A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

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Money issues

Quality of life should extend to roads, schools and homes we can afford

Editor, The Times:

Washington’s economy is growing fast, and so is our population — but the supply of middle-income homes isn’t. People have to drive farther and farther to find a good home. That means traffic jams, long commutes, sprawl that harms our environment and home prices rising 160 percent in some areas.

We need our lawmakers to make our quality of life a priority. They should help boost the supply of homes that working families can afford and make roads, schools and thriving neighborhoods a priority.

I am retired but my wife still works. We have a $45,000 annual income but we cannot afford to buy a home within commuting distance for my wife. I can only hope that there is a solution to the problem of escalating home prices and the plight of middle-class people.

— Harry R. Kautzman, Woodinville

Proposed wage provides minimum comfort

The land of opportunity we call America, which has the potential to offer so much to its inhabitants, is still paying a minimum wage that affords a quality of living so far below the poverty level it is hard to imagine how the so-called “minimum wage” can sustain anything but continued debt and depression.

If President Bush actually signs a petition to bring the minimum wage up to $7.25 per hour, a large segment of the American population will be able to eat a little better — not save for their future or their children’s future, but maybe have a little more to eat.

We should be embarrassed in this wealthy nation to have such poverty and to have our citizens working for such a low minimum wage. Tax-paying citizens should be able to afford food without food stamps. The paltry minimum-wage increase would not prevent those families from needing food stamps, but it may lessen their dependence. They may begin to see a different future; they may begin to think President Bush is in touch with his people.

— Carrie O’Donoghue, Lynnwood

State budget

“Queen Christine” should consider budget for working people

We’ve heard about Queen Christine’s out-of-control spending budget, where she wants to spend what hasn’t even come in yet [“Governor’s big spending plan: Can we afford it?” page one, Jan. 7]!

I propose a “Working People’s” state budget.

Ever notice on a “government holiday” that there is no traffic and no one notices the government is shut down? Only “essential” services such as police and fire departments are at work. I say let’s keep it that way … permanently!

Here is my proposal: Essential government employees will remain the same. All non-essential government employees can have a choice. They can collect the same welfare check as their constituents. (Being paid to stay at home. Think about it. A permanent traffic fix, and no government on our backs making more regulations and raising our taxes to perpetuate itself.) Or they can quit and be absorbed into the booming private sector where you have to work and produce something to collect a paycheck. A truly rewarding experience!

Think about the billions of dollars that would stay in businesses pockets to hire new employees, to give existing employees pay raises, to buy more inventory, to expand. People and businesses would flock to the state.

If you went into a store and overpaid the price as marked, you would demand a refund. Not with this governor. We have overpaid (surplus) and she is spending it and refusing to give it back. Not only is she spending it, she is spending the future that she thinks we will overpay in the future. It is our money.

This from a women that wrote tens of millions of dollars in checks as attorney general because state employees accuse other state employees of harassment. And not one of those state employees was fired.

— Jon Hesse, Seattle

Lt. Ehren Watada

Our freedom is won by those who stand up

It seems The Seattle Times is advocating that Lt. Ehren Watada should return to Iraq to kill people in a wrong cause … because this is the rule? [“The case against Lt. Ehren Watada,” editorial, Jan. 9.] That certainly lets me know something of the philosophy of journalism of The Times, and reminds me why many of us need and value the courage of Watada in refusing to return to Iraq and in speaking up.

Our freedom was not won by wars, or by newspapers playing by the good-old-boy rules; it was won and is maintained by individuals such as Watada and by organizations that are not afraid to question our rules and leaders.

— Kathy Barker, Seattle

Disabled girl’s story

First and foremost, we are human beings

I am writing in response to a recent article “Parents halt growth of severely disabled girl” [page one, Jan. 4], as the president of the board of directors of TASH, an international disability-rights organization.

TASH is strenuously opposed to the practice of limiting the growth of children with severe disabilities through hormone treatments. This procedure is justified, in part, by arguing that children will receive good care if they are smaller.

Providing medical intervention under the guise of treatment is highly questionable, if not blatantly unethical. Children with severe developmental disabilities are, first and foremost, human beings. The manipulation of a child’s physical development relegates those receiving such treatment to a less-than-human category.

The treatment advocated ignores a more-humane alternative, the provision of adequate and effective family and community support for people with severe disabilities. TASH membership includes numerous families and professionals who have faced this issue successfully by developing a variety of personal support strategies. I offer this expertise to physicians and families who are searching for alternatives to attenuating the growth of children.

— Lyle T. Romer, Ph.D, president, TASH, Tacoma

Global education

Emerge from the rain and see what’s out there

While at a wedding last weekend, I bumped into two former students from Bishop Blanchet High School, and found myself buoyed and hopeful as I listened to them.

An accomplished high-school wrestler, Taylor now lives in China and is tackling the world of international business. With the same confident squint he possessed nearly 10 years ago, he told me, “I read the newspaper in Chinese. I had a twelve-month language immersion experience in China, and there is scarcely a character in the language that I don’t recognize.”

Chris still possesses the same sensitivity and curiosity that he did in high school. Now in his second year as a member of the Northwest Jesuits, he has spent time in El Salvador living among the poor and more recently lived with migrant workers in Yakima.

My reunion with Chris and Taylor rekindled a wish I’ve long had for every young American — spending time beyond our borders. Those who do get the double benefit of learning firsthand about people in other countries while developing a better appreciation for life.

— Roy Mann, Seattle