Congress resists proposals to reform convoluted tax code...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 11, 2002

Congress resists proposals to reform convoluted tax code

While taxpayers stand to benefit over the next 10 years from the tax cuts passed in 2001, the complicated nature of the cuts is one of their shortcomings ("Checks and balances," editorial, Feb. 27).

While it is easy to criticize President Bush for the complexity of these cuts, the blame for our convoluted 3,500-page tax code and any further complexities is better placed on Congress. And the 10-year sunset clause in effect for the most recent tax cut only adds to the confusion.

Although the tax code costs the government $9.8 billion annually to administer and costs Americans $225 billion a year to comply with, Congress is unlikely to make a dramatic move toward tax simplification without a major groundswell of public opinion. There are simply too many members of Congress with too much at stake to create a simple code.

There are solutions to the problem, but their implementation would require Congress to abdicate some micro-management over the economy. At least three flat tax proposals have been introduced to Congress, along with one proposal for a national retail sales tax.

All these plans would rid us of the complicated tax code and the Internal Revenue Service as we know it.

Keep that in mind as you fill out your tax returns in the coming months.

Paul J. Gessing

Alexandria, Va.

The writer is a policy associate at the National Taxpayers Union.

Raising the cigarette tax benefits only legislators

In recent weeks, I have heard many reasons for a cigarette tax hike. The first reason was that an increase of 70 cents per pack would stop kids from smoking. Now I hear it would provide funding for public schools, or maybe offset revenue shortfalls ("Cigarette tax might close budget gap," March 2).

What would really happen is that kids would smoke pot instead of tobacco and people would go out of state to buy cigarettes. The only people who would come out on top would be our state legislators, because the tax would fund their pay increases.

Howard P. Fink

Baltimore

Wind and solar power offer alternatives to oil

As the Senate considers energy legislation, there has never been a better time to break free from our dangerous dependence on a 19th-century energy framework.

More wind and solar power would mean fewer nuclear power plants, which are obvious targets for terrorists, and would decrease our dependence on oil.

Fortunately, many states have already proved that promoting renewable energy is easy. We need our senators to build on these positive steps by supporting an energy bill that secures our energy future in America while protecting our precious public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

By using more renewable energy and making America's cars and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas, we can create more jobs, reduce our dependence on oil and enhance our national security.

P. David Wilson

Baltimore

Media show bias in labels for abortion foes, supporters

As a participant in the annual pro-life march to the State House on March 4, I was anxious to see what, if any, coverage The Sun would carry and more interested to see how the paper would identify the more than 400 marchers who came out on one of the coldest nights of the year.

The Sun identified the marchers in a minute article as "abortion protesters" and "anti-abortionists" ("Abortion opponents rally for bill on unwanted babies," March 5). Doesn't it seem strange that the media always refer to those who are pro-abortion as "pro-choice" and pro-lifers as "anti-abortionist"?

If the media would like to be considered unbiased, it should be consistent in its application of terms, and call so-called anti-abortionists "pro-life" or call the pro-choicers "pro-abortionists."

Paul Seiler

Ellicott City

Proposed background check for flight students goes too far

In a rush to be seen as doing something about aviation safety, a handful of delegates have introduced two bizarre House bills (House Bills 1005 and 1208).

Taken together, these bills would require not only criminal and background checks for anyone working at any size airport, flight school or related business, but criminal background checks and fingerprinting of all current and future flight school students.

Since all commercial passenger-carrying operations are currently required to do extensive criminal background checks on pilots, and no general aviation pilots with criminal backgrounds have been involved in hijackings or bombings (the Sept. 11 hijackers did not have criminal records in the United States), I fail to see the need for such legislation.

Robert N. Cadwalader

Linthicum

Make it easier to contest traffic and parking citations

The letter "Contesting citations" (March 2) argued that Maryland law should be changed to give Marylanders the option of contesting parking tickets by mail. I am one of the people who would have benefited from such a change.

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