Letters to the Editor – Weekly Issue of December 13, 2010

Readers write in about charity, wealth, taxes, and the housing crisis.

Coercive taxation vs. charity

The Nov. 22 editorial, "The wealth of givers," would do better to recognize the gulf between the essential foundations of charitable giving and taxation. Charitable giving is a fundamentally peaceful process that recognizes people's inherent desire to help others.

If we are unable to convince someone to give at this juncture or to give in the way we think he should, then we must live and let live in peace. On the other hand, taxation relies on the threat of incarceration and assumes that free people cannot be completely trusted to assist others in need.

Let us minimize taxation and instead express our natural desire to help others through charitable giving.

Robert Rein III

Redmond, Wash.

Charity transparency

Regarding the Nov. 22 chart of "The 50 largest US charities ranked by total income": Thank you for listing the percentage of total expenses spent on programs.

I was amazed to learn that one of my favorite charities – that my family and I have been contributing to for years – had one of the lowest percentages of funds spent on programs. This group spent over $130 million on fundraising alone last year.

Your publishing such data is very helpful to the public as a guide to contributors, but should also have a positive impact on charity management.

J. Walter Smith

Venice, Fla.

Give to public education

In response to the Nov. 22 cover story, "The Billionaires' Club": If these billionaires are intent on doing something constructive for future generations, their most beneficial action – by far – would be to immediately begin donating their billions to public education, as Bill and Melinda Gates have already done.

Courtland Peter Geib, Sr.

Ironwood, Mich.

Housing crisis: never again

Patrick Killelea's Opinion article "Washington is making the housing crisis even worse" (Nov. 22) was stimulating commentary, and prompted a little research on my part.

The United States' current residential housing inventory is valued at $17.1 trillion.

Almost 1 in 5 of the 75 million owner-occupied homes is now "underwater" in loan-to-value terms. And many are deep underwater. Roughly 4 million owe over 50 percent more than their homes are currently worth.

That debt is certainly a contractual financial obligation, and the way to resolve it is still unclear.

What is clear, though, is that we must find a way to ensure – perhaps along the lines of the author's ideas – that this sad scenario is never repeated.

David K. McClurkin

Beachwood, Ohio

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