Florida's teachers are a bargain
During good times, Florida and Pinellas County told its teachers, "We can't afford to ruin our good run by bringing your pay to national standards." In bad times, like these, the mantra is, "We can't afford in these hard times to bring your pay to national standards," or worse, "Times are tough, so we want you to sacrifice even more via furloughs."
According to Florida TaxWatch (not exactly a liberal source), over the past three decades Florida's state and local tax burden has been among our nation's lowest. Estimated at 7.4 percent of income, Florida's state/local tax burden percentage is ranked 47th nationally, well below the national average of 9.7 percent. Floridians pay $3,441 per capita in state and local taxes.
In overall quality (considering student achievement, academic standards, teacher quality and financing), Florida public schools rank eighth in the nation, up from 31st three years ago.
According to the Times last November, regarding the cost of top-heavy management in 2008-09, "Pinellas ranked No. 2 or No. 3 among the 12 biggest districts, depending on how broadly general administration costs are defined."
And according to the National Center for Education Statistics, for 2008 the average U.S. teacher salary was $51,009; it was $47,219 in Florida, ranked 38th in the nation.
Facts show that Florida's teachers are a bargain for our taxpayers, and according to the state Department of Education, Pinellas teachers rank 19th in average pay for Florida teachers — a bigger bargain still.
Tom LaPorta, Palm Harbor
Racism and the tea party
Focus on real problems
With all of the problems in the black community — high unemployment, high rate of out-of-wedlock births, high dropout and imprisonment rates — the NAACP still finds time to attack without any hard evidence racism in the tea party movement.
I hate to be the one to break it to the NAACP, but calling the president a socialist is not a racist remark. Maybe if you stopped lining your pockets with other people's money and attacking Americans who disagree with the policies of the Obama administration, you could start to make a difference in your own community.
James F. Dahmer, Tampa
The NAACP's Ben Jealous is going down the tried and true path of arousing emotions by starting a hunt for racists.
There doesn't have to be any real proof; hearsay is good enough. It seems he believes there are racists in the tea party and advises the group to "expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take the responsibility for them and their actions."
But the old "are you now or have you ever been a racist?" tactic is tedious and nonproductive. I've been to a couple of tea party meetings and saw no racism. So I ask you, Mr. Jealous, are there no racists in the NAACP? Are there no racists in the Democratic Party? Are there no racists in the Obama administration? Before you cast the first stone, you should look under it.
Dan Holmer, Brandon
Claims chief eases Floridians' fears July 14, editorial
McCollum doing his job
Given the extreme left leanings of your editors, and unless Alex Sink, Democratic candidate for governor, robs a bank between now and November, your paper will be endorsing her over Attorney General Bill McCollum.
So it was no surprise to see this editorial criticize McCollum for "needlessly stirring the pot" by sending a letter to Kenneth Feinberg, the compensation claims officer for BP. The letter objects to statements Feinberg made suggesting he might apply Florida law, instead of federal law, in resolving Floridians' claims. State law is not as generous to injured parties and McCollum was concerned that Floridians could be shortchanged. As a Floridian, this is what I would expect my attorney general to do: look out for the welfare of Floridians.
The editorial's position is that Feinberg can be trusted so much that McCollum need not worry. I suggest that if McCollum did not respond to Feinberg, and the outcome for the claimants was not good, the editors would be the first to throw stones at McCollum for not doing his job.
S. Hutton, Belleair
Marco Rubio, a 'rock star' in person July 15, Howard Troxler column
Tired old 'solutions'
Thank you to Howard Troxler for clarifying Marco Rubio's position on how to fix our economy. Citing a recent campaign appearance, he quoted Rubio as saying, "The answer is to use the government to grow the economy, starting with tax cuts: making the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 permanent, and eliminating the capital-gains and estate taxes."
Those were key elements of the Bush administration's fiscal policy. Here is a recap of what happened as a result of that policy:
The Bush administration took office in 2001 with a $236 billion budget surplus. According to PolitiFact, surpluses "would be sufficient by 2006 to pay off all publicly held debt that is available for redemption." That was based on the assumption the tax and spending policies of the outgoing Clinton administration would be maintained.
They were not. The Bush administration cut taxes in 2001 and 2003 for the most wealthy Americans, instituted the prescription drug benefit without a plan to pay for it, and elected to go to war with Iraq on money borrowed from China. Meanwhile, critical regulators who were charged with overseeing the financial sector were derelict in carrying out their duties. Little mind was paid to the fact that our country's middle class was being gutted.
When the Obama administration took office in January 2009, our country faced a budget deficit of $1.2 trillion and was in the throes of an economic meltdown. Going from a surplus of $236 billion to a deficit of $1.2 trillion is a setback of $1.436 trillion. The enormity of that fiscal spiral necessitated widely unpopular interventions to save our economy from total collapse.
It's important for voters to know that Rubio embraces a return to the Bush administration's fiscal policy. Now that our country has begun to emerge from the disastrous fallout of that policy, it will be interesting to see how many voters want to endure it all over again.
Cindy Deadman Maxwell, Clearwater
We know better
In his "12 Simple Ways to Grow Our Economy," Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio trumpeted the familiar tax policies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
The first seven on Rubio's list involved tax cuts. Solution No. 1 for Rubio calls for extending the Bush tax cuts permanently. Federal and state governments continue to have a serious revenue problem, which for Florida means the budget is squeezing out civil servants such as teachers, police officers, and firefighters. Yet Rubio's solution is to further reduce revenues with tax cuts, even though evidence suggests that further job losses will result.
In Rubio's world of Hogwarts magic, perhaps lower taxes on the wealthy in fact do grow the economy. But in the real world where the rest of us live, and where Bush proved the drastic failure of that policy over eight long years, we know better.
Sean Saval, St. Petersburg