- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Funding the Katrina clean-up

Dan Thomasson’s call for a one-time tax surcharge to pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast is exactly the wrong solution to a major problem (“A Katrina tax surcharge?” Commentary, Sunday).

First, middle- and upper-income taxpayers are already unfairly burdened by taxes at the federal, state and local levels. The first step in paying for Katrina and other federal responsibilities is for Congress to amend the tax code to share the burden more fairly among all citizens.

Second, the suggestion is that the citizens who do pay taxes contribute more while Congress is unwilling to undo the wasteful uses of these same citizens’ taxes, represented by the huge pork in the appropriations bills, the agricultural subsidies, corporate welfare and the tobacco buyout.

Before I am asked to “contribute” more in the form of higher taxes, it seems reasonable to insist that Congress get its house in order and cut wasteful spending targeted at legislators’ pet projects and favored industries.

Third, illegal immigration is draining our resources at all levels of government, yet Congress and the president continue to fiddle while the Treasury is depleted. Before we are taxed more, it is reasonable to expect our leaders to curb illegal immigration and remove those in the country illegally. Although immigrants rights groups may claim this will not result in a saving of money, ask any local official in areas awash in illegal immigrants — they will tell a far different story.

Fourth, although I tend to agree with Mr. Thomasson that it appears the oil companies are reaping exorbitant profits in a time of record gas prices, I also know that the environmentalists in the country have an undue influence over energy policy, thwarting the building of new refineries and the drilling of additional wells on American soil (including Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) and requiring so many formulations of gasoline that the cost is unnaturally spiked upward, including refining and transportation costs.

It seems reasonable to require our leaders to correct this costly environmental policy imbalance before calling for higher taxes. Some may think this is the right time to raise gas taxes. In my view, now is the time for federal and local governments to reduce gas taxes, which are, after all, highly regressive.

In short, it seems many seek sacrifices from taxpayers but not from those who: 1) don’t pay taxes, 2) legislate in favor of their special interests, 3) are in the country illegally and 4) continue to push their environmental agenda regardless of cost. If pain in the form of higher taxes must be inflicted, let’s inflict it equally.

Finally, I would remind Mr. Thomasson of the wisdom of Will Rogers: “People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes. They want to know every man is paying his proportionate share according to his wealth.”



Too much health-care litigation

In “In praise of U.S. health care” (Commentary, Saturday), Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, rightly praises our health system because, unlike systems that are government-controlled, it doesn’t ration care.

He lists among its faults cost, access, waste and irregular quality, but he doesn’t mention its vulnerability to excessive and abusive litigation. Frivolous suits and the ever-present threat they present to doctors compel doctors to overtreat and overtest. This alone accounts for immeasurable millions of wasted dollars. It also has made doctors view patients as potential lawsuits. That affects access because doctors are increasingly fearful of taking on very sick patients or performing risky procedures.

Too many perverse incentives feed medical liability. Here are the worst: contingency fees tied to the prospects of high jury payouts, extortive pre-trial maneuvers that coerce doctors to settle rather than risk a jury trial, and the questionable tactics and objectivity of so-called expert witnesses who are highly paid for their testimonies.

Even the best health care system in the world cannot expect its physicians to continue functioning humanely and competently with such shabby treatment.

The best way to eliminate the flaw of abusive litigation is to treat medical malpractice like workmen’s compensation.


Bethel, Conn.

Illegals and amnesty

To curb illegal immigration, in addition to enforcing immigration laws, elected officials in Washington should send a strong and unequivocal message that no amnesty will be granted to existing or future illegal aliens, (“Bonner calls for ‘full-court press’ at Mexico line,” Nation, Sept. 26). Furthermore, additional Border Patrol agents should be hired, as recommended by the September 11 commission. Congress also should make it illegal to grant any benefits to illegal aliens. Children born here of illegal-alien parents should be denied automatic citizenship. Few would want to stay in the United States, or even come here, if they could not survive economically and if their families would receive no benefits.

Americans should not be misled by the Kennedy-McCain de facto amnesty bill. President Bush should remember that awarding illegal aliens benefits, such as the amnesty passed in 1986 legalizing 3 million immigrants, will only encourage higher illegal immigration. Indeed, last December, the U.S. illegal alien population swelled to 18 million to 20 million, according to Bear Stearns economist Robert Justich’s estimate.


Executive director

Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America

Oakland, Calif

Reviving the CIA

Given the years of neglect and purposeful undermining of the intelligence community during the Clinton administration, it was satisfying to read Jack Kelly’s Sunday Commentary column, “Clean-up at the CIA.” The anecdote about the CIA station chief in Tajikistan requesting headquarters in Langley to send Dari and Pashtun speakers to help debrief refugees from Afghanistan and instead receiving a briefing team to explain the agency’s sexual harassment policy brought back memories of the early 1990s after the Clintons took office.

Before that time there was in the federal agency where I worked a strict policy of promotion boards considering people on their merits regardless of race or gender. That changed to an emphasis both formally and informally on the promotion of women and minorities regardless of their qualifications. This eventually led to a wholesale retirement of talented white males who saw the handwriting on the wall. In their place, evidently as a result of the Clinton policy, came those who would adhere to the political and social agenda of the administration, whether or not they could or even desired to perform with the professionalism normally expected in demanding positions — particularly regarding intelligence operations.

Mr. Kelly’s final point about where and how the CIA and, I might add, other intelligence agencies recruit their personnel is well-taken. In my opinion, who is doing the recruiting (i.e., interviewing prospective new hires) is crucial. Interviewers should be vetted beforehand to ensure that they are professional and not ideological. That will go a long way toward improving the selection of personnel for intelligence positions and the performance of our intelligence community as a whole.

Ultimately, however, good performance emanates from the top. Fortunately for the CIA, its director, Porter Goss, appears to understand the fundamental necessity of reconstructing the agency by replacing unqualified and recalcitrant personnel who reflect the undisciplined mind-set of the previous administration.


Bethany Beach, Del.

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