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Strong Words on Housing's Softness

"Meltdown: For Housing, the Worst Is Yet to Come" (Cover Story, Feb. 11) provoked a barrage of intense--and varied-- responses. The story said that home prices could sink an additional 25% over the next two or three years, and readers registered their alarm, their anger, their solutions (see the immigration-related suggestion below), even their optimism (at last, cheered one reader, affordable house prices). As for who's to blame for the mess, the culprits fingered included the borrowers, the Administration, Congress, former Fed chief Alan Greenspan, Wall Street's financial wizards--and the media, singled out by some for making matters worse by spreading panic.

The housing market is like a chain letter: The last guy gets burned. Unfortunately, the real villains in this story won't be burned: all the MBAs in finance who fostered this mess and collected their fees anyway.

Screen name: Lefty

I don't know why it comes as a surprise to everyone. For five years, even the meatheads at my gym have been talking about a housing implosion. I'm amazed at these brilliant CEOs and hedge fund types who got blindsided.

Screen name: John

I'm a homeowner who thinks the housing slump will be positive in the long term. Our children were being priced out of the market or forced to endure years of struggling to pay mortgages. I believe the government should not destroy the prospects of future generations by trying to salvage the situation. A 25%-to-40% decline would be painful, but ultimately healthy.

Screen name: Paul

You missed a vital item that will put a floor under home prices: building codes. We have had a tremendous increase in code requirements. This has pushed up the cost of new-dwelling construction to $200 to $250 a square foot. Add to that the profit that builders must build in.

Screen name: Russ from N.J.

I'm upset that the Administration wants to bail out banks with reckless lending policies. Did the U.S. learn anything from the savings and loan crisis? Banks learned they can speculate on real estate and taxpayers will pick up the tab in the name of economic stability.

Screen name: Michael

The real cause of the housing bubble and its bust is Congress. In 1997 the tax law was changed [to allow more profit from selling a house to go untaxed]-- making housing the best investment in America. Home prices accelerated beyond the inflation rate immediately, eventually going beyond levels justified by the tax change. Until someone investigates Congress' role, proper blame will never be assigned.

Screen name: Rod Everson

Here's a way to break the vicious cycle: Allow foreigners who put down payments of $100,000 into U.S. homes to become citizens. That would soak up excess housing and strengthen banks without adding to our national debt.

Screen name: Paul

We are in a volatile economic situation, and people are panicky. Making them more frightened will make matters worse. Your sensationalistic, fear-mongering cover could help trigger an economic collapse.

Anne Barschall

TARRYTOWN, N.Y.

Doing the Math on H1-B Wages

We are outraged and dismayed at the unfair portrayal of our company in "Are H1-B Workers Getting Bilked?" (What's Next, Feb. 11). It does not reflect Patni Computer Systems' treatment of H1-B workers. In reporting on the lawsuit brought against us, the article relied heavily on unsworn allegations. It also identified Ron Hira, who is being paid by the plaintiffs for his services, only as "an expert witness."

This suit involves issues addressed last year in a Labor Dept. investigation that found we owed additional wages to some employees. We cooperated fully to correct the payment mistakes. The current plaintiffs were included in that investigation and now seek more money from Patni.

Patni is committed to complying with all laws, including those concerning employees' pay.

Russell Boekenkroeger

Executive Vice-President

Patni Americas Inc.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.

The article exposes some of what's behind the reverse of exporting jobs overseas. In my city, two universities closed their nursing degree programs, despite a nursing shortage. The hospitals are now using cheaper nursing labor brought in from foreign countries.

Kevin McNamee

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF.

As a former H1-B visa recipient, I had employers who paid a meager salary when sponsoring me for the visa. But 10 years out, I have it all--a big job and a big paycheck. I'll bet most H1-Bs do the math, biting the bullet to gain experience.

Screen name: Ramu

Free? More Like a Giveaway

Those who support free trade tend to forget about the millions of Americans who have gone into debt to buy goods they once produced before they were displaced from their jobs ("Economists Rethink Free Trade," News, Feb. 11). Talk about a credit crunch.

Joseph Chance

NILES, OHIO

It isn't free trade when the advantages accrue mostly to foreign exporters. And there is a security angle: The U.S. has given away its technologies and may have lost its ability to manufacture products critical to its survival. Self-preservation is not protectionism.

Robert Goodsell

RIDGEFIELD, WASH.

Air Safety Issues: Don't Look to the FAA

The dilemma faced by Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector Mark Lund, who was demoted after warning superiors about safety failures, is not new ("Airline Safety: A Whistleblower's Tale," In Depth, Feb. 11). In 1962, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had Air Force personnel evaluate airlines' performance after a DC-6 ferrying troops crashed.

The FAA never does the job right. So we need people like Lund.

Dennis Daly

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA.

To Thwart a Rogue, You Need Controls

Maria Bartiromo's interview with France's Finance Minister ("Christine Lagarde on the Soc Gen Scandal," FaceTime, Feb. 11) frames the scandal at Société Générale as the story of an ambitious rogue trader. Let's not forget that controls, monitoring, and surveillance almost always trail new products and new revenue opportunities. Unless that changes, there will be more incidents like that at Soc Gen.

BC Krishna CEO, Memento

CONCORD, MASS.

Culture Can Be the Best Medicine

One activity is missing from the list in "Live It Up, for the Economy's Sake" (BTW, Feb. 11): the arts, a proven economic revitalizer.

The nonprofit culture industry is a key player in strengthening the economy, generating $166.2 billion worth of activities every year and supporting 5.7 million full-time jobs. The collateral spending at restaurants, garages, and other merchants supports local communities as well. The arts are good for the economy--and the spirit.

Robert Lynch

CEO, Americans for the Arts

WASHINGTON


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