- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tax cigarettes more, not less

Your editorial “Taxes and terrorism” (Sunday) is misguided. Cigarette smuggling is not caused by excessively high taxes per se, but by excessively low ones.

With the average state tax in the country 74 cents per pack, the aberrantly low cigarette taxes of tobacco-growing states such as Kentucky (3 cents) and North Carolina (5 cents) virtually invite crime.

Cigarette sellers on state borders maximize smugglers’ convenience by setting up high-volume operations — with state approval.

Meanwhile, states’ residents are being deprived of the needed funds a normalized tax rate could provide.

We have seen that the cigarette lobby and the legislators in their pockets don’t care about a state’s citizens, or the country’s. They want to keep their brands cheap and competitive in the “duty not paid” channel.

Those aiding the terrorists are the legislators who block all attempts to raise abnormal cigarette taxes to a national level.

Your editorial should read, “The only way to end this madness before those funds end up financing bombs is to raise cigarette taxes now, especially in tobacco-growing states.”

GENE BORIO

New York

Strict construction

Andrew Sullivan says President Reagan’s 4½ years of silence on AIDS is a “deep blemish on his record” and seems to think the $5.7 billion he eventually spent on research and prevention was insufficient (“The Weekly Dish,” Op-Ed, Friday).

In fact, the $5.7 billion represents the real blemish because every penny of it was unconstitutional and, hence, illegal.

There is a little thing in our Constitution referred to as the “enumeration.” It is found in Article 1, Section 8, and it spells out in clear, concise language the powers and rights of the federal government. It was the most significant of all the checks on federal power, and it was explained rather nicely by James Madison in Federalist Paper 45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State. The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments in times of peace and security.”

The same point is restated in Federalist Papers 14, 32, 39, and 40, and every Republican president since Richard Nixon, and most especially Mr. Reagan himself, repeatedly spoke of the enumeration when describing the need to rein in runaway federal spending. Additionally, readers of the Commentary section will note that Walter Williams frequently and correctly states that the entire federal welfare machine is unconstitutional simply because welfare spending is not a power granted to the federal government in the enumeration.

One might not like the fact that medical research, even into fatal afflictions, was not included in the enumeration, but one’s shock and sorrow will not change the fact that such research is, indeed, unconstitutional. Unfortunately, Mr. Reagan, like every other Republican president, gave a mean speech on the enumeration but otherwise ignored it.

RICK LYNCH

Purcellville, Va.

Palestinians bear responsibility

In response to Anne Selden Annab’s letter (“Ready, aim, demonize,” Saturday), I can respond by paraphrasing one of former President Ronald Reagan’s most famous quotations: “There she goes again.”

Perhaps the author should note that the Arabs, after failing to wipe out Jewish communities during the Ottoman Empire and the British Palestinian Mandate periods, launched a full-scale war to eliminate the U.N.-approved state of Israel. The bitter fruits of this failed effort were the exodus of Palestinian Arabs, mostly of their own accord, from Israeli lands and the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews, most of them penniless, from Arab lands where they had lived for ages.

Never in the 56 years of Israel’s existence has it been free from Arab terrorist incursions and attacks, with massacres almost yearly. Throughout this period, the Israeli government has approached not only Arab countries, but also Palestinian Arabs with generous peace terms, which were always refused. Israel, in desperation, signed the ill-conceived Oslo Accords, which brought terrorist Yasser Arafat next door to Israel. With Judea, Samaria and Gaza as his base, he has set off successive intifadas.

There has been no voice of reason within the Palestinian Arab community who has had the backing of the Palestinian people. Instead, the Arab terrorists have held sway. Until responsible Arab representatives are found, Israel has no alternative but to protect its citizenry in every manner possible. No sovereign nation would do less.

NELSON MARANS

Silver Spring

Individual justice vs. the common good

Nat Hentoff’s insightful Op-Ed column about Jose Padilla and Deputy Attorney General James Comey (“DOJ and Padilla,” Monday) looks at an issue worthy of debate by the Supreme Court. It is especially important to have this debate between individual rights and some “greater good” in our country’s highest court.

The parallel debate that also must take place is over what happens when our justice system fails to provide justice. As American citizens, we cannot ask the justice system to protect our borders or provide for our national defense. Those responsibilities belong to other government bodies. Yet our justice system must provide a framework to prosecute those who commit crimes against Americans at home and abroad. If it doesn’t, the main recourse left to defend America becomes covert actions against suspected terrorists (American citizens as well) that are never made public. This would be like the actions of Israel’s intelligence service, which conducts missions that remain forever classified or are denied publicly.

America’s economy depends upon world trade and the oil that fuels it. Should Mrs. Johnson not be able to drive to the local pharmacy to get her prescription drugs because there is no gasoline for sale anywhere, or if food and electricity become scarce as well, she will send her grandchildren off to war without a moment’s hesitation. The goal should be to provide a world environment in which Mrs. Johnson doesn’t have to make that decision. She, like all Americans, is dependent on a government that is not doing a very good job of providing a secure environment for her or the world. The national and global panic caused by just one terrorist’s nuclear device exploding in a U.S. city would result in the suspension of our civil liberties and potentially usher in a totalitarian authority to restore order.

America deserves to have the executive, congressional and judicial authorities openly debate how far we as a country are prepared to go if the enemy releases a weapon of mass destruction within our country. Don’t stop there. What are we prepared to do if it happens to another country? What are we prepared to do now to prevent such an attack? Sobering questions for a judicial debate.

NEIL C. ARNOLD

Fort Belvoir

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