A Step Back
The central downtown Baltimore area is developing and building new businesses on vacant lots previously used as parking lots. The added tourist attractions and the new baseball stadium will cause an influx of people to visit the Inner Harbor. Therefore, adequate transportation is needed to transport patrons to and from the downtown area because parking is limited.
Baltimore is historically known for the street cars that ran on tracks. The decision to discontinue this form of transport was taken two decades ago. The city took at least a decade to remove the tracks and restore the smooth surface of asphalt. To reconstruct the same type of system is merely a step back in time.
The decision to construct the light rail system was a hasty one. It is not a good idea because of the dangers it presents to pedestrians when crossing the tracks.
Downtown traffic is already congested, and to delay traffic to allow for trains to cross will hinder traffic even more. The overhead high tension wires and the tracks are very unsightly.
The problem with transporting people to and from the downtown area could have been resolved by expanding the existing underground subway system. The subway does not obstruct or delay traffic. The light rail system presents more problems than solutions.
Big Brother and Me
In his March 14 letter, William T. Russell, chairman of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, states that Maryland is at a fork in the road.
He asks whether we want government to care for us, to determine which social programs are worthwhile, to ensure that wealth is distributed "by taking from the employed and giving it to the capable but lazy." He implies that social spending and national health insurance will lead inevitably to socialism.
Mr. Russell then asserts that support of government services means such a loss of discretionary income that we lose the ability to do such things as contributing to churches, service, organizations, charities and political candidates. Moreover, he suggests that we will even lose the ability to meet our obligations. The answer, he implies, is that social programs should be supported by voluntary contributions.
With due respect to the writer, we live in an increasingly complicated world.
In the 1980s we saw the result of deregulation of the savings and loan industry. Personal greed by a relatively small group of people led to a major expense for us all.
In the 1980s we saw deregulation of the airline industry. The result has been a reduction in the number of airlines and greater difficulties for the consumer trying to travel by air.
And we saw paragons of conspicuous consumption like Donald Trump showing us all what we could do with our discretionary income. We cannot close our eye to changes in the world that make old solutions less than adequate for the present and the VTC future.
Take health care. The fact is that our current health care financing delivery system has failed, badly. By the turn of this century, health care costs in this country will hit $ 1.9 trillion. That amount is larger than our entire current national budget.
We must look for solutions that protect the most basic parts of our national value system. My point in responding to Mr. Russell is not to argue health care financing. It is to challenge the perception that we live in a world where the responsible can take care of themselves if only government would let them keep a bit more of their earnings.
I would suggest that our tax problem in Maryland is that we have a terribly regressive tax system. A person who earns $200,000 a year pays about 7 percent of that income in state and local taxes while a person who earns $30,000 pays over 11 percent.
Maybe the real problem is that our tax structure sets a top tax bracket at income over $3,000. Maybe if people who earned more paid more and the people who earn less paid less, more people would have discretionary income. And I understand that nobody likes to give up their hard earned money -- not even unregenerate political liberals such as I.
But in a democracy, all people are created equal. Political power should not be based on income.
According to the standard of Mr. Russell, individuals with more discretionary income should determine which social programs to support. While churches and civic clubs can and do help, most do not have the expertise or the time to deal with the complex needs of many citizens of the state.
Albert P. Cohen
It is amazing to me how popular semantics is becoming these days.
According to a recent letter writer, "pro-choice" people should not be labeled "pro-abortion" any more because it is a "dangerous and misleading" title.
I suppose you could say the same about using the phrase "justice should be served" when referring to one's position on the death penalty (or should I say capital punishment?).
Could it be that these labels just protect some people from the uncomfortable truth they don't want to hear?