- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003

Fairfax unfairly depicted The reporting and headline about the Fairfax County budget did a major disservice to readers (Briefly, Metropolitan, Tuesday). Based on what was printed, it would seem that the Fairfax County supervisors were a fiscally responsible group, committed to lowering the tax burden and reducing the size of government. The opposite is true.The board has dramatically increased the tax burden, yet the headline reads “Board approves budget with property-tax cut.” The fact is that, based on new county real estate tax assessments, the tax bills would have gone up an average of 14 percent. But, by reducing the tax rate by five cents, the board has merely reduced that tax increase to an 8 percent to 9 percent increase. Only in government-speak is a smaller increase described as a decrease.The article then notes the reduction of county jobs and a few small, miscellaneous tax increases, but nowhere did it report that the county is effectively raising the real estate burden. In my case, this will mean that my real estate tax burden will have increased by about 33 percent in just the past three years. This is outrageous.These tax-and-spend supervisors ought to be held accountable. The Washington Times should not let them hide behind smoke and mirrors.RICHARD B. DINGMANViennaPrime cut for MarylandThe article “Midyear budget cuts urged for Maryland” (Metropolitan, Tuesday) said that drastic cuts will be made in education, Medicaid and state aid to local governments, which could result in higher local taxes to offset next year’s $1 billion budget deficit. It also noted that a top-to-bottom review of every state agency and program will identify wasteful spending to be cut. If that is true, then the wasteful circumventing of the Maryland Medicaid abortion funding restrictions should be stopped. Maryland spends about $2.5 million each year to fund about 3,000 abortions, 76 percent of which are repeat abortions, 99 percent of which are done for the “mental health” of the mother. Regarding “mental health,” the law requires that the abortion be funded only if there is “medical evidence that continuation of the pregnancy is creating a serious effect on the woman’s mental health and if carried to term there is a substantial risk of a serious or long lasting effect on the woman’s future mental health.”The “mental health” criteria may apply to a few women, but surely not 3,000 each year. If such a condition existed before Medicaid-funded abortion, then Maryland would be overflowing with mental institutions populated as a result of pregnancy.Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. conducted a poll in March 2002 and found that 63 percent of Marylanders oppose paying for Medicaid-funded abortions. If they knew how their taxes were being abused, the number would likely be even higher. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. should eliminate abortion funding and use the money to help heal people, not provide a poor choice for women to kill their babies.FRANCOIS L. QUINSONGaithersburgGod and man at VMIThe decision of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to uphold the District Court decision prohibiting the voluntary recitation of a nondenominational, nonsectarian pre-supper prayer (“dedicated to giving thanks or asking for God’s blessing” or to “give thanks for the love and support of family and friends”) at the Virginia Military Institute is consistent with the fanatical secularism manifested in last summer’s ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional (“Appeals court upholds ban on VMI prayer,” Metro, Tuesday). Both rulings seek to eliminate God from our public institutions, and both are perverse interpretations of the Constitution.The 4th Circuit’s decision may actually be the worse because it specifically effects a prohibition on prayer contrary to the spirit of the First Amendment: “Congress [and the States, via the 14th Amendment] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Because no law demanded recitation of the pre-supper prayer and the nondenominational prayer certainly didn’t establish any particular religion, the three-judge panel resorted to meaningless legal incantations — the “supper prayer exacts an unconstitutional toll on the consciences of religious objectors” — to bootstrap itself into the desired anti-God result. But the Constitution wasn’t intended to insulate the American people from God. To the contrary, its authors wanted to ensure freedom of worship for all faiths by preventing the newly formed nation from adopting the practice of sponsoring a single state-authorized religion.If the “supper prayer has the primary effect of promoting religion,” as the judges complain, their ruling to ban such prayer has the primary effect of promoting secularism. Which did the Founding Fathers favor? References in the Declaration of Independence to “Nature’s God,” the “Creator,” the “Supreme Judge” and “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” suggest why today the national motto of the United States is not “Judges Know Best,” but “In God We Trust.” SAMUEL R. LEWISOak Hill, Va.Celebrity boycottIn his column, “Reason enough for the ouster” (Commentary, yesterday), Dan K. Thomasson asks, “Well, if this country isn’t all about being able to speak freely, without fear of punishment by those who disagree, what is it about?” This country is about providing the freedom for people to speak and act as they prefer. So when a celebrity of some stripe makes some comment with which I disagree, my freedoms allow me to vocally disagree, organize those who agree with me and act so as to not further enrich someone I see as an utter bonehead. This is not “punishment.” This is the essential freedom of a free-market economy. Were some form of government sanction to be enforced against these celebrity half-wits, Mr. Thomasson would have a point. Unfortunately, he only has half a point. The other half he has exactly wrong. I fully support the right of the famous to say whatever they wish. I then support the right of anyone else to exercise his or her freedom of speech, even if it is a “diatribe” by a talk-radio host. This is not “punishment” per se, even if it is a boycott. It is free people making economic decisions based on the freely reported actions of others — which is precisely what this country is “all about.”RICHARD MANHARDAshburn, Va.Not too old to flyYesterday’s Associated Press wire story about hardships in the airline industry was excellent but missed completely the plight of older workers, particularly pilots (“Grounded,” Business).Pensions have been reduced, amended and abrogated. Profit-sharing and 401(k) plans have shrunk tremendously. However, many older pilots cannot continue working a few more years to recover. The federal government forces them to be terminated from employment due to age — not because they no longer are competent or healthy but because they have reached the magic age of 60.They cannot collect partial Social Security benefits until age 62 and full benefits until age 67. If a retired pilot’s pension has been terminated, he can collect only $28,000 from the Defined Benefits Guarantee Corporation, even though other airline employees can get about $45,000. The difference is based on age.This rule has been in place for 43 years without amendment, even as studies show older pilots are safer pilots and benefit from decades of experience.Many people have the mistaken impression that the average airline pilot is rich. Fat chance. After two decades of deregulation, there are a lot of pilots working for their second and third airlines and their retirement plans are a wreck.We older pilots — I work for Southwest Airlines — could use some real relief, such as letting us work if we are healthy and qualified.PAUL EMENSVice presidentAirline Pilots Against Age DiscriminationAnnapolis

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