Governments share blame for smokingThe state of Maryland...


April 01, 1996

Governments share blame for smoking

The state of Maryland suing the tobacco companies for payback of health-care costs supposedly caused by the use of their products is a joke. The states say they shouldn't pay for people who get sick or ill from using tobacco products. Why not? All these years, the state and federal governments have been collecting taxes on these harmful products and have been subsidizing tobacco farmers.

Who is the real culprit, the tobacco companies or the government? The government condones and encourages people to use these products. More sales results in more taxes and more jobs for income taxes.

There are direct taxes on tobacco products, then sales taxes are added when these items are sold. We must consider what the state and federal governments collect in tobacco taxes. The dollar amounts are astronomical. These taxes should be held in a special account and then used to care for the people who choose to use these products and as a result become ill.

As long as these items are legal and taxable and people are free to elect to use or not use these products, what is the beef? The federal and state governments are just as guilty as the farmers and the tobacco companies, as they all profit from the production and use of these products. If the governments feel they are not responsible they should quit collecting taxes on these items and make them illegal to sell or produce.

The so-called sin taxes are a large source of income for state and federal governments, but they must realize the side effects that accompany production, sales and taxation of these items. Nothing is free. Do not speak with a forked tongue.

Daniel J. Wilson


Teacher against school choice

Mayor Kurt Schmoke has admitted he has failed to improve Baltimore City schools. In an act of near-total desperation, he has pulled another trick out of his hat, school vouchers.

Unwilling to place any blame on his appointee, Superintendent Walter Amprey, Mr. Schmoke instead said that teachers are responsible for the failure of Baltimore students. "This issue goes beyond management," said Mr. Schmoke. "It's my belief that if we change the top, we'd still have to deal with the question of poorly performing teachers. That's what I'm trying to get to."

I teach fourth grade in the city and send both my daughters to city schools.

I wonder if Mayor Schmoke realizes that the first school voucher program in America provided white students in Virginia with public funds to attend private schools in order to avoid attending public schools with blacks. For nearly 150 years, public education in America has been recognized as a fundamental public good. With the help of Mayor Schmoke and others, that is now under attack.

School vouchers take money away from public schools and funnels it into private and parochial schools, either through direct payments or tax credits. Private schools are not governed by federal or state laws. These schools are free to discriminate -- they may accept or reject anyone they want. There will be only a limited number of slots in well-funded schools worth choosing.

In the long run, Mayor Schmoke's plan to abandon public education will only increase inequalities in Baltimore city schools. A select few low-income families might benefit from voucher plans, but most poor people would still go to public schools -- and these schools would have fewer resources because taxpayers' money would be going into private schools.

For those of us who are committed to educating all Baltimore kids, not just the privileged few, we must shout down school choice as an option.

Peter French


Rodricks column offends reader

I was deeply offended by Dan Rodrick's March 18 column concerning the home selected for this years Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House.

As a contributor to this and previous years efforts, I resent that notion that a world renowned symphony orchestra would raise funds by operating a carnival side show chamber of horrors. The healing process for the Loch family and the community will not be helped by insensitive, tabloid-like commentary.

If the selection of this year's show house seems inappropriate, I would remind Mr. Rodricks of a store-front church on Greenmount Avenue, not far from Guilford, that is located in a former adult movie theater.

Perhaps in the future, Stratford-on-the-Green will be remembered only as the host of the 1996 BSO Show House.

Bert Graham


Women today are heads of the house

In reference to the March 16 article,''Imaginary husband gets all the mail,'' it's about time someone spoke up for us. My hat's off to Susan Von Struensee for standing up to the system.

After all, it is the ''woman'' who really ''runs the house.'' Half of us even earn ''more'' than our spouse, so let's see a little more interest in offering the ''ladies'' more deals and more credit for ourselves.

Ann Wurtzer


Question for Louis Farrakhan

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