The Baltimore Sun

Give the tax rebate to the middle class

I thought the idea of a tax rebate sounded pretty good in light of all the tax increases we have been hit with lately. It seemed a fair way to give back a little, particularly to the middle class, which always seems to get hit the hardest.

Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an article in the Sunday Sun titled "Tax rebates split on party lines" (Jan. 20). I couldn't believe what I was reading: Some Democrats want to give rebates to people who aren't even paying any income taxes.

I thought a rebate was money returned based on a purchase made.

Yes, the poor do pay Medicare and Social Security taxes. But they will recoup that money when they get old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Is it any wonder that people in the middle class who aren't getting any handouts - i.e., welfare and food stamps - feel that they are supporting those who are less fortunate at the cost of their own financial security?

Just once, can't there be a break for the middle-class worker without strings tying it to the lower-income individuals who are already at least getting some help?

Obviously not if some Democrats have their way.

Wendy Sevier


Cutting payroll tax can boost economy

If our leaders in Washington are truly interested in stimulating the economy, they should assist those who are most likely to spend a tax rebate - our poorest workers ("Tax rebate split on party lines," Jan. 20).

Some 22 million workers do not earn enough to pay income taxes. But they do lose a significant share of their income to regressive payroll taxes.

Eliminating the payroll tax on the first $15,000 of income could provide up to $1,100 for each of these workers. It could also spur businesses, which pay the other half of the taxes on employment, to hire more workers or forgo layoffs.

Unfortunately, President Bush is focused instead on helping "people who pay federal income taxes." And many Democrats are likely to argue that a payroll tax cut would threaten Social Security.

However, both sides must realize that all federal income and payroll tax receipts are collected by the Treasury and spent each year.

If cutting payroll taxes hurts entitlement spending, the same would be true for any income tax reduction.

The consensus among our policy-makers seems to suggest that we need to cut taxes to avert a deep recession.

The question they ought to be considering is whether it makes more sense to cut taxes on payroll than income.

Tim Parker


Poll on Grasmick sheds little light

So 904 people with minimal knowledge of the teaching profession gave state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick a C-plus - and it makes headlines ("Grasmick gets a C-plus," Jan. 18).

Do these subjective opinions really mean more than the determination by the pros at Education Week that Maryland's schools rank third-best in the nation ("Grasmick called a 'pawn' of GOP," Jan. 10)?

Would The Sun see any benefit from a similar poll that asked citizens to grade the professional competencies of its writers and artists?

Devoting front-page coverage to this useless information speaks more to The Sun's political bias than to any value to the report.

Personally, I give The Sun a D-minus for the quality of this journalism.

Charlotte Considine

Glen Arm

Showing courage to free the disabled

I would like to commend Gov. Martin O'Malley and state Health Secretary John M. Colmers for deciding to close the Rosewood Center ("Maryland to shut home for disabled," Jan. 16).

People with developmental disabilities should have the right to live in regular homes just like other people. We are in the 21st century now and should not lock people away from society.

I know that not everyone is happy with this decision, including some parents of residents at Rosewood and the workers' union, and I understand their concerns. But I think the governor and Mr. Colmers showed a lot of courage and made the right choice.

Sam Miller


Reconsider climb before tragedy hits

I appreciate Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler's willingness to study the safety of the Herndon Monument Climb ("Navy ritual scrutinized," Jan. 18)

While no serious injuries have been sustained in past climbs, a look at video footage of the event certainly suggests the possibility of a serious spinal cord or head injury.

The past is not always prologue.

When I first learned of the unauthorized tradition of first-year men jumping into our 15-acre campus lake at the University of Richmond after they attended a late-night induction ceremony, I winced, having been told the lake was unsafe for swimming even in daylight.

I then asked if anyone had ever been injured in the late-night swim and was informed no injuries had occurred. So the ceremony went forth, and later that night a first-year student drowned.

Thankfully, the Herndon Monument Climb is not as inherently unsafe as either our late-night swim or the Texas A&M; bonfire tradition that ended in even greater tragedy.

But Admiral Fowler deserves to be commended for scrutinizing this tradition before, not after, a serious injury occurs.

The plebes learn to risk their lives soon enough.

William E. Cooper

Richmond, Va.

The writer is president emeritus of the University of Richmond.

Naval climb teaches value of teamwork

The annual tradition of climbing the Naval Academy's Herndon Monument is much more than a ritual ("Navy ritual scrutinized," Jan 18).

It is, in fact, an exercise that teaches in a symbolic manner the goals that can be achieved through teamwork. It promotes camaraderie and a host of other essential qualities that need to be nurtured and developed.

It is all part of a learning environment that teaches and instills qualities in these men and women that may one day save fellow officers' lives in combat.

Academy officials are asking, "Is this safe?"

Sure, there are risks. But the benefits definitely outweigh the risks.

The academy could stop greasing the monument. That would make it safer.

But watering down the challenge would only water down the benefit.

Scott Richardson


Good housing news is a welcome change

It was so nice to finally see a somewhat positive outlook in the article "NAR economist says Baltimore housing has bottomed out" (Jan. 15).

I am so tired of the doom and gloom about the housing market. I know there are problems, but there are also some positives in this housing market. Interest rates are low, and there is money out there. And there is an abundance of homes on the market.

So let's have more positive and upbeat articles.

Janice DeMonte


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