- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tax reform without the VAT

Richard Rahn’s Sunday Commentary (“Bad advisers”) gets one item completely right and one item completely wrong. The discrimination that international bodies inflict on U.S. companies does create a problem of double-taxing international profits of U.S. businesses. This fight against French bureaucrats is a good one for the conservative movement to have.

However, Mr. Rahn implies that we should give strong consideration to replacing our corporate income tax with a value-added tax (VAT), which would pass international muster.

Instituting a VAT would be bad for America. Everywhere a VAT has been tried, it has led to bigger government. The reason is that a VAT is effectively buried in the price of a retail good, and its payment is spread out along the chain of production. As a result, everyone thinks some other poor sap is paying the tax. Governments have found VATs to be particularly easy taxes to raise. “VAT” has become a French word for big government.

That’s why Americans for Tax Reform maintains a congressional “Anti-VAT Caucus.” It has 64 members of Congress (one out of four House Republicans) and is chaired by Ways and Means Committee member Wally Herger, California Republican. Tax reform is good — doing it using a VAT would be disastrous for the country.

RYAN ELLIS

Federal affairs manager

Americans for Tax Reform

WASHINGTON

Forget race

Your Monday Page One story “No Dean apology for Steele,” documents the reprehensible story of how some Democrats have hurled racist slurs against Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a black Republican, to damage his chances for a U.S. Senate seat. Equally reprehensible, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean refused at first to rebuke those party members, but under pressure, he finally said vaguely that he opposed making an issue of “a candidate’s ethnicity in a political campaign ….” He refused to apologize to Mr. Steele (“Dean disavows slurs as campaign tactic,” Page 1, yesterday).

Once again, racism has reared its ugly head, this time in partisan politics. Racism of any stripe and under any guise is always wrong. It violates the human person and what America fundamentally represents.

The time has come to forget race — in politics, in education, and in public life and to enshrine equality of opportunity based on merit. Every American young and old should be treated as a human being — but I believe it was Aristotle who said that to treat everyone equally is to treat some unjustly.

Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution said “ingenious assaults on merit in the name of diversity suggest a loss of faith in a racial equality grounded in merit.” Thomas Sowell added: “Race preferences undermine incentive among those we are trying to help.”

Back in 1944, during World War II, I wrote a credo that anticipated the postwar civil rights movement, including the civil rights legislation of 1964. The credo urged an end to Jim Crow practices in all branches of the armed forces and to racial discrimination in all public places. It opposed racial quotas in our colleges and said “the word race should be removed from college application forms.” In contemporary terms, the credo opposed what is euphemistically called “affirmative action.” True equality of opportunity must be based on merit. At the same time, every reasonable effort should be made to help all children reach their potential.

ERNEST W. LEFEVER

Senior fellow

Ethics and Public Policy Center

Washington

Drug importation in Montgomery County

The real issue regarding the drug importation fight in Montgomery County is that the scheme is illegal (“Duncan vows to import drugs,” Metro, Friday) and both County Executive Doug Duncan and County Council President Tom Perez know it. In fact, Mr. Duncan admits it is illegal.

“Any County employee who facilitates the importation of Canadian drugs in violation of the federal law would potentially be subject to criminal prosecution and personal liability,” he said in a press release following an earlier release announcing his intent to sue President Bush for the right to import the drugs.

What adds to the absurdity of the situation is that the federal government does not have waiver authority for state or local governments, despite the county executive’s pledge to appeal the Food and Drug Administration’s decision not to grant a waiver. The only waiver authority that exists in law is for individuals, and that can only be granted if the secretary of Health and Human Services certifies the drugs to be safe, which two former HHS secretaries, Democrat Donna Shalala and Republican Tommy Thompson, could not do.

What kind of signal does it send to citizens when our elected officials knowingly break the law? It sends a clear message that they believe the end justifies the means, even if those means are illegal. I can’t wait until I get a parking ticket in the county so I can use the Perez defense of the end justifying the means.

What makes this worse is that it is taking place as the county struggles with a planning bureaucracy run amok. A recent investigation indicated that those who oversee development in the county have been too close to builders, acted in a manner outside their regulatory authority and may have broken the law. How will the council rein in the rogues when it knowingly breaks the law itself? Why will they listen to county officials? Montgomery County deserves better government that this.

BILL PIERCE

Silver Spring

Frustrated suspicions and hollow criticism

Although I have trouble with the comparison between Sen. Harry Reid and the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, Paul Greenberg sums up the conspiracy theory of american politics well (“Paranoid style in politics,” Commentary, Nov. 9). Just as the “paranoid style” of McCarthy-era politics influenced things to come among politicians, the Watergate toppling of President Nixon set a new standard or goal for the press, not just the politicians in the party out of power. (And I don’t mean the new standard of ending every potential scandal, big or small, with the word “gate”.)

Thanks to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, bringing down a presidential administration became the first-place achievement of any and all journalists — particularly today, during the Bush administration. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes must have had this in mind when they concocted the story about the president’s National Guard service.

Sure, it was Mr. Rather’s agenda to strike against President Bush, but it also was his aspiration of greatness that he, too, could upset a powerful administration and force turnover in the White House. Mr. Woodward and Mr. Berstein made that accomplishment a journalist’s first-class ticket to immortality.

Democrats criticizing prewar intelligence have hardly a leg to stand on, having reached the same conclusions as the administration after looking at the same intelligence. (As President Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said, “[Saddam Hussein] will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983.”) A Senate Intelligence Committee report concluded that there was no attempt to manufacture or falsify that intelligence, yet here we are: Democrats grandstanding and liberal reporters desperately digging. These conspiracy theories will be perpetuated on and on, for as Mr. Greenberg writes: “Hell hath no fury like suspicions frustrated.”

JUSTIN SMITH

New York

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