- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

America’s population a growing problem

It’s great to read that India’s population growth is finally slowing (“Population growth leveling off,” World, Saturday), yet it still disturbs me that as U.S. citizens, many of us do not realize how quickly our own population is growing. If current trends continue, the U.S. population will reach half a billion by 2050 and a billion by 2100 — the size of India today.

While India’s problem stemmed from high fertility rates for many years, America’s population problem is a result of mass immigration. According to Census Bureau statistics, nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population growth comes from immigration and high fertility rates among recent immigrants. Both legal and illegal immigration levels are far higher than they have ever been, with about 1.5 million legal (in 2001) and several hundred thousand illegal aliens every year.

We have spent years focusing on helping China and India control their explosive population growth, but it is time to focus our attention on our own country before the problems already resulting from overpopulation — sprawl, “water wars,” pollution, farmland loss — multiply exponentially.

The question remains, how do we stop it? We need to cap immigration at 100,000 annually (the highest number we could admit and ever hope to stabilize the U.S. population) and follow the lead of China and India in slowing population growth to head off the effects of a nation with 1 billion people.

By ignoring our own dramatic growth, we are only making matters worse for our country and the world.

NICOLE CLARKE

Policy Associate

Population-Environment Balance

Washington

Balancing the budget

My friend Bruce Bartlett argues that to the extent that a balanced budget, amendment (BBA) might lead to higher taxes, this will outweigh the good that will come from an end to habitual deficits (“Balanced budget amendment pitfalls” Commentary July 16). What Mr. Bartlett doesn’t include in his calculations is the reduction in government spending that would result from a BBA.

Imagine for a minute that a balanced budget amendment was in place in the 1960s and 1970s. There is no way that the Congresses of the Great Society era could have created all those costly programs if they had had to raise the taxes to pay for them (as a BBA would require). How many hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes have Americans paid in subsequent years to fund these programs? How many billions of hours have been lost by American companies to the maze of regulations emanating from the agencies that were created?

While a BBA with a supermajority requirement to raise taxes would be preferable, even just taking away politicians’ credit card via the originally proposed balanced budget amendment would have a very positive long-term restraining effect on the size of the federal government. The benefit to the American economy from this reduction in spending (and ultimately, lower taxes) would be substantial — according to the Rand Corp., as much as one full percentage point of gross domestic product growth is lost for every 10 percent share of the nation’s income that government spending consumes.

JOHN BERTHOUD

President

National Taxpayers Union

Alexandria

The right to be treated as citizens

Within days, several residents of the District and the D.C. Council will file a lawsuit against the federal government. The suit, Banner vs. United States, asserts that the Home Rule Act of 1973 unconstitutionally prohibits the District from taxing income earned within its borders by residents of other jurisdictions in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Congress prohibited taxing the income earned in the District by nonresidents as part of the Home Rule Act. The prohibition was a concession to the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations, which only then supported an elected government in the District. (It may seem strange that members of Congress would demand concessions in exchange for their support of a democratic government, but let us judge not that we not be judged.) To compensate the District, the federal government gave the city an annual payment that eventually reached $600 million a year before it was eliminated under the 1997 Revitalization Act.

It is universally accepted that jurisdictions must collect taxes to support the delivery of services. The federal government respects the right of all 50 states to tax income earned within state borders; 41 states choose to tax the income earned by nonresidents. The unique intrusion of the federal government into a local matter of tax policy unequally burdens the District, in violation of the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection under the law. Additionally, Congress’ “exclusive jurisdiction” over the District involves only those matters that involve the national interest in a functioning capital. In the Federalist No. 43, James Madison makes clear that federalism applies to the District by saying, “a municipal Legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed [its residents].”

A nonresident income tax in the District would strengthen not just the meaning of democracy, but the city’s structurally precarious finances as well. Depending on the tax rate, the District could raise between $400 million and $1.4 billion from the income of nonresidents. This revenue could be used to lower tax rates to a level comparable to that of surrounding jurisdictions, while at the same time allowing the city to address its unmet infrastructure needs: schools, police stations, firehouses, bridges, roads, libraries and parks.

This lawsuit aims at nothing more than a fair relationship between the District and its neighbors. For too long, the suburbs have had a free ride at the District’s expense. People who live in Maryland and Virginia and work in Pennsylvania or North Carolina, for example, already pay taxes to those states and receive a credit from their home state. It is only fair that Maryland and Virginia residents who work in the District pay their taxes in the same fashion. To add insult to injury, D.C. residents who work in other jurisdictions pay taxes and are reimbursed by the District at a cost of $49 million a year. We would like to emphasize that because, Maryland and Virginia would similarly credit their residents for the value of the taxes they paid to the District, a nonresident income tax would not automatically raise the amount commuters pay in taxes.

Nonetheless, many suburban lawmakers dismiss the idea of a District nonresident income tax because it means less revenue for their states. Apparently, they won’t accept any relationship that is not wildly unbalanced in their favor. We are confused when people, including Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican, call the lawsuit’s claim to fairness “laughable.” We would be less confused, but just as offended, if these people were to say what they really seem to mean: that they approve of the suffering and privation of more than half a million people because selfishness has warped their sense of justice.

For 30 years, District residents have waited patiently and asked repeatedly for Congress to correct this injustice. Because Congress is unwilling to respect us or the Constitution, we have no choice but to sue for our right to be treated like all other American citizens.

ADRIAN FENTY and JACK EVANS

D.C. Council

Washington


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