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Political FailuresThe Maryland smoking ban is not...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Political Failures

The Maryland smoking ban is not about public health. It is about impotent, posturing politicians.

So is the Baltimore City curfew law. As the City Council took credit for trying to protect our youth and the Police Department took time to "educate" the population about it, children took rounds in the chest.

So is the emissions testing program. Since its inception over a decade ago, its results have been a state with the sixth worst air in the country and the second highest cancer rate.

So is the federally funded "empowerment zone." Who remembers that the Park Circle area was deemed an "enterprise zone" by a previous administration in the 1970s?

Now, handicapped persons bleed to death on the refuse-strewn sidewalks as residents react almost nonchalantly. Some enterprise!

The smoking ban will be another failure to add to the embarrassing list of local legislation and frustration.

Note that Gov. Parris Glendening has made no provision to enforce it. By his admission, fines provided for by this regulation will probably not be levied, but mere citations will be issued by the same state employees that do normal safety inspections of licensed businesses. They do not visit these businesses very often.

For a while after the smoking ban is put in place, the governor and his cronies will feel righteous and accomplished. They will probably even get some national news coverage and a sound bite or two on some prime-time TV magazines.

But when the smoke clears, Maryland and the Baltimore region will have the same problems: no businesses in the inner city, bad air and cancer, and babies blown apart on their front stoops.

Parris Glendening, though, will have carved his niche in history. And he will be proud.

Paul J. Gerhardt

Baltimore

Ludicrous Article

I am appalled by an article about Sen. Larry Young that appeared in the March 12 edition of your paper.

Clearly the writers' knowledge of Senator Young's ethics and integrity is in a range between naught and minuscule. To accuse, allege or otherwise imply that a conflict of interest exists because of his regular full-time job and his position as a public servant is absolutely ludicrous.

Being an employee of the American Ambulance Co. and chairing the subcommittee on health care does not, in itself, constitute a conflict of interest. Everyone has to work somewhere, and the General Assembly only lasts 90 days.

Having financial debts, which he is obviously repaying "financially," surely should not be misconstrued as a conflict. After all, according to your writers, they are loans and not "campaign contributions."

If a legislator cannot introduce and/or support legislation that will benefit his/her constituency, then shame on that elected official.

In my opinion, the article was a deliberate attempt to discredit one of the finest legislators and representatives of the African-American community.

Let us not hasten to condemn those who have legitimate jobs, meet their financial obligations and represent those who elected them.

FTC Charles D. Bates Jr.

Baltimore

The writer is president, Local 2101, Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

Ties to India

You are right in stating that Hillary Rodham Clinton's extensive visit to South Asia is more important than most people realize (editorial, March 22).

Indeed, "Symbolism counts for a lot in diplomacy, just as it does in domestic politics."

However, I will hasten to add that Mrs. Clinton's visit to South Asia is more than symbolism.

Her visit will strengthen economic and political ties between the United States and five powerful South Asian nations. This is what U.S. foreign missions are supposed to do.

Also, besides getting a first-hand knowledge about the role of women in these countries, Mrs. Clinton will also learn how the health care system works so well in a large country like India and why rural banking in Bangladesh is successful.

There also is a lot at stake for the United States and for Maryland, in terms of both trade and investment opportunities.

For instance, India is not only the world's largest democracy, it also is the fifth largest economic power in the world. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary recently visited India, and U.S. firms came away with billions of dollars worth of trade and investment contracts.

Countries like India are opening up rapidly, with far-reaching economic reforms. This is the right time to forge better economic and political ties.

The best way to win over these powerful nations of South Asia is to treat them with respect, to befriend them and show a real interest in learning from them. Trade and investment will follow.

radeep Ganguly

Baltimore

The Difference between the Parties

After two successive weeks of reading op-ed articles by the Democratic leaders of the House of Delegates (March 19) and the Democratic governor (March 26), I figured this week would be our turn, and what a fine week it would be.

The differences between the Republicans and Democratic parties couldn't be better defined, with a unanimous House Republican Caucus offering 6 percent and 3 percent income tax cuts, joined by one lone Democrat on each party-line vote.

Then came Barry Rascovar's March 26 column, "Up Is Down and Left Is Right," and its follow-up March 28 editorial, "Sanity on Tax Cuts," blurring the obvious distinctions and reassigning long-held ideological descriptions from one party to the other.

In "Up Is Down and Left Is Right," Democrats are the conservatives and Republicans are liberal, revolutionary, radical and, for good measure, far-right! The editorial tagged House Republicans as "firebrands" and created a hybrid category: radical-slash-conservative.

What Barry Rascovar has done is strip Republicans of our cherished label, given it to the Democrats, and stuck the GOP with all of the pejoratives.

I think it was Jack Kemp who first noted the irony of the traditional "liberal" and "conservative" monikers, that the "liberal" Democrats fought like tigers to preserve the status quo, while the "conservative" Republicans fought just as hard to produce change.

All this etymology is great fun, but only partially masks Mr. Rascovar's true bias, which is heartily pro-establishment. To wit:

"House Speaker Casper R. Taylor, a Western Maryland conservative, pushed a plan that could only be defined as liberal. He, too, wanted to turn back tax money to citizens and let them how to use it. But he stopped short of the radicalism of the Republicans." (Emphasis mine.)

What does this mean? That a tax cut proposed by a Democrat is the only kind that can possibly be tolerated by Mr. Rascovar? Or is it that Mr. Taylor stopped short of his goal when he failed to persuade the governor to go through with a tax cut this year, and that "radical" Republicans had the temerity to force a vote anyway?

And there is this paean to establishment values: "When it comes to tax cuts, the person closet to the definition [of a conservative] is -- surprise -- Gov. Parris Glendening, the guy blasted as a liberal 'Spendening' in the 1994 election."

Here, Mr. Rascovar ties taxes to "Spendening," and unwittingly helps us in the GOP to make our point. Taxes and spending are linked, but distinct, in Maryland's budget. Republicans tried to cut both, and Governor Glendening wouldn't cut either.

The "structural deficit that refuses to shrink" that The Sun wrote about in Tuesday's editorial keeps growing because the governor's projections show the budget expanding well beyond the taxpayers' ability to send the government revenue at current rates.

There are three ways to halt this otherwise inexorable march off the budgetary cliff: We can cut the budget. We can cut off the revenue flow that feeds the budget. Or we can do both.

The House Republicans tried both and, lacking the votes to impose our will, we failed. The fact is, it is nearly impossible to cut the budget when there is no pressure to do so, and there is so much cash sloshing around in this budget that the Democrats couldn't begin "Spendening" it all.

This is the crux of the debate: Should some of the accumulated surplus be returned to the taxpayers now, or should it be held by the government until the government finds a place to "invest" it, thereby growing the government some more?

Who knows best, the taxpayers or the government? All in all, there is no better illustration of the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Robert H. Kittleman

Annapolis

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The writer is minority leader of the House of Delegates.

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