Your June 30 article "The unsolved mystery of the gilded economy" pointed out that despite our blazing economy, the number of full-time workers with incomes below the poverty level has risen to 3 million, up from 1.5 million since 1970. The growing inequality of incomes in our country is a recipe for social unrest.
The article cited several reasons for the disparity in incomes. Globalization puts US factory workers in competition with lower- paid foreign workers; union membership has declined; and the minimum wage has fallen relative to inflation. But one big reason was overlooked - immigration, both legal and illegal.
The largest proportion of immigrant workers is unskilled, and they compete directly for our low-skilled jobs. And despite the fact that the number of these jobs is increasing, this competition serves to depress the wages of those workers.
Alan Greenspan has pointed out that immigration helps to control inflation by maintaining downward pressure on wages. This is good for the economy, but is it good for our society? Should we force a portion of our people into poverty for the sake of the economy?
By admitting fewer low-skilled workers into the country, we can allow our own poor to improve their lot, and also make it easier for welfare recipients to become self-supporting.
John H. Blake Hollister, Calif.
It was really good to see your July 12 article, "Spread of AIDS raises moral issue for US." I just spent six weeks in South Africa speaking with people from all different backgrounds about the issues facing their country today, and AIDS was on everyone's agenda. While most people were critical of President Thabo Mbeki's stand on AIDS, they did raise his same concern that American/Western pharmaceutical companies' enormous profit margins were making the drugs very scarce.
The article did an excellent job of highlighting the gravity of AIDS, and revealing the the conflict between the free-market forces of globalization and the humanitarian needs facing our world.
Thank you for your consistently excellent reporting that thoroughly and clearly explains the major issues facing our country and world today.
Christa Case Duluth, Minn.
Lifelong friends from a Monitor link
Regarding your June 28 Homefront cover "A focus on friendships": I have been reading this paper since 1930. In those days there was a column on the Home Forum page called "The Mail Bag." People wrote letters describing their interests and asking for pen pals. At one time I was corresponding with 30 people around the world. Among them was a girl in South Africa. She and I have been friends all these years. When we first wrote, it took three months to receive a letter. When mail finally came by air it only took two weeks.
In the '70s, I finally went to South Africa. What a royal welcome I received. The Johannesburg newspaper heard of my arrival, and that we had been pen pals for 40 years, so the story, together with a picture of our meeting, went all over the country.
She lived in a rural area most of the time, so telephoning was difficult until recent years. Then came computers, and e-mail. Imagine how wonderful it is to be able to communicate this way. We are still close friends, sending pictures of our great-grandchildren via email. We are both grateful to the Monitor for having made our friendship possible. We have wanted to tell you so, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Elizabeth K. Govan Estes Park, Colo.
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