- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

April 13

The Journal, Martinsburg, W.Va., on the importance of helping mentally ill servicemen:

Programs to help U.S. servicemen and women suffering from mental challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, have been around for decades. Clearly, more effort needs to be put into them.

After Army Spc. Ivan Lopez shot and killed three people and wounded 16 others before killing himself at Fort Hood, Texas, last week, the media focused again on mental illness in the military. Lopez was being treated for mental illness.

But most service members coping with psychological challenges are no threat to others. Instead, some take their own lives. We owe it to them to find better ways of surviving confrontations with their mental demons.

Nearly one in every five men and women who enlist in the military suffers from common mental illnesses such as depression before they sign up. The stress of service can aggravate those challenges.

More needs to be done to help servicemen and women who become threats to themselves and others. The Pentagon should make that a top priority.




April 15

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on guns, mental illness:

Should a man with a long history of mental health issues have 54 guns in his house?

Most reasonable people would say no, but that appears to have been the case with 62-year-old Rodney Bruce Black of Barboursville.

Black has been indicted on two counts of murder in the Jan. 25 shooting deaths of Garrick Hopkins, 60, and his brother Carl Hopkins Jr., 61, of Oak Hill, W.Va. They were attempting to open a shed on the adjacent property, which Garrick Hopkins had just purchased, when shots rang out from a bedroom window.

Black is charged with firing the fatal gunshots without warning with a .243-caliber rifle. Neighbors had described Black as reclusive, but his public defender went a step further during a recent hearing and revealed the defendant had a history of mental health problems going back 30 years.

Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell ordered Black to a state mental hospital for evaluation and treatment. But the case also raises many questions about whether the defendant’s possession of weapons ever came up in his past brushes with mental health care.

So far, investigators have said little about how Black came to have the 37 long guns and 17 handguns found in his home — how they were acquired and over what period of time. Federal law prohibits people ruled to be mentally defective or committed to a mental institution from purchasing or owning guns.

But the system in place to prevent that is inadequate and flawed.

Background checks are required for many gun purchases, and those requests should be run through the FBI database, housed near Clarksburg, W.Va. It does have 2.51 million mental health entries, but there are also gaps, because states are inconsistent about what they report and at least 17 states barely participate at all.

For example, the man charged with shooting Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum bought his pistol just 10 months after leaving a mental hospital. Information on Tennis Maynard’s history apparently was not in the FBI data base; moreover, federal investigators have charged that he lied about his mental illness on his gun permit application.

But the system also does not include people whose mental illness histories do not rise to the level of a court ruling or commitment. The shooters at the Washington Navy Yard and Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aaron Alexis and Adam Lanza, both fall into that category. Spc. Ivan Lopez, who killed three people and wounded 16 earlier this month at Fort Hood, Texas, had been under the care of military doctors for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders, but that did not prevent him from buying the gun he used on the victims and himself.

It is too early to know what might have made a difference in Black’s case. But as the nation wrestles with how to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill, it is important to determine if the system failed and how.




April 15

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on a progressive tax system:

In recent years, the American left has tried to ignite a class war by raising the issue of “income inequality,” even though the gap widened under President Obama, the most liberal president since Franklin Roosevelt.

As it is the deadline for filing one’s federal and state income tax returns, today is a good time to review just who pays income taxes and who does not.

“America’s taxes are the most progressive in the world,” wrote Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post, based on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

While the top 10 percent in the United States earn 33.5 percent of all income, they also pay 45.1 percent of the federal income taxes, a gap of almost 12 points.

In the United Kingdom, the top 10 percent earn 32.3 percent of the money and pay 38.6 percent of the taxes, a gap of 6 points.

In Sweden, the taxes are flat. Thus the top 10 percent earn 26.6 percent of the money but pay 26.7 percent of the taxes.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of all federal income taxes are from the top 20 percent of all taxpayers.

The top 1 percent pay 24.2 percent of all federal income taxes.

But wait. There is more. The income tax code includes effectively a negative tax for lower earners in the form of tax credits that exceed the taxes due. This leads to tax refunds that are larger than taxes deducted during the year.

For example, last year 28 million people divvied up $62.9 billion in Earned Income Tax Credits for an average of $2,200 each, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

There also is the Child Tax Credit of $1,000 for each child 16 and under. Additional money is given to families whose child tax credits exceed their taxes due.

On Tax Day, people should remember that of the top 20 percent will pay $944 billion in federal income taxes this year.

The other 80 percent will pay $427 billion.



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