Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 27, 2006

Wal-Mart law poses threat to business

Dan Rodricks just doesn't get it ("Bad for business? The short answer: Ha!" April 23).

Yes, the Wal-Mart bill applies only to companies with 10,000 or more employees. But Mr. Rodricks seems to forget that Del. James W. Hubbard also introduced legislation that would have required all companies to provide health insurance.

With diligent work, the business community was able to defeat that onerous legislation. But passing the Wal-Mart bill in Maryland has emboldened those who would require all businesses to provide health insurance.

In New York, legislation has been introduced that would require an $8.4 billion tax on businesses to pay for health insurance. Similar bills have been introduced in Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, among other states.

The debate here is whether it is good public policy to require businesses to provide health insurance - something they often can't afford to do, in part because legislators have made health insurance too pricey.

Lawmakers should focus instead on creating health savings accounts or on urging Congress to pass the legislation that is pending in the Senate that would let small businesses group together to purchase insurance at good rates.

But forcing companies to provide something they can't afford is not good policy.

And that's no laughing matter.

Ellen Valentino

Annapolis

The writer is state director for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Health law applies to several employers

The Sun's article "Md. law `ridiculous,' Wal-Mart CEO says" (April 20) seriously misstates the intent and effect of Maryland's Fair Share Health Care Act. The law neither requires Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health care nor applies only to Wal-Mart.

The Fair Share Act imposes a payroll tax on all employers with more than 10,000 Maryland employees - a tax that will help to ease the state's huge Medicaid burden of more than $2 billion per year. There are currently four such large employers - Giant Food, Northrop Grumman, the Johns Hopkins University and Wal-Mart.

Should the new law survive a legal challenge by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and go into effect in January 2007, all these employers will be subject to the law, as will any other Maryland employer that grows to that size.

The Fair Share statute provides that any employer subject to the tax may obtain a dollar-for-dollar credit for any expenditures on employee health care or health insurance, up to the full amount of the payroll tax.

However, the law does not require employers to "spend more on health care" - they have the option of paying the tax instead.

Michael A. Pretl

Salisbury

The writer is general counsel for the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, which sponsored the Fair Share Health Care legislation.

Egypt attack shows terror affects us all

The murder of at least 18 innocent civilians in a resort town in the Sinai indicates that the terror being endured by civilized nations is an equal-opportunity event - one not only for Christians and Jews but also for Muslims ("Egypt seizes 10 in fatal blasts," April 26).

Although the resort was probably chosen as a target because of the likely presence of a large number of Israeli tourists, the fact that all but four of the victims were Egyptians demonstrates that terror is not restricted to the sworn enemies of al-Qaida.

I hope that the Egyptian people, along with those of other Muslim nations, will realize that they, as well as the inhabitants of the Western world, can be targets of terror, and respond by joining non-Muslim nations in the war against those who want to destroy the democratic nations.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

U.S. presence pushes Iraq into civil war

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's arrogance and mendacity with regard to the execution of the Iraq war and his unwillingness to accept any responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison have offended political leaders of both parties and a significant number of high-ranking military officials, who now call for his resignation ("Personal accountability demands that Rumsfeld resign," Opinion * Commentary, April 20).

Whether Mr. Rumsfeld goes or stays, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq was wrong at the outset and continues to be wrong.

Neoconservative commentators - and some liberals as well - now argue that the United States can't "cut and run" and that U.S. troops have to remain to prevent a civil war and an ensuing bloodbath for the entire region.

However, the U.S. presence in Iraq has proved to be a catalyst for increased terrorism in the volatile Middle East. And the unnecessary U.S. occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with U.S. security.

The term "civil war" has become a matter of semantics. But it is arguable that a civil war has been raging in Iraq for some time, fueled in large part by the policies of the Bush administration.

As Rep. John P. Murtha has said, real support for the troops would mean bringing them home and away from this senseless carnage.

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