Letters to the editor
A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.
A weak foundation for supporting the American Dream
Editor, The Times:
"Don't blame growth management for higher housing prices" [Times, guest commentary, Jan. 5] could not be more wrong. Growth management is why housing affordability has been destroyed in Seattle.
Rationing raises prices, whether of gasoline or land for residential development. Seattle-like hyper-inflation in housing can only be found in urban areas that have shortages of land for development, principally the result of "smart growth" policies.
From Sydney to Portland, Auckland, London and Seattle, the story is the same. Housing affordability is incompatible with growth management as it is being practiced. Where liberal land regulations exist, housing remains affordable.
For example, Dallas-Fort Worth is growing more quickly than Seattle and the median house price is approximately $150,000. If the entire nation were to see prices rise to Seattle levels, homeownership rates would descend to 20 percent, from the present nearly 70 percent.
This is not just an economic problem, but a social one as well. The evidence has become so overwhelming that even the British, the originators of "sky is falling" urban planning, are officially questioning it.
It is not the "law of demand" that determines prices; it is the "law of supply and demand."
— Wendell Cox, co-author, Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, O'Fallon, Ill.
Here's $97 — go crazy
I'm happy to see Washington is aggressively enforcing laws designed to protect borrowers from predatory lenders. "2 'payday' lenders fined for violations of state lending limits" [Local News, Jan. 5] reports that the state is returning "at least $39,000" to the victims. That works out to 3 percent. How gracious.
The state fined the [jerks] who run Advance Til Payday and Zippy Cash for more than 400 violations of state lending law. That means the state is collecting about $3,000 per violation. Of that, $425 or so will go to cover investigative cost and $97 or so will be returned to victims. That means the state will keep nearly $2,500 per violation, or 354 percent of the $700 loan limit.
Enforcing loan-sharking laws seems to be a lucrative enterprise for the state. I only hope it uses some of this new revenue to fund financial education for residents who may fall victim to the predatory lenders.
Of course, that would probably reduce the amount of short-term loans in the state, and thus the number of violations the state can prosecute. And why would it want to do that when it has such a good racket going with enforcement?
— Ken Beahm, Woodinville
You're nothing if not poor
In "Washington raises minimum wage, Idaho border towns feel squeeze" [Local News, Jan. 2], about Idaho's $5.15 minimum wage, you stated, "some [Idaho] lawmakers feared [raising the minimum wage] would lead to higher prices, increase unemployment rates and reduce incentives for low-paid workers to improve themselves."
Only the GOP would be witless enough to claim that raising abysmally low minimum wages would convince people not to "improve."
This is a perfect example of why the American people threw out the GOP last November.
— Jay Kridner, Seattle
The boss shows his appreciation
I read with utter disgust that the CEO of Home Depot, Robert Nardelli, was "leaving" after only six years with the company, with a severance package of $210 million ["Home Depot CEO turns in apron," Business & Technology, Jan. 4].
I have been an investor and customer of the home-improvement company for more than five years. Nardelli set a new standard for personal greed. Most importantly, he showed great disrespect for the 355,000 hard-working and loyal employees of the company.
My hope is the Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS investigate every aspect of the Home Depot's stock-option "backdating" practices and prior disclosures regarding Nardelli's severance-pay arrangements. For perspective, during the past six years, the value of Lowe's stock is up by 189 percent, the Dow index is up by 17 percent and Home Depot is down by 11 percent.
Two-hundred million dollars divided by 355,000 employees equals $592 per employee.
— James Eldredge, Redmond
The Trojan workhorse
I lived in Chelan many years ago, and it has a special place in my heart, but I know that the entire character of the town will change if Wal-Mart is allowed to open ["Chelan Wal-Mart built, but will it ever open?" page one, Jan. 5]. It will most surely mean an end to the downtown and most of the small businesses there.
Jobs are scarce in Chelan, especially during the winter. But I hope the thoughtful residents of Chelan realize what Wal-Mart brings to the table. Wal-Mart brings low-paying retail jobs and really, aside from their specials, not-so-low prices.
For years, companies like Wal-Mart have been adding to the American trade deficit. Our raw goods and resources are shipped to countries like China, where goods are manufactured with cheap labor, then shipped back to us. This has taken higher-paying manufacturing jobs away from Americans. Wal-Mart has even sided with China in a lawsuit brought by American workers and unions.
I would say that Wal-Mart is a very un-American business. The low-paid employees of Wal-Mart give more to charity and community than their billionaire owners do.
Please, Chelan, do not destroy your special town — close Wal-Mart down!
— Marleen Dutra, Storrs, Conn.
There's no place like home
Happy New Year. After studying [a recent] annual Northwest stock review in the business section, I came to the conclusion, there's money to be made, right here in the Emerald City.
If on New Year's Eve day in 2001 you went to Starbucks for coffee, ordered a book from Amazon online while sipping your mocha, then went to Cascade Bank for some holiday money, stopped off at Nordstrom for a dress or a sport coat (depending on your sex), and then ordered a Redhook ale that night at dinner — after you did all that, you then bought only 100 shares of each company's stock the following day — 500 shares worth close to $4,000 — you would have today, after only five years, $16,000. That's a nice return of over 300 percent.
[Management maven] Peter Drucker used to say, invest in companies whose products or services you use. Well, thanks, Seattle Times, for making me a true believer, of that theory and in Seattle companies.
— Bill Hemmenway, Issaquah