Most civilized Western countries have decided that all of their citizens deserve a good education, medical care, a working system of affordable preschool nurseries and adequate pensions in their declining years. They do not consider such things luxuries -- as do Republicans and Newsday, apparently ["Compromise to avoid 'cliff,' " Editorial, Nov. 30].

We should rethink our position if we want to build a better, more humane nation. There are plenty of places to cut spending, beginning with our wars and the military budget, which hands out millions to politically connected companies.

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Get out of Afghanistan, reduce our over-the-top aid to Israel, and stop paying for prisons that incarcerate offenders who are not a danger to society.

Taking money from Medicare and Medicaid to get Republicans to accept fairly taxing the rich would put us on the path to becoming not only cruel, but irrelevant.

Silvia Tennenbaum, East Hampton