The Baltimore Sun

Replace income tax with a U.S. sales tax

Like the authors of "A bipartisan tax-code fix" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 11), I also favor a national consumption tax instead of the income tax system. And so do a lot of the people I know. But this seems to make very little difference to either the Republican or Democratic legislators with the power to set tax policy.

The income tax system costs the nation hundreds of billions of wasted dollars a year in compliance costs, loses more than $350 billion a year to tax cheating and creates a uniquely American season of panic around April 15.

Almost everyone believes there is a better way. But even here in our great democracy, our elected officials seem to be completely deaf when it comes to fundamental tax reform.

I hope the authors of this column are correct that the uneasy balance between Republicans and Democrats in Congress creates a moment of opportunity for the public will to be acted upon.

It is ironic that the fight for partisan advantage may create an opportunity for common ground to be found. But I think that common ground is alive and well in citizen-driven tax proposals like the FairTax national retail sales tax plan.

We would all get a raise under this proposal as federal payroll withholding taxes would be eliminated.

Most people I know like that idea. Now if only the members of Congress would listen to the people they are supposed to represent.

Spear Lancaster


The writer is a former Libertarian candidate for governor and state coordinator for FairTax.org.

The recent column on bipartisan tax reform could have been describing the FairTax national retail sales tax plan.

This idea has been hotly percolating for some years at the grassroots level, with only modest support in Washington.

Let's hope the authors are right and we see some recognition from those in Washington who created the income tax system that it is broken.

It's past time for something better.

John Macko

Ellicott City

Preserving parts of county's heritage

In this season of preserving memories and celebrating traditions, I was pleased to see articles on the preservation of two historic sites - the "Colored School #2" in Loreley ("Historic black school to be moved, rehabbed," Dec. 13) and the 10 historic structures in Cromwell Valley Park ("Cromwell Valley Park stays true to its roots," Dec. 13).

These efforts speak well for all of us in Baltimore County.

The fact that these structures will remain as part of the county's heritage and as irreplaceable gifts to our children is a tribute to the hard work and collaboration of citizen preservationists and elected officials.

Ruth B. Mascari


The writer is a member of the board of the Baltimore County Historic Trust.

Homeowners need to meet obligations

The Sun did the public a service by exposing the abuses of those intent on gaming the ground rent system ("On Shaky Ground," Dec. 10-12).

Their aim is not really to collect the ground rent but to reap exorbitant legal fees or gain control of the property for profitable resale.

At the same time, those adversely affected are not completely blameless.

Obligations come with owning or inheriting a property. And if you ignore a registered letter saying the ground rent is overdue or don't pay your city taxes, you can lose your house.

James D. Dilts


Would Patton accept advice of civilians?

What would Gen. George S. Patton have said if, during World War II, a civilian study group had given him 79 recommendations on how to lead his Third Army to victory (oops, let's call that "success") in battle ("Rumsfeld warns against weakening of U.S. will," Dec. 16)?

L. Bloom

Owings Mills

'Watchful waiting' still better option

As an older man (age 76) who may have prostate cancer, I was particularly interested in reading The Sun's article "'Wait-and-watch' on prostate cancer may not be best idea for older men," (Dec. 15)

The article asserts in its second paragraph that, "Now, a study suggests there's a significant benefit [over watchful waiting] from treating men older than 65 surgically or with radiation therapy."

But reading further I see that, "In the study, the risk of dying from prostate cancer was low for both groups. Only 314 of the watchful waiting group, or 2.5 percent died of prostate cancer, while only 612, or 1.9 percent, of the treatment group died of the disease."

The article also goes on to say, "But many men treated for the disease still experience urinary incontinence, rectal bleeding, and erectile dysfunction."

Thus after reading the entire article, it seems to me that for an older man the conclusion is that "watchful waiting" preserves a quality of life that treatment might well destroy with, statistically speaking, little or no real benefit.

Lyn Russell


Beam therapy leads to fewer side-effects

The Sun's article "'Wait-and-watch' on prostate cancer may not be the best idea for older men" (Dec. 15) fails to mention the best treatment out there for prostate cancer.

This treatment is proton beam therapy, a highly targeted radiation therapy that has been available at Loma Linda University Medical Center's Proton Center in California since 1990 and is now available in a number of places.

This treatment has a very high cure rate. It also greatly reducing one's chances of suffering the two major side-effects associated with prostate surgery: incontinence and impotence. And it has fewer side-effects than regular external beam radiation.

How do I know this? I am a prostate cancer survivor who has had proton beam therapy at Loma Linda.

Allan Kaufman

Owings Mills

Affirmative action is discrimination

The executive director of Unite our States, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s political action committee, closes his defense of Mr. Biden's civil rights record with the statement that Mr. Biden "has been an ardent supporter of affirmative action, hate-crimes legislation and banning any and all kinds of employment discrimination" ("Record shows Biden is far from a 'bubba'," letters, Dec. 16).

I wonder if the writer has any idea how contradictory that statement is.

Affirmative action programs are designed to promote those of one ethnicity or gender over those of another ethnicity or gender.

Hate-crime legislation mandates that crimes against some victims warrant higher penalties than crime against other victims.

Clearly, any action that rewards one group at the expense of another group is discriminatory, by definition.

What Mr. Biden should be promoting is a race-neutral, color-blind society with due process and opportunity dispensed equally for everyone.

Michael DeCicco


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