Thursday, January 6, 2000

Funding a key to driving away gridlock

The Washington Times’ report on the studies indicating the severity of traffic congestion in the D.C. area points to the reasons why this problem continues to worsen: lack of a single solution, absence of unanimous support for any of the possible solutions, the long list of decision-makers who must agree before any action is approved, lack of adequate transportation funding and (possibly worst of all) fear of criticism (“Gridlock studies ‘going around in circles,’ ” Dec. 30).

One thing is certain: Without adequate funding, even projects with unanimous support will never be built.

The Maryland Commission on Transportation Investment found that unless an additional $27 billion is invested in road, rail and bus systems, projected population growth will bring our roads to a standstill. To meet this need, a minimum of $700 million per year must be spent improving the highway system alone.

Commuters in the region need to understand several important facts: 1) Mass transit cannot eliminate congestion; 2) highway improvements are crucial to continued mobility; and 3) neither will occur without prompt action on transportation funding.

I commend the efforts of The Washington Times in this regard and encourage you to assign this issue the priority it requires given the severity of the problem and the demonstrated need for decisive action.


Executive director

Marylanders for Efficient & Safe Highways

Glen Burnie, Md.

India displays ‘Ghandian fortitude’ in dealing with hijackers

Neighboring a country that sponsors terrorism against it and most assuredly sponsored the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking, and negotiating through a fundamentalist regime no Western country recognizes, India exhibited the kind of Ghandian fortitude for which it is known.

Violence only begets violence, and in this nuclear-armed region, upping the ante is the easiest way to stumble inadvertently into a far more deadly situation. Drawing upon its nonviolent roots, India may have helped avoid a larger conflict in the short term. However, for there to be any hope for long-term security in the region, Pakistan should be recognized for what it is, a state sponsor of terrorism, and contained as such by Western powers.


Former U.S. ambassador to Paraguay


Numbers show husbands were stereotyped in illustration

But accompanying her column was an illustration of a nonchalant man carrying a suitcase, next to his dressed-for-success wife, with a mop, pail and infant in tow. The message: Husbands are lazy bums who don’t do enough work around the house.

Unfortunately, this stereotype does not account for for several facts. Husbands work six hours longer per week than wives. Wives more often take jobs close to home. This makes for longer commuting time for a husband by an average of two hours per week. Husbands usually do the physically taxing and often more dangerous jobs around the house such as clearing leaves from gutters, painting the house and shoveling snow.

Put all these activities together, and husbands are more than pulling their fair share. According to a study from the University of Michigan Survey Research Center, men’s total workload is 57.8 hours per week, while women’s is 54.4 hours.

So much for the feminist shibboleth of the “second shift.”



‘Progress and Poverty’ has the answers to tax woes

The people of the United States are at fault. The voters insist on perpetuating this madness by not enlightening themselves to another possibility. The passive majority accepts the Internal Revenue Service as demonstrated every election by refusing to exercise their right to vote for an alternative.

However, if I were made king, the first thing I would do would be to require everyone to read “Progress and Poverty” by Henry George. More than 100 years ago, he offered a simple way to fund the government that was “fair,” meaning not destructive to the economy and the people. Aspects of his proposals have been implemented to a limited degree in various regions around the world, and always with success.

Time magazine’s man of the century, Albert Einstein, once asserted, “Men like Henry George are rare, unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice.” Please read “Progress and Poverty.” You will not be disappointed.


Woodbridge, Va.

Until the process changes, apathetic voter turnout will continue

But I’m skeptical. Our turnout continues to plunge. A majority of eligible Americans abstained from the 1996 presidential race. Nearly two-thirds skipped last year’s national elections for Congress, and more than 80 percent of Virginians didn’t vote in their critically important state legislative elections this year. In May, 95 percent of registered voters chose not to vote in Dallas’ mayoral race.

If politics were a marketplace, it would be quite clear that the consumers aren’t happy with their choices. Rather than blame the consumers, current leaders in the field or some energetic entrepreneur should shift gears and offer something new.

Politics isn’t a free market, of course, but rather than wring our hands at well-intentioned reforms such as vote-by-mail and Internet voting, pundits such as Mr. Jacoby should think hard about why Americans don’t much like their choices these days.

Let me suggest that the most obvious need is better choices. For better choices, we need to expand the spectrum of credible candidacies and create incentives for candidates to be sincere and talk substantively about issues that affect people’s lives on a daily basis.

Proportional-representation voting systems would do the best job of bringing the principles of the market into politics. More modest steps would include instant-runoff voting to make it possible for voters to register a first preference for a candidate even if they suspect that candidate can’t win, yet still have a chance to cast a decisive vote against their greater of two evils.


Executive director

The Center for Voting and Democracy

Takoma Park

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