Tax system puts a bigger burden on lower incomes
The column "Ending the shakedown" (Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 21) by Grover Q. Norquist asserts that the U.S. tax code is unduly complex - taxing us multiple times for the same income. But while the income tax system certainly needs reform, his analysis is deeply flawed.
His assertion that a flat income tax and a sales tax are economically the same thing and that some taxpayers prefer a sales tax belies a clear bias against the working classes of America.
If a person with a million-dollar income spent half of it at the retail level, then that taxpayer would be subjected to a 2.5 percent Maryland sales tax burden. In contrast, a minimum-wage earner will likely spend every dime trying to subsist - and thus be subject to the full 5 percent state sales tax.
The income tax and sales tax combination is a form of double taxation Mr. Norquist fails to mention in his list of multiple taxations. Mr. Norquist's concern for double taxation is reserved for unearned income - dividends and capital gains.
And his attack on the alternative minimum tax manages to turn the logic of the AMT on its head. Mr. Norquist asserts that it victimizes "average earners," yet the AMT was created because some taxpayers with massive deductions were not paying a fair share.
The AMT exists because Democratic and Republican Congresses alike, at the behest of special interest groups, created tens of thousands of pages of deductions.
In an inversion of the purpose of a progressive income tax, the deduction system often grants larger benefits to higher-income taxpayers.
The high-income taxpayer who uses multiple deductions to bring his tax burden below the AMT is not a victim. The victim is the low-wage earner who files a 1040-EZ and pays his or her full rate.
Non-native oysters pose danger to bay
Any deliberate introduction of non-native species to our ecosystems must be done with an abundance of caution ("Funding approved for oyster research," Nov. 23).
The Australians learned that lesson the hard way. In the 1930s, cane toads were introduced to northern Australia to control pests in sugar plantations. They've since caused a major ecological disaster; the toads have no predators because their toxins kill any creature that tries to eat them.
Closer to home, in the 1940s, nutria from South America were introduced to boost the fur trade. But the fur trade declined, and with few natural predators, nutria populations grew unchecked. Today, these rodents are busy dining on some of our most valuable marshland, notably along the Blackwater River.
What will Asian oysters do to our fragile bay?
There are simply too many things that could go wrong.
Aquatic ecosystems are very complex; please give these scientists all the time they need to conduct a thorough assessment.
Opposition to ICC appears misplaced
Although environmental groups rejected the Ehrlich administration's conclusion that "the ICC will meet the highest environmental standards," these groups are not proposing any alternative solutions to the problems the ICC will solve ("State sees less harm in latest ICC study," Nov. 22).
The excessive congestion in the area, especially on the Washington Beltway, leads to much environmental damage from emissions. At least with the Intercounty Connector, the cars would actually be going somewhere.
Maybe environmentalists would better serve the public by advocating higher fuel economy and emissions standards for the auto industry.
Violence of hunting prompts a tragedy
The culprit in the Wisconsin hunting massacre is not only Chai Soua Vang, who allegedly killed six hunters and wounded two others after a dispute over a deer stand, but the practice of hunting itself ("Hunter says he was fired on first," Nov. 24).
It is a fact that those who kill animals are more likely to kill people. And when we legally arm these people and tell them to go out and slaughter animals for their own entertainment, something like this is bound to happen.
When thinking of this tragedy, I urge readers not just to blame Mr. Vang, but to denounce hunting as well.
The writer is an eighth-grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.
Cruel circumcision is no way to stop HIV
Reading The Sun's article about studies that suggest, not very convincingly, a possible link between circumcision and HIV prevention made me wonder if those researchers have ever heard of a condom ("Circumcision may be factor in HIV prevention," Nov. 19).
After all, using condoms is an effective, easy way to prevent HIV transmission - one that doesn't involve the potentially dangerous, painful mutilation of unconsenting, helpless infants.
Fortunately, the circumcision rate in this country has dropped dramatically in recent years, as more parents and doctors have realized that the drawbacks of the procedure far outweigh any benefit.