Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of December 6, 2010

Readers write in about Washington and the housing crisis, taxes vs. philanthropy, charity management, and (white) wealth and power in America.

Inflated housing prices

Patrick Killelea's Nov. 22 commentary that "Washington is making the housing crisis even worse" is absolutely correct. Although the average house has increased in area and in other characteristics over the last six decades, the census states that "median home values adjusted for inflation nearly quadrupled over the 60-year period since the first housing census in 1940." This demonstrates clearly Mr. Killelea's position on housing price inflation.

Unfortunately, it seems politicians will continue to cater to the fools who have bid up housing prices over the years.

Katherine Harine

Kingman, Ariz.

Taxes and giving

In your thoughtful Nov. 22 editorial, "The wealth of givers," you say the lame-duck Congress may "eliminate the temporary tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000." However, even if Congress lets the temporary tax cuts that apply to incomes over $250,000 expire, as I hope it does, those families will continue to get a tax break on their first $250,000.

To be fully accurate, no one's tax cuts will be entirely eliminated. Portions of their income will receive tax breaks. And it's also worth keeping in mind that the tax rates apply to taxable income after deductions and adjustments.

Alan Willis

Portland, Ore.

How to really vet a charity

Regarding "How to check out a charity" (Nov. 22): As a fundraiser working at an international nonprofit organization, I support the idea of encouraging people to give generously during the holiday season. However, my experience has also led me to understand that charity watchdogs such as Charity Navigator are not as reliable as many believe.

On paper, the idea of Charity Navigator sounds great – providing charities with a rating based upon financial information. But Charity Navigator overlooks the one thing that all donors are interested in – how effective the organization is in actually meeting its mission. There is also an unending number of variables that can skew the rating.

The best way to decide who should receive your donations is to contact the charity and ask them to provide you with specific, measurable information about their accomplishments.

Ruth Morse

Newton, Mass.

Wealth and power in America

The photo on the Nov. 15 cover featured the postelection political power change – presumptive Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans. The photos on the Nov. 22 cover featured wealthy American philanthropists. The photos of political power and wealth in America illustrated one common fact: They're almost all white.

Philip M. Smith

Bryan, Texas

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