AIPAC is just one lobby among many

Re: "Hagel nomination shows AIPAC's limits," Jan. 10

What is all this lightning-and-thunder terror about the "Jewish lobby"? Why should it be singled out from all other lobbies in Washington for special demonization? Jews have the same First Amendment right to petition our government as any other groups.

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The news media should tell the American public how much money AIPAC spends in comparison to other lobbying groups such as the petroleum industry, the National Rifle Association, the American Association for Justice, the National Education Association, the AFL-CIO and the insurance industry. Also, how many members does each lobbying group have? Show us the numbers!

More to the point is the objectives of AIPAC and other lobbying groups. Are they beneficial or inimical to overall American interest?

If we are to have a free nation with an open government, we should not -- in the name of "political correctness" -- allow any topic to be off limits to public scrutiny.

-- Lawrence K. Marsh


Nix the regressive sales tax, not gas tax

Re: "Va. may end gas tax, up sales levy to 5.8%," Jan. 9

We should get rid of the sales tax, not raise it to replace the gas tax.

The lovers of regressive taxation are up to their old tricks. The sales tax first caught on mostly in the Jim Crow states during the Great Depression as a way to assure that the burdens of government would not fall only on the people who owned most of the property and received most of the income.

The gas tax is also rationally related to building and repairing roads. The price of a product has little to do with how much, if any, wear and tear on the state roads it took to bring it to a store for you to buy.

-- Nicholas D. Rosen


Stop stereotyping students at UDC

Re: "Abusing the District's public university, Part 1," Jan. 1

DC Appleseed's Walter Smith was quoted by Jonetta Rose Barras saying: "We need to be realistic about who the student population is" at the University of the District of Columbia. He inferred that District students who want to stay in Washington but who cannot afford private tuition should resign themselves to lesser opportunity. This is a stereotype UDC fights daily.

Our students, whether at the flagship or the community college, are just like students who attend any of our nation's great public colleges. They dream of becoming engineers, scientists and teachers, and to live productive lives and build their communities. They want and deserve the opportunity to obtain the credentials necessary to achieve their goals here at home.

We are well aware of the forces that would diminish the public option for higher education in D.C. But the notion that District residents should be satisfied with a community college and a federal program that pays a portion of their out-of-state tuition is preposterous. In fact, many students who initially leave return home to finish their four-year degrees at UDC, which has produced more college graduates than all the private colleges in D.C. combined.

More than 20,000 alumni contribute to the vitality of the region, which is why we advocate vigorously for a vibrant four-year university and a strong, high-quality community college with affordable tuition. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed, they are essential for the economic and social growth of our city.

-- Alan Etter

Vice president, University of the District of Columbia