- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

The D.C. tax charade

The article "Council aims tax at those who commute" (Metropolitan, Tuesday demonstrates why the District will never balance its budget so long as its elected officials believe more taxes are the answer to every problem.
Though D.C. politicians blame commuters for consuming city services without paying their "fair share," the truth is that commuters provide the District with millions of dollars in revenues from sales taxes on meals and other purchases. Moreover, the city businesses that rely on commuters as patrons also pay taxes to the District.
The D.C. Council should be thankful for commuters who, like tourists, come to town, pay taxes and then do not consume expensive services such as education and health care that are crippling the city's budget.
D.C. Council members should examine their own role in creating the city's budget problems. According to Census Bureau data, the city, which had 43,000 workers in 1999, has the highest proportion of city government employees of any city in the country. Those employees also are paid more than government workers anywhere in the country except Alaska and California. Couple this massive public sector with about 46,000 residents receiving welfare, 20,000 getting Supplemental Security Income, 74,000 receiving Social Security and 17,000 getting unemployment benefits (out of a population of 572,000), and one can see why the city's 13.9 percent tax burden the highest in the country has more to do with local residents than commuters.
It is ironic that the city, whose license plates bear the motto "Taxation Without Representation," may seek to impose the same burden on commuters from Maryland and Virginia.

MARK SCHMIDT
Director of programs
National Taxpayers Union
Alexandria

Having slots of fun is no vice

Wednesday's article on Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s proposal for legalizing slot machines at the state's race tracks includes a reference to testimony given by a Baltimore pastor ("Ehrlich tells panel best option is slots," Page 1). The article, paraphrasing the Rev. Gregory Perkins, says that "the introduction of slots would promote crime, bankruptcy, prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse, and the disintegration of families."
What planet is Mr. Perkins from? Baltimore has had these very problems for years. If nothing else, the state could use the slots to distract the population from the dismal social and educational conditions that are the legacy of some 30 years of Democrats controlling the state government and Baltimore.
Mr. Perkins also maintains it is "bad policy for the state to encourage its most vulnerable citizens to engage in pathological behavior." You mean like playing the government-run lottery? The hypocrisy on this issue could choke a racehorse.

CHUCK MUTH
President
Citizen Outreach
Washington

States abandon rule of law for illegal aliens

Actions taken in any of our 50 sovereign states affect the others and the nation as a whole. Benefits given to foreign nationals illegally living and working in our nation not only undermine respect for the rule of law, which is a primary foundation of our nation, but encourage more of the same ("Washington House OKs in-state tuition for illegal aliens," Nation, Wednesday).
An old English proverb says it best: "He invites future injuries who rewards past ones." States such as Washington, Utah and California, which evidently don't understand their stewardship of the rule of law, undermine that rule in every other state. With 8 million to 11 million illegals already here, offering illegals more benefits will only encourage more of them to come here.
The combination of a border that is child's play to drug and human smugglers and Mexico's aggressive "grass-roots" campaign to gain city by city, state by state, what it could not through normal diplomatic channels makes John Locke's dictum "Wherever law ends, tyranny begins" very apropos to today.

BARBARA VICKROY
Escondido, Calif.

Every day I encounter yet another article (for example, "Washington House OKs in-state tuition for illegal aliens") that reveals that this once great nation is serious about neither terrorism nor its second-biggest problem, immigration. Notice that I do not say merely illegal immigration, but immigration, period.
With states that are experiencing high rates of immigration turning into Third World countries and with the attacks of September 11, 2001, the time for drastic action has come and nearly gone. A war on terrorism and/or Iraq is an exercise in sophistry when we live with more or less undefended borders.
Granting criminals let's call a spade a spade Social Security benefits, driver's licenses, in-state tuition and organ transplants that should go to Americans far ahead in line, plus anticipating nearly $800 billion for taxpayer-funded medical care for illegals just until 2006 all suggest we are facing the edge of the abyss with one foot on the precipice.
It's now or never. We must suspend all immigration and make illegal border crossing a felony with mandatory deportation. We must do this now or lose our national identity forever.

JON GARRICK
Vienna

Drug rehab fights fire with fire

Addiction is a chronic disease. It must be managed as such in hope of remission but not cure. In focusing only on deaths related to methadone and buprenorphine, the Feb. 19 editorial "Medicine or menace?" threatens to set back treatment of opioid addiction by decades.
It is medically inappropriate to measure the safety and efficacy of any medicine merely by measuring its adverse effects. Methadone and buprenorphine overdoses among addicts have been observed for as long as these drugs have been used for the treatment of addiction. Yet, data from several countries clearly indicate methadone substitution sharply reduces mortality among addicts in treatment to about one-third the mortality rate of addicts not in treatment. Similar reductions in mortality have been reported in France since buprenorphine became available there in 1996. Fatal heroin overdoses fell rapidly from 388 per year in 1995 to 92 per year by 1998.
It is true that fatal overdoses with methadone and buprenorphine indicate the need for appropriate care in use of these drugs, but no medicine that has such a favorable effect on the mortality of patients who take it can be characterized fairly as a "menace."
The editorial also asserts, without justification, that buprenorphine will be no different from methadone and that America's experience with buprenorphine is likely to parallel that of France, with buprenorphine becoming a significant abuse problem and causing a substantial number of deaths. This position ignores data from France that indicate the rate of fatal overdose from buprenorphine is substantially less than that of methadone.
There also are important pharmacologic differences between these two medications. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more people are starting to abuse heroin now than at any time since the post-Vietnam War heroin epidemic. We must not leave hundreds of thousands of people to suffer with opiate addiction when we have medicines available that are safe and effective for the management of this disease.
To condemn medicines such as methadone and buprenorphine by saying they "are, at best, highly dangerous chemical crutches" is irresponsible and dangerous.

DR. E. DOUGLAS KRAMER
Assistant director
Clinical risk assessment
Purdue Pharma, L.P.
Stamford, Conn.


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