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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.

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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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