Americans Want Change
The Bush-Quayle campaign might be wise to employ Jacqueline Madison as a speech writer. Her letter (Aug. 9) is a good outline of their probable strategy: Make a list of all the things that are negatives for your own campaign and accuse the other guys of those things before they do it to you.
Facts are unnecessary; accusations are all you need. Unfortunately for the country, this can be an effective tactic.
She says that "most Americans are desperately calling for less government." That may be true of most ultra-right wingers who ** want to keep things just as they are, but the overwhelming majority seem to be calling for leadership and change from the government, not abdication. They're tired of the rich getting richer at their expense.
What they are desperately calling for is jobs, not trickle-down economics. They want universal health care, not $500 billion bailouts of sleazy fast-buck artists.
Everyone wants reform of the welfare system, just as Ms. Madison does, but jobs have to be created first, as well as better educational opportunities. For the past two years, jobs haven't even been available for college graduates; how can the millions of poorly educated people in the urban ghettos be expected to find them?
The major legacies of the Reagan/Bush "revolution" are paralyzing deficits (from the balanced budget amendment guys), extensive homelessness (and executive multi-millionaires), deterioration of race relations and intense divisiveness, environmental degradation, an enormous trade deficit, and the virtual bankrupting of states and cities by withdrawal of financial support and by policies which accelerate the flight of the wealthy to the suburbs.
The Rehnquist/Scalia Supreme Court has carried out a ferocious attack against individual rights, even thought Ms. Madison says hers is the "party of individual freedom." All of these problems are much worse than they were 12 years ago.
Perhaps most damaging of all is the Reagan/Bush encouragement of the attitude that all taxes are bad, that the government just wastes them anyway, and that it's morally right to oppose them.
As Carl Rowan said in an eloquent column, taxes are an investment in America. It's our country; it's a wonderful place to live, but it won't continue to be if we don't support it.
We have to make certain the taxes are spent wisely, by careful selection of those we send to Washington or Annapolis, but it is foolish to avoid the investment.
If we continue to let our infrastructure deteriorate, lay off firemen and police and let our schools go down the tubes, we will find the cost is much greater in the long run. We will be cheating ourselves and our children.
No Quick Fix and No Pandering
Peter Frank's Aug. 9 Perspective article on Blue Cross of Maryland left an unfair impression of the July 28 legislative hearing before the House Committee on Economic Matters.
While it is true that Insurance Commissioner John Donaho testified for 20 minutes and Blue Cross spent four hours before our committee, the hearing was certainly not a "missed opportunity," as Mr. Frank stated.
He also wrongly suggests that the hearing was a "missed opportunity" for lawmakers to acquire "clear and deep understanding of the structure of health insurance and health care."
No single hearing can reasonably be expected to achieve that lofty goal. Rather, it is through hard work over time which provides lawmakers the wisdom for which he correctly believes we should strive.
Our committee has spent virtually hundreds and hundreds of hours exploring the important and difficult area of health insurance.
I dare say my committee has a "clearer and deeper understanding of the structure of health insurance and health care" than any other public body in Maryland.
The insurance commissioner is part of the executive branch of government; we are the legislative branch. We have no control over whether he speaks for two hours or two days.
Commissioner Donaho regularly appears before our committee since we have primary jurisdiction over insurance legislation in the House of Delegates. He has always cooperated fully with our committee.
The commissioner is a full-time regulator charged with the everyday nuts and bolts of regulating all insurance companies in Maryland.
To date the commissioner has made no unfulfilled
recommendations to our committee for any changes in state law or the regulation of health insurance companies like Blue Cross.
He gave us no indication of the explosive and inflammatory allegations which he recently made to a committee of the U.S. Senate.
Those allegations clearly implied emergency-type solvency problems regarding Blue Cross on the one hand and the lack of and need for responsible legislative action on the part of my committee.
For these precise reasons I called for an immediate public hearing (I might add, with some resistance from Blue Cross, probably for its fear of undermining public confidence).
The hearing accomplished three very important things. First, the attorney general and the insurance commissioner both testified that indeed adequate regulatory authority regarding solvency does exist and there is no emergency need for "special session" legislative action; second, the insurance commissioner, the accounting firm of Arthur Anderson and the consulting firm of Booz Allen testified that Maryland Blue Cross is solvent; and third, the insurance commissioner in cooperation with the attorney general and the corporate leadership of Maryland Blue Cross announced the signing of a comprehensive agreement to report, disclose and review all appropriate Blue Cross documents.
I am convinced that the agreement and its timeliness can be directly attributed to our committee hearing.
This formal agreement will provide the commissioner with access to the financial information he believes he needs to do his job, and to look ahead to determine appropriate future recommendations.
We have endeavored to do our duty in a timely and objective manner. The Blue Cross presentation to our committee was informative and helpful in clearing up numerous questions on their method of operation and structure.
I am confident that not only legislators but the public will continue to benefit from all such hearings. I hope that the press will also clearly understand our role as legislators -- not regulators. Even though we understand the press' desire for quick-fix answers to complex questions, we must avoid pandering to anyone by politicizing important matters of public policy.
Casper R. Taylor Jr.
The writer is chairman of the House of Delegates Committee on Economic Matters.
Your editorial "Censoring Rap Music" (Aug. 4) expressed concern about Time-Warner's decision to withdraw the "Body Count" album of rapper Ice-T.
The song "Cop Killer" carries a message of rage, revolution and hate which all who are searching for less radical solutions to society's ills wish would just go away.
But as you correctly observed, we have a constitutional right to express all variety of sentiments in song and verse -- even those calling for anarchy.
The degree to which we lose that right is the degree to which we have chipped away a bit of the Constitution.
Voltaire is credited with the aphorism: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." But as with most aphorisms, the wisdom is incomplete and I wish that Voltaire and The Sun had gone a step further.
After we all agree that freedom of expression is one of the constitutional guarantees which none of us is ready to sacrifice to current pressures, can we then agree that at some point the concept of responsibility is long overdue?
Time-Warner possibly erred in caving in to noisy critics. But it could have saved itself much grief had it exercised its options prior to distributing the recording.
Nowhere in the Constitution are are we "required" to express our freedoms, nor is it stated that we must act "responsibly." This standard of behavior comes from a more private place.
Only Time-Warner knows if somewhere deep in its corporate conscience the question was posed: "Should we not be associated with this garbage or should we make a quick buck?" The buck won.
As our societal fabric becomes more tattered, important
distinctions have become disturbingly blurred. The "me" generation is a potent force.
We are now stumbling from crisis to crisis with a couple of generations of citizens who can't distinguish freedom from license, liberty from responsibility.
Kenneth A. Willaman
Linowes Commission Report Issued Too Late
Your editorial "Linowes' Vision" in The Sun (Aug. 9) would be unexceptionable if it merely praised Robert Linowes' public service and congratulated him for receiving an award from the National Governors' Association.
But you go much further in assigning blame to those who opposed his "visionary" efforts -- both in substance and timing.
Throughout the 1990 gubernatorial campaign, I did not oppose the Linowes Commission. What I opposed strongly was the report being issued one month after the election.
That is why I maintained that the commission's work was at the same time overdue and postponed because of political timing. That was particularly unfortunate because the needs of Maryland were not being met by the spending priorities of the administration.
Examples abound. In Garrett County, crowded and antiquated facilities are used for the county's elementary school children. In Queen Anne's County, inadequate sewerage on Kent Island still threatens a public health emergency. In Wicomico County, literacy programs are slashed due to budget constraints.
What we needed -- and should have gotten from the Linowes Commission -- was a rational allocation of state spending and priorities. The problems became further exacerbated by the social needs that would clearly expand in a time of economic contraction.
And I noted that money for public education in Maryland had to be funded in a fairer way, or -- as now Baltimore City has shown us -- the courts might force our lawmakers to address the issue, as has happened in other states.
I called for the report to be issued before the election. In testimony before the commission, I said that waiting to issue the report until after the election "would be wrong for Maryland, for wealthier jurisdictions would surely resist what they would perceive as simple tax redistribution.
"An incumbent governor with a spendthrift image would be hard pressed to make new taxing recommendations, if they were based on a report that was made public for the first time after the election. There would simply be no political credibility in that scenario."
It is inadequate to blame legislators, as The Sun's editorial did, for failing to act positively to accept the Linowes report in its entirety.
For one thing, the report failed to anticipate economic hard times. Adopting its recommendations would, therefore, have added $800 million to Maryland's tax burdens before the deficits that we have seen in the last two fiscal years became systemic. One does not ordinarily try to put out a grass fire by throwing gasoline onto the flames!
The people of Maryland have good sense. They can be trusted to make informed decisions, if they have access to factual information.
True, the Linowes Commission did point out disparities that are growing between our rich and less affluent jurisdictions.
Had the Linowes Commission delivered its report in the light of day during the general election period, I would have supported more rational funding and accountability to address that problem, which has now, predictably, worsened.
With a state budget that is systematically in deficit, and votes traded at the expense of silly new entitlements such as state-funded bus service within Montgomery County, we will have to wait for the fair portions of Linowes' report to be considered.
It didn't have to be that way. And if the voters of Maryland are trusted in the future, perhaps the better angels of Mr. Linowes' vision will stand a reasonable chance of influencing a less parochial state government and legislature. Let us hope for the sake of our children that that will prove to be the case.
The writer was the 1990 Republican nominee for governor.
The editorial "Linowes' Vision" (Aug. 9) caused me to see red.
The great Communist experiment in Russia based on "from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs" recently folded. Yet The Sun continues to buy into this failed philosophy as evidenced in the said editorial.
In essence The Sun and Mr. Linowes would add up all the "needs" presented by the hundreds of witnesses heard by the commission and then reach into the wallets of the producers for the funds to fill the needs. This rewards the non-producer and penalizes the producer.
What will it take to teach us the fallacy of this thinking?
The great objection to the Linowes Commission report is that it is just an excuse to raise taxes under the guise of "fairness."
The basis function of government is to protect its citizens from outsiders and from one another. It is not to solve all of life's problems for everyone or to redistribute the wealth of the producers to the non-producers.
What will it take to teach us that the needs are unlimited? There is always a plethora of worthy projects and disadvantaged persons crying for tax dollar help.
What will it take to teach us that the size of government cannot increase indefinitely? In the last recession the commercial sector laid off tens of thousands of people but government at all levels fought every proposed reduction.
The Linowes Commission would have done the state a real service if it had highlighted the unnecessary state and local functions, personnel and expenses and shown how taxes could be reduced to a non-stifling burden. There should be a ceiling on total taxes from all sources in relation to the total of goods and services. Low taxes attract industry and raise employment levels.
The reverse is also true. For example, Baltimore by its generosity encouraged the influx of needy and raised its taxes to pay for it. The high taxes drove out some industries and producers and reduced the tax base.
Unwilling to reduce its largess, Baltimore raised its taxes still further and drove out more industries and producers. It is now in bad shape and crying for tax dollars from the rest of the state.
The Linowes' vision was badly flawed, as was the Communist motto. Government should be the servant of the people and not try to be their god.
George W. Bauernschmidt Jr.
City Housing Woes
Commissioner Robert Hearn wrote to The Sun (Aug. 8) to explain what a good job his Department of Housing and Community Development is doing in Baltimore City. He states there are only 6,300 vacant houses in the city. This is a record to be proud of?
Mr. Hearn refers to the Nehemiah projects and all of the taxpayer subsidized plans to improve housing in the city.
His letter is long on reconstruction and short on enforcement, which would conserve what housing already exists. Commissioner Hearn sees a city being rebuilt on a decayed foundation.
Melody Simmons, in her Aug. 9 story, goes more to the root of the housing department's problem. The biggest cause of decay and abandonment is the inability of the housing department and the courts to enforce the existing laws, and the inability of the legal system to protect it citizens and tax base.
The interviews with Lorenzo Hill, a housing inspector, and Helen Vello, a neighborhood leader, illustrate only a small iota of the frustration felt by those private citizens trying to preserve their individual homes and property. Those begging for relief include homeowners as well as renters.
Inspectors blame upper management; upper management blames the federal government for cutting funds and the courts for not enforcing the law.
Was enforcement any better before the federal funds were hTC withdrawn? Did all of the decay happen after January, 1991?
Strict enforcement like the kind taken in the case of R. William Connolly, Jr. is the answer. It is up to the commissioner and Mayor Kurt Schmoke to see to it that the courts support the taxpayers who want to live in decent housing in a city which protects their property values.
?3 The voters have given them that responsibility.
Charles D. Connelly