Don't forget how we got here
To those who have complained about the U.S. debt — including a recent letter writer who is wondering if President Barack Obama "gets it" as far as understanding that the government cannot indefinitely spend more than it takes in — I'd like to issue this reminder that our current federal deficit began in earnest with a huge tax cut in 2001 and another in 2003.
Add two huge, unfunded wars and top it off with a gigantic prescription drug benefit for seniors that passed the Republican Congress in 2005, and you have the answer as to why we are in a huge hole now. These deficits did not begin in 2009 when Obama took office; he merely inherited them and has to deal with them now.
Ditto for the "bailouts" which began with George W. Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and continued into Obama's term. By the way, most economists agree there probably would have been another Great Depression without the TARP "bailout" program. This is a credit to both administrations.
But where were the outcries against out-of-control spending during the Bush years?
I know, I know: The Democrats keep blaming the previous administration. But you have to look at reality and where this all began. Tired of all the out-of-control spending? How about another tax cut to make the deficit problem even worse? Actually, Obama contributed to the problem by adding a tax cut of his own.
What, you say? Obama didn't cut taxes? Sure he did. One-third of his stimulus package went toward tax cuts for those whose gross adjusted income was under $250,000 per year. So, my observation is, yes, he understands. Do you understand?
Frank Soos, St. Pete Beach
Serving the people
Two items in Monday's paper typify the mistaken view Republicans and tea party activists have of where we are and what must be done.
A letter writer says that when Democrats were elected to Congress and the presidency, "They spent recklessly, tried to be all things to all people with someone else's money, and believed that they had been given a mandate to do just that." And columnist David Brooks writes: "Over the past two years, these voters have watched government radically increase spending in an attempt to put people back to work. According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal spending increased from about 21 percent of GDP in 2008 to nearly 26 percent of GDP this year."
Faced with economic crashes due primarily to the Republicans' failure to regulate the financial markets including insurance and housing, Democratic legislators first joined Republicans in bailing out the private banks and insurance companies.
With health insurance and HMO costs skyrocketing to the point that 45 million people were without health care, Democrats tried to reform the system to provide greater coverage while reducing costs over the long term, the next decade. That very gradual minimalist change, certainly not a "government takeover of health care," is what the Republicans and tea party activists are now calling "Obamacare."
Millions more workers went jobless in 2009 and 2010, requiring extension of unemployment benefits. The situation also required attempting to reduce further losses by creating jobs to strengthen the infrastructure.
Attempting to save families from starvation and homelessness hardly amounts to "trying to be all things to all people." Neither is federal spending "radical" when viewed against the society's needs — in terms of the human beings without work and in terms of the long-ignored crumbling infrastructure.
Increasing federal expenditures by 5 percent of a shrinking GDP (gross domestic product) is hardly a radical response when faced with the economic collapse of the private market. Surely, that's what governments are supposed to do for their people!
Alvin Wolfe, Lutz
The election results were no real surprise. Tension and unhappiness with the Congress in particular as well as a feeling that President Barack Obama just doesn't get it, coupled with a massive lack of transparency in the way the health bill was sold and engineered, finally came together at this election.
Also affecting the results, I believe, although not mentioned in the media, were the twin issues of immigration and foreign policy. Congress has repeatedly denied action on the former, causing the states to go it alone; and many voters feel Obama is pandering to the rest of the world at the expense of his own country.
Let's hope that Congress being divided will provide the check and balance a democracy must have to prevent extremism by any element, legislative or executive. Pursuit of power, not the pursuit of money, is still the all-time threat to our well-being. The remaining question to be answered in Florida is: Who or what will provide that check and balance in the Sunshine State?
Hal Cusick, Tierra Verde
The elections are finally over, all ballots have been counted, and candidates have made their acceptance speeches. Most of the signs along the roadways are gone, and we can watch television without 10 or 15 minutes of campaign backstabbing or mudslinging. The worst part of it all is that millions of dollars have been spent to accomplish all this. How can any candidate be free to keep all the promises he or she has made without clearing it with the political machines that financed his or her election?
Last week in the Times, the front-page headline was "Crunch time for jobless." Without an extension, 106,00 Floridians will run out of unemployment benefits on Dec. 4. All the money spent on the elections could save countless families from losing their homes, or enable them to secure health insurance.
We are starting to do away with the middle class — you are either rich or poor. May our faith and hope sustain us during these difficult times so we can once again be "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Barbara G. Dircks, Dunedin
Party prank ends in a death | Nov. 5
Train children in gun safety
This story was one of the saddest I have read regarding guns, and it could have been different if it wasn't for all the anti-gun-rights politicians and their efforts to eliminate all guns from American citizens.
My family raised me in a home where hunting and fishing were two sports we all enjoyed, and I was introduced to shooting sports at the young age of 6. I received my own first gun, a .22-caliber rifle, for my seventh birthday. In our home, children were all taught from infancy that guns, toy and real, were never to be pointed at anyone or any pet. We lived in the country and had our own safe backyard target shooting area. If anyone was ever caught with a gun in hand that was pointed anywhere but toward the ground or floor, severe punishment was forthcoming.
This training doesn't happen today with our young people because of the continuing demonization of all guns by the antigun politicians. The National Rifle Association has a youth program called the Eddie Eagle Safe Gun course that I belonged to back in the '40s that still exists, offered to schools at no charge. However, because of all the fearmongering by the politicians and some misdirected adults, the NRA has been kept out of many schools.
Guns don't kill people when people are taught in their youth about gun safety. Instead of trying to rid the American public of all guns, which will never happen because it's a Second Amendment right, why not accept the NRA training offer in all our schools?
Cardin A. Hesselton, Seminole