It's our money government spends
President Clinton has told the American people that we cannot afford a 15 percent tax cut. Instead, he proposes an insignificant tax reduction and a plethora of new and costly initiatives.
He erroneously concludes that we can solve the nation's problems simply by throwing money at them -- without raising taxes.
He may not increase our income taxes, but the American public is smart enough to realize that his proposals for additional regulations on business and taxes on foreign trade add up to higher consumer prices, fewer choices and bigger government. He may not get the money directly, but we will certainly be the ones paying the bill.
What we really cannot afford is to assume that after 50 years of futility, the welfare state will finally work.
Instead of spending more and always getting less, let's elect those politicians willing to reform and restructure the existing entitlement programs that threaten to cripple the American taxpayer. After all, it is our money.
Sometimes you have to assassinate
That our government should be actively engaged in an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein is perhaps debatable on both political and moral grounds, although, admittedly, I am inclined to favor such a course of action.
But to state, as does Carl Rowan (Sept. 9, "Well, why don't we just assassinate Saddam?") that "this country must never engage in the murders of foreign leaders, however repulsive the world may deem them to be", is an example of the kind of simple-minded thinking that this reader, at least, has come to expect of Mr. Rowan.
There are times, it seems to me, when assassination could be justified politically as well as morally. For example, would Carl Rowan have also been opposed to an attempt to kill Adolph Hitler, even by the U.S. government, in let us say 1941?
Statism incompatible with freedom, rights
The Sept. 3 editorial -- "The state mandate that wasn't" -- is remarkably honest in pointing out that the Maryland State Board of Education "conceived a state mandate but didn't want it to look like one."
Of course not. No statist policy ever starts out openly. The question is: Is a mandate which does look like one more preferable?
Statism is based on the premise that the individual belongs to the state. Few Americans would claim to support this idea, but equally few see its pervasiveness in our society. Whenever the government tells people that they must do something, or else ... that is a sure sign of statism. Whenever the government tells people that they must not do something -- with the single exception of the initiation of the use of physical force -- it is the principle that the state can and should control its constituents which is at work.
Once people accept a single application of the statist premise, it is only a matter of time before the more consistent statists (such as the editorial writer) will push for and win further-reaching and more centralized controls.
Is compulsory community service "statist"? Yes. Is compulsory education statist? Yes. An exhaustive list would go on for pages and include many things we have come to take as given.
The root contradiction is that statism is incompatible with freedom and individual rights. We must choose one or the other.
Voter questions Ehrlich's value
In the recent past you have endorsed Robert Ehrlich as the Republican nominee for the Second District congressional seat noting that he has worked hard as the incumbent. I believe this to be true. The only question in my mind is: worked hard at what?
I have been a registered Republican for 43 years. I am of the Senator Charles McC. Mathias stripe and Mr. Ehrlich does not fit in that category at all.
It is true that Mr. Ehrlich believes in saving the Chesapeake Bay, but beyond that he is questionable in regard to environmental issues and regulations. He apparently believes the national forests should be turned over to the states and he has voted with Newt Gingrich's "Contract on America" some 90 percent of the time. That "contract" is certainly unfriendly to the great majority of people.
When are Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues in the House going to get down to the business of compromise and hard work necessary to resolve the balancing of the budget, downsizing of government, the elimination of gross subsidies for corporations and agribusiness and reducing the defense budget (i.e., $20 billion for B-2 bombers), while seeing to it that the social safety, the regulatory agencies and other annoying -- but necessary -- functions like the Internal Revenue Service are not totally destroyed?
James V. McCoy
Zurawik needs lesson from 'Book of Virtues'
When I read David Zurawik's review of "Adventures from 'The Book of Virtues'" (Sept. 3), I first thought, "What a clever parody on politically correct journalism!" As I read on, however, I failed to find any hint of humor and was led to conclude that he really believes in this stuff.
Apparently Zurawik disapproves of morality, especially honesty. He closes with the phrase, "....long after any mainstream consensus on those values has passed." Evidently, Zurawik's mainstream is the left, liberal elite who dominate the media and have no tolerance for those who fail to toe their line.
Robert C. Thompkins
I was surprised to see that David Zurawik didn't like "Adventures From 'The Book Of Virtues,'" (Sept. 2). But with people like 20-year Friend Of Bill Dick Morris running the country, virtue can't be popular. So Zurawik thinks good vs. beautiful, bad vs. ugly is out of place? He's been watching too much Baywatch.
Frederick G. Scott
Vacation cost right to vote
I recently applied to the Baltimore Board of Elections for an absentee ballot for the November election. To my horror, I found I had been "removed" from the voter rolls.
Since I have lived in the same house since 1974, the only possible explanation is that last summer I asked the post office to forward my mail, for three months, to my summer home in Maine.
I think The Sun should warn voters who have asked that their mail to be forwarded for a short period that the penalty may be loss of voting rights.
Nancy S. Struever
Tainted blood infusions should be compensated
The products hemophiliacs use to sustain life are made from (( units of blood collected from tens of thousands of individuals. In the early 1980s, the Centers for Disease Control alerted the Food and Drug Administration that the HIV virus was a possible hazard to the recipients of blood and blood products.
The FDA did not respond to this warning and failed to take appropriate steps to avoid this devastation. Neither the blood industry nor the government has come forward to help when the majority of HIV infected hemophiliacs could have used their help just to sustain life.
Bills providing relief to hemophiliacs are pending in Congress, still in committee. What is going to happen to these bills?
The blood industry was well aware of the risk of using blood and blood products.
In 1971, they succeeded in getting a bill passed in Maryland which protected the industry from lawsuits involving blood or blood products that contained hepatitis. In 1986, before the public was aware of the extent of the damage inflicted on persons with hemophilia who received contaminated blood and blood products, that law was amended to include all viruses.
In Japan, hemophiliacs were awarded $420,000 per person plus a monthly stipend for those still living. The same companies made the products used in both countries and made the same profit per unit in Japan as in the United States. What makes a Japanese life worth more than an American life?
For that matter, what makes 17 other leading countries of the world more considerate and willing to compensate the unknowing and unwilling guinea pigs of the blood industry?
Where is justice? We know what dying is.
In my family there is a vast emptiness. Five members of my family were killed by the use of HIV contaminated blood. The number of reported HIV infected hemophiliacs fluctuates from approximately 6,000 to more than half of the hemophilia population of over 20,000.
What we will never be able to live with is the fact that these hemophiliacs were injected with deadly HIV contaminated blood. The government knew and the blood industry knew.
But we as consumers did not know.
Over 14 years have passed and nothing has been done to right this grievous injury to so many.
Can't make welfare a church responsibility
Cal Thomas likes to make simplistic proposals. This is the same guy who, just prior to the San Diego convention, advised Bob Dole to step down "for the good of the party." In his Aug. 27 column ("Our crime against poor children"), he "solves" the problems of poverty by admonishing the churches to take over all responsibility for it, and to "reassume the role they hold by divine mandate and a major reason for their existence on Earth."
He apparently assumes that the churches are currently doing little or nothing for the poor. He wants them to establish missions that will serve as half-way houses for those who have spent their lives on welfare, providing shelter, food, job counseling, education and other support activities.
Where will the money come from? From the funds that churches have heretofore been putting into "large buildings and larger programs." Who would do the work? The pastors themselves, plus volunteers who want this opportunity to ensure their pathway to heaven. The only remaining role for government, a short-term one, would be to supply the churches with the names of those whose welfare checks are soon to be cut off.
To make certain that some mean-spirited, materialistic pastors (presumably liberals) do not resist this divine plan, he suggests that the welfare names also be provided to the local press to "bring editorial pressure" for the pastors to go along.
The beauty of this ingenious concept is that it gets the poor off taxpayers' backs without pain -- everyone gains. Non-churchgoers could forget about the poor and spend their increased take-home pay on luxuries, with great benefits to the economy and to their consciences.
Those who continue to go to church might have to put more in the collection plate and devote most of their spare time to working in the missions, but they would be joyful in knowing they were making life better for the rest of us. The poor would see the error of their freeloading ways and turn to responsible citizenship.
Cal Thomas and others who have never had to worry about going hungry or shelterless tend to think of those on welfare as lazy, shiftless freeloaders who could easily get a job. They conveniently ignore the facts -- the large numbers of homeless with severe mental illness, the shortage of jobs for people with little education, the need for more child care and job training for ADC mothers and medical coverage for their children.
Reforming welfare rather than merely dismantling it would not be cheap, but it would save us enormous amounts in the long run. And the thought occurs that, for all of us so blessed as to have the income to pay taxes, perhaps God intends for all of us to help each other survive a hostile world, not just the pastors and their volunteers.
Governor acts wisely to reject more gambling
Watching the recent spate of troubles that Gov. Parris Glendening is going through with politicians from his own party, I have to recall that this was a similar plight that his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, underwent during his two terms.
Messrs. Schaefer and Glendening both came to the governor's job as highly successful local subdivision executives.
If any of the county executives and former state Sen. Stewart Bainum could even agree on who would challenge the governor, this rump rebellion might deserve to be taken seriously.
But inasmuch as this would require many self-interested politicians to forgo their own ambitions in favor of only one of them, I think it's highly unlikely that a single challenger could consolidate enough political chits to mount a successful campaign.
And what happened to no-shows Casper Taylor and Wayne Curry? The governor still has the leverage to win back the support of individually disgruntled politicians, plus sufficient time do it.
The effort to exploit the division between Mr. Glendening and one of his strongest and most consistent allies, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of (( their differences. Mr. Glendening is the head of a large and diverse family, which includes racing interests and backers of slot machines at the racetracks plus Mr. Schmoke.
The mayor can hardly be described as a racetrack politician; he was only seeking a solution to the funding crisis for the city's schools, and he thought he had gotten the governor to agree to a way to help pay the bills.
Governor Glendening was correct to reject the extension of racetrack betting parlors as a quick fix to the city's problem. The easy road to over-dependence on gambling revenues as a source of public funds has already been too well traveled. And the private sector in the form of the racing industry was only too willing to try to get its own quick fix by trying to add slot machines.
When there are so few of them to begin with, Mr. Glendening no doubt had a tough time saying "no" to political friends such as Mr. Schmoke and Joe De Francis. But it is also time for states in particular to pull back from gambling. This is a responsibility that the legislature also must share; they've ducked their responsibility for years by ordering the quick fix of gambling revenue instead of raising taxes.
Instead of expanding gambling, Maryland needs to re-examine the impact of existing games on the general public. Where are all these ambitious politicians when it comes to finding a source of funds for Baltimore's schools? They are conspicuously absent, but only too willing to try to exploit the governor's difficulties.
As for the effects of gambling, the state has taken a view for years that gambling has no adverse impact on families, communities and the economy.
A state senator told me recently that the reason the state didn't want to help pay for a gambling hot-line to help problem gamblers was because they denied that any kind of problem existed. But the National Center for Pathological Gambling, based here in Baltimore, has long argued that public lotteries and other forms of legally sanctioned betting only make pathological gambling worse; it offers plenty of evidence to support that contention.
Much more needs to be understood about gambling. Congress this summer finally approved legislation that establishes a National Gambling Impact Study Commission which will conduct two-year study on the effects of gambling on the social fabric of our nation.
The proliferation and promotion of legal gambling throughout the country by the various states is widespread, but its effects are only poorly understood. It's past time that we tried to understand the impact.
In the meantime, give the governor credit for doing the right thing, even if it wasn't popular.
'Christopher C. Boardman
How often should a child repeat a grade?
I write in response to "Teachers give grading policy an 'F'," the compelling story (Aug. 25) of two Baltimore County teachers who resigned because they said they were "pressured" to give passing grades to undeserving students.
Although I know of no school system with a "social promotion" policy that requires teachers to pass students to the next grade, the issue is certainly one that educators face daily. Nor is it new. When I began my career nearly 30 years ago, the topic was as vigorously discussed as it is now. Here are a few questions we asked then and continue to ask today.
What, indeed, should teachers do when students in their classes are unsuccessful? How often should a child be required to repeat a grade? When is a child too old to be held back? Should 10-year-olds be in the second grade? Twelve-year-olds?
Suppose a child needs a little more time and isn't ready to progress to the next grade until October? What if a child is precocious and ready to progress in April? Every parent and teacher knows that children don't learn at the same rate.
To address these questions, some elementary schools have combined two grades in one class or have put a three-year range of students in one class, allowing students' natural talents to develop at their own pace, quicker or slower as the case may be. These are called "multi-age" or "combination" classes. (Typically, we educators have given fancy names to common-sense solutions. We need to work on this.)
The simple truth is that no one teaching practice works for all students, they develop at different rates. Just as behavior codes work best when they recognize mitigating circumstances, so do the complexities surrounding various stu- dents' learning.
To have a "policy" that mandates "social promotion" is as bad for girls and boys as it is for the community and for the schools.
We must have high expectations for our students. That means expecting them to work hard and to study hard. Most students already do this.
Students who refuse to come to school, to do homework, to complete assignments or to participate in class need to be dealt with differently from students who cannot learn.
We must ask ourselves: "How will retention help this student? How will promotion help?" Our school system attempts to have students in the ninth grade by age 16, and we recognize that double retentions are detrimental to the growth and development of children.
We must have high expectations for our teachers. That means expecting them to do everything in their professional power to improve their students' achievement, exploring alternatives for students in trouble. Most teachers struggle valiantly, daily, to do this.
Finally, a word on reporter Marego Athans' lead paragraph, which prescribes "the sort of teachers needed if public education is going to have a future: 20-something, sharp, enthusiastic, if a bit idealistic." Shouldn't characteristics of successful teachers include endurance and a recognition that perplexing problems require not a simple rigidity mistaken for idealism, but as many solutions as there are students?
Richard E. Bavaria
The writer is executive director of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction for Baltimore County public schools.
Pub Date: 9/14/96