Reagan, StupidPresident Clinton seems to be earning...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Reagan, Stupid

President Clinton seems to be earning high marks for the line in his State of the Union address in which he said that he would not point the finger of blame at those who got the U.S. economy into its present mess.

No doubt this was a good message to send to the Congress, which will need bipartisanship to pass a budget.

But, truth be told, he really didn't have to name names, since everyone knows the answer anyway.

Who was president when the United States went from being the world largest creditor nation to being the world's largest debtor nation?

During whose administration were many major American corporations carved up and sold off to foreign interests like so much sushi?

Whose policies created the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes of Americans to the upper class, in particular the richest 1 percent, that has taken place since the Gilded Age?

Whose tax enforcement of anti-trust laws and deregulatory dogmas led to a frenzy of hostile take-overs, junk bond deals and the multi-billion-dollar savings and loan crisis and bailout?

And who was in the White House in 1982 when confronted with evidence that his trickle-down, supply-side economic theory was not working and would result in a substantial federal deficit but decided that pursuing a borrow-and-spend policy that would pile up a huge federal debt was a good idea because it provided an insurance policy against the possibility that any future Democratic administration would be able to restore funding for social programs for children, the poor and the elderly, education, health care, the cities and the environment that he had slashed?

Who consciously increased the federal deficit so that any future Democratic president seeking to restore social spending would be faced with the unpalatable choice of increasing an already enormous debt to pay for such programs or going to the American people to ask them to accept tax increases?

Who was it who put us in this situation?

It was Ronald Reagan -- stupid!

Morton E. Winston

Timonium

Money, Money

In 1990, then-President Bush agreed to a big tax raise to reduce the deficit.

Now President Clinton announces still more tax increases as a way to trim the deficit.

Washington still has not gotten the message straight. If raising taxes reduced the deficit, our nation would be sitting on a huge surplus.

As long as there is money to spend, politicians will spend it.

Fresh new money does not go into deficit reductions, but instead it funds new programs that only add to the debt.

Jerry M. Brandt

Severna Park

Cut Spending

What went wrong?

Many citizen taxpayers of the United States ask themselves this same question about this time every four years.

We elect a president partially because of the promises made during the election campaign -- only to discover down the road those weren't promises but false hopes and lies.

Every new president soon finds the need to increase taxes somewhere.

Does this new president ever stop and think: can these people stand another tax increase?

Can President Clinton expect his economic revival plan to succeed by taking more lint out of my already empty pockets? Wise up, cut spending.

Cut spending, now that's worth repeating.

Mark H. Seymour

Catonsville

Overripe Senior Citizen Plums

Your Feb. 21 front-page article about opinion polls on the Clinton proposals includes the sub-headline, "Only weak point found is proposal on Social Security." The wording of the pertinent survey question is not given in the article, but the proposal is described as "increasing taxes on Social Security benefits for retirees with incomes over $32,000."

As an opinion poller for over 40 years, I'd say that if the question was worded as the news article suggests, it presents a bias against this part of the Clinton plan, which may explain why it was the only element which did not win majority approval in the Los Angeles Times poll.

While it can't be denied that the effect of the proposal is to increase the tax I pay on my Social Security income, it would be more accurate to say that the proposal will "make a larger portion of Social Security payments subject to taxation," and I believe the latter description would meet with greater approval.

Personally, I've never understood the logic or justice of treating my Social Security benefits differently from my company pension or my IRA, both of which are taxable as income received after subtracting the portion I've contributed.

Nor, for that matter, do I understand why I should have received full Social Security benefits after age 70 while I continued to work at my full salary. Those of us old enough to remember the first Social Security payroll deductions were told that the purpose was to encourage older people to retire from the labor force to make room for the younger unemployed. Under today's conditions, it still doesn't seem a bad idea. So why should I receive full benefits when I was also receiving a full salary?

While I confess it never occurred to me to refuse these goodies, they must be regarded as a special concession to the powerful senior citizen lobby -- one we can no longer justify in these fiscally troubled times.

Sidney Hollander Jr.

Baltimore

Baltimore County's Waterfront

Being a long-time resident of Baltimore County and a community activist who has spent a considerable amount of "free" time working for the betterment of the county, I am very concerned about the direction the county is headed. The Sun article, "Painful reality jolts Baltimore County" (Feb. 21), is quite alarming.

The article referred to ". . . three indicators of economic growth -- net taxable income, employment, and assessable property tax base . . ." While all three indicators are an important concern to all of us, I would like to speak to the assessable property tax base.

Assessable property tax base is expanded and increased by the creation of value. Baltimore County government continues to ignore its golden opportunity to create significant value in one particular area -- its waterfront.

The picturesque communities that line the eastern edge of the county were originally built as summer retreats for local people. Many of these properties grew into full-time residences as people discovered the pleasures of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. These houses, many of which are now 75 years old, in many instances are small and deteriorating. But now they have sparked the interest of a new generation, like myself, who have discovered the charm and excitement of living by the water. This new generation sees the potential of these communities and want to work to improve them for the benefit of new and existing residents.

When one purchases such a property and seeks to upgrade and remodel it, it is then one discovers the real problem. Baltimore County departments cannot agree on what is right for the property in question. There is a lot of red tape, delays, expenses and outright frustration that lead many to abandon the idea of trying to improve a single property. There goes the potential for the increase in value and the resultant tax base.

This problem is further exacerbated when the discovery is made that huge tracts of land are being cleared right up to the water's edge for the construction of high-density, low-cost, townhouse communities. Those projects are actually more costly to the county because of their need for services (infrastructure) while contributing a lesser value. In most cases, the remodeling of an existing aging structure for single-family use will create more value than three to five town houses, and that single family will have less impact on the infrastructure than the three to five families living in a town house.

By working with the property owners of Chase, Bowleys Quarters, Middle River and other waterfront communities, the county could benefit from the people who have a deep love and respect for the Chesapeake Bay. These people are willing to work together for the benefit of all, while respecting the position of the "older generation" who still occupy many waterfront homes.

It is unfortunate that Baltimore County administration lacks the imagination, creativity and leadership to understand the concept creating value as a source of revenue. What is needed is a

government that will stop its obstructionist attitude and develop an attitude of cooperation and assistance to its people. Value is not a dirty word. Value can benefit everyone and it's value that creates the tax base.

Raymond J. Piechocki

Timonium

NTC

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