Why the US needs a 'rich kids tax'

Regarding "Consternation over estate-tax elimination" (July 3): Whoever came up with the name "death tax" for the estate tax should be congratulated for their skills in propaganda, but not for their accuracy. It's not the deceased who is being taxed, but his or her heirs. And in most cases, that is the children of the deceased. So what we have here is a "rich kids tax," and I, for one, believe rich kids should pay their fair share of taxes, especially on money they haven't earned.

Common sense and observation - and probably some very expensive studies - tell us that two of the things most detrimental to the mental, physical, and spiritual development and health of children are extreme poverty and extreme wealth. Funds generated by the rich kids tax and other necessary taxes have and should continue to help kids at both ends of the spectrum grow into healthy, responsible, and fair-minded citizens. All who care about kids and the families and communities they grow up in should let their Senators and congresspersons know what they think about eliminating the rich kids tax.

Eliza M. Carney Fort Collins, Colo.

Latin American stereotypes harmful

The recent opinion piece by Lawrence Harrison ("Fox's borderline hope" July 14) shows that the tradition of shoddy social science at the service of racial stereotyping lives on at Harvard. I say this not out of knee-jerk political correctness, but because the arguments Mr. Harrison makes simply don't hold up under serious sociological analysis. No doubt there are cultural roots to many of Latin America's social problems, yet the attribution of phenomena as diverse as school dropout rates, percentages of self-employed Hispanics in a single state, and generalized "social injustice" to the amorphous, ahistorical category of "culture" is quite a stretch.

Cultural factors certainly contribute to social problems in Latin America - but the culture of Latin America is not the only culprit. What about the historical, structural causes of injustice? In the 20th century, most democratic moments of any promise in Latin America have been routinely truncated in no small measure by US intervention. What about the ethnocentrism, paternalism, and violence of the cultures such as the "traditional American culture" which the author fears immigration may undermine?

Harrison worries about the fact that Hispanic immigrants are arriving in such numbers that they aren't likely to be "acculturated" (i.e. shed their second-rate culture for the more achievement-oriented "traditional American" culture). Does he think that by citing Latino authors, he makes his point any less offensive?

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy Oakland, Calif.

Lessening dependence on food stamps

Your July 14 article "Americans turn away from food stamps" states: "The booming economy is generating jobs that are pulling many families out of poverty. The not-so-good news: Many working families still eligible for the benefit no longer apply for it."

Why is it "not-so-good news" to know that families, whether eligible or not, no longer need food stamps? We should be pleased to know that private charities are helping those most in need at the community level - and that food stamp assistance is perhaps becoming more of the "safety net" envisioned under its original design.

Though many people face difficulties and challenges that need to be recognized, we should instead be encouraged by increased self-sufficiency, independence, and reduced need on programs, rather than dismayed. The "not-so-good news" is that 18.2 million Americans still continue to need them.

Jason Racki Washington

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Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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