Dan Rodricks: Vanished faces of a West Virginia boom town

Muddled thinking on the Homestead tax credit

The three letters to the editor published in the December 27 edition of The Sun dealing with the recent series on the Homestead Property Tax Credit lead me to believe that either I or the writers of these letters are totally out of touch with what is going on in America, not just in Baltimore and Maryland.

Bob Price states that tax codes should be "...simple, straightforward methods to generate revenue fairly and transparently." Amen to that. But then he proceeds with the position that to accomplish this: "Programs that legislators deem to be worthwhile and affordable should be reviewed as part of the budgetary process, and each program's funding should be increased, decreased or suspended depending on the value of the program and the ability of the government in any given year to fund the program." If only it was that easy! I am sure Mr. Price and I would have a hard time agreeing on what is and isn't worthwhile and fundable, as do legislators at all levels of government.

Which leads to Sam Davis' letter, which starts out making a case for not fiddling with the current system in a way that might make the situation worse (as Mr. Price stated in his letter), a position I agree with. But then Mr. Davis states: "It seems that since the wealthy are effectively disenfranchised as voters, they are easy targets of the populist politicians. Talk about a scandalous situation!" My God, does Mr. Davis really believe the wealthy are disenfranchised? Who does he think pays for most of the lobbyists who fill the halls of government at all levels in our nation? Seems to me the wealthy in this country have become what the master pigs in Orwell's Animal Farm called themselves: "more" equal.

And finally Tony Johns' letter rightly states that the current tax system (among other things — my words) has already chased the middle class away from the city. "Do we really want the rich people to leave too?" It seems to me that the major point of the original articles on the subject was that the unfair consequences of the Homestead Act's application has served to make the overall tax system less fair to Baltimore residents — most of whom are middle class through poor — in general. The fact that it has served to benefit some of the wealthy is a point used to support the overall theme of the articles. For example, one of the houses mentioned in the article is worth about 10 times as much as mine, but the owners pay a little more then twice as much as I do in property taxes. If they paid the full $61,700 without the Homestead Act deduction, their taxable amount would be proportional to mine.

Joseph Costa, Baltimore

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