[Paleopsych] NYT: A Portrait of Class in America (7 Letters)

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A Portrait of Class in America (7 Letters)

    To the Editor:

    Re "Class in America: Shadowy Lines That Still Divide" ("Class
    Matters" series, front page, May 15):

    I would hope that the reaction of my fellow Times readers to your
    series about the growing, hardening social class divisions in America
    would be not a fatalistic acceptance but a revived commitment to the
    ideal of a classless society.

    If we are to remain a democracy, we must make a determined national
    effort to reach a consensus on what truly constitutes the good life.
    We must strive to assure that not just a few but all American citizens
    can participate in it.

    Wealth, luxuries and possessions for their own sakes should not be the
    chief desiderata so much as adequate food, clothing and shelter; good
    medical care; a good education; a healthy, pleasant environment; our
    cherished constitutional freedoms; spiritually and intellectually
    rewarding work (as opposed to the soul-killing drudgery that is now
    the lot of many rich as well as poor Americans); and the capacity to
    recognize, enjoy and augment the best things that our civilization has
    to offer.

    Philip Walker
    Santa Barbara, Calif., May 16, 2005

    To the Editor:

    On May 15, The New York Times shattered the American Dream.

    The rich are getting richer. But those streets paved with gold are
    turning out to be full of potholes. And the poor are being left
    behind. Why?

    Because our educational system is based on inequality of income.
    School districts for rich folks provide a better education than other
    school districts. And so, as you report, our kids' economic
    backgrounds are a better indicator of school performance in the United
    States than in Denmark, the Netherlands or France.

    The solution? Cut the military budget and put more money into our
    schools. The alternative is a third-world America.

    David E. Moore
    Rye, N.Y., May 17, 2005

    To the Editor:

    Class is not as important socially or culturally as it once was, and
    almost all levels of American society can lead a relatively decent
    quality of life. But there is one distinct difference between the
    upper and lower classes in this country.

    The upper classes have the savings and thus financial security to
    weather health crises, retirement and periods of unemployment or low

    As a fair society, we need to fully finance programs like Social
    Security and Medicare that help close this one lasting class division.

    Dylan Lushing
    Malibu, Calif., May 15, 2005

    To the Editor:

    You write about how upward mobility has declined since the 1970's. The
    article talks about the increased need for education and the inherited
    advantages and other factors without which it has become more
    difficult to move up the economic ladder.

    The article doesn't mention one of the biggest developments in that
    period. During the last 35 years, the "war on poverty," with its wide
    array of programs, was put into effect and expanded.

    Liberals claimed that the programs would help the poor. Opponents of
    the programs claimed that government assistance would stifle economic
    opportunity by creating a dependent underclass and burdening the
    middle class with heavy taxes.

    Based on your series, it appears that the conservatives were right.

    Frayda Levin
    Lodi, N.J., May 17, 2005

    To the Editor:

    "Life at the Top in America Isn't Just Better, It's Longer" ("Class
    Matters" series, front page, May 16) reveals the true inequities in
    our "top notch" health care system with the comparative experiences of
    a heart attack for three different social classes of citizens.

    We spend more per capita than any other country for our health
    services, get less in outcome than any other country, and still extol
    the virtues of our system. It is our own caste system, and this kind
    of gold standard no one should emulate.

    Our system is innovative in diagnosing and designing, but it is also
    costly, unfair and unstable. We can do better.

    Carole Ferguson
    Lexington, Mass., May 16, 2005
    The writer is a pediatric nurse practitioner.

    To the Editor:

    Contrary to the implication of "Life at the Top Isn't Just Better,
    It's Longer," it is not news that wealthier Americans get more and
    better health care than lower income people.

    They also drive safer cars, eat healthier food and live in safer and
    less polluted neighborhoods.

    What is newsworthy (and underreported), however, is that with
    risk-pooling and undifferentiated benefit packages, everyone pays very
    similar health insurance premiums yet only the better-off enjoy
    gold-plated care.

    You offer some helpful explanations why lower income patients get less
    out of their health coverage. Another is that out-of-pocket
    co-payments deter the poor, not the rich, from using their jointly
    bought insurance to the fullest.

    Though it might be debatable whether inequality in the distribution of
    health care is unjust, a system that forces the maid and the utility
    worker to subsidize the architect's health care unquestionably is.

    Barak Richman
    Durham, N.C., May 18, 2005

    To the Editor:

    As a cardiologist practicing in Canada since 1985, I read with
    interest your May 16 front-page article about the variability in the
    treatment of heart attacks in the United States depending on the
    patient's social status.

    The Canadian health care system may not be perfect. But any patient,
    regardless of social status, wealth or ability to pay, will have an
    angioplasty if required during a heart attack if he consults a doctor
    in a major city where that service is available.

    The only criterion on which a treatment decision is made is based on
    the severity of the disease, not the size of the wallet.

    Patients of lower socioeconomic status, in Canada as in the United
    States, may have a shorter life expectancy because of their lifestyle,
    but not because of any difference in treatment during an acute

    I am proud of our health care system.

    Michel Jarry, M.D.
    Montreal, May 16, 2005

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