- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2000

Mexico election bodes well for U.S. standing

As the true millennial countdown enters its final week, the North American continent can thank the Mexican people for electing Vicente Fox as their new president. Mr. Fox indicates a future for the North American Free Trade Agreement that could result in a United States of North America (USNA), from the Hudson Bay to the Panama Canal.
The formation of a USNA is imperative if the United States wishes to continue to lead the world politically, militarily and economically. The inexorable unification of Europe continues, however slowly, and a unified Europe will be an economic monolith of 500 million with the impending inclusion of a dozen former Soviet satellites.
In a united Europe, the USNA will face a potent rival for leadership of an ever shrinking, digitized world. President-elect George W. Bush and his administration should embrace Mr. Fox with hoops of steel.
At the stroke of the millennial 12, I shall raise my glass to Mr. Fox and to the future for all North Americans.
Palm Beach, Fla.
Gary Fairmont Filosa II is a graduate and trustee of la Universidad de las Americas in Mexico.

Unjust movie seating irks wheelchair user

The Dec. 21 editorial, "Disabilities debacle," articulates the politics of a bygone era in the language of a bygone era. For many years now, the Associated Press stylebook has listed "uses a wheelchair" as a preferable alternative to "confined to a wheelchair."
Since I'm "confined," I can understand why your editorial writer would want to relegate me to separate and unequal movie theater seating. But does my 2-year-old daughter have to accept it if she wishes to go to movies with her father?
All civil rights acts, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, have been accompanied by complaints that they or the advocates who support them were "bad for business." But we all gain from a more inclusive society, and disability advocates' efforts to promote theater integration are one more example.
Orange, Calif.

CNN's Christmas programming humbug

Two talking heads who came into prominence during the O.J. Simpson trial resurfaced on CNN's 36-day marathon coverage of the Florida election fiasco. As a result of the Simpson case, Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack were rewarded with their own daily talk show, "Burden of Proof."
The fifth anniversary of "Burden of Proof" was a retrospective of the big stories covered by Miss Van Susteren and Mr. Cossack. Colorado was prominent: Littleton (teen slaughter), Boulder (child murder) and Denver (trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh ). Viewers were reminded of national villains, such as the Unabomber and Susan Smith, who murdered her two sons.
The timing of this litany of illicit acts could not have been worse: CNN programmers aired it at 9:30 on Christmas morning. Their choice for the opening clip was particularly egregious that most infamous image of our era, the angry William Jefferson Blythe Clinton adamantly proclaiming his innocence: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."
Thank you ever so much, Ted Turner, for that Merry Christmas vision.
Laguna Woods, Calif.

Maryland spending increased in spite of economic indicators

Your Dec. 20 article "Panel votes to outspend fiscal cap" tells only part of the story about Maryland's irresponsible spending. Your readers need to know more.
The Dec. 19 afternoon meeting of the General Assembly's Spending Affordability Committee (SAC) was billed as the "decision meeting," and the SAC set a cap that would let the state's operating expenditures grow by $950 million in the next budget year. At the committee's November meeting, fewer than half of the members of the SAC were present, and they were tempted to hold the decision meeting on Dec. 13, a day before the Bureau of Revenue Estimates issued its forecast of income to the state. Upon reflection, members such as committee Co-chairman Nancy Kopp suggested that deciding the spending cap before knowing the projected revenues might look suspect, and a later date was selected.
However, this handling of the decision process just gives more credence to the suggestion that the SAC's whole purpose in the past few years has been to "give cover" to Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's greatly increased spending plans. After all, the budget is at the printer. Three telephone-directory-size books have to be out in three weeks. Two years ago, some legislative staff members suggested that because a committee recommendation was adopted in December saying that higher spending was affordable, the so-called crimes Mr. Glendening committed against a balanced budget were viewed as misdemeanors instead of felonies.
On Dec. 19, the SAC adopted a 7.64 percent increase in general fund spending. That means the SAC wants us to believe income taxes, sales taxes and other state revenues will support such an increase in spending.
None of the data presented in October or November as a basis for setting a spending increase included Consumer Price Index (CPI) data or even income increase data from the Maryland Department of Planning.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the CPI figures. The latest BLS data through October is available on the Web at www.dol.gov under https://146.142.24/cgi-bin/surveymost . This data shows that the CPI for All Urban Consumers increased only an average of 3.27 percent for the first 10 months of the year 2000. In other words, the index for the month of January 2000 was only 3 percent higher than what it was in January 1999. That amounts to an average increase of 3.27 percent for the year through October.
This data suggest that Maryland taxpayers can afford only an increase in taxes of 3 percent, not the effective increase of 17 percent, as was recommended last year.
The Maryland Department of Planning compiles data on household mean income levels and on median income levels. That data is prepared for the use of Mr. Glendening and the General Assembly, but it is not used for budget projections. For 1999, the mean income of Maryland households increased only 3 percent over the previous year. The median household income increased only 2 percent. For the past three years, the increase in both mean and median has amounted to only 2 to 3 percent. This data is available on the planning department's Web site (www.op.state.md.us ).
Bureau of Revenue Estimates data presented on Dec. 14 did not mention the current program deficits caused by miscalculation (a growing problem by the staff that recommend budget numbers) and the missing tobacco settlement money delayed by a lawsuit.
The SAC is misled year after year into pumping up spending of general revenue funds, in part to prop up the governor's spending legacy. As your article quotes H. Furlong Baldwin, the president of Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust, "We know you have to get elected … and do all these lovely things, but that's not where the economy is."
Considering the current uncertain economy, an increase more along the lines of the BLS or Department of Planning increases would be prudent. Adopting a spending limit that is double the BLS consumer price index and double the median or mean income increases of Marylanders is nothing more than enacting a disguised tax increase. The sooner Maryland taxpayers recognize this and use the information wisely, the better.
Maryland Tax Education Foundation Inc.

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