The Baltimore Sun

Access to health care a question of justice

I applaud the comments in The Sun's column "Say yes to national health care" (Opinion

Commentary, Oct. 29).

As a medical student, I see the impact our broken health care system has on individuals and communities every day.

Figures from the Institute of Medicine show that the lack of health insurance causes about 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in this country.

Medical students see the faces behind this number in our free clinics and emergency rooms. The patients who die under our care largely die from preventable diseases. We need a single-payer health care system to prevent these deaths.

We have tried the market-driven model of medical care - with its underlying motto of "We feel for you, but our shareholders come first."

Many states are trying hard to come up with solutions. But although well-intentioned, these approaches often put too much financial burden on workers who are forced to buy insurance.

It is clear that we need a fundamental change to stop the human suffering we now have, and cut the health care costs that are hurting the economy.

I believe we have reached a point in history at which this is no longer just a political or economic issue; it is a justice issue.

Jay Bhatt


The writer is a former president of the American Medical Student Association.

Raising sales tax hurts quality of life

While there may be a rationale for broadening the number of goods and services subject to the state sales tax, the tax rate should never change ("Tax plan changes urged," Nov. 1).

The sales tax is, in effect, automatically indexed for inflation. The more you pay for goods and services, the more sales tax you pay.

But the state is broke and it's only a penny, some say. Well, they are wrong.

The proposed change from 5 percent to 6 percent is a 20 percent increase in the most regressive of taxes.

Sales tax receipts are down because the economy has slowed. But if the rate increase passes, do you think it will be rescinded when the economy improves and the money is pouring into Annapolis?

Of course not. The politicians will find new and faster ways to spend the money. Then they will cry poverty again at the next downturn.

When times are tough, rational people cut expenses. Politicians need to learn to do the same thing.

Gov. Martin O'Malley says he is concerned about "grave damage to the very quality of life that our neighbors have elected us to defend."

The best way he can defend my quality of life is to take responsibility for making the state live within its means, and keep his hands off my wallet.

Tim O'Neill


Before raising taxes, stop wasting money

The audit of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration indicated serious infractions of state laws and regulations governing state accounting practices ("Audit finds serious MVA flaws," Oct. 30).

The results of this audit mirror those of previous audits of many state agencies.

These audits clearly show that our state agencies are wasting and misusing millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.

The governor and members of the Assembly should take seriously their responsibility to improve the fiscal performance of each state agency before enacting new state taxes.

I would ask: Was it prudent for Gov. Martin O'Malley to call a special session to raise state taxes before addressing the state government's waste and abuse of taxpayers money?

And I say: No new state taxes.

It's time for an efficient state government.

Dick Johnson


Letting immigrants rip off U.S. taxpayers

The Sun apparently wants to accuse people like me, who disagree with its position on immigration, of "meanness of spirit" and "base emotions" because I recognize that those who came to the United States illegally, even if they are children brought here by their parents, are citizens of another nation ("The new third rail," editorial, Oct. 30).

But I think that the "meanness of spirit" belongs to The Sun's editorial staff.

Who is really mean - someone who invites a citizen of another country to use a free education to create a better life in his or her own country, or someone who would allow illegal immigrants to take U.S. taxpayers for all they can get?

Eric I. Esler


Shilling for Ehrlich at public expense?

At the conclusion of The Sun's front-page article "Ehrlich keeps profile high, options open" (Oct. 31), Towson University Professor Richard E. Vatz is quoted as saying, "Why in the world did Maryland lose a governor like Bob Ehrlich?"

Every Maryland resident, voter or Sun reader knows where Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. stands on just about every issue. And indeed, most people also know that Mr. Vatz makes no pretense of being an objective observer of, or commentator on, the political scene; he is an unabashed fan of the former governor's and, on most issues on which he has made his views known, a supporter of whatever the Republican position might be.

And all of that is fine.

What doesn't seem fine, however, is that Towson University, a publicly funded component of the University System of Maryland, should continually provide both a forum for the former governor to criticize his successor and a platform to keep his political options open.

If Mr. Vatz wants to be a flak for Mr. Ehrlich, that's OK.

But he shouldn't be doing it in his role as a Towson University professor.

That just seems to fail the smell test.

Harris Factor


Ehrlich's bullying cost him the office

Professor Richard E. Vatz's question to his "advanced persuasion" class, "Why in the world did Maryland lose a governor like Bob Ehrlich?" seems inappropriate for the classroom ("Ehrlich keeps profile high, options open," Oct. 31).

But here is an answer: No amount of persuasion could convince the majority of Maryland voters that they want to be governed by an ill-mannered bully who doesn't understand that the environment is our home and our neighbors are our family.

Leslie Starr


Next attorney general must reject torture

Who we are as a people if our Cabinet officials cannot come out foursquare against torture is what's at stake in the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey to be attorney general ("Fate of Mukasey confirmation iffy," Nov. 1).

If we succumb to our fears about our security by allowing ourselves to condone torture (i.e. waterboarding), this nation will lose whatever moral authority we have and invite the condemnation of the world.

The humiliation and degradation we incite with these abhorrent practices are recruiting tools for those who vow to kill us. It plays right into their hands as examples of American policies that justify the terrorist tactics they use against us.

Condoning torture cannot be what we are about.

Dave Lefcourt

Ellicott City

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