…And the Poor Get Poorer

Re Saket Soni’s “Low-Wage Nation” [Jan. 20]: yes, wages have been and are falling or flat. Yes, US workers are, to some degree, “contingent,” as are (legal and illegal) immigrant workers. I could add that a high unemployment rate is the “new normal.”

And these phenomena are caused by not passing an immigration bill? There are laudable reasons for passing that bill, but helping US wage earners is not one of them. Unless, that is, you can repeal the law of supply and demand. Soni is, in effect, advocating the opposite of his well-intentioned cause. An excess of low-skilled labor is not the only cause of US wage earners’ (and no-wage earners’) distress, but it may top the list of economic and social variables.

Jerry Bronk
san francisco

The Viagra Effect

Believe it or not, there was a time, not that long ago, when employers had to offer employees top-notch healthcare or they didn’t get top-notch employees [Katha Pollitt, “Goodbye, 2013,” Jan. 20]. There was also a time when birth control wasn’t even an option—most insurance companies wouldn’t cover it, and if they did, premiums were exorbitant. When did birth control coverage begin? When Viagra came out and was immediately covered. As an employer, I say you do not have, nor should you, the right to dictate anything to your employees.

The biggest mistake was having employers control healthcare in the first place. It started during World War II as an incentive when wages were frozen. No employer should have that kind of power over the lives of employees.

Neutralize Gerrymandering

In “A New Era for New York City” [Jan. 20], Bob Master says, “State-level gerrymandering will preserve redoubts of reactionary power at least until the next redistricting in 2022.”

But the evils of gerrymandering can be neutralized without waiting until 2022. State constitutions can be amended. Promote constitutional amendments that say simply, “The people of the State of _____ direct that a system of elections shall be created by law that results in voting strength in the (House) (Senate) (Congressional delegation) that is distributed between and among the various parties in direct proportion to the distribution of total statewide votes received by each party in the General Election.”

Dan Brown
dewitt, mich.

Put the Nation back in The Nation

This issue’s overabundance of New York content is too much of the city and not enough of the nation. Case in point: Betsy Reed’s “The Education Conversation” [Jan. 20]. She says that overscheduling is but a peccadillo of the rich and not an issue for most families. The parents in my congregation (as well as their children) are not elite families making more than $75,000 per year, yet they continue to be troubled by overscheduling—fitting faith, music, sports, homework, dance, scouts, friends and more into tight schedules.

the Rev. Nicholas Utphall
madison, wis.

Parochial New York

Re Dana Goldstein’s “Will New York Lead the Way on Pre-K?” [Jan. 20]: Oklahoma has had universal pre-K since 1998. New Yorkers have no idea what goes on west of the Hudson.

Towering New York

In “The Fungibility of Air” [Jan. 6/13], Michael Sorkin meticulously details the mind-set in New York City regarding planning and zoning, which has become the basis for our land-use policies. Development is directed primarily toward higher profit, achievable by ever-growing density. Sales of air rights and of public buildings like schools and libraries are used to create this “profitable” density. The problems of congestion, preservation and the inconvenient fact of sea level rise are being dangerously overlooked.

So pervasive is the policy of monetizing our public resources that even a city park, Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center, was destroyed and converted into a profit-making venue for private corporations, thereby excluding the public from its own ever-scarcer space. It has become acceptable to use air rights to build 100- to 150-story buildings on 57th Street, resulting in mile-long shadows on Central Park. Low-lying areas in Hudson River Park, adversely affected by sea rise due to climate change, are nonetheless considered suitable sites for tall buildings.

If the priorities of the residents of this already densely populated city are to be maintained—our parks, sunshine, reduced traffic and development for the public good—we must insist on environmental impact studies for all new buildings and a reduced floor area ratio, which would limit building heights. We must re-evaluate as-of-right policies, and we must do it now.

Olive Freud, president,
Committee for Environmentally Sound Development

new york city

Bothered and Bewildered

I’ve been a subscriber for more than thirty years, and what I most love about The Nation is that the columns and articles respect my intelligence by expecting me to focus and think while I read them. Periodically someone with more aesthetic sense than I decides that the magazine needs to be redesigned. Until now, I’ve not cared much and just go on reading what your writers have to say and not worrying about what typeface or column arrangement they’re saying it in.

The latest “new look” is different. Now when I try to read a column, brightly colored factoids are over in the margin shouting at me to pay attention to them. They’ve crowded the column off the page so I have to go looking somewhere else for its ending. To read a feature article all the way through I have to skip over two or three other articles sharing the pages with it and try to follow it through multiple page jumps. Then I have to back up to find those other articles, if I remember.

I used to read The Nation cover to cover. Now I have to read it back and forth and back and forth. I suspect a hostile and covert takeover. Why else would you try so hard to distract me from what you have to say? Sometimes, despite my best efforts, it works.

Tim Joseph
ithaca, n.y.