Time to Help OurselvesEditor: General Motors has...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Time to Help Ourselves

Editor: General Motors has announced layoffs of 74,000 people. By the time all the fallout has settled there will be over one million American jobs lost from this one layoff.

IBM, Westinghouse and other large employers are having layoffs. Even McDonald's is laying off.

The retailers are complaining about poor sales. What is happening to our economy and our country?

While we are waiting for our leaders to wake up and smell the roses, is there anything that we as citizens can do?

Of course there is. The next time you go into a store to buy something, stop and think: "Where does the money that I am spending on this product go?"

When I buy something, part of the money I'm spending goes to the people who actually made the product.

Where do these people pay their rent? Where do these people buy their clothes? To whom do these people pay their taxes?

When we buy a product that's made locally, we are helping to support our friends and neighbors. When we buy a product that is made within our state, we are helping other people to pay taxes to our state.

But when we buy a product that is imported from a foreign country, who are we helping?

It is time for us to start buying American products and helping ourselves.

John Hillstrom.

Essex.

Penal Panacea

Editor: The overcrowding in our prisons needs to be curbed substantially.

Home imprisonment, community service and a stronger probation system are all solutions.

Home imprisonment allows lesser offenders to operate in the outside world while still being imprisoned. This would lower overcrowding by keeping lesser offenders out of jail.

Community service can be used to shorten long sentences and obliterate short ones. It would also benefit the offender by giving him the opportunity to help the community. It also aids the community by providing free help.

With a stronger probation system we can keep a keen eye on the people on probation by assigning more officers to each prisoner. This would lower rates of recidivism.

Together, these options might well eliminate the need for new prisons.

Marc Christ.

Towson.

American Mess

Editor: Sometimes I feel the public is completely oblivious to what is going on in this country.

When it comes to presidential election years, people focus their anger on the president. I feel our Congress is the more appropriate target.

If, for once, we would give our Republican president a Republican House or Senate, maybe we could finally get some proposals through that would help heal our country's problems. As it is now we have a Democratic Congress holding our president back. Until we change that our country will continue to decline.

As for the American automobile manufacturers whining about their trip to Tokyo, they expect President Bush to fix the mess they got themselves into.

I would suggest they look in the mirror before trashing our president next time.

Jennifer S. Czawlytko.

Baltimore.

Just Say No to Taxes

Editor: In your article, "New Taxes -- Will They Help or Hurt?", Senator Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, said he does not believe an increase in the sales tax would have any adverse effect on the economy.

This is just wishful thinking. A tax increase of any kind will only further burden those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Senator Levitan believes that consumers will continue to spend in spite of his proposed 1 percent hike in the sales tax because an extra penny isn't going to stop anybody from buying anything.

He is correct in assuming that people will continue to make purchases that are important to them, but they will not make marginal purchases because their income will be reduced. It is minimum-wage employees who are most affected by marginal decreases in consumer spending.

Anyone who does not believe this should take a look at their own household budget and spending habits.

If you had $100 to $200 less to spend next year because of the sales tax increase, where would you cut back?

You would probably take your regular Ocean City vacation, but perhaps forgo the amusement park trip with the kids.

You might not want to give up hard crabs for the summer, but maybe you will steam them yourself instead of going to a restaurant.

If you need new shoes you will buy them, but instead of stopping by the shoe shine stand every week, you will pick up a can of polish.

None of these cutbacks are a hardship for you, but one individual's marginal purchase is another person's livelihood.

A penny on the dollar will not stop a state senator from buying say, a new television, but it will send waitresses, shoe shine men and amusement park workers to the unemployment line. If Marylanders want a healthy economy in which people at all income levels can work and prosper, it is time to "just say no" to any tax increase.

Donald O. Harrison.

Arnold.

Quiet Wheel

Editor: I applaud your Jan. 5 article on the Enoch Pratt Library.

It reminded all of us that this gem, so important to sustaining knowledge, is slipping away and can only be saved by our caring and action.

The employees of the Pratt know well how to serve our quest for knowledge but they are inexperienced in fighting for their survival.

The citizens of Baltimore must take on this campaign and persuade our city fathers that it is the quiet wheel that requires the grease.

Jerry Baum.

Baltimore.

Freedom to Puff

Editor: Despite what Michael Olesker seemed to imply in his column on Jan. 14, both smoking and lobbying are lawful activities.

Mr. Olesker may not like Bruce Bereano, a feeling which may be mutual, but the fact remains that revenue from the sale of tobacco products is a staple in the state budget and in the governor's proposal for reducing the budget deficit.

Like it or not, if Marylanders quit smoking, millions of dollars from sales and excise taxes on tobacco, most of which is distributed to Baltimore City and the other political subdivisions of the state, will be lost. Simply to point this fact out does not make one an advocate of smoking, either by adults or children.

Most of us engage in one or more voluntary activities which are inimical to our health or general well-being. Labeling these activities as sins or the charges imposed for the government for engaging in them as sin taxes, is intended not to reinforce the wrongfulness of such endeavors, but to justify the level of taxes imposed.

This practice is not unlike that used to mitigate the guilt associated with killing human beings during wartime by labeling them with names which suggest they are less than human.

Smoking makes perfect political fodder. Politicians raise votes by attacking it and raise money by taxing it. Who is the real hypocrite? I wonder whether someday Aid to Families with Dependent Children will be conditioned upon whether the recipients smoke.

It is proper for the government to educate its citizenry about the perceived dangers of even lawful activity; but it is wrong for the type of government that we believe in to castigate and punish its people for exercising the freedom which we so zealously espouse.

Robert Fulton Dashiell.

Baltimore.

Paying for Ocean City

Editor: It's hard not to envy people who live in Worcester rTC County and who pay Maryland income tax. They pay a county "piggyback" income tax at a 20 percent rate, while taxpayers throughout the rest of Maryland pay at 50 percent.

Ordinarily, I would say more power to the Worcester County government for letting taxpayers off so lightly. The county is obviously making good use of property tax revenues from Ocean City's mostly seasonally-occupied real estate to help subsidize the low local income tax rate.

However, it seems that Worcester County is cashing in on Ocean City property tax revenues without paying a commensurate share of the cost of protecting the source of these revenues from the ocean.

Of the $45 million in the original beach replenishment project, Worcester County paid only $6 million, or 13.3 percent. Ocean City, which also benefits from real property taxes, paid $6 million as well. The federal and state government picked up the other 73 percent of the tab.

Ocean City Mayor Roland "Fish" Powell says that without beach replenishment, the federal and state governments would lose more in one year's taxes than the replenishment cost.

This logic supports his willingness to have the federal government continue a perpetual sand tug-of-war with Mother Nature at an estimated cost of up to $30 million per year.

It looks like the battle with Mother Nature to save Ocean City's real estate will go on as long as there is federal money to pay for it. The results of two recent storms show that Mother Nature can do a better job of ocean bottom replenishment than the out-gunned Army Corps of Engineers can do with beach replenishment.

It seems only fair that Worcester County pay a share of the cost of the continuing beach replenishment which protects a major source of its tax revenues. But if it would, the people of Worcester County might have to pay higher county income taxes -- maybe as much as the rest of us pay to the counties where we live.

Wayne Harrison.

Freeland.

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