Rival PatriotsI was astonished by Gerald B....


Rival Patriots

I was astonished by Gerald B. Johnston's remarkable Sept. 29 letter regarding the publication of pictures from the Arnhem ceremonies, and the general insistence on showing pictures of ". . . teary British veterans remembering failures."

I will give Mr. Johnston the benefit of the doubt here, as I suspect that this is simply a way of firing off some gratuitous, inner-felt Brit-bashing. I cannot imagine anyone with any kind of tact, sensibility or class having the audacity to condemn those, whatever their nationality, who gave their all to protect freedom.

More seriously, though, the letter particularly lends itself to discussion in this country which devotes a public holiday to its veterans.

If I, as an Englishman, were to attend a Veterans Day service at, say, the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, then write to the paper denouncing those weeping at the granite wall, what does Mr. Johnston think his response would be? I would imagine I would receive his full support. After all, there they are, weeping in memory of the abject failure of tired, ineffective troops led by a deluded government.

How dare Mr. Johnston? Respect our veterans and leave them alone to display their grief, as I, and all other Britons, leave American veterans alone. These are all people who jeopardized everything to secure your right to broadcast such diatribe.

He should use that high horse of his to ride down U.S. 40 to the Double-T; maybe a good breakfast might soak up some of that bile.

im Marshallsay

Glen Burnie

Teachers' Burden

I am a teacher, and I have just finished reading the new recertification requirements that have come down to me from the State Department of Education.

These requirements state that I recertify by taking courses more frequently. I have read that this is being done to improve education.

It seems as though most efforts to improve education are aimed at putting pressure on teachers to do more.

I will take the courses. But I wonder if, when I return to my classroom after the additional course work, I will:

* Still have the same number of disruptive students because local administrators, intimidated by the state's push for reduced disciplinary referrals, are hesitant to take action.

* Still have the same number of habitually absent students and students who abuse drugs and alcohol because there are not enough counselors and pupil personnel workers to deal with these students and their families.

* Have the necessary materials and equipment to put my new knowledge into practice with students.

Requiring teachers to do more looks good on paper and to the public, but it does not change much.

Additional courses will not put materials and equipment into the hands of my students, nor will they give me the help that I need in dealing with student problems.

avid A. Fisher


The Price of Civilization

Another election campaign, another wave of hysteria about taxes. Every two-bit demagogue discovers that the American voter goes right up the wall at the mere mention of the word. When we sit in front of the TV and get exposed to their wild !! claims of ruination, we seem to turn our brains off.

Paying reasonable taxes is a privilege in a country where the taxpayers have a voice. Taxes are the price of civilization. Remember what the so-called tax rebellion did to California: services declined disastrously, schools closed, hidden taxes and inequitable sales taxes proliferated.

When taxes are cut, it is the ordinary citizens, the poor, the people who have no lobbyists, who suffer. Libraries shorten their hours, garbage service slows down, fire stations close.

Did we think the tax vigilantes would sacrifice their own salaries? Did we imagine the loss of revenue would mean fewer patronage jobs at City Hall? Are we really that naive?

Take a look at the people who scream the loudest about taxes: they are the rich. They indeed face big losses if taxes are raised.

For most of us, a tax raise means the price of a dinner out and a couple of movies once a year. But the wealthy, and the politicians who serve them, use us as a cats-paw, drumming up popular fears to influence the legislatures.

America has by far the lowest tax rates of all the developed countries; Finland's top rate is 75 percent. As a result, investors from all over the world are buying up our companies and our national landmarks. They are comparatively cheap -- partly because of the scandalously low taxes our government demands of corporations. This creates a deficit, which shrinks the value of a dollar, making America the great tourist bargain of the '90s. We are turning into a Third World country.

To me it is strange that one of America's favorite slogans is, "You get what you pay for," and yet when it comes to supporting our own communities, we expect to get something for nothing.

Maybe we are all socialists at heart. Maybe we would rather not take the responsibility for our own welfare.

Michael Kernan


Settlement Costs in Maryland

The Perspective article on Maryland's high real estate closing costs (Sept. 11) was interesting reading, but it was lacking in the kind of balanced perspective we have come to expect from The Sun. The solution to Maryland's problem of reducing settlement costs is not as easy as simply reducing fees and charges on the public side of the settlement ledger. Let's put this issue in context.

As all elected officials know, the property tax is the most despised form of taxation that exists today. The state government with its broad authority has largely reduced its reliance on property taxes in favor of income and sales taxes.

Unfortunately, however, city and county governments, because of the lack of available revenue alternatives, must rely heavily on property tax revenues to pay for the range of local services that are demanded by citizens.

Maryland governments and the real estate industry are constrained by an unfortunate historical development, that property taxes must be paid for the year ahead rather than the year just concluded (as is the case in most other states). This has led the real estate industry to call for a semi-annual system for property tax billings, to reduce the property taxes that must be paid at the real estate settlement table. Unfortunately, making such a switch can come with a considerable cost to the taxpayers.

Briefly, here's why. First, cities, towns and counties collectively spend millions of dollars to collect property taxes each year. Doubling the number of tax billings will obviously significantly increase administrative costs. Secondly, local governments rely heavily on the interest earnings from property tax revenues, which for the most part are collected early in the fiscal year.

What happens when a local government incurs mandated new expenses or experiences a reduction in revenues?

It either cuts back on local service provision or it raises the local property tax. Put another way, a state mandate to lower settlement costs for home buyers means that all taxpayers pay more to compensate for the temporary benefits enjoyed by those individuals buying houses.

The same principle applies to real estate transfer taxes. Mandate lower transfer taxes, pay more in property taxes or lose public services.

The Maryland General Assembly has acted wisely on this subject in recent years. In 1988, it created the Maryland Settlement Expense Loan Program, which helps low- and moderate-income families purchase homes. And in 1993, the legislature authorized cities and counties to opt for a semi-annual property tax payment system if, in the judgment of local elected officials, circumstances permit such to happen without any adverse effect on all local taxpayers.

We all must bear in mind that, in government as in life generally, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody, somewhere is picking up the tab.

Jon C. Burrell


The writer is executive director the Maryland Municipal League.

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