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Friday's letters: Florida should go after pension fund money

Did gifts grease path to law bid? | Dec. 29, story

Florida should go after the money

A story in Tuesday's St. Petersburg Times reported that "in the wake of the financial meltdown, dozens of law firms clamored to represent (Florida) in securities class-action suits against U.S. companies, seeking to recover lost billions for taxpayers."

Yet, the article missed the central point. So far, the Florida pension fund has failed to heed the advice of these firms — and the examples set by other states — to pursue action against companies that may have misled their investors and get the money our state is owed.

Unfortunately, I have been the sole voice calling for Florida to aggressively go after companies that deliberately lied about earnings, hid material information from investors or committed fraud, causing our state's pension fund to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. Especially in financial times like these, we can't afford to be complacent in recovering money owed to the taxpayers of Florida.

For example, public pension funds in five other states are leading lawsuits against Bank of America in the wake of their Merrill Lynch acquisition, when their stock price fell 78 percent. And just last month, pension funds in New Jersey and Ohio recovered $400 million from Marsh & McLennan, a company that had made false statements to its investors.

The real story is that as long as we have just three politicians overseeing our pension fund, we risk continuing the status quo. The time for experienced oversight of our state's $112 billion pension fund is now.

Alex Sink, Florida chief financial officer, Tallahassee

Did gifts grease path to law bid? | Dec. 29, story

We need to curb power of money in politics

Kudos to the Times and Sydney Freedberg for a great piece of investigative journalism. That lawyer Scott Rothstein, a former "Republican ATM," should provide $200,000 to Democrats to get lucrative state work should not surprise anyone. After all, Florida's former speaker of the House is under criminal indictment, and many of Florida's leading Republican politicians — after receiving contributions from Texas oil interests — now support drilling a few miles from our precious gulf beaches.

The national health care debate has also spotlighted the nexus between big money and politics. Both fiscal prudence and the health needs of ordinary citizens were drowned out by the army of Washington lobbyists who do the bidding of attorneys, Big Pharma, insurance companies, and hospital chains.

"Pay to play" at the local, state, and national level has become the order of the day for both political parties. If only the frustration we see at the "Tea Party" protests could be harnessed to produce a public demand for sweeping reforms in campaign finance, political influence and lobbying — for example, those advocated by Sam Waterston's Public Campaign. Until then, public policy will be hostage to those who provide politicians with the most money.

Tony Branch, Madeira Beach

Greed defined the decade

The question was asked, "How do we define the past decade?" I have the answer: It was the decade of greed. From Enron to Halliburton to HCA Healthcare, which was fined $1.7 billion for stealing from Medicare and Medicaid. They even stole from Tricare, the military's health care system.

Then we had the greed of the big insurance companies whose premiums went up faster than the cost of living index. And, of course, let's not forget the CEOs and executives who lined their pockets with millions and millions of dollars while destroying some of the finest corporations in America. There are also the Republican senators who took money from the insurance industry and then voted against health care reform.

Last, but not least, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus who fought his own party and voted against the public option. He received over $1 million from the lobbyists. Bless them all. Yes, without question it was the Decade of Greed! Lets hope it's over, or at the very least we as a people are a lot smarter!

Edward Bowman, Spring Hill

The big zero | Dec. 29, Paul Krugman column

Leftist distortions

The St. Petersburg Times has apparently decided to subject its readers to seemingly daily rants from leftist professor Paul Krugman. This offering contains two elements of Krugman's predictable mantra: ceding more control of our lives to big central government and bashing George W. Bush. Primarily because President Bush was in office most of the past decade, Krugman seems to attribute most of the perceived problems to him.

Krugman is the poster boy for what Dr. Charles Krauthammer has dubbed the "Bush derangement syndrome." This affliction occurs when visceral hatred for George W. Bush is so intense that it prevents any semblance of rational thought or discourse on the subject.

The economic distortions in this article are remarkable. In his most recent book Economic Facts and Fallacies, economist Thomas Sowell specifically cites Krugman's deliberate distortion of median household income statistics in an attempt to leave the false impression that the middle class in America is losing ground economically. At the end of Krugman's rant, additional vitriol is hurled at Republicans, tax cuts, deregulation and the free market in general, all favorite targets.

Joseph Hill, Panama City

The big zero | Dec. 29, Paul Krugman column

It was a good decade

Economist Paul Krugman asserts that nothing good happened in the past decade. For myself and many others, however, this assertion is unfounded.

During the last decade, I bought a home, received a Ph.D. through a generous fellowship, taught in three colleges, worked steadily as a freelance artist and private teacher, commenced a full-time teaching and administrative position and have seen my children flourish in their education.

My wife and I are still married and she has a full-time job with excellent benefits. We own our cars and will own our home in less than 10 years. We have no credit card debt. We have roughly 15 weeks of vacation per year. We did all of this with no help from the government on an income of just under $100,000 per year. Did we lose on our investments? Yes, somewhat.

So, professor Krugman, the last decade, even under the Bush administration, has not been a big zero. The same holds true for you, I'm sure, multiple times over.

Gary Compton, Wesley Chapel

Resolutions for year ahead

With Social Security's not having a COLA this year, my first resolution is to monitor my finances more carefully and avoid any unnecessary expenses. In 2010, I will finally learn to say "no" to things I really do not want to buy or do.

As a writer, I will be churning out fewer change-the-world letters to the editor and concentrating on selling my work. A few nice checks would easily make up for the missing COLA.

As an individual, I know that I am so very lucky to be a healthy and active senior, so I am going to try harder to help those who are not. So many people I love no longer drive a car or live in their own homes as I do, so I plan to share my good fortune with them much more from now on. I will be making more home-cooked meals for friends and organizing more get-togethers or outings and always offering rides in my spiffy little silver Malibu.

As an American, I will continue to cherish my right to vote and to campaign for candidates of my choice. I am living in the best country in the world led by a truly great president, and I intend to say "thank you" to whatever force is out there (God?) every day I am lucky enough to have this wonderful life. Happy new year.

Adele Ida Walter, Tampa

Friday's letters: Florida should go after pension fund money 12/31/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 4:28pm]
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