Avarice erodes future prosperity
We have seen corruption and "mismanagement." Bernard Madoff is accused of defrauding charities of billions. The mayor of Baltimore is accused of going on a shopping spree with gift cards intended for the poor. Millions of dollars are missing in Iraq. The banks will not report on what they did with billions of dollars in aid. You can take your pick of stories, from any year, for any amount.
Yet they are all one story. Someone, somewhere is saying: "Me! Give me more … and more … and more." There is a never-ending stream of takers, hands stretched out for more. Often, when the accounting is done, the hands belong to people who own more houses than they can live in, more cars than they can drive, more clothes than they can wear — but they want more.
It seems to me that these takers and grabbers confuse prosperity, which brings long-term comfort and security, with riches, which guarantee little except fear.
Prosperity is always community-based. Personal prosperity and success require a safe, affordable and well-organized environment that supports other competent people, who can be partners in maintaining prosperity. This type of environment includes schools, work-force education, reliable infrastructure, health care, transport systems, law and order, etc. This all costs money, but when many can contribute to the economic base, the cost can be shared in a manageable way.
The opposite approach, of "gimme, gimme, more, more," results in some people grabbing as much of the economic pie as possible, and holding on to it fiercely. Those who succeed in grabbing as much as possible (irrespective of need or ethics), then experience fear. Will someone grab it back? Is there a new tax, a litigator, a desperate thief, or a con man around the next corner? All energy is then spent on defending one's piece of the pie, rather than making the whole pie bigger, or the community base more prosperous.
Two important casualties of the grab-as-much-as-I-can philosophy are trust and collaboration. This is especially significant because the new economy is being built largely by those who are willing to share knowledge and creativity. Many problems today are complex, and demand a high degree of collaborative intelligence and mutual give and take. The grabbers short-circuit the whole process of innovation and growth, and make it much harder for others to stay the course in collaborative and trusting relationships.
I'm not sure what we most need to learn: economics, ethics or history. Perhaps all three. But we need to learn it soon, and we also need to find some way of embedding the lesson in our community.
Glynis Ross-Munro, Tampa
Let the kids go outside and play | Jan. 11, George Will column
Lawsuits can bring justice
George Will unfortunately relied on outlier anecdotes in this column to malign the civil justice system. The real facts contradict his every assertion.
The Constitution ensures that all people have a fair chance to receive justice through the legal system, even when taking on the most powerful corporations. Will's screed insists that all lawsuits are "frivolous." Try telling that to someone when their insurance company refuses to pay a just claim, is injured by a drug the manufacturer knew was dangerous, or loses their life savings because of an unscrupulous investment banker.
Are there occasional filings that lack merit? Surely. Are there entities and institutions that overreact in order to defend themselves (like banning recess in elementary school)? Probably. Are there extremists on both sides of the issue that have lost all common sense? Unfortunately there are. But what system would Will suggest replace our current one? A jury of six or 12 ordinary citizens may not be perfect, but it has served us well.
In reality, the number of civil filings has been decreasing for more than a decade. But that doesn't stop Will from peddling propaganda that tries to insist that litigation is out of control. This solely benefits big corporations that don't want to be held accountable for their negligence, and serves to the detriment of everyday Americans whose only recourse is the court of law.
Tom Young, attorney-at-law, Tampa
Learning the wrong lessons from history Jan. 8, Harold Meyerson column
A threat to freedoms
The columnist implies that in order to re-establish prosperity for American workers we must increase union membership, but at what price?
Although it may seem like a quick fix, the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), or "card check" legislation, will have a terrible impact on small businesses and employees alike.
EFCA would strip employees of the right to vote by secret ballot, making workers vulnerable to peer pressure and manipulation. The bill also makes it easier to form labor unions, so easy that many workers won't know they are about to become obligated to pay union dues they may not be able to afford.
Uncertainty and regulatory red tape would clearly lead to more job cuts in a time when unemployment and tight family budgets are growing concerns. This should worry any Floridian, whether a business owner or a worker. A personal choice is about to be taken away from 105-million workers and no one seems to realize the freedoms that are at stake.
Grace Gonzalez, Tampa
Scrutinize government jobs
Our president-elect calls out for solutions and has appointed many heads of agencies with vast employees and resources. There's even a new position to evaluate the government.
Since the private sector has lost more than 3-million jobs and every day companies are laying off hundreds, even thousands, of employees, how about Washington putting a freeze on wages and hiring? How about conducting a "desk audit" to see if we truly need the job and the person at that wage level?
Allow the Government Accountability Office and General Services Administration to audit every agency and building in D.C. This is for starters, Mr. President-elect.
Fred Coughlin, Safety Harbor
Sweet on Caroline | Jan. 8, Maureen Dowd column
"You betcha," Maureen Dowd, You know, um, um, you know. Um, you know, Caroline is smart, cultivated, serious and unpretentious and the Senate would be lucky to get her.
Gov. Sarah Palin is smart, cultivated, serious and unpretentious and the country would have been lucky to get her. It's interesting how conservative talk is disqualifying and liberal talk is exalted.
Kay Griffiths, Redington Beach
Scientists at FDA complain to Obama | Jan. 9, story
Does anyone besides me see the irony in the fact that the Bush administration claims their greatest accomplishment has been keeping Americans safe while the scientists at the Food and Drug Administration have taken the unprecedented step of accusing the Bush administration managers of "placing the American people at risk"?
Pamela Muller, St. Petersburg