Readers Respond

READERS RESPOND

December 15, 2009

We need the public option

For The Sun to say that we should ditch the public option to avoid an "ugly debate" is to give veto power to those willing to turn the debate ugly, by whom I mean the ranting and raving right-wingers with their shameless nonsense about death panels and National Socialism ("Wise compromise," Dec. 10). Talk about rewarding bad behavior.

The public option may be, as you say, a "means to an end," but it's not just any means toward the ends of competition and cost control - it's by far the best means, according to the Congressional Budget Office and other objective observers. Compare it to the means that the Senate is now settling for. Using nonprofit insurance companies to compete with UnitedHealth and WellPoint will be inadequate - the status quo amply demonstrates how nonprofits like Blue Cross/Blue Shield compete by acting more like the for-profits, not the other way around. And relying on regulation to rein in profit-driven insurers is destined to fail as long as they dominate their markets and have such a powerful incentive to game the system.

Why should we find convoluted ways to achieve the exact same ends that we would get to most simply and directly through the public option? In order to please two or three or four senators who are in the pockets of the for-profit insurers?

Moreover, there are other important issues to fix in the Senate bill besides the public option. The House bill is far better on affordability, fair financing and the employer mandate as well.

So I have an alternative proposal to ditching the public option: Ditch the filibuster. Restore democracy to the U.S. Senate. Where did the Founding Fathers write that every single legislative action should require a super-majority? They would no doubt be appalled to see how we have become paralyzed by minority rule.

Matthew Weinstein, BaltimoreThe writer is federal issues director of Progressive Maryland.

Consider the source

Phil Kerpen and Dave Schwartz ("Skepticism in Copenhagen," Dec. 10) say that measures to combat climate change are going to be too costly and are aimed at a risk that has not been proven a certainty.

But before buying into their argument, consider that the organization they represent, Americans for Prosperity, is chaired by David H. Koch, of Koch Industries - which runs oil refining and pipeline industries. For years now, those associated with the petroleum industry have been fighting tooth and nail against climate change science, relentlessly sowing doubt in the minds of the public.

As for America and the rest of the world, it is clear that the costs of combating climate change will be dwarfed by the costs of allowing it to continue unabated.

Elizabeth Fixsen, Savage

Don't expand charter schools

David Borinsky, president of Maryland Charter School Network, appeals to the citizens of Maryland to increase funding for Maryland's charter schools ("Build on charters' success," Dec. 10). He claims "certain charter schools" in Baltimore generate higher test scores than "their suburban neighbors" and that the teachers, students and parents in the charter schools benefit greatly from "meaningful autonomy."

The message the citizens of Maryland should take from Mr. Borinsky's plea is not that we should expand charter schools, further depleting our resources for public schools, but that we should release all schools from the clutches of mandated curriculum and high-stakes testing so that every citizen of Maryland can enjoy meaningful autonomy. Charter schools are not held to the same standard as our public schools; they drain valuable resources from our public schools and should be decreased in number in spite of the federal government's "Race to the Top" sweepstakes.

Nancy Rankie Shelton, Arbutus

The writer is an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Don't give up on property tax assessment appeals

Richard Landis is on the right track, battling the Maryland Sate Department of Assessments and Taxation to get fair market value for his Anne Arundel County home. ("Buyers find relief to costly hints of homes' past worth," Dec. 13).

Mr. Landis paid $165,000 for his home and was assessed at $268,000, prompting him to appeal his property tax assessment, a similar situation to what my daughter ran into in Montgomery County. My daughter, Alison Whitty, and her husband paid $385,000 for their 1950 brick rancher in Silver Spring but were assessed at $531,000 for it.

I helped my daughter go through the appeals process in which she got a meager $30,000 reduction at the first step. We found the assessor and her supervisor to be arrogant and unfair. We were asking for a reduction of over $140,000.

However, at the second step (the Property Tax Assessments Appeals Board), we encountered people who realized how unfair the assessment was and gave my daughter an additional $84,000 reduction. She is now only $32,000 away from the full fair market value, a reduction she hopes to get at the third step: the Maryland Tax Court. (She is still waiting for a date to appear.)

I suggest that property owners who feel they're being treated unfairly go through all three of the appeals steps, if necessary, in order to get a decent reduction to their property in a falling real estate market.

David Boyd, White HallThe writer is co-founder of Property Taxpayers United.

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