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Economic lessons

March 17, 2009

Re "The good old days were pretty good," Postcards from the recession, Opinion,

March 11

Even though he has a white-collar job, a master's degree and a single lifestyle, Gustavo Arellano says his parents are better positioned to withstand this recession than he is.

What drivel. Contrary to his arguments, housing was not easier to buy in the 1980s, and a mortgage (which Arellano despises) is a 30-year commitment that starts out hugely expensive for all first-time buyers. His parents' mortgage is now affordable because they've been paying it off for a couple of decades -- without home-equity lines of credit, I imagine.

Arellano could and should be in a better financial position than his parents, but evidently the possibility of forgoing his current lifestyle is unthinkable. He should compare his lifestyle with that of his parents to understand why he can't afford a down payment.

Arellano says he has few tools to cope with economic despair. Maybe his parents should have worked a little harder to give him a house in addition to his college education and white-collar job.

John Vasi

Santa Barbara

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Arellano is not alone. What he describes is the plight of young people in expensive areas of the U.S. who cannot buy homes or start families because of the high cost of housing and the stagnant pay of most jobs.

However, in many regions it is possible for young people to live what used to be called the American dream. That is why so many young, educated people are leaving California for Texas and other Sun Belt states. It is simply a myth that "working class" jobs such as teacher or police officer are low-paid. In almost every part of the U.S., those jobs pay adequately to support a middle-class lifestyle.

Mike Burns

Bakersfield

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Re "There's trouble, even in paradise," Postcards from the recession, Opinion, March 12

Lisa See attempted to soothe an acquaintance's anxiety about the looming depression by reminding her friend that the situation will improve. Her acquaintance retorted: "But it took 70 years! I'll be dead then."

For those who have minimal historical perspective, it's known that by the 1950s -- just 20 years after the Depression -- the economy was booming. The '70s were slow, but the 1980s were tolerably prosperous, especially for the rich. The 1990s gave us the dot-com technology boom.

See's acquaintance's historical ignorance reflects our society's failure to educate people well. This same ignorance permitted people to believe that real estate prices could spiral upward forever and that the voodoo economics of cutting taxes for the rich would assure that prosperity trickled down for all.

Ignorance is not bliss: It is dangerous.

Arch Miller

Arcadia

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