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A skewed view of economic disparity

December 07, 2006

Re "Rebuilding the middle class," Current, Dec. 3

Joel Kotkin and David Friedman want to use the shameful decline in government spending on infrastructure as a Trojan horse to advocate public subsidies to put even more of our roads, ports and airports into private hands.

They assign blame for the growing inequalities in major cities such as Los Angeles and New York to the local liberal elites, although those elites have little control over regressive fiscal policies and declining support for New Deal and Great Society programs. For more than 20 years, conservative elites have done their best to dismantle the legacy of those programs, and now their chickens are coming home to roost in the form of a crumbling infrastructure and inequality that is out of control. To solve these problems by giving more money to these same elites is not only wrong but mind-numbingly foolish as well.

CHARLES AXILBUND

Los Angeles

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While improving the ratio between middle and upper incomes is desirable, it is a bad idea to define the problem using tortured comparisons. Kotkin and Friedman justify the need for a change by contrasting the brief five-year period of 1999 to 2004 that encompasses one recession (a time when income disparity is at its greatest) to the prolonged 30-year period (1930s to 1960s) that began after we had left a depression, included several business cycles, and resulted in an unusually long period of prosperity.

They also mislead by comparing the 3% infrastructure investment rate of emerging economies to the 2.5% investment rate of a highly developed economy. Their conclusions become suspect when their statistics are manipulated.

ROGER A. FORSYTH

Los Angeles

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