Our children will pay for the GOP's...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Our children will pay for the GOP's agenda

In her never-ending cheerleading for the conservative agenda, Mona Charen recently praised Newt Gingrich for his "compassion" for America's poor children (Other Voices, Jan. 18).

Are we to take this -- along with Sen. Phil Gramm's recent statement that the Republican Congress intends to cut off welfare for unwed teen-age mothers "because we love them" -- at face value?

Ms. Charen's attempt to depict the "kinder, gentler" side of Mr. Gingrich is merely another effort by conservatives to help this most Machiavellian of modern politicians project an image that belies the truth of his ruthless agenda regarding the poor.

Weren't Messrs. Gramm and Gingrich the congressional pit bulls for President Reagan's "ketchup is a vegetable" agenda for poor children in the 1980s?

Mr. Gingrich exhibited no pangs of conscience as he aggressively endorsed massive cuts in federally funded housing, jobs, mental health and substance-abuse treatment programs -- cuts that indirectly played a role in the growth of a permanent and economically desolate underclass in this nation.

Ms. Charen conveniently overlooks that Gingrich's "Contract with America" would pay for substantial tax reductions for the wealthy by eliminating federal assistance to nearly 1 million mentally retarded, physically disabled, blind or severely birth-defected children.

Republican scapegoating of the poor as the cause of the economic malaise among the hard-working middle class is a calculated displacement of blame.

As the poor plummet and the middle class struggles to hang on, the ultra-wealthy usurp the nation's economic bounty at a rate the 19th-century robber barons couldn't envision in their most avaricious dreams.

Bill Canter

Lutherville

School prayer

House Speaker Newt Gingrich's proposed constitutional amendment on classroom prayer will represent the first revision of our Bill of Rights in our history.

Our children will be caught in the middle of a religious and political battlefield.

One of Mr. Gingrich's many lies is his insistence that his constitutional amendment to place mandated prayer in our schools is not designed to be coercive.

The last time a prayer amendment came up in Congress during the 1980s, he betrayed his true intention, saying that "it's not all that bad to have some pressure to pray."

Most of our founding fathers fled religious persecution on foreign shores. Today, that dream of religious liberty is hostage to the fractious mood of the new Congress and the wavering of an embattled president.

Gerald Ben Shargel

Reisterstown

Easy on crime

Crime is the number one concern among Americans. Maryland ranks seventh highest in the nation for violent crime and sixth for murder.

The time has come for Maryland to strengthen, not further weaken, sentences for violent criminals.

Unfortunately, the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines Advisory Board (MSGAB) thinks otherwise.

Last October, when Judge Robert E. Cahill sentenced a man to " nTC 18 months for killing his wife, adding he was reluctant to give any prison time, outrage swept through Maryland and the nation.

The message to criminals: Crime pays. The message to victims: You have no right to justice.

The MSGAB reinforced these messages with its release of revised sentencing guidelines last week and made clear Judge Cahill's slap-on-the-wrist-style of sentencing is the rule, not the exception, in Maryland.

Maryland's neighbor, Virginia, has taken a different approach to fighting violent criminals. Gov. George Allen, supported by the National Rifle Association CrimeStrike, has abolished parole and increased prison building.

Not surprisingly, Virginia ranks only 36th in the nation in violent crime. Is there any doubt which state will be safer a year from now?

While the MSGAB describes the guidelines as "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive," what they describe is a horrifying picture of a collapsed criminal justice system in Maryland, and NRA sees no reason to be optimistic it will be any different in the future.

Under the old guidelines, a criminal convicted of first degree rape could face 10 to 18 years; under the new guidelines, he'll face only 1 to 10 years, a shocking decrease.

If there was any message to be garnered from the November election it was that Marylanders want meaningful steps taken to rid their streets of violent criminals. Certainly not guidelines that spin the revolving door of the state's prisons even faster, returning rapists to the streets in record time.

NRA CrimeStrike urges Gov. Parris Glendening and the Maryland legislature to heed the voters' wishes and regain control of an out of control criminal justice system.

The time to act is now. Time lost is lives lost.

Elizabeth J. Swasey

Fairfax, Va.

The writer is senior counsel for policy at NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

'Pain of a deadbeat dad' is mostly self-pity

Robin Miller's apologia of self pity, "The pain of a deadbeat dad" (Other Voices, Jan. 11), cries out for comment. Whether intentional or not, Mr. Miller has become a player in what may replace baseball as the national pastime: being a victim.

He is the victim of "the fantasy world of child support enforcement," as he calls it, and a state's attorney who -- can you believe it? -- demands that he support his children or go to jail.

He asks incredulously how he can be required to pay child support on an income of $200 a week. The solution to Mr. Miller's financial problems is fundamental to our system of free-market economics: He can earn more or work more.

Get a better paying job or work more hours at his present job (or one like it) and the ineluctable result is a fatter paycheck.

It is obvious from the style and content of his letter that Mr. Miller is intelligent, literate and articulate. Why is he under-using these abilities driving a cab?

He tells us that the economy has changed, that the factory-based jobs he used to rely on have all moved to Taiwan. What about the jobs that haven't gone to Taiwan? What has Mr. Miller done to qualify himself for the jobs that are available?

Our community college system is a gem. It specializes in upgrading current skills and teaching new ones to the Mr. Millers of society.

Society will invest in them if they are willing to invest the time and effort in themselves.

Even assuming the dubious proposition that Mr. Miller cannot qualify himself for a better paying job, he can still make enough to support himself and pay child support. He can simply work more hours driving his cab.

The math is simple. Double the numbers of hours worked from 40 to 80 and Mr. Miller's income will also double from $200 to $400 a week.

Were Mr. Miller to spend his spare time earning income instead of writing self-indulgent pieces about deadbeat dads, his children would receive the support they are entitled to and there would be fewer cases clogging the court dockets.

Some will call this letter mean-spirited. "Mean-spirited" has become the buzzword of those who buy into the notion that punishing people for failing to live up to their responsibilities is somehow unfair.

What is truly mean-spirited is to bring a child into the world and then refuse to use your best effort to support it.

L. R. Daniels

Glen Arm

In response to Robin Miller's "The pain of a deadbeat dad," child support is not defined solely in monetary terms.

To ignore your children for more than three years is the worst form of negligence.

The mother of your children is not only a full-time parent -- which includes housework, cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, car-pooling, helping with homework, etc. She is also trying to make ends meet financially while at the same time explaining to the children why their other parent has become invisible.

This mother deserves a lot more than any court could award her, and children are entitled to two warm, loving, caring parents.

If he thinks he's in pain, it's because he is surrounded by mirrors.

Break through the selfish barrier. See the pain of the children. It won't cost a dime.

hoshana Kruger

Baltimore

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