Letters

Autumn 2011
The Troubled City of Angels

To the editor:
The liberals ruined L.A. [Joel Kotkin, “Lost Angeles,” Summer 2011], making it a sanctuary city for illegals and welcoming the homeless. Many areas of the city now look like a cross between Tijuana and the Bowery, with a few rich folks living on the fringes in protected enclaves. The giant, obscene billboards are another eyesore. It turns out that L.A. cannot support its huge underclass any more, and it wants to bill other counties in California for its philanthropy. Good luck with that one.

Jen Marks
Irvine, CA

To the editor:
I’m an ex–Los Angeleno of northern European descent who now lives in Europe. The shining opportunities that Los Angeles once afforded to both sets of my immigrant European grandparents are gone. The last time I toured downtown L.A., several years ago, I drove down Wilshire Boulevard to the west and was astounded by how much like a Third World city it had become. When I visit friends in surrounding communities up and down the coast, I no longer stop in Los Angeles. It’s rather sad, since I am an alumnus of Los Angeles High School, Los Angeles City College, and UCLA.

Ex–Los Angeleno

To the editor:
This article misses one aspect that is taboo but cannot be ignored: the changing ethnic demographics. Los Angeles has a Hispanic majority very dependent on government. It’s all about buying votes. Government will take from businesses and give to citizens in the form of welfare or some other enticement to get their vote.

Sam

To the editor:
It’s incredible that you could write all this without once mentioning the city’s impossible traffic and the inability of the city’s leaders to do much about it. We need to be building subways the way that Pat Brown once built freeways. All the other “solutions” just redistribute the scarce roadways.

Kevin Murphy
Los Angeles, CA

To the editor:
Two economic forces seem to be intentionally omitted. L.A. is almost certain to be largely destroyed by a major earthquake in the next generation. And the northern portion of L.A. hosts the largest pornography industry on earth, estimated at $15 billion annually. These realities reflect poor political planning and a flawed self-image.

R. L. Hails, Sr.
Olney, MD

To the editor:
You fail to mention the war occurring in L.A. against blacks, at the hands of Latinos. Lift the “people of color” veil, and you will find systematic racial intimidation and murder. Consider that the Feds had to intervene in Azusa to stop Latino gangs from targeting blacks. Where was the public outcry? Where were the La Raza demonstrations for their fellow “people of color”? Not even the black politicians made a peep. Los Angeles is becoming the new Mississippi, only worse.

Jennifer Jordan
Ventura, CA

Joel Kotkin responds:
I’m not sure that many other California counties are in a position to bail out anyone. The underclass is not just in L.A.; the bigger problem is the loss of business and the middle class. I still think that the city has much to offer. Many areas have improved, but the emphasis on downtown is a drain on resources needed elsewhere.

Things are more complex than Sam suggests. The erosion of the private-sector economy has led many upwardly mobile Latinos to move to other areas. In addition, the whole population is aging rapidly (L.A. was the only large county with fewer Latino kids in 2010 than in 2000). In addition, the bulk of public-sector workers are either non-Hispanic whites or African-Americans. Latinos are not intrinsically a dependent class.

Subways are a nineteenth-century solution to twenty-first-century problems. L.A. is too deconcentrated to make heavy or even light rail work. Other solutions—jitneys, buses, rapid transit, telecommuting—would work much better and drain fewer resources. The pornography industry was not part of any plan but just a logical outgrowth of the film and television industry. As for earthquakes, we’ve had them before and rebuilt successfully. They represent a risk, as hurricanes and tornadoes in other areas do.

Gang violence, though a real problem, is hardly unique to L.A. I always thought that “people of color” rhetoric appealed more to academics than to normal people. The real issue is jobs and opportunity.

His and Hers

To the editor:
What the author misses is that the “choice” to work fewer hours in order to create future human capital through your kids is one that the economy cannot afford to live without [Kay S. Hymowitz, “Why the Gender Gap Won’t Go Away. Ever,” Summer 2011]. We would never think of punishing veterans for “choosing” to serve their country in the reserves, despite the limitations in work hours that this imposes on reservists. Nor can women’s “choices” explain why, in this country, workers pay the highest premium worldwide for decreasing their work hours to under 40 a week. Most countries insist on part-time parity or an equal hourly wage for equal work, irrespective of the hours of work performed. Women certainly don’t choose this part-time penalty in the U.S. or the decreased benefits, eligibility for promotion, and so on that go with fewer work hours. Women are choosing to decrease their work hours for a reason that benefits the larger society.

Jennifer Glass

To the editor:
Why should part-time workers be second-class citizens in the corporate world? Why shouldn’t consistently working 60 hours a week be prima facie evidence that a parent is neglecting his or her children’s upbringing, and thus not fit to lead in the corporate world? The obvious answer: corporations benefit from workers’ neglecting their family obligations to devote themselves entirely to the company. The question is, as a society, should we provide a countervailing pressure against this tendency? Or is maximizing wealth at any cost the sole purpose of society?

Tom West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Kay S. Hymowitz responds:
Jennifer Glass observes that when women cut back work hours to take care of their children, they are doing something socially as well as personally beneficial. You’ll get no argument from me about this. She would like government policies to require equal pay and benefits for part-time workers. This is where I hesitate. While her proposed policies would improve the earnings and benefits for women with part-time jobs, they would also cause employers to reduce the number of such jobs. Women might thank her for the former but probably not for the latter. Remember also that countries that support her proposed policies still have significant wage gaps.

Tom West takes Glass’s rehabilitation of part-time work to the point of absurdity. Part- time workers are not “second-class citizens,” but they are almost by definition less experienced workers. Employers have to decide promotions on the basis of employee performance, and experience tends to improve performance. What would West have them do? Ignore performance and promote someone because she is a good mother or more generally fulfilling her social obligations?

It’s a fair guess that any company following this plan would soon enough have no jobs to offer Mr. West or anyone else, part- or full-time.