Equal TreatmentUpon reading your article about a...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Equal Treatment

Upon reading your article about a mother who was held on $100,000 bail for abandoning her children, a thought struck me. Why not arrest fathers as well?

Tom Morris

Towson

Boarding Schools for Poor Kids

Those who study economic conditions in Third World societies are familiar with the vicious-circle paradigm -- an interlocking web of circumstances that seems destined to perpetuate poverty for generations.

When we look at the problems of American inner cities, the situation seems little different. How can we undo a poverty confounded by discrimination in employment, housing and even law enforcement, lawlessness, broken homes, hopelessness and contempt?

The seriousness and complexity of the situation demands bold initiatives. I would like to propose an initiative that focuses directly on the next generation of underprivileged children growing up in poverty and broken homes.

Imagine a public boarding school, integrated in student body and staff but open primarily to children living in poverty, located in a "nice" neighborhood within the city.

It would be an environment in which children's physical, mental and social development could be given a fair chance. By insulating children from the mean streets and negative mindsets they otherwise might confront, we would enable them to envision a completely new reality.

At the same time, teachers would have a better chance to accomplish what society asks of them. Public education has always been justified by its role as a "great equalizer" that creates the level playing field on which each individual can realize his or her potential.

While it has often fallen short of this ideal, public education is the single institution most directly connected to the future living standards of most Americans and thereby to our domestic tranquillity.

If we are to have any hope of restoring the growth of productivity and living standards of earlier generations, serious changes are needed in the way this business is conducted.

Classrooms need to be smaller. Teachers need less administrative interference. Teachers should be evaluated directly on the results produced by their students. In the near term, considerably more resources must go into remedial education.

Boarding schools can complement such changes while helping public education to again provide the greater degree of fairness essential to true democracy.

Like any investment, such a plan would require some sacrifice up front. The question is -- what would the rate of return be?

Benjamin B. Greene Jr.

Owings Mills

Rural Residents Already Subsidize Clean Air

This is in reference to your July 31 editorial on the mandatory emissions testing program, and your suggestion that a fee be levied on Maryland vehicle license tags in order to spread the costs to all drivers, including those in rural areas.

As you correctly point out, the air we breathe does not respect artificial boundaries, but it should be noted that any net flow of air pollution would naturally be from the more polluted areas toward the cleaner atmospheres of rural communities.

You are also correct that measures to ensure clean air are increasing in cost, especially in metropolitan areas, due to the large number of cars overloading the natural cleansing capacities of the atmosphere. Rural areas, with their much lower car densities, have substantially better air quality.

It is important that resources, both direct and indirect, be spent toward cleaner air standards in polluted areas, such as our metropolitan areas.

However, especially in an era of limited resources, one has to consider if scarce dollars are being spent in the most cost-effective way. Urban decision makers obviously feel that air quality is important and are willing to accept the costs of pollution control. Rural residents, who face the same resource crunch that we do but have different problems, may justifiably feel that their air quality is acceptable, and that they would rather spend their dollars elsewhere.

Already, because of federal and California emissions standards, rural drivers are subsidizing us to the tune of millions of dollars. Emissions control equipment, mandated in order to combat the mainly urban problem of air pollution, adds hundreds of dollars to the costs of new cars while reducing power and gas mileage.

These higher costs are being borne by all car owners, including those in rural areas with already clean air. In the face of these facts, as well as new data showing that urban dwellers have been steadily increasing their average solo commute, I think it would be very unfair to expect rural communities to further subsidize our excessive driving habits by levying a state-wide tax to underwrite urban emissions testing.

A different point, relating to the consumer costs of the mandatory testing program, was only indirectly addressed in your editorial. A recent article in The Sun mentioned that the state received part of the revenue generated by the testing program; income would increase with the higher fees and state ownership envisioned with the new testing facilities.

I am a strong advocate of levying user fees to cover the expense of a service, rather than inflicting the costs on the general taxpayer. An emissions testing fee could technically be called a user fee, even if the user in this case is far from a voluntary one.

However, if it is true, as your article suggested, that the state makes a net profit out of a mandatory testing program, I would strongly suggest that it is an unethical practice. This would amount to unfairly overpricing a user fee, paid in this case by all urban car owners, to generate general revenue for the state. I presume that this type of hidden taxation is one which The Sun would also oppose.

A.V. Aiyengar, M.D.

Baltimore

Gun-Toters

Someone convicted of a felony loses a fundamental right of citizenship, eligibility to vote.

A recent discovery, now being used by Democratic partisans in the election, is that the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been reviewing released felons' applications to posses a firearm. For many, that "right" has been restored.

Now the NRA is actively opposing a congressional bill to restrict felons from ever having the right to bear arms.

Does the NRA believe that the right to bear arms is more fundamental than the right to vote? It seems that they have a somewhat perverted and twisted view of citizenship.

Myles B. Hoenig

Baltimore

Insurance Bias

You folks in the editorial department just don't get it, do you? Women don't want to be treated any longer as separate and unequal. That's why they don't want to pay higher health and disability rates than men as a class, nor lower life insurance rates.

They want to have insurance rates set for human beings together. Many men agree, believing insurance premiums should based not on who you are but on what you do and how you behave.

The Sun said insurance has traditionally broken people into classes to rate them. That is true. Some traditions, such as caring for family and neighbors, make civilization possible. Some others stink and ought to be discarded.

One former insurance tradition was rating blacks separately from whites. Would you tolerate that today? Of course not, it's bad social policy today.

Yet by the logic of Equitable Life Assurance Society there should be race-based rating. Government statistics show blacks of a given age do die at significantly higher rates (per year per thousand) than whites. Just because a distinction can be made for insurance rating does not mean it should be.

You make a second mistaken argument, that since the Maryland insurance commissioner outlawed gender-based rates, buyers

will seek insurance out of state, to take advantage of lower

gender-based rates.

The few that do will have to deal with low-quality carriers that do not do business in Maryland. You can bet that most carriers will not move en masse out of Maryland, a wealthy state.

The short of it is this: Human tradition has favored treating people for social purposes as members of classes, usually for the purpose of degrading some classes. Insurance is an example of this. Human enlightenment -- on the other hand -- favors treating people instead as individuals. Ultimately, the enlightened view will prevail, and I am glad to see our insurance commissioner is enlightened.

Philip L. Marcus

Ellicott City

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