- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Extend the Internet tax moratorium

It is unfortunate that our nation's governors and their supporters on Capitol Hill are holding hostage an extension of the Internet tax moratorium set to expire Oct. 21. Earlier this month, more than 40 governors sent a letter to every member of Congress urging them not to extend the ban on new Internet taxes unless states are granted permission to shift their sales and use tax collection burden to out-of state merchants.
In 1998, Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) to protect the Internet and e-commerce from the inconsistent patchwork of taxes by more than 7,500 taxing jurisdictions in this country. ITFA prohibits Internet access taxes, multiple taxation of a single transaction by more than one taxing jurisdiction, and discriminatory taxes that do not apply to offline purchases.
Let's make one thing clear. E-commerce transactions are not tax-free. Such transactions are subject to the same sales tax that consumers would have to pay at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. The difference is that online merchants are not required to collect and remit these taxes unless the retailer has a substantial physical presence, or "nexus," in the state. This is in accordance with the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota.
As the deadline for the moratorium approaches, these governors are trying to force Congress to reverse Supreme Court precedent and force non-resident businesses to collect and remit their taxes for them. Such authority would be detrimental to the future growth of e-commerce, as online businesses would be forced to bear the unfair and expensive burden of complying with regulation imposed by the thousands of taxing jurisdictions in this country.
It should not be Congress' role to provide a mechanism for states to shift their tax collection burden to out-of-state retailers, as a result of the states' failure to collect sales and use taxes from their citizens. Congress' role should be to ensure that the states do not unfairly export this burden, thereby obstructing interstate commerce.
Time is running out. It is imperative that Congress passes a clean and permanent extension of the Internet tax moratorium before it's too late.

Vice president, Legislative Affairs
Center for Individual Freedom

A second opinion about medical school racial quotas

I do hope that I never have the misfortune to fall into the hands of one of Dr. Jordan Cohen's "diversity-qualified" physicians ("Preferring doctors for a diverse society," Letters, Sept. 8).
Dr. Cohen, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, creates such a mass of contradictions that it is difficult to know where to start. First, he attempts to make the case that minorities receive inferior educational preparation as compared to whites and Asians. The last time I checked, Asians were a minority in the United States. Yet Dr. Cohen contends that only blacks and Hispanics have "dismal educational opportunities." He makes no attempt to explain why this is true, if it actually is.
But it really doesn't matter, according to Dr. Cohen, because, in his politically correct view, educational achievement has little or nothing to do with whether a given individual will meet his criteria to become a physician. "If we fail to give preferences to minority students who lack equivalent 'academic qualifications,' the future physician work force will be even less representative of our increasingly diverse population than the one we have now," he states.
Does this really matter when it comes to treatment of those who are ill? Dr. Cohen certainly thinks it does. He asks if a physician work force consisting of students with superior academic credentials would "be more qualified to care for a diverse citizenry." "The answer," he continues, "is clearly no." In other words, a white or Asian physician, no matter how accomplished, isn't as well qualified to treat a black or Hispanic patient as a black or Hispanic physician. Isn't that what we call racism?
While Dr. Cohen protests that only those who meet "the rigorous educational requirements" will become physicians, he also states that, "Given the medical school applicant pool, the choices required to meet our obligations cannot be made responsibly by blithely assuming that race doesn't matter."
So which is it, Dr. Cohen: merit or affirmative action? You can't have it both ways.


Noble 'Savages'

Thank you for the Sept. 8 front-page story about how Idaho's Salmon River High School changed the logo of its "Savages" sports team so that it would not offend the Nez Perce tribe ("School defuses flap over 'Savages'"). It is the first story about the politically correct objection to teams with Indian mascots to actually make my blood pressure go down. The incident is noteworthy for several reasons:
It involves a minority group that didn't turn the potentially offensive team mascot into a political issue. The Nez Perce could have assumed the role of "victims." Instead, they chose to behave with quiet dignity and tolerance. There was never any acrimony involved.
The outcome didn't involve any lawyers or lawsuits. Nor did it involve the government imposition of a one-size-fits-all solution.
The happy outcome was the result of innovative thinking on the part of high school students and generous cooperation by the Nez Perce.
The way in which the Nez Perce and the high school handled the situation is a model for better understanding between people, a more closely knit society and mutual respect. This story contains lessons for us all.

Oviedo, Fla.

Small communities need federal assistance to reduce arsenic in water

Steve Chapman's excellent Sept. 8 Commentary column "Whose water is it, anyway?" concludes with the assessment: "When it comes to arsenic in the drinking water of San Ysidro, what the federal government should do is simple: nothing." Wrong.
The function of the federal government is to help solve problems larger than the resources of communities such as San Ysidro. True, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Clinton, put off its study of arsenic in water and then rushed an eleventh-hour ruling to embarrass the incoming president without doing a valid cost-benefit study. When asked by the EPA to define a safe level of arsenic in water, however, the National Academy of Sciences responded: something less than 50 parts per billion (ppb), the current standard. The EPA proposed 10 ppb. Mr. Chapman says that, "civil engineer Richard Burton, a consultant to the town on water issues, says flatly, 'There is no currently available way to get down to that standard.'" Yet all the big salaries, egos, turf battles and game playing in Washington have resulted in no help for San Ysidro, only fear and dispair.
Let me revise Mr. Chapman's concluding statement: When it comes to arsenic in the drinking water, what the federal government should do is simple: help and shut up. They do exactly the opposite; they do evil.


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