Government employees pay taxes, tooIn his letter "Whining...

the Forum

April 12, 1993

Government employees pay taxes, too

In his letter "Whining workers" (March 24), William Coughlin makes some erroneous conclusions. First, federal employees do not receive cost of living allowances and pay raises every year. Many workers received only their COLAs last year. More than once during the 1980s even these were withheld.

A COLA is a cost of living adjustment that helps workers meet the burdens of rising prices and inflation. Is Mr. Coughlin suggesting federal employees should stay at a fixed income while outside costs continue to rise?

Second, federal workers do not command higher salaries than their private sector counterparts. In many cases, the opposite is true. A former Westinghouse employee once told me that he made more with that company than he ever made with the government.

It's not uncommon to find some federal employees working part-time jobs to make ends meet. In addition, many companies offer stock options and profit sharing plans which the government cannot provide.

While I do not deny federal employees receive many helpful benefits, these benefits are hardly isolated to government workers alone.

For example, it is not unheard of for long-time employees in the private sector to receive four-week vacations, double time for major holidays, liberal sick leave and generous medical coverage.

Regarding federal employees, only a portion of their medical premiums are paid by the government. The rest is taken directly from their salaries.

If President Clinton's entire economic plan is accepted, federal employees will not only have their salaries frozen, but will be paying more money for needed fuel. In other words, as the president himself once put it, they will be "working harder for less money." Is that fair?

Mr. Coughlin makes a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious) when he states that laid-off workers would be glad to have our jobs.

But he should check his facts before assuming all federal employees are a bunch of do-nothing bureaucrats who get rich at the taxpayer's expense. Don't forget, we pay taxes, too.

Eric H. Smith


Pay now or later

Your paper recently mentioned information pertaining to Maryland's Tomorrow dropout prevention program that has resulted in misunderstanding among readers.

Maryland's Tomorrow operates in 80 schools in Maryland as a five-year program of support and assistance for participating students.

The statewide average cost per youth served in the program is about $1,000 per year. When wages paid to youth for summer work experience and local contributions to the program are factored into the total cost, the statewide average annual cost per student runs about $2,000.

Evaluation data and the stories of participants' accomplishments show that Maryland's Tomorrow offers strong rays of hope in helping at-risk youth become more proficient academically and successful in meeting high school graduation requirements.

The dropout rates of participating youth during their early years in the program have decreased from 6.4 percent to 2.6 percent; 19 of 24 school systems have experienced a dropout rate decrease since the inception of the program, and participating youth have evidenced greater functional skills than a comparison group of similar youth.

In cancer research, we believe these types of indicators would be heralded as a major breakthrough warranting a greater public investment.

Considering the high potential costs to the public for crime, drug abuse, income maintenance, health care and housing, we can choose to pay significantly less for prevention now or pay much more. . . forever.

Nancy S. Grasmick


The writer is the state superintendent of education.

Spring feelings

It is almost impossible to read a paper or listen to the news these days without it being about tragedy. Well I've decided that a letter to you about something positive was appropriate.

The calendar on the wall states that spring is officially here. Although Mother Nature has been awfully slow about ushering spring in, you can sense that spring fever is not far away.

Spring is a time for new beginnings. Deciduous plant life begins anew; a fresh start is in order. The trees begin to blossom, the crocus rears up among the snow-laden ground, the birds begin their spring choir, even the night insects have begun to sing.

Spring is also a time to reflect on the past few months. Be thankful that you survived the Blizzard of '93 or the earthquakes that Columbia has recently experienced. Be thankful for the small gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed on us.

On that warm, sunny day, take a step back and really observe your surroundings, smile and then exclaim to yourself, yes, spring finally is here, thank God.

Sherre S. Hankinson


How to get there?

We've been waiting all winter for Sunday Orioles games, which begin this weekend.

What a pleasure it was last year to get to Oriole Park on Sundays. Drive 10 minutes to the Metro, wait five minutes, take the Metro for 15 minutes and walk 10 minutes. Total time 40 minutes.

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