Sunday’s letters: Death taxes and dog whistles


Tax plan boosts family incomes | Oct. 17, commentary

Death, taxes and dog whistles

While I agree with U.S. Rep. Dan Webster’s concept of tax reform, his statement about the "death tax" is fascinating since the tax affects a really tiny part of our population. In order to "qualify" for the death tax, the estate has to be over $5 million for an individual or $10 million for a married couple. Usually if people have that kind of money, they also have an army of financial specialists who assist them in making trusts and other financial tools to avoid paying that estate tax.

As to the tax plan benefitting regular Americans, we do not yet have the details but some people will pay more while the richest of us will definitely pay less. We will have to wait and see, since nothing has been passed by Congress. Reform is overdue, no doubt, but using the death tax as an issue is yet another "dog whistle" — blow it and see who barks.

Merilyn Burke, Tampa

NRA is not to blame | Oct. 17, letter

Staggering toll of death

Another day, another letter informing us that additional gun legislation will never work because "if they are desperate enough, they will find a way to obtain whatever weapon they want."

Recent figures show that approximately 33,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, with over 11,000 of those being homicides. Japan, which has strict gun controls, had six gun deaths in 2014 and one in 2015. Coincidence?

Other countries with varying degrees of gun control such as Canada, Britain and Australia had 200 or fewer gun deaths. If these numbers are also just a coincidence, then I’m confident we will see the same "coincidental" numbers next year and the year after that.

Peter McLean, Ruskin

Chairman of the course | Oct. 17

Qualities we need in D.C.

Thank you for your great article on Fred Ridley, the new chairman of Augusta National. I wish him the best. When I read your words, "Meet the measured man, meticulous, organized, understated, with boundless reverence for those who went before him," my heart went to my throat. I have a profound sadness knowing all these qualities are lacking in our president.

Linda Roe, Venice

‘Me too’ takes over social media | Oct. 17

‘Me too’ a year too late

While I feel that the "me too" movement on social media is a powerful response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, I am bewildered about why there wasn’t a similar response when candidate Donald Trump was accused by many women of harassment. He even bragged about it in a taped interview. Instead of stepping up to support those women, we elected the man as our president. I still don’t understand it and it makes me angry.

Sidney Wilson, St. Petersburg

Scott acts ahead of talk | Oct. 17

He’s not worth protesting

I find Richard Spencer’s white nationalist message abhorrent, and my antipathy is why I choose to ignore him. In my opinion, ignoring him is the strongest response in opposition to his message and mission. Protests serve only to suggest that he and his message are important enough to merit any kind of recognition.

Ernest W. Bartow, St. Petersburg

Tax plan boosts family incomes | Oct. 17, commentary

How to help middle class

Thanks, Rep. Dan Webster, for another lesson in American industry and trickle-down economics. It’s true that a simplified tax code would make it easier for small businesses and individuals to file, but that’s not the major aim of Donald Trump’s tax "reform." It is to relieve the tax burden suffered by corporations and the wealthiest Americans (his true constituents).

If you really want to help the American middle class, make it illegal for U.S. corporations to stash their profits overseas, require that they invest a certain percentage here and develop a progressive tax code that actually taxes the wealthiest at reasonable rates and prevents them from, as Trump has bragged, basically not paying any taxes.

Then we won’t have to worry about whether they pay an estate tax or whether trickle-down is a farce: They can contribute directly to their country every year and save their excess earnings after taxes for their estates, just like we all do.

Their offspring can then experience the American joys of industry and community instead of being part of wealthy dynasties that hoard money and consolidate power by buying off politicians.

Jane Sellick, Palmetto

Drug czar nominee withdraws | Oct. 18

Officials belong in prison

The revelation in the recent 60 Minutes report was a real eye-opener. With governors and others all over the country pleading for help with the opioid drug epidemic, Congress passed a law that stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its ability to control the influx of prescription opioid drugs. Thanks to our Fourth Estate for getting this investigative report to the public in the nick of time to prevent the congressman who spearheaded that bill from becoming head of the DEA.

Our prisons are filled with street-level drug offenders, yet some elected officials are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pharmaceutical manufacturers as middlemen to get millions of opioid pills into our communities. They belong in prison along with the rest of the drug dealers.

L.J. Phillips, Brooksville