Poverty in America

The six articles on poverty [March 29-April 5] were an excellent review, but they did not get at two basic components: unequal pay and high living costs. A dishwasher in a restaurant performs a service just as a manager of a factory performs a service, yet one may earn $3 an hour while the other may earn $300,000 a year, 50 times as much. If the difference were only three times as much, the dishwasher might earn $18,000 a year, and the manager $54,000.

High living costs are caused, to a significant degree, by taxes on real estate. Taxes should be collected on income and spending, not on necessities such as shelter.

Most government efforts at relieving poverty are aimed at giving food stamps, medicaid, subsidized housing, or welfare payments. These efforts do little to encourage a living wage or tax-free housing. The causes of poverty remain. Some European countries, through laws or union agreement, do manage to keep pay differentials at a minimum and see to it that housing costs are reasonable. They do not have as many millionaires as we do, but they do not have as much poverty, in a land of plenty, as we do. Warren Himmelberger Wellesley Hills, Mass.

I was especially interested in the recent articles on poverty because I know what it was like in my youth. I remember sitting on my dad's lap eating bread soaked in coffee. We were receiving $8 per month from the county. If I remember correctly, the only time in my life I ever told a lie was when I asked the manager of a sawmill for a job. I told him I was 16, but I was 15. When one is 16 he does not need a permit to work anymore. I got the job. Charles Herz Shelton, Wash.

I never before realized how poverty-stricken I am because I hang out my wash. The March 29 edition pictured a woman hanging out her wash, and described it as a ``weekly chore'' of a woman living in poverty. I hang out my wash maybe five times a week, and often two or three loads a day. You may have pictured some of the best of that woman's day -- she has a wash to hang out and a sunny place to hang it. Marjorie R. Morenus Long Beach, Calif.

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