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Friday letters: We suffer from a lack of vision and leadership

Center can't hold | Feb. 17, commentary

A lack of vision and leadership

Charles Lane quotes Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post: "This city (Washington) is broken because too many of our leaders confuse politics with service."

By substituting politics for service, our senators, for the most, part have failed to govern. They are no longer able to reach consensus on solutions to the many issues our country faces. Their striving for personal power and position demands their time and resources. Their allegiance is now given to the corporate power brokers, not the people. Their focus remains on their home states and not on the nation as a whole.

Since the publication of Robert K. Greenleaf's Servant Leadership in 1977, his idea of the leader as a servant has been widely adopted in business, education and religious organizations. For Greenleaf, "true leadership is an inner quality as well as the exercise of authority."

Sadly, the members of the Senate lack this inner quality and do not have the ability to see the big picture. As a result, our country suffers from their lack of vision and leadership.

R. Wayne Bowen, St. Petersburg

Social fabric frayed by tough times | Feb. 17, David Brooks column

In tough times, women pay a high price, too

I graduated from college in 1981 and can attest to the difficult hiring climate at that time. I am a woman, which made it even more of a challenge. I have no doubt that men are having a difficult time during this economic downturn, but it should come as no surprise. Men have been earning more for the same job than women since time began. This may just be a natural backlash to men earning more and thus ending up more often the target of corporate and government downsizing.

Also, does David Brooks think that women don't get depressed and take out their frustration on their families? I don't think that being out of work or taking a lower-paying, menial job helps a woman's self-esteem any more than it does a man's. Women can begin divorce proceedings just as well as men.

Unfortunately, many things need to happen for companies to be comfortable starting to hire again, and this administration and Congress don't seem to be able to do anything meaningful to make this happen. But when it finally does, maybe it will result in better pay equity and more equal promotion opportunities for men and women when all is said and done.

Winnie Bayon, Palm Harbor

A sickening level of profit | Feb. 16, editorial

Profit margins are not large

You lament the "sickening" $12.2 billion profit of the health insurance industry and also bemoan the 2.7 million "dropped" insured. You may have more information that you do not share, so it is hard for readers to put these data into perspective and agree or not with your assessment of "sickening."

Private health insurance companies have profit margins of around 2 to 4 percent, but increasing competition by allowing policy sales across state lines would tend to reduce margins. However, 2 to 4 percent does not seem sickening on the surface.

Likewise, the 2.7 million "dropped" need more definition to assess. If, for example, most of these were for folks discontinuing payment of their premiums or falsifying applications, most readers would find this reasonable.

James W. Benefiel, Dunedin

A sickening level of profit | Feb. 16, editorial

A tainted system

I can unfortunately attest to the excesses of the health insurance industry. Last month when I refilled my regular prescription I was informed that my co-pay had been increased from $20 to $60. When I called United Healthcare to inquire about the increase, I was informed that they had applied increases to all nongeneric prescriptions.

To add insult to injury, I now learn that this increase was added after a year of record profits. With the apparent demise of health insurance reform we can expect further excesses from the insurance companies. It is yet another example of how money drives politics.

We are the only developed country to have private, for-profit health insurance as the primary source of health care funding. Passage of health care reform would have at last provided other options. Unfortunately political contributions and record lobbying seem to have killed any hope for real reform.

John Johnston, Clearwater

A sickening level of profit | Feb. 16, editorial

The insurance drain

The editorial prompts us to ask the logical question, "Why are insurance companies involved with health care at all?" If we took the insurance companies out of the equation, Medicare-for-all would be paid for. I understand why big corporations do not want health care for everyone because they would lose a lot of leverage over their work force.

But why we as a people tolerate the financial drain of insurance companies' control over our health when these companies do nothing to serve the system is very hard to fathom. Under the current model, a very small minority benefit greatly and the expense of an ever growing majority.

B. Valsavage, St. Petersburg

Building more prisons in Florida isn't the answer | Feb. 16, editorial

Can we change policy?

Let me simplify: We spend too much tax revenue jailing people whose undesirable behavior has been criminalized.

You mention increased penalties for driving with a suspended license. What about individuals who self-medicate mental illness? In Pinellas County we have Vincent House, a social and vocational recovery program for adults living with mental illnesses.

What about the approach being taken in Texas to reduce costs simply by "shifting money around"? It was described at a conference in Tampa in late November by Jerry Madden, a self-described "hard-line conservative" Texas legislator who sponsored the bill in 2007 that shifted his state away from incarceration at all costs to rehabilitation and treatment where appropriate.

Finally, what about small-time selling of an illegal drug? In the 1920s bootleggers went to jail for "bootlegging," a policy we wisely ended in 1933. We should consider that, too.

Many ideas have been mentioned, but there's no one in Tallahassee to act on them.

John Chase, Palm Harbor

Our costly drug war

All kinds of illegal drugs are a health problem, not a criminal one. Many governments in Latin America say that the war on drugs is a complete failure and are decriminalizing their use. In 2001 Portugal, with a predominantly Catholic population, changed its very hard line against drugs and now allows all illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

If you are caught using any of these drugs, arrangements are made to send you to a psychologist and/or health center for treatment. But you do not have to go! The result? All drug use there has declined, from heroin to marijuana. HIV from sharing needles has also declined.

Meanwhile in America, with its severe criminal policies, cocaine and heroin use has escalated. We spend billions of dollars every year fighting it. It's a well-known law: Whatever you resist will persist. More people are in our jails from "illegal" drug use than any other so-called crime. Meanwhile, gangs deal in drugs, have drive-by shootings protecting their turf, and we just keep spending more and more money. We need to wake up.

Don Hayes, Tampa

Superintendent's conference trip

Money well spent

I am amazed at all of the criticism of Pinellas school superintendent Julie Janssen's upcoming conference in England. While many may look at the $2,595 conference fee as excessive, please remember that the knowledge gained by visiting and interacting with her peers in other states and nations can be invaluable to the betterment of our school system.

And she is paying her own travel expenses, which is a far cry above what most other public officials do. As a person who has traveled to 132 countries in 27 years, interacting with other cultures and people has given me knowledge and wisdom I could not have gained otherwise. The conference fee for Janssen is money well spent.

Jeff Francis, St. Petersburg

Friday letters: We suffer from a lack of vision and leadership 02/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 18, 2010 6:51pm]
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