The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on March 30, 1998 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Monday, March 30, 1998
Page 4
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MONDAY, MARCH 30, 1998 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® Quote of the day "Ifyou go to aflat tax with no traiisistion then tax reform is dead. The gorilla in King Kong size." J.D. Foster executive director of the Tax Foundation, who believes the mortgage tax deduction is the proverbial 500- pound gorilla OPINION By SCOTT SEIRER / The Salina Journal Value cap misguided THE ISSUE Property taxes THEAR6UMBVT Mandating unfair values is wrong approach O f all the ways to raise money to fund government, the property tax is one of the worst. The value of your home is not an accurate reflection of wealth, or of your ability to pay. The home you live in is not an investment. It is only shelter. Sure, the value of your home might rise over time, but that is of little consequence unless, for some reason, you no longer need shelter. To base tax bills on shelter values is flawed. For many people, especially retirees, the rising value of their home comes at a time when their income is stagnant, or falling. The answer, if we're serious about addressing this concern, is to find alternatives to the property tax. The answer is not, as some legislators advocate, to build artificial unfairness into the property tax system by tinkering with property values. Such tinkering was evident in the House last week, where lawmakers came periously close to approving a measure that would give voters the chance to adopt a constitutional amendment capping the amount that property values could be increased each year. Such a limit would make a bad system even worse, for it would strip out all elements of fairness. With a cap in place, the value of homes and commercial property, over time, would vary greatly. The tax bill you receive could be much more, or much less, than the bill your neighbor receives for a similar home. Across the state, discrepancies could be even greater. The value of homes in fast-growing areas, where property values are climbing, could be, because of the cap, much less than the value of homes in rural areas where growth is not as sharp. There's yet another problem. Capping property values would do nothing to cap the dollars that must be raised to fund government. We'd still owe the entire bill. Each summer, local government entities set their budgets. The dollars they need from property taxes are plugged into equations that include the total value of all property to be taxed. From there, a tax levy is set. The greater the total value of all property, the less the tax levy needs to be to generate the needed dollars. The lower the total valuation, the greater the levy. To cap home values would simply push up the levy. Such finagling would help some taxpayers, but hurt others. Who would benefit? Who would suffer? The answer would not be anchored in fairness. Rather, it would randomly depend on where individual taxpayers fall on a growing scale of inequity in property values. We have grown weary of fighting the burden of property taxes. But the answer is not to mandate unfairness in the property values on which the tax is based. The only real answer is to find a better tax. LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL Don't let Big Tobacco off the hook With the release of over 800 documents from the tobacco industry clearly showing how the industry attempted to hide the dangerous effects of smoking, why should Congress give Big Tobacco immunity? Under an agreement worked out in June between the attorneys general of 40 states — including Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall — and the tobacco industry, Big Tobacco would be immune from any further class action damage suits and punitive damages in individual suits. This means that once Big Tobacco covers the Health costs of state workers and Medicaid costs, everybody else who has been harmed by tobacco will be refused the right to recover tobacco-related health costs. ; In addition, this means that health and welfare funds collectively bargained to pay the medical and hospital bills of over 30 million American workers and their families would be barred from recovering medical costs from the tobacco industry. Health and welfare funds throughout the nation have spent hundreds of millions of dollars treating members within the private sector for the same kind of tobacco-related illnesses as that in P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 which the 40 state attorneys general have negotiated recovery. It only makes sense that private-sector workers should have the same rights to recovery of tobacco-related health-care costs as do state workers. Don't be fooled by what seems to be a large amount of money that the tobacco industry has agreed to pay in this settlement. What is described as a $368.5 billion settlement, will in the end only cost the industry $60 billion — and that cost will be passed on to smokers, not the industry itself. Think about it: when Big Tobacco is raking in trillions of dollars, a $60 billion settlement which will put a stop to all past, present and future lawsuits adds up to quite a bargain. It is unbelievable that our nation's attorneys general have sold all of us out to Big Tobacco. The tobacco industry does not deserve immunity for hiding the dangers of smoking. Now the decision of whether or not to let Big Tobacco off the hook is in the hands of our United States Congress. Don't wait until it's too late — urge your congressman to make Big Tobacco accept responsibility for tobacco- related health-care costs for everyone involved. Don't let Big Tobacco off the hook! — CRAIG RYDER Kansas City, Kan. T THE OBSERVER Young girls, DiCaprionic spasms Most men want to be irresistible to 14-year-old girls, but it's the DiCaprios of the world who are J uliet Capulet, they say, was 14 when she lost her heart to Romeo Montague. According to the 1996 movie about that affair, Romeo looked exactly like Leonardo DiCaprio, the ro- 1 mantic lead in "Titanic." Hordes of modern Juliets, brand new to puberty, are so fetched by the maritime manifestation of DiCaprio that they sit through "Titanic" again and again to be with him before the cold Atlantic asserts its irresistible claim to his charms. Friends tell me of 14-year- olds who have already seen the movie six times. Six times! I gape in wonder at the emotional chasm separating me from age 14. "Titanic" runs well over three hours. One viewing was two hours more than enough for me. Spending over 18 hours with it would be — well, not so bad as a month on a chain gang. More like a week in high school, maybe. The DiCaprio phenomenon is not new, however. Frank Sinatra — believe it or not, kiddies and boomers, Frank Sinatra! — once had power to reduce adolescent girls to such quivering, swooning, and cries of pagan ecstasy that Dad kept a shotgun handy at the front door for use should Sinatra ever come calling. The Beatles had the same effect on young T JOURNAL RUSSELL BAKER The New York Times girls of the boomer generation. By that time, Dad, having fallen under the influence of Dr. Spock, had put the shotgun away and contented himself with asking Mom to make sure Daughter didn't go out without her pill. Thus arrived the age of the "groupie," a polite synonym for "camp follower," connoting a very young woman available for Corybantic frenzies with stars of the performing arts, including sports. Scanning ancient texts, I find stories of female mobs in the 1930s (ages not indicated) tearing garments off one Robert Taylor, a new movie star. Taylor, a model of 1930ish male beauty, went on to pioneer the wooden-Indian acting style later brought to perfection by Robert Stack. Maybe the women snatching his clothes were on his press agent's payroll. In my childhood memories of selling The Saturday Evening Post door-to-door, I still hear the voice of young Bing Crosby coming out of radios all over town every afternoon and remember that it was a bad hour for a magazine salesman to call on the woman of the house. Bing Crosby a sex object? The mind reels. DiCaprionic powers do not even begin with modern show business. Franz Liszt, the greatest pianist of the mid-19th century, was said to have been so irresistible that he could have had any woman in Europe. And what about Lord Byron! I can speak only for myself, not the male multitudes, but it would not startle me to learn that many of us would secretly like to punch these male sex objects in the nose. Sure, it's envy at work. What heterosexual male does not want to be irresistible to women? (Homosexuals often seem to manage it without trying, probably because they are not trying.) The desire to be irresistible to 14-year-olds, of course, declines in most men as they hit the age of 17, but even beyond the frosted age of 30 one would like to think that women of whatever age are powerless to gaze upon him without feeling disturbing internal flutterings. But for whom do they flutter? For the Di- Caprios of the world. For the Sinatras, the Crosbys, the Liszts, the Byrons. There is no explanation for this unless — God forbid! — we drag in old Grandfather Freud. Why are 14-year-olds flocking to see "Titanic" time and again but not to see "Good Will Hunting"? With Matt Damon, "Good Will Hunting" has a leading man with a friendly 16- year-old face and a winsome smile. He is practically interchangeable with Di- Caprio, you might suppose, but it's not Matt whom the 14-year-olds pay and pay and pay to see so they can feel that dreamy look settle into their eyes. Is it because Matt gets the girl in the end while Leonardo succumbs to hypothermia? A New York Times editorial suggested something like this, and it's tempting to go along. An early death always tugs the romantic heartstrings more sweetly than getting the girl, provided the death isn't happening to you or somebody you know. Still, most young male sex objects do not die, but live on until new crops of 14-year-old girls can only marvel that grandmother ever swooned over such relics. Even in their rocking chairs, of course, relics have the memories. Most of us don't. Religious right is achieving meltdown Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed help plug upcoming movie of Clinton pal Jeffrey Katzenberg Y ou know the religious right is in meltdown when Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed lend a helping hand to Dream- works, the Clinton administration's favorite movie studio. This past week's Newsweek ^ reveals that both men have joined the ranks of religious experts serving as behind-the- scenes sounding boards for the mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, as he readies his hoped-for Christmas blockbuster, "Prince of Egypt." Remember Katzenberg? He was last seen hugging Al Gore from behind in a photograph taken in the White House the night of the Tony Blair dinner; the picture showed him, the *• vice president and the first lady all campaigning to persuade Elton John to plug a "Prince of Egypt" song. Now Falwell — whose previous cinematic promotions include "The Clinton Chronicles," a documentary accusing the president of murder and drug-dealing — has boosted Katzenberg's film as Elton John did not. Seduced by an advance screening, Falwell has given "Prince of Egypt" — described by Variety as an animated life of Moses "from bulrush to exodus" — two thumbs up. "They have done a great job of making it en- FRANK RICH The New York Times tertainment," he exclaims to Newsweek, though he stopped short of assessing Val Kilmer's and Michelle Pfeiffer's vocal performances in leading roles. Astounding as the Dreamworks-Falwell synergy is, it is only the most bizarre example of the religious right's recent erratic behavior. Others include: • The once-mighty Christian Coalition has been in free fall since Reed abandoned it for the mammon of political consulting last April. Faced with declining contributions, it canned a fifth of its staff just in time for Christmas, downsized its Capitol Hill office and dropped its highly publicized programs of outreach to African-American and Catholic churches. Its finances are under investigation by both the Federal Election Commission and the IRS — and last week, ominously enough, its founder, Pat Robertson, agreed to cough up huge penalties to settle another tax case involving his Christian Broadcasting Network. • Gary Bauer, the Family Research Council leader who aspires to fill the power vacuum left by Reed, has proved to have a remarkable gift for self-immolation. His campaign to bully the Republican National Committee to cut off funds to pro-choice candidates like Christie Whitman and Rudolph Giuliani lost handily in January. The one House candidate he's backed with grisly "partial birth" abortion TV ads, in California, was defeated this month. What to do for an encore? The starry-eyed Bauer is dropping hints that he'd like to throw away the rest of his money and credibility on an ego-gratifying kamikaze run for the presidency. • As reported by Laurie Goodstein on the front page of Monday's New York Times, religious-right leaders including Bauer are so disheartened by the GOP's post-'96 cold shoulder that they have formed an "independent political force" to hound the party to ideological purity. And whom did they select as chairman of this juggernaut? Paul Weyrich, the guy you get when Attila the Hun is unavailable. Weyrich's methods of courting Republican leaders have included publicly questioning Trent Lott's patriotism and accusing Orrin Hatch of having "psychological problems." None of this is to say that the religious right is dead as a political force. It will continue to foment civil war in the GOP over abortion in 2000, as it did in '96. It still is ready, willing and able to beat up on homosexuals; the Christian Coalition's only post-Reed victory has been to help defeat a gay civil-rights measure in Maine. But if Falwell and other religious-right peers give their all to help turn "Prince of Egypt" into the megabit DreamWorks is praying for, they'll be shooting themselves in another foot. The film's potentially huge profits will accrue not only to Katzenberg but to his Dreamworks partners, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen — also major contributors to the Democrats and liberal causes. It just goes to show that in a country where no one can resist the siren call of Hollywood, it's now entertainment, not politics, that makes for strange bedfellows. By jumping on the "Prince of Egypt" bandwagon, Jerry Falwell, our foremost Clinton-hater, is already fattening the campaign chest for Al Gore. III •SBURY By G.B. TRUDEAU AS FORA CM- SCRAMBLING IN MHffTtT views A$ A OF H&d T09AOCO W00Y/57S Af& &S/N& TWINGPfQR. we TrwfcW

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