The Baltimore Sun

Senate budget plan will not raise taxes

The Sun's editorial "Reality bites" (March 26) wrongly asserts that the budget adopted by the Senate assumes the president's tax cuts will expire in 2010.

As one of the authors of the budget, I can assure readers that the Democratic budget makes no such assumption.

Our budget does not include or require a tax increase. Quite to the contrary, our budget extends middle-class tax relief and provides a two-year fix for the alternative minimum tax.

And it allows for new tax relief and the extension of other expiring tax cut provisions, as long as they are paid for.

In fact, over the five years of our budget plan, projected revenues come to $14.827 trillion, which is almost identical to the $14.826 trillion in revenue the administration projects for that period under the president's budget plan. The modest additional revenues in the budget can be achieved by closing the tax gap, shutting down abusive tax shelters and addressing offshore tax havens - without raising taxes.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the annual tax gap - the amount of taxes owed under current law but not paid - was $345 billion in 2001. And the gap has likely grown much larger since then.

At the same time, the Treasury is losing $100 billion each year to abusive tax shelters and offshore tax havens.

Recovering just a small percentage of this lost revenue could help us fund the nation's priorities while lowering the tax burden on the vast majority of honest taxpayers who pay what they owe.

The Senate-passed budget won't solve all our problems. But it does provide a guide to put our nation back on a sound fiscal path. And it does so without raising taxes.

Kent Conrad


The writer is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

High time to end Electoral College

Kudos to the Maryland legislature for approving a bill that would award the state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote ("Md. bill targets Electoral College," March 29).

It's high time we rid ourselves of the cumbersome and outdated Electoral College.

In the past, our governments have changed laws to bring more political power to the people through direct election of senators, referendums, ballot initiatives, etc.

This bill would be another welcome addition to our nation's transition to a more direct democracy.

Although this bill does not eliminate the Electoral College (only an amendment to the Constitution could do that), it is a step in the right direction.

Let's hope that Gov. Martin O'Malley signs the bill into law.

Then perhaps other states will follow our example.

John Soos


Reform undermines value of our votes

Marylanders should be concerned about the bill that would give our electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide ("Md. bill targets Electoral College," March 29).

And how can Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, say that the governor supports this bill because he believes "every voter counts"?

Under this bill, if Maryland's popular vote is higher for Candidate B, but the national vote is higher for Candidate A, the state's electoral votes go to Candidate A, who did not win among Maryland's voters.

So wouldn't this law mean Maryland's votes don't count unless they are in step with the national vote?

Charles Herr


Stop taking guff from the Iranians

The United States has been taking guff from Iran since Jimmy Carter was president. When Iranians took over our Embassy, they committed an act of war. Now Iran has kidnapped British soldiers, which is another act of war ("Britain, Iran stiffen positions on sailors," March 30).

Iran thinks it can do what it wants and get away with it. The United States and the British need to show Iran that it will be held accountable for such acts of war.

I don't want us to lose one soldier. I propose that we bomb the Iranian military.

If necessary, we should then bomb all the airfields in Iran; then blow up all their bridges, trains and harbors; and then the dams, the industries and the oil wells.

Then just leave them alone.

Jim Krug


Coerced confessions just can't be trusted

In March, the Bush administration couldn't stop crowing about men such as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who had been held in Guantanamo Bay for five years and had confessed to supporting terrorism ("Torture led to false claims, terror suspect says," March 31).

Now, some British sailors, detained for days in Iran, have confessed to violating Iranian waters ("Iranian protest targets British Embassy," April 2).

I'm skeptical about the British sailors' confessions.

You just can't trust a confession when the jailer won't say what was done to the prisoner when he or she confessed.

And unless the Bush administration reveals more about what it has been doing to obtain confessions at Guantanamo Bay, confessions of detainees there are not worthy of belief, either.

Martin H. Schreiber II


Limbaugh no cure for talk-show woes

According to Thomas Sowell, talk shows have lost their flavor. Previously fascinated by their unique brand of interactivity, Mr. Sowell finds himself unfulfilled with programs rife with "predetermined positions or prepackaged, partisan talking points" ("Absence of interaction marks the decline of the American talk show," Opinion * Commentary, March 22).

So, to combat this turn of events, Mr. Sowell turns to The Rush Limbaugh Show. Sigh.

I could point Mr. Sowell in the direction of any number of programs that actively invite actual debate and interactive discussion between people of widely differing viewpoints.

But I suspect that with his narrow ideology, Mr. Sowell wouldn't be interested.

David M. Blades


Immigrants must get legal or go home

I am outraged at Gov. Martin O'Malley and those legislators who are supporting the bill that would permit illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities in Maryland ("O'Malley boosts tuition measure," March 29).

Perhaps I missed the news of Maryland's giant surplus showing that the state is so flush with funds that we can afford to do this.

I'd rather see reduced tuition rates for all legal citizens of the United States than for anyone in this country illegally.

I'm sympathetic to the plight of children whose parents brought them into the country illegally. But enough is enough. Get legal or get out.

It's time that our government officials take their hands out of the pockets of the legal citizens and stop giving our hard-earned money to illegals.

If they feel so bad about the plight of the illegals, let them sponsor private scholarships.

Anyone want to take a bet on how many of our elected officials would take part in that?

Robert Schwartz

Owings Mills

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