Professor forgets English as a tool of history
Professor Kirk Hazen, who supports the legitimization of English with a dialect, may be a superb linguist, but he gets a failing grade in history (“Professor’s fixin’ to let errors be,” Jan. 3). He overlooks one of the most valuable parts of a standardized spoken and written language: communication.
Not just the communication between two fellows sitting on a log, but communication among disparate people whose one common bond well may be their ability to speak the same language. This need isn’t limited only to place, but to time as well. What we write today must be crystal clear to those who may live centuries after us. A single English language, which is reasonably standardized and consistent in grammar, vocabulary and spelling, will provide future historians and scientists with the keys they need to unlock and understand and perhaps profit by the culture we take for granted in the 21st century. We should not encumber them with the need for a Rosetta stone to sort out and make sense of myriad dialects such as those Mr. Hazen advocates.
Like it or not, English has become the lingua franca of the industrialized world. It is a very precise tool. We should keep it sharpened and in good working order.
FRANK H. PIERCE
Ring up a national retail sales tax
Bruce Bartlett’s opinions opposing a national retail sales tax as an alternative to a federal income tax reflect neither objectivity nor a recognition of the fatal flaws of the income tax, flat or otherwise (“Sales tax detour for tax reforms,” Commentary, Dec. 29).
If, as Mr. Bartlett apparently believes, a sales tax of 50 percent to 60 percent would be required to replace all current federal taxes, he should, with other thinking persons, be outraged in realizing that the burden of taxes has gotten out of line.
Mr. Bartlett is critical of a sales tax for making prices higher, but he fails to note the effect income tax has on prices. Prices in general are increased by the income tax. The prices of every producer’s goods or services are made higher by an amount necessary to offset the income taxes paid by the producer.
Further, the facilities, equipment, raw materials, parts and services used in producing any product or service also cost more, and for the same reason (income taxes paid by the suppliers). All down the line from raw materials to finished goods to services price increases pile on top of each other at every stage of production. The result is higher prices, not only on consumer goods, but on everything else rent, medicine, food, movies, haircuts, everything. The longer the production chain, the greater the effect on prices caused by such additive taxation.
Though it is very complex and difficult to assess quantitatively the effect of additive taxation, it is certain that the income tax, flat or not, makes prices significantly higher. Not only that, but at the state level, the state sales tax is paid on the fully burdened price of an item. Thus, you are paying a state sales tax on the part of the price that represents the federal income taxes paid by all of the producers in the production chain. In other words, a tax on a tax. Talk about regressive.
On the other hand, because the main proposals for a sales tax would apply only to retail sales, prices, per se, would not increase. On the contrary, if we did away with the income tax and instead went to a sales tax system, prices actually would go down significantly as a result of eliminating the effect of additive taxation. Anybody want to say this would not be a popular outcome?
Regarding the flat income tax alternative, Mr. Bartlett states it “may not get rid of the IRS, but it does just about everything else the sales tax does, only better.” It appears that he is happy with a system run by a hugely unpopular and feared agency that has been chastised and humbled repeatedly in Congress for inexcusable abuses. Not only that, but Mr. Bartlett seems to have no problem with a system that cannot even operate without keeping enormous, permanent computerized databases of detailed information on every man and woman in the country.
The only benefit a flat income tax could offer would be some possible simplification of the perfect nightmare embodied in the current tax code. Without a doubt, though, a flat income tax is just as bad as the current system in all other respects.
Nevertheless, any simplification can be counted on to vanish soon. Legislators under the influence of lobbyists year to year inevitably will get their pet exceptions, exclusions, allowances and special provisions enacted. Soon the system will become as complex, as invasive and as prone to abuse and suspicions of inequity as ever.
No, I’m afraid Mr. Bartlett’s favorite has too little to offer. Let us just go with the simple solution: Abolish the 16th Amendment and go with a national retail sales tax.
Hispanic head count should be dishonorably discharged
I read with dismay the article regarding the “critical” underrepresentation of Hispanics in the Army officer corps (“Hispanic officers sought by Army,” Jan. 5). I watched my Army shoot itself in the foot back in the ‘70s with a similar viewpoint regarding blacks. The Army was slashing the size of its officer corps by involuntarily separating many highly qualified, successful white officers while leaving marginal minority officers in place to keep the percentages looking good.
I remember a conversation with a very senior colonel in 1975 in which he said that he had watched the country cut back its military after World War II and Korea to levels that were close to suicidal. Every time, he said, we have been forced to play catch-up. He then mentioned the extreme drawdown at the end of the Vietnam War and said, “Every time, I think we’ve learned our lesson.”
Apparently not. We have a critically small and poorly equipped force, thanks to the current administration. So what does the secretary of the Army focus on? Being a good Clintonista, he focuses on racial demographics instead of readiness. He counts heads by race instead of availability of repair parts. This concern over proportional representation at all levels is reminiscent of the Lani Guinier brouhaha early in the administration. We still are more concerned about the “opportunities” for women and minorities than about the basic mission of the military.
If Microsoft and Intel were focused the same way, Bill Gates would be, at best, a “thousandaire,” processors would be screaming along at about 45 to 50 megahertz, the Internet still would be science fiction, and the economy would be nowhere near as robust as it is. The situation at the national security level is far more critical, for if the military does not focus on fighting and winning the nation’s wars, the nation itself may not make it through the third millennium.
This old soldier prays that the next administration will recognize that excellence is the only pertinent criteria for the appointment of officers to lead our soldiers on the battlefield.
LT. COL. PAT GLASS
U.S. Army (retired)
It’s amusing to hear that the Army is “critically underrepresented” with Hispanics. Can it be that Hispanics finally have realized that the armed forces only need them in times of crisis or major wars?
So what does the Army do? It justifies its hypocritical policies by selecting the few ranking Hispanic officers or apologists to inform Hispanic communities that the Army doesn’t understand why we do not send our Hispanic children in droves to join up. Perhaps these apologists could mention that the real reason why our communities and I in particular will not recommend that young Hispanics join up is widespread discrimination and ethnic slurs against Hispanics by both officers and noncommissioned officers. Hispanics cannot and should not identity with the discrimination that occurs in the Armed Forces.
I served with honor in the armed forces for 20 years, and the bias and ethnic and racial slurs occurred back then as they do now. Then, as now, one couldn’t say a thing because of the performance reports submitted by those in charge. Then, as now, the staffs of the inspectors general were nothing but apologists for the upper echelons.
I have a better idea for our Hispanic youth. Stay in school, get good grades and go to college. Then join private industry. You will come out way ahead.