Let individuals be responsible for own actsAttorney...

the Forum

June 28, 1994

Let individuals be responsible for own acts

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran has announced that his office is researching links between smoking and health problems.

The purpose of this taxpayer-funded research is to determine the amount of Medicaid dollars spent on tobacco-related health complications.

When that determination is made later this summer, Mr. Curran can then accurately determine a dollar amount in a lawsuit levied against the tobacco industry. This action will show that an industry that has harmed state-insured clients will then be held financially responsible for their care.

If this not be the epitome of frivolous litigation, perhaps Mr. Curran can consider other pots of gold awaiting his political ego at the end of taxpayer-supported rainbows.

Certainly the beef industry and the dairy industry must each deserve their own suits. Cholesterol, fats, clogged arteries, heart problems and more.

Let's not forget the pesticide manufacturers whose chemicals bathe our produce and create a myriad of mysterious diseases.

Of course, the liquor industry is a wonderful target. A cornucopia of health problems, in addition to addiction, highway carnage, alcoholism and broken homes. The list of potential target industries could go on and on.

The attorney general's office has learned from our court system that criminals are no longer held responsible for their crimes. But many Americans feel it's time for people to take responsibility for their own actions.

With that thought in mind, perhaps Mr. Curran could give up litigation of this type completely and return to the humdrum mission of his office.

For the taxpayer, this kind of litigation is best left to the television law salesmen. Because if we don't win, we don't pay.

Willard A. Cohen

Baltimore

Don't blame labor

In his Other Voices article of June 22, ''Is BUILD Trying To Tear Down?,'' college professor Steven J.K. Walters blames labor unions for driving industry out of Baltimore and other union towns.

It is true that capitalists will stop at nothing to maximize their profits, even if it means driving loyal workers to depend on public welfare to supplement their miserable slave wages. Why should they care? We taxpayers are subsidizing the tourist industries' outrageous profits.

The American economist Thorstein Veblen wrote that the purpose of business was to get something for nothing. If it were up to Baltimore's tourist industry, they would pay no wages at all.

These guys would just love to run a slave plantation where all the workers were humble and accepting of their lot.

They'd just love to reduce real wages so low that native children would ''quaintly'' dive for pennies when the cruise ships arrive.

Well, hotel workers are just beginning to stand up like women and men and demand a living wage. Professor Walters thinks this is asking too much. One wonders what his salary and other income is. Unity between the religious community and the trade unions is exactly what is needed. Professor Walters tries to pry the ministers away from such an alliance with fears of disaster.

Whenever poor and working people form alliances, there are always apologists for the exploiting class who counsel going slow or giving up the fight altogether. It is only through trade union struggles that wages and benefits rose out of the dark ages of the 14-hour day and literal starvation.

If all that we taxpayers have already spent on developing the Inner Harbor and attendant tourist attractions is not enough to attract tourists without reducing Baltimore workers to slave wages, then to hell with the tourist industry.

What good is it doing working Baltimoreans if it can't pay a living wage? If hotels paid a living wage, perhaps the $100-a-night rooms might have to go to $105 a night, or perhaps the owners might have to settle for a smaller profit. In either case, Baltimore workers and churches should lose no sleep over such a dilemma.

As to the accusation that expanding unionization will damage workers, your readers should know that the U.S. already has the smallest percentage of unionized workers of any industrialized nation. In just about every nation that is better unionized, the workers enjoy higher wages and far better benefits.

Robert Kaufman

Baltimore

Speed kills

I recently moved to Baltimore from Philadelphia -- not an easy city in which to live. The streets are crowded and traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway is frustrating. Yet I always felt safe driving People obeyed the speed limit, for the most part. Faster drivers used the left lane. People used their turn signals.

Here on Interstate 83, however, I feel that one false move could end my life. I drive it unwillingly, almost in panic. The speed limit sign is a joke. Cars routinely travel at 60 and 70 on this winding, narrow road. I've seen two police cars in two months.

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