At a time when the stock market is unstable, wages are stagnant and inflation is on the rise, the only things on which most Americans can rely financially are their houses. Now The Post wants to eliminate or gut the tax provision that allows people to hold on to that stable asset ["Tax Contortionists," editorial, Oct. 15].

I couldn't buy my 950-square-foot condo now for less than $425,000. This is a mansion? The editors are badly out of touch with realities facing the average guy.

CHRISTOPHER KOPPEN

Alexandria

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"Tax Contortionists" suggested that any mortgage of more than $300,000 would allow the borrower to purchase a mansion.

I am a Realtor, and apparently I have sold more mansions than I realized -- most recently a $335,000 condo of 637 square feet in Logan Circle. That price is below the D.C. average, which was $419,764 last month. (The average price of a single-family home was $617,554.) In Fairfax County, condo and co-op prices averaged $312,100, while single-family homes went for $602,264.

I have had many clients who have gone to great lengths to make the monthly payments on such "mansions." The concept of limiting the mortgage-interest tax deduction to such a small amount suggests that a small amount of thinking has gone into the proposal.

MALCOLM CARTER

Washington

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The Oct. 15 editorial suggested that limiting the tax-free status of health plan premiums is "a good move that could have the benefit" of reducing cost escalation "by making people more cost-conscious."

As a senior citizen with three chronic health problems, I would like to know how I can be more "cost-conscious" medically. Switch to generic drugs? Been there, done that -- long ago. Debating with my internist about the need for diagnostic tests? A potentially life-threatening approach. Shopping among hospitals for discounts on bypass surgery? Come on -- we are not talking about plumbing problems here.

The Post's bottom line about "making people more cost-conscious" in health care is a variation on the tawdry theme of "blame the victim." It also is one more escape route for policymakers and politicians who lack the vision -- and the spine -- to deal with this crisis realistically.

ALAN BOSCH

Arlington