David Francis would have us believe that, due to "America's woefully unequal distribution of income," the poor in Norway are better off than they are in the US ("It's better to be poor in Norway than in the US," April 14 column). More important, Mr. Francis must think that the poor are in a static state of remaining poor forever.
President Lincoln showed great understanding of how our system works by saying, "When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor for his whole life."
This is why it is imperative for a country to follow policies that encourage economic growth, entrepreneurship, and job creation. A job is the start on the road out of poverty, and the capitalist system has lifted more people out of poverty than all the welfare programs in history.
Clearly, we need an adequate safety net, but only a growing economy with optimum tax rates on labor and capital can generate enough tax revenue to pay for it over the long term.
Thomas P. Kemp
Laguna Beach, Calif.
I find the comment that "we choose to let the market determine most everything" as an explanation for the wide distribution in incomes in the United States disingenuous at best. The market is biased toward those on the higher end of the socioeconomic ladder, in terms of opportunities and returns, and the tax system reinforces this bias.
In the past year, I have been collecting articles that benchmark the United States against other developed countries. Our country ranks poorly in a wide variety of areas from literacy and math and science education, to healthcare, to the quality of life for retirees. The US, however, leads all these countries in having the lowest tax burden. The obsessive concern of both US government officials and taxpayers with tax reduction is therefore somewhat baffling.
Maybe it's time to consider the purpose of our social and economic institutions, such as the "market," and their role in the quality of life of all US citizens.
Barbara O. Hall
In your article regarding the standard of living for America's poor versus the rest of the world, you made the following statement: "The reason? America's woefully unequal distribution of income." One problem: income isn't distributed; it is earned.
Regarding the April 18 article "When you can't understand the teacher": As a student at a prestigious California university quite some years ago, I enrolled in a symbolic logic class and found myself in need of help. Upon learning that the teaching assistant spoke only Japanese, I dropped the class.
I find it unconscionable that academic institutions are willing to subject their students to faculty who cannot communicate effectively, and yet charge higher and higher tuitions every year. If I were a parent or a student today, I'd demand my money's worth.
Even on the phone trying to get help from AOL technicians, you find yourself hooked up to some person in India, trying their best to speak English that is understandable. With some it is impossible, resulting in tempers flying. No one wants to listen to an hour of foreign garble long distance, which still doesn't fix the problem you called about, because you cannot understand them. When using English as a primary voice, hire someone who speaks it fluently and clearly. That goes especially for teaching faculty.
John E. Ross
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