- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2000

Estate tax a burden on family-owned businesses

Bruce Bartlett's column on the estate tax shines an interesting light on the current political debate over whether or not to repeal this onerous tax ("A quick learner on estate taxes?" Commentary, May 8).

Taxation more specifically unfair taxation has been an important issue for Americans from the early days of our nation, and that concern holds true today. Based on the surveys cited by Mr. Bartlett, anywhere from two-thirds to three-fourths of Americans oppose the estate tax. Their opposition is well-founded. The federal estate tax, or the so-called death tax is a drag on our economy and job creation and, in many cases, provides a disincentive for investment.

In her recent comments in support of estate tax relief, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton specifically mentioned the plight of American farmers. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The estate tax represents a tremendous burden for America's small businesses, particularly family-owned and closely held companies. In fact, three out of four family-owned companies do not survive to the next generation because of the federal "death" tax. Furthermore, the tax is a daily burden for company owners because they must hire accountants, financial planners and lawyers to set a complicated legal web to protect their families and employees after they die. The death tax not only destroys companies but also leaves a trail of wasted money along the way.

Complete repeal of the death tax is the best solution for a pro-growth economy and for family-owned manufacturing companies and other small businesses that are creating jobs and a brighter future for their employees.

DOROTHY COLEMAN

Vice president of tax policy

National Association of Manufacturers

Washington

Press freedom alive and well in Kazakhstan

An April 27 column by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, contains a few negative remarks on Kazakhstan that do not correspond with reality and give a distorted perception of the republic's record on the news media and freedom of the press ("Voices of Europe die out," Op-Ed).

Freedom of speech already has become an integral part of Kazakhstan's consistent course of democratization and market reforms. There is no justification for claims about government control over the mass media. Facts testify to this. Seventy percent of the functioning 1,196 mass-media outlets 192 electronic operations, 780 newspapers, 209 magazines and 15 news agencies in Kazakhstan are private.

Views of various social groups, political parties and public movements are represented widely in periodicals and the electronic media. Journalists, irrespective of the political affiliation of the editions they represent, have free access to information. All government agencies are required by law to provide the news media with authentic data.

Recent calls of the Kazakhstan leadership to raise the responsibility of the journalists in their publications cannot be considered an infringement on civil rights and freedom of speech. The calls were about the need for journalists to observe the Law of the Republic "on mass media," which requires that publications not threaten national security and not violate rights and freedoms of citizens, in particular, by disseminating discrediting, libelous and false accusations.

Caution, endurance and consistency have been inherent in the citizens of Kazakhstan during the process of building a sovereign nation, which allows the nation to maintain social peace and interethnic accord. Therefore, it is logical to expect the news media's contribution in promoting public stability as a basis of further democratic transformations.

Alleged harassment of some newspapers, in particular the daily newspaper 21st Century, did not take place. Not a single newspaper was closed in recent years for political reasons. On the contrary, there is a trend in the annual growth of new printed and electronic mass media outlets.

In 1996, 91 new media outlets were founded. In 1997, 1998 and 1999, those figures were 152, 189 and 264, respectively. Certainly, not every publication is financially successful. The irregularity of printing of some outlets is linked not to their attitude toward the government, but to their ability to manage expenses and earn sufficient profit to keep in operation.

With many of the private printing houses, there is no problem for a solvent newspaper to be printed.

KAIRAT UMAROV

Minister-counselor

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Washington

D.C. firefighter defends Chief Tippett and calls for budget increase

I have been a D.C. firefighter for eight years. Over the years, I have seen the best of the good times and the worst of the bad times with not only the fire department, but D.C. government as a whole. I love my job to the point that I am excited to go to work every day. (Not many people can say that.) I am proud to be not only a fireman, but a "big-city fireman." I love the District. It's an amazing city with many amazing people, except for a few "bad apples" who have been elected to their jobs or have been appointed by those elected officials.

It astounds me to think that anyone would want to cut the fire department's budget, especially when the budget cutters live in the city. The money that Chief Thomas N. Tippett (and I still call him chief, because that is what he always will be to us firefighters) asked for was not to buy BMW firetrucks. The money was not to buy hot tubs for each firehouse. The money was not to buy badges laced with diamonds and pearls. The money was not for a pay raise (which, by the way, we have not had since 1994). The money was to ensure the safety of the men and women who guard your lives and property. How can a city that has millions of dollars in surplus not give $4 million to its firefighters to help prevent injuries and death? This is what Chief Tippett was fighting for.

We are not asking for luxuries; this is not a luxurious job. It's a hot, sweaty and fatiguing job that I'm sure none of the pencil pushers sitting in their luxurious offices would ever have the guts to do. Instead, those pencil pushers sit in their plush, air-conditioned offices making decisions about whom to give money to and whom to deny. Those are the people who supposedly know more about firefighting than Chief Tippett, a 32-year veteran of the job.

Your editorial writer who condemned Chief Tippett in "Changes at the top" (May 9) should come to the firehouses some day and see the conditions in which we work. We have firehouses with leaky roofs, stopped-up drainage and ceilings and walls that are falling down. We ride in fire engines that not even the smallest five-man fire department, with a budget of next to nothing, wants to buy. Only since Chief Tippett took the helm were orders made for new fire engines and ladder trucks. Again, not for our luxury, but for safety.

Why wouldn't the union make "noises because their boy is gone?" At least we have our union standing up for us and Chief Tippett, because the D.C. control board and chairman Alice Rivlin sure aren't. Who says you have to go outside the city to find the right person for the job, when we had him right here? What better person to appoint to that job, or any managerial job for that matter, than someone who has come up through the ranks in 32 years and knows the system, the department and its employees. It baffles me why anybody would want someone from the outside to be in charge.

I hope the powers that be can see the error of their ways and give us the funds we need to do our job. I hope people stop condemning Chief Tippett for looking out for his workers and instead praise him for his 32 years of service to this city. And I hope that no more firefighters have to die because of the pencil pushers.

WALLY GOODING

Chesapeake Beach, Md.

Protecting all

The Supreme Court struck down a small part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but the law remains discriminatory ("Sex-crime litigation held to state courts," May 16).

The grants given by the Justice Department through VAWA, for example, explicitly prohibit services to men who are victims of family violence. VAWA needs to be changed to a family violence act, which would provide help for both female and male victims.

NEIL STEYSKAL

Washington

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