonable and possibly good deal for all the rest of us, the American middle.

Robert S. Carroll
Staten Island

To the Editor:

Once again, we have been subjected to last-minute brinkmanship in the debt limit drama series that never seems to end. The outcome is still uncertain, subject to passage by Congress, and even then, would extend the limit only to just past the next presidential election.

Everyone is sick and tired of this political gamesmanship, which realistically achieves nothing. Many have argued for the elimination of the debt limit. However, neither party has the political wherewithal to make this happen.

Perhaps a middle-of-the-road approach may be doable. Why not place a cap on the amount of the debt limit increase? It could be a set percentage, or tied to the inflation rate. Anything above that would require congressional approval and would have to be considered at the time of approving the budget.

Maybe this would help reduce the drama and tension around this issue.

Subir Mukerjee
Olympia, Wash.

To the Editor:

Re “Biden Seeks to Woo Allies on Debt Deal,” by Peter Baker (news analysis, front page, May 29):

President Biden was faced with a hostage negotiation. All the hostages were freed and he paid only a small portion of the ransom demand. To me that’s victory.

Isaiah Roter
Berkeley, Calif.

To the Editor:

Peter Baker writes that the debt deal “bolsters President Biden’s argument that he is the one figure who can still do bipartisanship in a profoundly partisan era,” adding, “But it comes at the cost of rankling many in his own party.”

I think it is called running for re-election … or anything for a vote.

Cathleen Meehan
Newtown, Conn.

To the Editor:

While I know we’re supposed to cheer bipartisanship, bipartisan disregard for the poor is, once again, highlighted by a debt deal that piles new burdens upon society’s least fortunate.

Brendan Williams
Somersworth, N.H.

To the Editor:

President Biden’s compromise with Speaker Kevin McCarthy would leave the world economy a potential hostage to MAGA extortionists in Congress when the clock again runs out on the debt ceiling in 2025.

For that reason, regardless of this year’s legislative outcome, Democrats should immediately begin efforts to adjudicate the 14th Amendment’s relevance, to offer the Federal Reserve a trillion-dollar platinum coin and to push the issuance of perpetual bonds.

Donald Mender
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

What ‘Succession’ Tells Us About America

Tom Wambsgans, played by Matthew Macfadyen, on “Succession.”Credit…Illustration by Sam Whitney/The New York Times; images by Macall B. Polay/HBO and David M. Russell/HBO

To the Editor:

Re “How ‘Succession’ Busts One of America’s Most Cherished Myths,” by Elizabeth Spiers (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, May 20):

Capturing the nuances of the “American dream” and the realities of American life, Ms. Spiers deftly addresses the myths and practices that drive status in this country and enable economic inequality and exploitation.

Whether striving, achieving or sustaining, the class structures and the beliefs in which they are embedded throughout American culture are replicated in every town and city as well as in the bloated billionaire class.

As a retired anthropologist, I find her analysis not only insightful but also speaking truth to power. Using the characters in a popular series she has described class in America, and the beliefs that drive social behavior and account for divisive outcomes at many levels of American society.

Beverly J. Stoeltje
Bloomington, Ind.
The writer is professor emerita of anthropology at Indiana University.

To the Editor:

I’m sorry that Elizabeth Spiers has such a cynical view of Americans, who, she says, love “money and power” and “on some level we think having them is an indication that you deserve them.”

How can she generalize about an entire population? Some Americans surely fall into this category, but just as surely many others, perhaps a majority, do not. And it’s a bit arrogant of Ms. Spiers to evidently believe she is among the enlightened few who can see Americans for who they really are.

Peter Samson
Orange, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “‘Succession’ Series Finale Recap: The Dotted Line” (nytimes.com, May 28):

Noel Murray’s piece on the finale of HBO’s “Succession” ends by noting the poignancy of the scene in which the four siblings watch a home video of a small dinner party hosted by their father shortly before his death. Mr. Murray wrote that at the dinner “Karl sings a Scottish folk song.”

In fact, it is the song “Green Grow the Rashes O,” written by Robert Burns in 1783, and, of the two verses that are sung, one could serve as the epigraph for the entire show:

The warl’y race may riches chase,
An’ riches still may fly them, O
An’ tho’ at last they catch them fast,
Their hearts can ne’er enjoy them, O.

Lewis Bremner
Cambridge, England

To the Editor:

Re “‘Succession’ Nailed the Unreal Way We Live Now,” “Succession’ Is Over. Why Did We Care?” and others:

Why on earth is the conclusion of “Succession” worthy of so many articles in The Times? For God’s sake.

Lawrence Ginsberg

A.I., in Perspective

Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, said governments should designate certain A.I. systems used in critical infrastructure as “high risk.”Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Microsoft Calls for Rules to Minimize Risks of A.I.” (Business, May 26):

It is important for nontechnical A.I. users to remember that this is a software program. It is not received wisdom from the Almighty.

Any software program has bugs and built-in biases. These programs are very good at surveying what has been done in the past and showing it in the present. They can assemble it in ways suggested by their prompts, but they are not creative beings.

A.I. results must always be reviewed by the user for suitability and relevance. They are not very good at catching their own mistakes. Because they are software-based, they can and will be hacked.

Bruce Higgins
San Diego

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