The National Catholic Review
The Housing Challenge

Your editorial Low-Income Housing Crisis (11/10), uncritically accepts the conclusions of a housing advocacy group, responding to a supposed crisis, that are based entirely on arbitrary standards. They state that minimum acceptable housing is a modest two-bedroom unit, and for that people should pay no more than 30 percent of their income. The authors say these standards require an income of $15.21 per hour. That would amount to more than $31,600 per year, not including benefits, even for entry-level workers.

While decent housing should be available at affordable prices, these are totally unrealistic standards. Why do you support them? Had I written such an article for my high school Jesuit teachers, they would have put my youthful idealism into realistic perspective. What would Jesus do? Surely he would help the truly needy. But might he not ask, for example, what is wrong with a one-bedroom apartment for a single occupant? Or for two or more roommates to share housing? Or for unmarried young adults to remain with their parents a while longer? What about living in a boarding house? (It would be useful for America to explore why boarding houses are virtually extinct, despite the apparent need.) Jesus might also ask married couples, what is wrong with both partners working and halving the housing percentage bite? Jesus might go further and ask whether high minimum wages help some people but result in fewer employed, and whether rent control laws help the needy or the savvy, while such laws play havoc with housing markets.

As a faithful subscriber for over 40 continuous years, I have become increasingly distressed over your leftward drift. While the church and faithful expect you to be an advocate for the poor, you have moved into the Looney Left, rarely tempering social concerns with those of individual responsibility. I just cannot bear any more of this addlepated thinking, so please cancel my subscription.

Larry Dacunto
Tacoma, Wash.

I commend you for your superb editorial Low-Income Housing Crisis (11/10), decrying the continuing lack of an adequate affordable housing supply in this opulent nation. While this problem has been entrenched in our economic order for decades, the recent downturn in business activity and staggering rates of job loss have exacerbated what was, for too many citizens, an already desperate situation.

We are told that the overall economy may be finally revving up again, but thus far this has been pretty much a jobless recovery. And in many parts of the country, like Washington State, unemployment remains persistently and distressingly high.

As you state correctly, the federal minimum wage has remained at $5.15 an hour for the last six years, which effectively bumps legions of the hardscrabble working poor from ever finding affordable accommodations. Thus a whole new wave of displaced, underemployed, poorly paid workers, as well as newly jobless citizens, some with whole families in tow, have now landed in the ever-swelling ranks of the disenfranchised.

How this spiraling calamity is ever going to get turned around while our elected leaders are willing to squander billions of dollars every month on the escalating quagmire in Iraq is beyond me. The folks who have given us three tax cuts and two wars within the last three years will never deal with this or any other instance of gross domestic injustice. A regime change in Washington is most definitely in order. Are the political will and collective concern sufficiently widespread to spark such a necessary shift?

Joe Martin
Seattle, Wash.

Boston Geography

Your cover headline Sin and Suffering in South Boston (11/17), mistakes Charlestown for Southie. A map of Boston should have been consulted before giving such a headline to the review by Richard A. Blake, S.J., of Mystic River. South Boston is no more Charlestown than Brooklyn is the Bronx. Still, Father Blake’s review is right on. Just check the geography next time.

John Lavin
Annapolis, Md.

Growing up in Salem on the North Shore of Boston, we traveled the Mystic River Bridge. Your reviewer, Richard Blake, S.J., never mentions South Boston as the location of Mystic River. So who’s the culprit who got it in over the photo on the cover and later as a caption to one of the photos? Any Bostonian knows that we’re talking about Charlestown.

(Rev.) Paul Berube
Newburyport, Mass.

The Future in Iraq

In practical terms, may I ask what use it is to ask this administration to manage the future based on lessons learned from the past (Staying the Course in Iraq, (11/17)? Was not one of the objectives of the first Iraq war in 1991 the emancipation of the American people from the legacy/mistakes of Vietnam?

The neocons even disregarded the basic old Texan lessons of gunfighting: T.Y.T. (take your time). Every democracy and gunslinger has its time. When Western powers try to beat their time, the result is predictable.

In offering shaky advice about managing the future, you should remember the undemocratic mob that stoned that Middle Eastern woman of the night. Perhaps George W. Bush might better heed a great success of the past. May the nation without sin cast the first stone.

Charles Orloski
Taylor, Pa.

The New England Province of the Society of Jesus was responsible for the mission to Baghdad, Iraq, for many years. It ran a high school and Baghdad College, staffed by Jesuit priests and scholastics. The Baghdadis, as they were called, are probably the best-informed group of Americans available, not only as Arab-speaking people, but as professionals who are close to the Iraqis and respected by all. Some of them might be interested in helping now, if the United States is to stay the course in Iraq.

Paul Kelly
Scarborough, Me.

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