19 days of gun deaths in America | Jan. 3
Problems go beyond just numbers
Not to diminish the tragedy of the numbers graphically displayed on Thursday's opinion page, but in those same 19 days about 1,795 people died in the United States in vehicle crashes, 514 involving drunken drivers. Some 5,590 people died from alcohol abuse, and 10,150 died as a result of medical errors. There were 60,800 children murdered in the United States in 19 days from abortion. Yet there is no outrage. Some 874 people died in nonfirearm violence. (No. 1 weapon? Baseball bat). Solution? Ban cars. Require all cars to not allow drunken driving. Where is the outrage against doctors and hospitals? Where is the cry to outlaw bats?
Ridiculous comparisons to the 393 who died from gun violence in 19 days? Maybe, but the point is thousands of people die each day yet we don't think twice about it nor do we rally to outlaw the instrument that caused those deaths — except guns, the "demon rum" of today.
Politicians couldn't even wait a few hours to mourn the loss of children in Sandy Hook before they turned a tragedy into the latest vote-seeking soapbox. Yet the courts and legislatures turn their backs on the mental health system that turns away those in need of real help, telling parents they are on their own. Then there is the graphic violence in video games and music that our children immerse themselves in.
The current rash of tragedies is much more complex then banning a certain type or all firearms. Blame the NRA and "gun nuts"? No. How about us all taking a hard look at our own responsibility and how we are making the world a better place.
Joel Mathews, Tampa
Another fiscal flop | Jan. 3, commentary
Solvency easily assured
David Brooks' column contains the usual conservative dog whistles and twisted or left out facts.
He talks about "entitlements," i.e. Social Security and Medicare, which are in reality returns on investment just as surely as Mitt Romney's stock dividends and the interest on his offshore bank accounts, sucking up all federal revenue. The fact he leaves out is that the payroll tax makes them pay as you go and solvent for years to come. If the withholding cap were lifted so that everyone paid on every cent they earned regardless of how it was earned, these programs would be solvent forever.
Further, because these programs are pay as you go, they are self-sufficient, not part of the deficit conservatives claim to abhor. The only reason they figure into the national debt is that, over time, they have had a surplus, so Congress chose to borrow from them rather than raise taxes to pay for other programs. As a result, part of the national debt is what the government owes to itself for what it borrowed from Social Security and Medicare.
Brooks also mentions the "free money" some recipients will get from Medicare, when the reality is that some people need care and some don't, so there will always be people who get more than they put in and others who get nothing. That's the point. We're all in this together, and in a civilized society we all have an obligation to care for each other. Conservatives seem to have forgotten that fact and seem to prefer prehistoric tribal barbarism.
Brooks also conveniently leaves out the fact that about 70 percent of the national debt was accrued under Republican administrations. Some $5 trillion came under George W. Bush, who chose to squander a budget surplus, which was beginning to pay down the national debt, to give unnecessary tax cuts and wage two wars off budget so the public would not know what it was really costing us.
Mark Schumerth, St. Pete Beach
Fiscal cliff deal
The millionaires are us
President Barack Obama has run around for four years talking about only taxing the millionaires and billionaires, and in the fiscal cliff deal with Congress he got his way on taxes.
But my paycheck is already smaller this week, and the Obamacare taxes have not yet been included. Very quickly, lower-level workers in this country are going to realize they were the millionaires and billionaires of Obama's many speeches. The only people who won't be affected are the rich and those already not working and living off government programs.
Ronnie Dubs, St. Petersburg
California's experiment on climate change Jan. 2, commentary
Market solution is at hand
Thank you to the Times for its focus on climate change and, most recently, on California's new cap-and-trade legislation.
While California's effort is heartening, what would be better yet is if it can be followed up by national legislation — which will allow the forces of the free market to be summoned in the fight against global warming.
What will be the most effective, efficient and equitable means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a carbon fee where all of the proceeds are given back to consumers.
This legislation has the backing of none other than Dr. James Hansen, one of the most widely respected climate scientists in the world, along with an increasing number of economists and political leaders.
A national organization, Citizens Climate Lobby, is leading the movement for this legislation. We would do well to support them and to encourage our local congressional representatives to work toward the passage of this legislation.
Immediate action on climate change is critical; the good news is that a feasible solution is at hand.
Abhaya Thiele, Gainesville
Deal may not buy network access | Jan. 4
Freedom of information
As a Bright House customer I am outraged by its decision to drop Current TV following its purchase by Al-Jazeera. We do not wish to have our news censored because of narrow-minded marketers who buy into the false idea that Al-Jazeera promotes terrorism.
While traveling in Europe I have watched Al-Jazeera news, where in some countries it is the only English-language station on cable. It provided excellent coverage of world events often not covered by U.S. TV news. Most of its broadcasters were American, Canadian or British.
The American public needs to stand up for freedom of information and to react against corporate decisionmakers who seek to restrict our view of the world.
Karen Knop, St. Pete Beach
Boehner survives House dissent | Jan. 4
The second paragraph of this article says, "Outwardly the day had a festive air as children were allowed to sit in House members' seats."
What's the big deal? We've had children sitting in House members' seats for the last six years.
Alfred T. Barnard, Beverly Hills