Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

July 24, 2013

Should we also have to pay to clean up the Nile?

While Jeremy Gosnell’s letter of July 9 is a passionate defense of the Maryland “rain tax,” some of the reasoning and statements in the letter (“You’re not taxed on rain, but on your impact,” leave me wondering, not to mention the approximate $300 million it will cost Maryland residents. But Gov. Martin O’Malley never met a tax or fee he didn’t like.

There are substantive questions of the relative effect of storm water runoff from residences and businesses in Maryland versus other contributors such as the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania (but no room for detail here).

One also has to wonder which impervious (as the law states) surfaces contribute most to runoff: residences and businesses, or the extensive federal, state, and local highway and street systems we use daily. A mile of interstate is a heckuva lot of impervious surface.

The letter’s zeal for worldwide environmental protection is commendable but some statements make one wonder. “There is no person worldwide who can claim non-ownership or non-responsibility for…the health of any ocean or waterway.”

Once you use the word “responsibility” in this context, we’ve moved beyond the observation that the environment affects us all. Does this mean that people in Argentina and China should be taxed for the Bay cleanup? And U.S. citizens should pay to clean up the Nile? This sounds like the “one-world government” agenda.

When it comes to the environment, our very existence as human beings affects the environment in many ways. So will we be taxed for each child who is born because he or she will affect the environment? Surely we can’t be taxed based merely on our existence, can we? Oh, I forgot about Obamacare. I guess we can be so taxed.

Sure enough, Mr. Gosnell even writes that you are being taxed based on “ ... just how much of an impact your existence has on the planet.” And many of us believed this kind of thought lived only in novels by George Orwell.

As far as businesses paying the taxes, I suppose that malls could tear up their parking lots and let them become parking fields to save money, but the most likely progression is: malls pay “rain” taxes, then malls charge tenants (such as Sears) a higher rent to cover these taxes, then the mall tenants charge us more to cover the higher rent. We always pay. Always did. Always will.

There are many more questions regarding the July 9 letter, but one of Mr. Gosnell’s final comments is that “The Chesapeake Bay could once feed the entire world.” The entire world? In doing a very quick check on world population, it’s estimated there have been at least 300 million human beings alive at one time since about 500 A.D. That is the approximate population of the U.S. today.

So, the Chesapeake Bay at one point could feed the equivalent of the entire United States as it exists today? But that would have been over 1,500 years ago.

Somehow I want to combine parts of two songs. First, the Beatles’ lyrics: “ ... If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, if you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat, if you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.” Then, from The Police: “Every breath you take.”

Seems we’re on the way to being taxed for breathing.

This writer is aware the tax in question does not apply to western Maryland at this time. The letter is intended to address concerns about the tax, no matter who is currently affected, and the letter reflects general differences of opinion regarding taxation, state governance, and political philosophy.

Patrick Brady

Cumberland

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