Dawdling while cash sits waiting | Aug. 16, editorial
State diligently seeks federal funds
I am concerned that your editorial could leave your readers with the impression that Florida has not applied for high-speed rail funding from the stimulus funds available from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are the facts.
On June 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration published interim guidance for applications for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. This guidance required that pre-applications be submitted by July 10 and that full applications be submitted by October 2.
The Florida Department of Transportation submitted the pre-application and is now working on preparation of the full application. The key to success for this application will be the content of the application. You and your readers can be sure that the full application will leave no doubt as to the support of Gov. Crist for this vitally important project.
Your editorial also briefly mentions a letter from Rep. James L. Oberstar to Gov. Crist and an assessment (by the Wall Street Journal) of where Florida stands in stimulus funding among the states. We hope you will also take note of our response to Rep. Oberstar updating him on our significant progress.
The bottom line is that Florida continues to aggressively pursue funding under the Recovery Act, and state agencies are working diligently to implement the programs and projects that are intended to help our people and boost our economy. Thank you for the opportunity to set the record straight.
Don Winstead, special adviser to the governor for the implementation of the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Tallahassee
Real threat comes from excessive corporate power
Your Aug. 17 articles on the likely Obama administration retreat from the public option on health care (White House seems ready to desert "public option") and wealthy campaign contributors (Amid health debate, cash flows to lawmakers) suggest that the executives of the health insurance companies that have contributed to much of our health care crisis while enriching themselves are now to be allowed to dictate what, if any, health care "reform" we shall be allowed to have.
These reports follow previous stories on government bailouts of failed financial services and automobile companies, apparent government inability to curb enormous bonuses and salaries for business executives who bear responsibility for leading us to the brink of economic disaster, and government failure to overcome opposition from banks and mortgage companies to ease the plight of those facing foreclosure and loss of their homes.
The common thread in these reports is the inordinate power of the executives of giant business corporations and the relative weakness and pliability of our government when it interacts with them. By focusing on the perceived dangers of "big government," many conservative politicians, pundits and "tea party" activists deflect attention away from the very real ill effects of a weak, pliable government that too readily succumbs to pressure from wealthy special interests who have given campaign contributions, lobbied or threatened economic retaliation. Unfortunately, that is the kind of government that we too often experience.
We need a strong but accountable democratic government that will pursue the general public interest. Big business executives should certainly have their say. However, we the people need to challenge the disproportionate power that they currently exert.
Richard Piper, Largo
Amid health debate, cash flows to lawmakers | Aug. 17, story
Money muffles public voice
As I read the first paragraph in your story, my heart sank: "On a recent Wednesday morning, 1,000 insurance brokers spread out across Capitol Hill with a singular mission: kill a proposed government-run health care plan."
Whichever side of this debate you're on, every American should be dismayed by the current state of our legislative process. Our government has so completely sold out to the big-money/lobbyist interests that I despair of our legislators ever actually reflecting the will of the people until we somehow take money out of the equation.
No matter what issues come before Congress (state and local bodies are similar), you can be pretty sure that whatever entity pays the most to campaign chests will be on the winning side of the legislation.
We must have fundamental change in the way our "representatives" are elected. Otherwise, the "will of the people" will continue to be trumped by whoever doles out the biggest dollar amounts.
David Bowman, St. Petersburg
Amid health debate, cash flows to lawmakers | Aug. 17, story
Noting their names
Thank you, St. Petersburg Times, for posting the list of which candidates are on the receiving end of the largesse of the health insurance companies and exactly how much money they have received to date.
I have cut out the handy table you printed and will remember these folks when election time comes around.
It sure makes it easier to understand what is motivating our legislators.
I urge the Times to keep your readers informed on the continued political contributions not only of health insurance companies but also the pharmaceutical companies, which have a large stake in the proposed health care reform.
Maybe, what our country really needs instead of health care reform is a true political campaign reform so that the temptation to "sell your soul" for a campaign contribution isn't a viable option.
Diana Rao, Tampa
The best laws money can buy | Aug. 12
Whose side are they on?
Adam Cohen's commentary said the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn the ban on corporate contributions and expenditures to political campaigns, based on free-speech arguments.
Corporations should not participate in the American political process because they are not American. Whichever way you measure a corporation's nationality, most are becoming less American every day. Many have admitted they are global.
Are the stockholders 100 percent American — or even 50 percent? Where do the executives and the board of directors stand? To whom or what do they pledge allegiance?
Are the bondholders 100 percent American? Many are foreign governments! Are the employees 100 percent American? Fewer every day.
A transaction on any stock exchange in the world can change a corporation's allegiance in an instant.
Congress should constitute un-American activities committees to determine just how American so-called American corporations really are. We must prevent the insidious subversion of the U.S. government by foreign interests in corporate disguise.
Robert Stone, Clearwater
Those who are paying
For those of you who are on Social Security and Medicare who might be afraid of paying a little more tax to help the uninsured, I have news for you.
Most of those 47 million people who do not have health insurance are still working. They are the ones who are paying Social Security and Medicare taxes out of their paychecks no matter how small. These are the payroll taxes that are keeping Social Security and Medicare alive. We can't forever say to ourselves, "I got mine, the heck with you."
Jack Levine, Palm Harbor
Reform the way you live
To all those feuding over health care reform, what about considering lifestyle reform? There is enough research from the so-called Blue Zones, where people live and thrive into their 90s and beyond.
Why? Because they don't smoke, they drink alcohol in moderation, eat a mainly plant-based diet, get moderate exercise every day, and are socially connected to one another. What a radical idea!
Vicki Klapper, Oldsmar