The Patriotic Role of Individual Action

Regarding the opinion-page article ``Deeper Dimensions of Patriotism,'' March 11: Promoting higher tax rates is the last thing anybody who loves his country should do. The author has confused love of country with love of the state. I love my country. I love its natural beauty, its literature, its roadside restaurants, baseball, and many other things too numerous to list. Many of the things I love about the USA have arisen spontaneously from the actions of free individuals. One thing missing from that lengthy list would be the state apparatus that spends our tax dollars.

Recently on the Virginia Tech campus, students held an all-night vigil for the homeless. ``Help the homeless'' and ``More money for the homeless,'' their signs read. A month later there was an article in a local newspaper about a food bank staffed mainly with older people who lamented that younger people who could lift heavy food boxes were not more involved with helping the needy. But the young people thought they were involved by carrying signs telling us all to pay higher taxes to help the needy. It didn't occur to them that they could actually do physical labor to help the needy; I guess they figured that was someone else's job.

It's the state's turn to sacrifice by stepping out of the way and allowing individuals the responsibility and, yes, satisfaction of solving their own problems.

John Kell, Blacksburg, Va.

`Reckless abandon' on our roads The editorial ``The Costs of Building Roads,'' March 11, is interesting, but contains the curious statement: ``Most Americans welcome this proposed fresh tankful of federal money for the country's road-building machinery.''

The people I've talked with are fed up with the mentality that relentlessly spends millions paving over our whole state. Traffic always expands to fill the capacity of a highway, creating the demand for more highways.

What must it take to really wake up all Americans to the reckless abandon with which we drive our cars, continue dependency on foreign oil, ravage the land by building roads to accommodate more and more cars, and annually sacrifice tens of thousands of human lives on our nation's highways? We also sacrifice clean air, drinkable water, night skies, wildlife, scenic beauty, and the billions of dollars squandered on road building while our legislators look at each other in bewilderment over how to reduce t he national debt.

We should tell our elected officials to say no to this addiction to asphalt and concrete and say yes to rethinking the way we move people and products - say yes to mass transportation.

Winston Stadig, North Kingstown, R.I.

The editorial notes that the Bush administration's five-year plan would allocate a record $43.5 billion to the states to expand the greatest transportation network in history, the National Defense and Interstate Highway System. Complaints that the federal share for this expanded road system would shrink from 75 percent to 60 percent require some clarification. The states have little cause to complain. They have become overly dependent on the federal subsidies and most of them have diverted up to 60 percent of their highway-use revenues (charges on motorists and truck operators) to nontransport purposes.

Many states have consistently ignored their responsibility to highway infrastructure while demanding more and more from Congress. State politicians have bragged about their expensive social spending while blaming Uncle Sam for the deteriorating conditions of highways and public transit.

Social engineering got the bucks; civil engineering got left out, in plain English!

Samuel L. Cunninghame, East Brunswick, N.J.,

Executive Director, New Jersey Motor Truck Ass'n.

Separately elected vice president? Should one person have the opportunity to select a possible president of the United States? In a nation ``of the people, by the people, and for the people,'' should a presidential candidate have the sole responsibility for picking the individual who might be called upon to lead our nation? Such a system encourages presidential candidates to choose a running mate who is easy to work with, rather than one who could best serve the nation, if called upon.

Why shouldn't the people have the opportunity to vote separately for these two candidates? Such a system would help presidential candidates keep the interests of the nation in the forefront.

Lloyd Bayles, Harpursville, N.Y.

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