Volume XI, Issue 4 ~ January 30 - February 5, 2003

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In Chesapeake Country, Considering Costs of War

Last week, at Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s first session of the Board of Public Works — the three-person panel that weighs requests for state bricks-and-mortar funding — members sat for six hours listening to pleas from people who’d arrived hat in hand with worthy requests.

“We don’t have any money,” Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a member of the board, said later, explaining why most left empty-handed.

With a $1 billion-plus deficit in Maryland, expect to hear Schaefer’s refrain many times in the coming months.

There’s less money coming from the federal government to the state, and less from the state to counties, cities and towns.

The reality of our growing financial plight struck home in Anne Arundel County last week, when the state Department of Transportation told County Executive Janet Owens that four projects under the Neighborhood Conservation Program had been put on hold.

The pain was spread around: two involved Rt. 170 in Brooklyn Park; one was Rt. 648 in Glen Burnie and the other was fixing up Rt. 256 in southern Anne Arundel.

“There is simply not enough money to fund all projects,” Owens said, repeating Schaefer’s words.

In Annapolis, Mayor Ellen Moyer has pared down her 2003 requests to just two projects. “This will be a year of belt-tightening,” she said.

Sound familiar?

We could go on about cuts and zero-increases in fast-growing Calvert County, but you get the picture.

So when we hear from an authoritative source like the United States Treasury Department that the cost of invading Iraq could be somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion, we say, “WHOA!!!”

There are a host of reasons to question whether the United States should go to war. (The unexplained threat; the cost in American lives; likely terrorists attacks on our shores; soaring gas prices; and more hatred of Americans around the world, to name five.)

But the costs to our economy — including our schools and our environment in Chesapeake Country — also need to be weighed.

And then there’s the matter of our personal finances. A fellow we know who is gung-ho on war was raving the other day about his $600 tax cut last year. Later, he allowed that the value of his 401k had plunged by $60,000.

We didn’t bother making the connection for him that six months of saber-rattling is one reason that the stock market — and his family’s nest egg — is lower than an oyster bed.

But when we see him again, if it’s not too late, we plan on telling him this: Just as there are many measures of war’s costs, there is more than one way to measure patriotism. And one of those ways is having the courage to stand up and tell our leaders when they are wrong.



Copyright 2003 Bay Weekly
Last updated January 30, 2003 @ 3:13am