The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 3, 1997 · Page 12
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 12

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Friday, October 3, 1997
Page 12
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B2 FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1997 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 "We can build the greatest highway system in the world and it's not going to be •remembered as much as art." • Jane Alexander chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Windfall whiplash THE ISSUE The state's sudden windfall THE ARGUMENT IM'S pay off some old bills Y ou hear it whenever some lucky scratcher wins big in the lottery. What are you going to do with the money? "Well, first, I'm going to pay off some old bills." Kansas hit the jackpot Wednesday when it was announced that a stock market windfall scored this year by Western Resources — the outfit sells most Kansans their electricity — will trickle down to a windfall for Kansas taxpayers. The first thing Kansas should do with this money, clearly, is pay off some old bills. As a result of a big profit from a stock sale, Western Resources will pay the Kansas Department of Revenue $66.6' million by the end of the year. Combine that with fat tax revenues from other sources and an increase in the value of taxable property statewide, and the state should have an extra $137 million to play with when the Legislature assembles in January. That is a scenario that is not without its drawbacks. When the state is broke, as Budget Director Gloria Timmer pointed out, it is easy to control spending because nobody expects very much. But when the state is flush, all of the sudden the Legislature feels like the guy who wins at Powerball. It quickly has a lot of friends and relatives it didn't know it had before, all with great ideas for spending that troublesome extra cash. The same thing happened a couple of years ago when the state scored a onetime $31 million inheritance tax payment from the estate of Muriel Kauff- • man, widow of pharmaceutical mogul and Kansas City Royals founder Ewing Kauffman. That money allowed the state to fund its public education budget and trim property taxes at the same time. Then, Timmer and her boss, Gov. Bill Graves, warned that the windfall was a one-time bonus. They cautioned against assuming that such income would always be there to balance the state budget without pain. Well, the economy keeps growing, and we've had yet another visit from the Tooth Fairy. But, before we all quit our day jobs, let's be logical about this extra money. The first thing we should do is pay off any outstanding debt the state has, such as the bonds that were sold to build prisons in El Dorado and Ellsworth, or to fund one-time improvements to state parks or highways without the need to borrow money and pay interest. Tax relief is fine. But first do the math. If giving up enough of a tax cut to buy each of us a pizza would allow the state to retire or avoid millions in interest payments, then a tax cut wouldn't be doing the average Kansan much of a favor, would it? LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL Christian ideals are eternal, unchanging Dan England, in writing his column about "Fringe Coalition seeks fringe candidates" (Sept. 24) invited readers to hold his hand and to make social changes and to defeat the Christian Coalition and it's assorted spin-offs. Mr. England certainly won't be the first to try and, indeed, may enjoy some success in attempting to do so. But the one thing he will never change is the ideals that those organizations are built on. They are built by persons who strive to live their lives by the absolute truth and laws that God has mandated to us in His written word. Those truths are not subject to change through the whims of human ideals and opinions, Through time eternal, up until the latter part of this century, abortion and homosexuality were viewed, at least by a vast majority of mankind, as wrong. And rightly so, providing they were basing their views on God's standards, And, despite the polls that are thrown at us, I believe that still today a majority feel this way, at the same time recognizing that the majority is much smaller in these days than in times past. Polls just happen to reflect the majority of those being polled. God has revealed all the "rights and wrongs" we need to wonder about, it applies to all the problems "unique" to our day, even having been written thousands of years ago. He also revealed Himself to us through the person of His Son, Jesus, the Christ. He is P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 the same "yesterday, today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). And, Dan, homosexuality and abortion are wrong, yesterday, today and forever. And our God, who is a loving God, has provided a way of forgiveness and salvation for all sin. Mr. England, you are indeed a lucky man. God graced you with the talent of being a writer. My prayer is that you not use that gift to do battle with the Giver. — PAMELA CASSEL MCDONALD Logan Tax imports, not income I have a recommendation on how to reform the IRS. Eliminate the income tax and replace it with a tax on imported products. The advantages would be: • The 15 to 17 percent of people who dodge paying taxes would be taxed. • American taxpayers would no longer have to worry about the IRS or April 15. • Taxpayers would no longer have to pay someone to calculate their taxes. • This play would also help reduce the trade deficit. • The need for paper would be reduced by millions of pounds. By switching from the federal income tax to an imported products tax, the American taxpayers would have more money and more time for themselves. — DOUG OLSON Salina T THE OBSERVER There's a big mob in charge here These days there are just too many people driving too many cars I t was practically empty here in 1930, at least by today's standards. I was one of only 123,202,624 people that year. No, that didn't make me a contender, Charlie, but I was still somebody. One of only 123,202,624! There's a Beatles song about a man depressed because he suddenly finds he's only half the man he used to be. I ^ know that feeling. The population today is more than 260 million. No longer one of only 123,202,624, I am now merely one of more than 260 million. To put it baldly, I am now less than half the man I used to be. But wait, it gets worse. Here are the latest figures on the motor vehicle population: As of 1995 there were 176 million of these machines in the country. The New York Times Here is population explosion * indeed. The country now has 53 million more motor vehicles than it had people in 1930. Even worse, the government reports that since 1969 the American motor-vehicle population has grown six times as fast as the human population. In other words, the average couple producing three children during that period also produced 18 cars, trucks, vans, sport-utility vehi- T TORY NOTIONS RUSSELL BAKER cles and motorcycles. These population figures explain a lot about why so many of the country's worst problems are insoluble. The effort to end political corruption, for example, cannot succeed, no matter how many campaign fund reforms are enacted. There are simply too many — far, far too many — people for traditional political methods to work anymore. The last serious presidential candidate who tried to shake hands with every voting American was Estes Kefauver in 1956. Even back then he was dismissed as an antique. Reaching a significant number of voters requires modern technology. Modern technology requires unlimited money. Persons who want public office will raise that money one way or another. If excessively scrupulous, they are doomed to remain unheard of by millions of voters and unelected, They are victims, poor devils, of our rollicking population growth. Here is another product of the population boom: "road rage." This melodramatic term refers to the increasingly common tendency for a motorist to drive dangerously when displeased with another motorist's driving. Sometimes the displeased motorist may express himself with firearms or demand satisfaction with bare knuckles. A glance at the population figures affords the obvious explanation for this irrational behavior. There are too many people in too many cars. Drivers of Social Security age, whose numbers rise at a dizzying rate, are old enough to remember the sweet peace of driving on 'a balmy Sunday afternoon in 1930 when there were only 123,202,624 people on hand. Each motorist was somebody — one of oftly 123,202,624. There were not 175,999,999 other': cars on the road. There was elbow room. Drl- " vers with these memories in their bones naturally become testy when immersed in today's- endless stream. In one short lifetime each has been whittled down to a trivial 1 in more than 260 million. Now each is hemmed in by 175,999,999 motorized exhaust-fume spewers. This breeds smoldering rage, which is made worse by the sensible fear that every other driver out there may be insane or packing a gun. Younger drivers are different. Too inexperienced to be melancholy about being whittled away by population growth, they attack the . highway as a great beast to be overpowered ; by courage, daring, brutality and cunning. It is not surprising that instinct for self- • preservation deserts them. They are in the 1 grip of psychic forces that cause breakdown in persons subjected to intolerable crowding. ' Reduced to inconsequentiality in oceans #f cars, the poor wretched young driver subcoriT' sciously feels his identity being ceaselessly eroded by ever-swelling hordes of humans a,nd cars. Often these sufferers can safely discharge their rage by shouting coarse language. Lately, I have twice been verbally roughed up, once ' by a woman, once by a man. Each shouted the same trite epithet involving reproductive arid alimentary-canal systems. Has overpopulation" also put an end to colorful cussing? Second-guessing umpires? Imagine that Today's umpires ignore the rules by ignoring the upper third of the strike zone I n 1962, at the New York Mets first spring training, manager Casey Stengel took his ragged squad — it would lose 120 games that season — for a walk around the diamond. "Them are the bases," he explained. Stengel sometimes muffed details, such as the name of his team. "It's a great honor for me to be joining the Knickerbock- ^. ers," he said when announced * as the Mets manager. But he got basics right, as when he explained why the first player the Mets drafted was a catcher: "You gotta start with a catcher, 'cause if you don't you'll have all passed balls." Baseball has recently been reacquiring a back-to-basics spirit, as with Camden Yards and the other intimate, baseball-only "retro" ballparks. About 25 years ago the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds wanted Riverfront Stadium — one of those ghastly concrete doughnuts built to accommodate both football and baseball — to smell like a bakery, so fans would be happy (and hungry). He was unable to find a satisfactory spray scent, which is just as well because ballparks like Riverfront do not need to be sprayed, they need to be dismantled. Baseball's back-to-basics movement should be explained to Richie Phillips, the Philadelphia lawyer who speaks for the game's imperi- GEORGE F. WILL The Washington Post * — al judiciary, the umpires. As a crackerjack season reaches its postseason crescendo, baseball people are puzzling over a ukase issued by Phillips. He says umpires are oppressed and, having adopted at the beginning of the season a "low tolerance" policy toward abuse, are now adopting "no tolerance." He says players, managers, coaches and even trainers "physically assault umpires, spray tobacco in their faces, curse them and otherwise attempt to denigrate them and humiliate them." Certainly on-field relations have become increasingly confrontational, but this is partly because some umpires — including some whose language would occasion blushes below deck in a troop ship — have become intolerant of criticism of their erratic and eccentric umpiring. Phillips' grievances include "biased broadcasters" who are "second-guessing umpires, not only about judgment, but about things they know little or nothing about," including "mechanics, positioning, and official rules." And Phillips says "networks continue to provide two-dimensional, contrived distortions to the viewers," People are second-guessing umpires? What a concept. Granted, television can distort events. But umpires' work can be judged by using various camera angles. Most of that work is superb. Some of it is shoddy. And shoddy umpires, unlike failing players, are not sent to the minors, Philjips should not raise the matter of rules because there is not an umpire in either league — not one — who administers baseball's most basic rule, who calls a strike zone as large as the one defined by the rule book, And it is not unusual for the dominant force in a game to be the home-plate umpire. Stan Coveleski, who DOONESBURY had a fine 14-season career, mostly in the 1920s with the Cleveland Indians, once pitched seven innings without a called ball. He was ftpt pitching to anything like today's shrunken strike zone. The disappearance of the high strike —'of the upper third of the strike zone — has increased the number of pitches thrown, whiqh is one reason why games have become longer. On May 1,1920, Brooklyn and Boston played to a 1-1 tie ended by darkness after 26 innings. The starting pitchers went the distance in the game, which lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes — about nine minutes an inning. This year the average game took 2 hours and 52 minutes, or about 19 minutes an inning. In three World Series (1915, 1926, 1928) Grover Cleveland Alexander pitched four complete games averaging 1 hour and 58 minutes. Change is a constant in baseball, so comparisons, although part of the fun, are problematic. Mark McGwire hit 58 home runs this year,as Jimmie Foxx did in 1932. Foxx was so strong he was said to have muscles in his hair — "He wasn't born, he was trapped," said Lefty Gomez, a pitcher. In 1932 Foxx hit nine shots that were kept in the Cleveland and St. Louis ballparks by fences that were not in place in 1927 when Babe Ruth hit his 60. Baseball's hold on its fans' attention derives from the fact that what happens today invites • comparison with a full century of competition. How strong can that hold be? In 1962 New York state abolished the death penalty, and the war-C; den of Sing Sing said that when the new.s-,. reached the 20 men on death row, "There was' no reaction at all. They just kept listening - to:' the ball game." They were listening to Stengel's Mets. 5IQPMAKRYIN0 AMONG YOUR/ ARISTOCRACY A OQS&> IP YOUPCNTOCCA5IONAUY AlKOUT YQUR<&N&, YOUWCK

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