Taxation FairnessEditor: Your front-page story on the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 03, 1991

Taxation Fairness

Editor: Your front-page story on the ''fairness'' of Maryland taxation (April 23) is full of misleading implications.

It has never been established that ''fairness'' requires a higher tax rate on higher incomes, but let's set that aside and look specifically at the article's rhetoric. Consider one example of the confusing mixture of rates, ratios of rates, and actual amounts. The NAACP's George Buntin concludes that ''Maryland's wealthiest 1 percent . . . pays one-tenth of 1 percent more in state and local taxes than families . . . earning $15,800.''

Well, let's see. The latter group pays 8.0 percent (that's $1,264), so I guess the million-dollar-income folks pay $1,265.26? Of course not; the average tax rate is one tenth of one percentage point greater, so the millionaire would pay $81,000. Rather than your headline writer's ''about the same,'' we could call this 6,308 percent greater.

When I was a tax economist with a think-tank in Washington, I did a lot of analysis of the periodic diatribes of Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), the labor-union outfit responsible for this study. Their populist message was always the same: Rich people don't pay enough, and neither do big corporations.

I found two major types of error. The first was the post hoc fallacy (after this, therefore because of this) and the second was a repeated confusing of economic and accounting interpretations of profit and ''effective tax rate.'' CTJ would flip back and forth between meanings as it suited its purpose, attributing economic incentives to accounting measures of profit and tax rate.

I pointed this second error out to them many times (once, rather obnoxiously, at one of their own press conferences). They repeat it, year after year, in study after study.

The best income tax is low and flat, and the lower and flatter the better. In this respect, Maryland's measures up pretty well.

I know The Sun editorially supports the Linowes report but you do your readers no favor by uncritically publicizing the kind of biased economic rhetoric characteristic of Citizens for Tax Justice.

John B. Egger.

Towson.

The writer is assistant professor at the Towson State University School of Business and Economics.

Readers Defend KAL

Editor: KAL's cartoon depicting the Teflon Reagans has been enlarged and now holds an honored place on my office wall for all the world to see.

Keep 'um coming, KAL!

George Goebel.

Catonsville.

*Editor: I am shocked! Where is The Sun's editorial balance? You have a special little box (why are you so fond of those little boxes?) devoted to vicious letters attacking KAL's cartoons. No positive reactions. No reasoned criticisms.

Are we to assume that the only reaction to KAL's cartoons is vituperation?

Does the special little box mean that you agree and want to emphasize these views?

Please allow at least one reader to applaud KAL, the political realist. He often makes more sense than the whole rest of the paper.

Sarah G. Hendrixson.

Baltimore.

Girls Picked, Too

Editor: E. J. Sale in his letter to the editor said that only boys picked eggs at Easter time -- ''no girls allowed.'' As an old timer, I want to differ with him. I am from Northeast Baltimore, have lived in this area for 72 years (four different addresses), and the girls always picked eggs with the boys.

Sometimes you would find a boy who had a few more tricks than the girls, but that made no difference. We were right out there hollering, ''Who's got an egg?'' along with them.

Also Paul Rhodes was right -- a couple of weeks before Easter we would pick the raw eggs. You only cracked the tip or the butt of the egg. When Easter came, then came the dyed eggs.

rma M. Mullin.

Baltimore.

Smokers Kill

Editor: Forgotten in Sandra McKee's article, ''But Tobacco Is Legal, Dr. Sullivan'' is the role of government. As a representative of the federal government, Dr. Louis Sullivan must protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of its citizens. Today, substantial medical evidence shows that ''secondary smoke'' is a hazard to other citizens' lives. Surely, threatening the life of innocent citizens is reason enough to curtail the smoking of tobacco in public places.

It cannot be denied that the tobacco industry is a legal business, with the rights and privileges of one. And, perhaps Dr. Sullivan, as health and human services secretary, goes too far when he states that he desires to ''eliminate the use of tobacco in our culture.'' But we cannot continue to treat smoking tobacco as just another obnoxious habit, like not bathing or picking one's nose. The indisputable truth is -- smokers kill people.

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