Don't cut nutrition aid for the needy
If you are one of the 48 million people, including 16 million children, who are food insecure (individuals who lack the resources to put food on the table), you should consider starting a sugar crop. Last week a Senate committee farm bill saved subsidies to sugar agribusinesses while cutting parts of a successful and vital program with only a 1 percent fraud rate. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides food assistance to more than 47 million individuals in 23 million low-income households. In 2011 alone, it lifted 4.7 million people above the poverty line.
The ease with which the farm bill passed out of committee, 15-5, with only one senator objecting due to SNAP cuts, should give us pause. We all stand on a precipice where natural, economic or medical events can cause our own food insecurity. In Florida, 62 percent of all SNAP recipients are families with children and 31 percent are families with elderly or disabled members.
Unfortunately, the economy does not show evidence of a complete recovery, and the impoverished seem to exist only on the periphery. According to the Washington Post, 1.65 million American households, including 3.55 million children, were living on less than $2 a day in 2011. This places them below the World Bank's poverty line for developing countries.
If we want a healthy, educated, prosperous nation, providing proper nutrition to the young is critical.
Both the Agriculture Committee chairwoman, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are hoping to limit amendments to get the farm bill passed by the full Senate.
Let's at least hope no amendments pass that include more cuts to SNAP.
Barbara Drake, Tampa
Homeowners get relief May 26, commentary
For the responsible, nothing
As one who voted for Pam Bondi, I was interested in reading her column on the financial relief now under way for distressed homeowners in our state. While I don't quarrel with this in principle, I still would like to know what about those of us who scraped through all this mess without putting ourselves in such distress? All of us who managed our affairs prudently and who didn't succumb to temptation knowing what we could and could not realistically afford?
This was every bit as stressful for us as for anybody else, so where is our reward? Let's start by replacing some or all of the value my Citrus County house has lost even if I didn't go underwater.
What about us? Another $9 billion should cover most or even all of it.
Richard E. Stanard, Homosassa Springs
TECO to buy N.M. company | May 29
Connecting the dots
I couldn't help but wonder if there was a direct correlation between the two TECO-related stories in the Times, one on the front page and one further back in the Business section.
In the front-page story, TECO announced its big plans to purchase a New Mexico gas company. TECO said it would pay for the deal with cash and sale of stock. Then in the Business section, the story is that TECO is asking for a rate hike requiring its average customer to pay an additional $10.41 a month. The stated reason for the hike is to offset costs and sluggish growth.
If TECO needs this revenue so badly, why is it spending a whopping $950 million to acquire a company in another state and assume their $200 million debt? It seems to me TECO is financing this deal on the backs of its customers who can ill afford it.
Deborah Green, Sun City Center
Court limits Trayvon Martin evidence May 29
Playing the race card
Of course the court would impede the cause of justice by excluding anything that would expose the "victim" as being a crime-prone thug. The court knows that prosecutors cannot get a conviction unless their "victim" appears to be the sweet altar boy type that Barack Obama described in his two cents' worth of comments at the beginning of the case.
George Zimmerman's only hope for a fair trial is for at least one person who reads the paper or watches the news to be seated on the jury. And should Zimmerman be acquitted, Attorney General Eric Holder and his gang will go after Zimmerman with a civil rights action in federal court. It is very difficult to trump the race card once it is played to the extreme.
Joseph Schlosser, Spring Hill
Prom dream ends in drama | May 21
I read the article on Caroline Byrnes and her mother, Diana, in the Times. As a retired assistant principal in Hillsborough County, I am surprised there haven't been more incidents like this published in the paper, because this or something similar to it happens every year.
Every school I have worked at has had this or a similar problem every year. Deadlines are not met and students and parents scream to make exceptions for their child. It may be prom, homecoming, graduation announcements and/or cap and gown or any other activity the school does with a deadline.
When you explain this, they can't understand why an exception can't be made for their children. And if you stick to your rules, you can bet your house they will go to a higher level in the system, be it an area director, assistant superintendent or even the superintendent.
Until parents stop becoming "helicopter" parents and let their kids fail due to their poor planning or poor decisionmaking, we will continue to have these kinds of problems in our schools. If the parents come to their kids' defense, then the kids will continue to do the same thing and hope daddy or mommy comes to their rescue. This happens not only with incidents like this, but with discipline as well.
And I love the mother's statement of "especially when she's such an outstanding student." Parents of these students feel their kids should get away with anything since they are good students. I had a parent tell me once that his child should never be disciplined because "he's in the International Baccalaureate program and he helps carry your school." Until school boards and superintendents put their foot down and support the principals of our schools, this will continue.
K.R. Lombardia, Tampa
Go after corporate welfare
It continues to amaze me that Congress has the audacity to make budget cuts involving those who don't have the resources and power to fight back. What courage.
For example, there are cuts in food stamps (children do better in school when they are not hungry), Meals on Wheels, senior programs, heath care for children, etc. These folks don't have the resources to pay lobbyists to fight back, and they are often ignored by elected officials. No one or any group should have to pay a lobbyist anyway if elected officials actually did the jobs they were elected to do.
I am for a balanced budget and would like to see the same zeal and aggressiveness with budget cuts in corporate welfare, excessive corporate tax breaks, subsidies for large corporate farms, banks, oil companies, etc.
Ross P. Alander, Tampa
Driver texting mostly banned May 29
Florida's law falls short
It isn't often that California gets anything right, but its laws against the use of cellphones or texting while driving are what we should be seeing in Florida. Our law, praised by the media but not law enforcement, is akin to "kissing your sister" when it comes to dealing seriously with a dangerous issue.
Compliance and enforcement of the new texting law is a joke and serves to appease only those who cannot live without courting vehicular disaster just to keep in touch. Sadly, it's not a laughing matter given the impact and prospect of future accidents and injuries. If someone must text or use their hand-held phone, pull off the road and stop so other drivers don't have to worry about being rear-ended by some distracted chatty Cathy.
H.A. Smith, Palm Harbor