Drug monitoring program
Program would curb 'pill mills,' save lives
Rick Scott promised bold action and innovative solutions, and Floridians genuinely believe action is needed to bring down unemployment and create jobs. However, in delivering on his promises, the governor should not eliminate the state's prescription drug monitoring program.
Yes, the move would cut government. And, yes, he could argue that it would help balance the budget. But missing from the discussion are the thousands of lives that will be saved each year once Florida fully implements the program passed in 2009.
As anesthesia professionals intimately involved with the care of our patients with acute and chronic pain, we understand the fine line between careful, rational pain management and addiction. While we understand concerns have been raised about the program, we believe dismantling the monitoring program would be detrimental to the goal of ending "pill mills" in Florida.
The unfortunate and grim reality is that Florida has become ground zero for pill mills because neighboring states have taken strong action to end this epidemic. Thirty-four states have implemented monitoring programs, and these are credited with greatly reducing prescription drug trafficking and abuse. We must follow suit to ensure that Florida stops being a safe haven for doctor shoppers and pill mills.
Attorney General Pam Bondi has already signaled her aggressive approach to address this critical issue. We applaud her commitment and ask that the governor ensure that she continues to have the necessary tools, such as the monitoring program, to battle this epidemic.
Michael Steighner, president, Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists
U.S. vetoes resolution on Israel | Feb. 19
U.S. must stand up against illegal settlements
The United States was alone in the U.N. Security Council in vetoing a Palestinian draft resolution that denounced Israel's settlement policy. Fourteen other members of the council voted to condemn Israel's settlement policy as an illegal obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East. In killing the resolution, the U.S. veto marks a tragic mistake.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statement that the veto should not be seen as endorsement of Israel's settlement policies does not address the reality of expanding Jewish settlements, confiscation of Palestinian land, and house evictions and home demolitions that continue in spite of condemnation in U.N. resolutions and a symbolic "hand slap" of Israel by the United States.
For the past two years, I visited Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, who had been evicted from their homes and thrown into the street by Jewish settlers.
The resolution was not, as Rice said, about "hardening the positions of both sides." The Palestinian appeal was for justice and human rights. It is the veto that will harden Palestinians, bolster support from Arab neighbors, foster mistrust and isolate the United States.
The Middle East revolutions are the result of leadership that neglects the will of the people. Nonviolent resistance by Palestinians to Israel's harsh occupation has been ongoing for four decades.
Condemning Israel's settlement policy on one hand, then supporting it with a veto on the other, is hypocrisy.
Doris Norrito, Largo
Obstacle to peace
Peace in the Middle East will never happen if the people of Israel keep building in the settlements. It defies any sort of compromise.
The Palestinian people have a right to their land, which was taken away from them.
Kathleen Jones, New Port Richey
Go where the money is
The tea party demonstrates an ideological rather than practical approach to budget cutting that is unnecessarily mean-spirited and counterproductive. A mixture of some of these steps would resolve our fiscal woes:
• Close military bases that no longer serve any real defense purpose. Do we still need to protect Europe from Russia or Germany?
• Remove the income cap on payments into Social Security.
• Increase, over the next 20 years or so, the age at which a person can receive full Social Security benefits but use a portion of these savings to increase the level of benefits for early retirement.
• Move to a single-payer universal health care system, thereby reducing administrative costs by up to 25 percent and increasing efficiency.
• Aggressively pursue Medicare and Medicaid fraud and waste, requiring full reimbursement of any such criminal behavior.
• Eliminate taxpayer-supported construction of for-profit private facilities such as sports stadiums.
• Reform the income tax laws, returning to the tiers seen 20 or 30 years ago. Eliminate most income tax deductions, including mortgage interest, allowing for a much simpler and lower tax rate.
• Decriminalize and heavily tax marijuana.
• Raise the gas tax and use the money to fund badly needed transportation infrastructure.
Forget trying to solve the deficit with simplistic, across-the-board actions or by attacking small potatoes such as NPR. What we need is hard-headed action in those areas that can produce significant results.
Richard N. Taylor, Lutz
House votes to curb regulators, cut spending Feb. 19
Balanced budget lessons
Having no vision for the future, our Republican-controlled House wants to turn the clock back to 2008. If members truly believe that the way to reduce the deficit is by a return to the past, then they should go all the way back to 2000.
In President Bill Clinton's final year in office we had a strong society and a balanced budget. When the Republicans took control in January 2001 they promptly took us from a balanced budget to a deficit budget. After 9/11 they reduced revenue while increasing spending and dramatically increasing the size of government, resulting in record deficits.
If answers are found in the past, then go all the way back to when we actually had a balanced budget. Otherwise, find a path forward.
Paul Starr, Treasure Island
Try a little empathy
Have you noticed that most people don't give a darn about any government program until it effects them?
If you don't need unemployment, disability benefits, Head Start, watch PBS, need pregnancy advice, or any other social program, you really don't care. Most people are too self-absorbed to think of anyone but themselves — unless of course the day comes when you need one of those programs. Then, all of a sudden, you care.
We need to think of people who are less fortunate then ourselves, who don't have the means to get the assistance they need, who go to sleep at night hungry and cold, who don't have an opportunity for a decent education. Its called empathy. Wouldn't it be nice if we all practiced some empathy every day?
Alan Roberts, Belleair
Bill blocked by departures | Feb. 18
GOP waging class war
Republicans in Wisconsin are showing their true colors.
It is they who are waging "class warfare." They have demoralized workers in the private sector by supporting businesses that have kept workers' wages low and tried to eliminate as many worker benefits (health care, pensions, etc.) as they can.
Now they are trying the same tactics on workers in the public sector (union busting, cutting benefits, etc.) under the guise of balancing the budget.
When it is suggested that the wealthy pay a larger share of taxes, it is the Republicans who scream "class warfare." Working people in Florida and the rest of the country need to wake up and see that the Republicans are trying to turn various sections of the labor force against each other so that they will not notice the huge tax benefits they want to grant big business and their rich supporters.
Richard Vanni, Seminole
In a field of pygmies, Bush looks gigantic Feb. 23, Ruth column
Vilification as opinion
What drivel! Mr. Simile vilifies an entire family in his quest to demonstrate his superiority. Is this piece his own personal "scorched earth" policy? Daniel Ruth denigrates every Republican he thinks might run for president, then works on those who said they won't. This isn't political opinion as much as it is arrogance.
Charles Piercey, Tarpon Springs