Aiding citizens is normal among nations As a political science professor, I've been dismayed by the emotional charges of "socialist" and "communist" in the presidential campaign.
What readers should know is that almost every advanced democracy in the world offers its citizens a range of benefits: guaranteed health insurance or health care, guaranteed sick leave and vacation time, heavily subsidized higher education and more. Offering these benefits does not make these countries less "democratic" — democracy being defined as a freely elected government that adheres to the rule of law. Some market-oriented economies have been quite authoritarian, and some democracies have had considerable government intervention in the economy.
What many do not realize is that the United States is the major democratic outlier when it comes to welfare benefits. Almost every industrialized democracy in the world — including our closest allies, such as Israel, Britain, Australia and Japan — offers considerably more welfare benefits than any politician has ever dared to offer in the United States. For example, Barack Obama has discussed a government-sponsored health insurance program; in Israel, they have a mandatory health insurance program that would be sure to leave American conservatives fuming.
I'm not advocating for any particular system — each system has its costs and benefits. But it's important to recognize that offering government-sponsored health insurance will not turn America "communist" — that is, unless you want to call Israel and Japan and Australia communist as well.
Maria Rost Rublee, Ph.D., assistant professor, University of Tampa, Oldsmar
Nationalized health care would be too costly
As a U.K. citizen by birth and American by choice, I don't understand why nationalized health care would be good for America. The cost would impoverish our country and reduce the standard of health care the vast majority of Americans receive.
To continue receiving health care benefits in the United Kingdom, British citizens pay income tax, national insurance tax, value added tax (17.5 percent), capital gains tax, capital gains inheritance tax and stamp duty. And no, they don't get free prescriptions — $11 is the cost for working people.
Rather than leave themselves at the mercy of the overwhelmed and underfunded National Health Service, several of my relatives pay out of their own pockets for additional health insurance coverage of $150 or more per month. Don't forget, the very poor, retired, blind and disabled already receive government-funded (paid for with your tax dollars) health care in America. The "47-million uninsured" comprise, among others, healthy young people who don't feel the need for insurance and a large number of illegal immigrants. The federal government has an insatiable appetite for your tax dollars, and a nationalized health care system would be an endless gravy train for Congress.
Anne Lossing, Spring Hill
A prescription for boldness | Oct. 21, editorial on health care
A system unprepared
Perhaps it's just as well that health care coverage for all develops slowly. If it were started tomorrow, there would not be enough primary-care physicians to care for all the people seeking attention, since the more recent medical graduates have abdicated their responsibility for primary care to foreign medical graduates and osteopaths because of economic and lifestyle considerations.
It is not simply a matter of insurance coverage. The entire medical nonsystem has to change, including real attention to decreasing costs, perhaps aided by tort reform, producing enough of the proper types of physicians to meet patient needs. This also includes improvement in quality of care, controlling the costs of medical education, changing physician reimbursement, etc.
In other words, change medicine back to a profession rather than a business. Good luck!
William J. Fayen, M.D. (retired), Dunnellon
Report on Medicare | Oct. 28, LifeTimes section
The report about Medicare omitted a significant consideration: All insurance is a "bet," a gamble if you will. The insurance companies are betting they will take in more in premiums than they will have to pay out. You are betting they will pay out more in claims than you pay in premiums. They have actuarial tables that statistically prove they will win.
It's kind of like Las Vegas but not as much fun. They depend on your fear that you will lose more than you can afford. Good luck with that bet.
William Ott, Clearwater
Reject voter barriers | Oct. 31, letter
ID is accessible
My late wife wasn't able to drive, but upon going to the bank she showed a Social Security card and was told by the teller that she didn't exist just by means of that. Then we went to the motor vehicles department and paid $15 for a nondriver's photo ID.
How do these folks, if they have Social Security or SSI checks deposited in a bank, withdraw funds from the bank without ID? They must find the means to get to the store to meet their needs, so why can't they get out for a photo ID?
Maybe the state should create a mobile photo ID van and give these folks a free ID at their house.
Richard Renner, Clearwater
Is Obama's Spanish ad an effort to deceive? Oct. 31
When I first read the implied criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's effort, I thought it was because his lips moved but the Spanish was dubbed in. Upon discovering that he actually spoke, I was incredulous that anyone would imply that making such an effort was deceptive. But then we're talking about Republican strategists here, who seem to exalt being the party of "us" and "them."
As a former Peace Corps volunteer who speaks two Asian languages, I understand why Henry de la Torre responds as he does ("It's a courtesy he's showing us"). It exemplifies, as Obama's campaign strives to do, reaching out to connect with people.
During my Thailand Peace Corps tour, natives were equally impressed that an American would take the trouble to learn their language. As Obama apparently is, I was blessed with the ability to pronounce clearly, which generates a warm response.
Maybe John McCain and Sarah Palin think it's "unpatriotic" to speak anything but English (I know Jeb Bush didn't). If not, I suggest they starting cramming on a Berlitz course; maybe they can sneak in a message before the election.
Bill Ackerman, Homosassa
E-mail derided as racist | Oct. 31, story
Age to blame?
Irony abounds in the explanation of David Storck, head of the Hillsborough County Republican Party, of the e-mail by a volunteer he forwarded, denounced by Republicans as racist.
Storck is quoted as saying of the volunteer, "This is an elderly gentleman, and he was simply making a comment." The reported age of the volunteer: 72. Hmm.
Paul F. Peters, South Pasadena