Don't shortchange gulf | Dec. 19, commentary
The gulf needs the Restore Act
We recently read with interest this column regarding the Restore Act (S 1400 and HR 3096) now being considered by Congress, intended to direct at least 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties from the BP oil spill in 2010 to economic and ecological recovery actions in the Gulf of Mexico.
As part of the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative, our mission is to bring academic partners, scientists and students from across the gulf region together to serve this cause. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska, penalties were tied up in courts for more than six years, and resulting payments were far less than required. The region suffered long-term impacts, such as the collapse of the herring population.
We cannot wait while lawyers file appeals and memories fade. The gulf is too important to the nation's economy. We have sucked trillions of dollars in energy resources from the gulf. Now we must invest a small fraction to safeguard and grow its environmental resources.
Passing the Restore Act will not only help people who lost jobs and businesses due to the spill, it will build an ocean-observing system required to provide the baseline data missing during the BP spill, and sentinels for future events. Other coastal regions have such regional observing networks. Should not the nation's most productive marine ecosystem have similar capabilities?
Dr. William Hogarth, St. Petersburg
Payroll tax cut
Trust fund is safe
The payroll tax cut will not affect the Social Security Trust Fund. By law, any shortfall must be reimbursed from general tax collections. Last year's cut has already been reimbursed.
The cut was done this way, rather than through a federal income tax cut, to get people to spend it. A bigger income tax refund is often saved. The whole idea is to get people spending again.
Peter S. Cohoon, Tampa
Put a stop to the D.C. gravy train Dec. 26, editorial
Tighten rules on conflicts
The conflict of interest proposal, directed toward opportunities in companies in which legislators gained knowledge through their legislative status, is good but not sufficient. The legislation should be broader than mere disclosure.
Legislation should be broad enough to in some manner control the investments made by politicians that come to their attention as a result of their status as officeholders. These opportunities are no different than receiving a financial benefit from a lobbyist in advance of the lobbyist requesting a favor from the officeholder. I believe this is how and why a new officeholder very soon becomes somewhat more wealthy than the salary would seem to permit.
Paul C. Blatt, Dunedin
What do lawmakers earn?
Like the rest of the country, I have seen all the Occupy people complaining about the 1 percent not paying their "fair share." I have a feeling that most of the complainers do not even pay taxes. The burden is much heavier on the middle class than on others. The poor get benefits paid for by the taxpayers. The rich do not need support. The guy in the middle is the one who is hurt.
I would like to see a list of all 535 people in Congress with their net worth and investments provided. This would give us a good idea as to where their interests lie and whether they are among the 1 percent. After that, we can watch how they vote and make a determination as to who deserves our vote.
James Bardsley, St. Petersburg
Powerful painkiller has experts worried Dec. 27
Curb drug profiteering
The experts have good reason to be worried about a new drug that drug companies are working to develop. This new pill will contain up to 10 times more of the amount of hydrocodone than is found in Vicodin. If approved, there will be pure hydrocodone available to the public.
The painkillers available now are destroying our society. There are numerous examples just in our area alone of the devastating effects of these painkillers on those who take them as well as the innocent bystanders who are caught in the crossfire. These pills turn good people into crazed maniacs who kill, whether accidentally or intentionally. Many of the people who have valid reason to take the painkillers become hopelessly addicted to them.
These drug companies need to be stopped. I know that is just wishful thinking since it is such a profitable industry. Our government tells us we need to worry about our kids drinking too much soda and not getting enough exercise. I say we need to worry about the government giving these drug companies the green light to flood our society with these pills that kill and destroy lives. It is all about the profit; they couldn't care less about the person.
I do not want to place judgment on anyone who has chronic pain and takes the pain medications for relief. I just feel that what we have available on the market today is powerful enough and nothing stronger is needed.
Colleen McGill-Grenville, Weeki Wachee
Gingrich's ominous attack on the courts Dec. 27, editorial
Just read the Constitution
In his latest broadside against the judiciary, Newt Gingrich has fallen down the rabbit hole. How ironic for someone who purports to swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. If Gingrich would bother to read the document, he might be surprised to see that it creates three co-equal branches of government. Congress is supposed to make the laws, the judiciary interprets them, and the executive branch enforces them.
If he really wants to improve his political standing, he shouldn't call for the degradation of the judiciary. He should instead call for the abolition of Congress.
Tom Carey, Clearwater
Close Web sales tax loophole | Dec. 28, editorial
Loopy loophole reasoning
While it's true that Florida is missing out on revenue, the song and dance about taxing online sales to protect local businesses is hooey. The lack of an online sales tax isn't the only, or the main, reason local businesses are losing out. Online sales are usually much cheaper, even when taxed. The economies of scale and automation are facts of life and have been for a century.
Michael Zwerdling, Palm Harbor