This editorial praises a biased report by Sen. Tom Harkin vilifying private sector colleges and universities.
Projections suggest our country needs an additional 20 million workers with postsecondary education skills in this decade. Private sector colleges and universities are essential to meeting this demand by educating 3.8 million students with the necessary skills and training to immediately enter the workforce.
In the 2009-10 academic year, the 225 private sector colleges and universities in Florida educated 311,799 students and employed 22,817 staff. These students represented 19 percent of the 1,615,162 students enrolled in Florida's 373 postsecondary institutions.
Rather than leading a bipartisan charge to improve all of higher education and meet the demands on the workforce, Harkin continues his attacks on our schools by releasing a report that focuses on ideology over reality to make a case for more laws and regulations.
We can all work together to address the systemic challenges facing the higher education system. Let's start by recognizing that there are good and bad schools in all elements of higher education. Then, let's accept that state regulators, accrediting agencies and the federal government already have significant authority to deal with any problem schools.
We need to start working together in ways that can provide access, outcomes and opportunity for all students in an era of deficit reduction. To do that, we must put ideological divisions behind us.
Steve Gunderson, president and CEO, Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, Washington
Loughner pleads guilty | Aug. 8
An impractical solution
We seem to be in a pattern of giving extremely heinous criminals, terrorists and the new spate of mass murderers life in prison. California records that as of 2011 it spends a minimum of $50,000 a year per prisoner. High-profile prisoners cost more. Many are in their 20s, so the taxpayers will support them for possibly another 60 years, costing millions of dollars per person. We must provide housing, clothing, food, guards, and the big one, state-of-the-art medical care. Rhode Island workers and Medicaid recently paid $1 million for a liver transplant for a prisoner.
Jared Loughner will require extensive psychiatric treatment and drugs that many of those paying the bills can't get. I reject life without parole as the most practical solution for those who took so many lives and caused so much pain.
Lynn O'Keefe, Largo
Salve your conscience with a faux Chick-fil-A | Aug. 8
Side of politics with that entree
This was an interesting article on making a faux Chick-fil-A sandwich for friends who won't eat at the restaurant because of the owner's view on gay marriage. At the end of the article, Tampa Bay Times staff writer Stephanie Hayes said her friends bypassed Chick-fil-A and ate at a diner instead. Did they question the owner about what organizations he donates to before they ordered? They might not agree with his personal selection.
Maybe someone can come up with a quick questionnaire that we could hand to the owners of all establishments that can notify us where their contributions will be going. After all, I want my money going to groups that I personally agree with.
Linda Lewis, Clearwater
Keep politics out
It is bad enough that your sports pages, especially during John Romano's tenure, regularly served as a "forum" for leftist political "satire." Now Stephanie Hayes politicizes the Taste section. Why not leave the editorials on the editorial page, where we can avoid them easily?
Dr. Edward Strickland, Palm Harbor
Just how low will they go?
Judging by the latest ads by the Democratic Party — linking Mitt Romney to the death of a steelworker's wife — it appears that when Nancy Pelosi was "draining the swamp" she left some slime in the bottom.
Republican, Democrat, independent or anything else — one has to be appalled by the degree to which this race has degenerated. The next question, unfortunately, is: Just how low will they go?
Michael P. Catalano, Palm Harbor
Tracing back tax dollars
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
President Barack Obama's now infamous remark — "you didn't build that business" — has caused a furor.
What our president didn't acknowledge is that the roads and bridges that he mentioned were built with the tax money collected from the profits, sales taxes and income taxes generated from some person who risked his money to start a business.
How can so many people think otherwise?
Joe Frank, Sun City Center
Carry the torch forward
As the 2012 Olympics come to a close, with their great spirit of dedication, sportsmanship, hard work and fairness, can we now transfer that same spirit into our 2012 elections?
Can we ask each campaign and candidate to run his or her election effort with a spirit of fair play? Can we ask them to run on their individual merits and accomplishments, and the programs they endorse? Can we ask them to eliminate negative ads and comments about their opponents, and allow voters to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate before voting?
In the true spirit of the Olympics, let's commit to "carry the torch forward." We need this spirit now more than ever before.
Kenneth Webster, Palm Harbor
Romney tax plan is good for middle class Aug. 8, letter
Middle class paying less
Has President Barack Obama "raised taxes on the middle class," as the Mitt Romney campaign's director of policy, Lanhee Chen, claims in this letter? Or has Obama actually cut taxes for middle-class Americans, as PolitiFact has previously confirmed?
Let's look at the record to see which assertion is more correct:
In 2009, the federal excise tax on tobacco products was increased. The 80 percent of adult Americans who do not smoke were not affected by this tax. A 10 percent tax was levied on indoor tanning service users in 2010. Again, the vast majority of middle-class families were not affected. And the marginally higher Medicare taxes that families making more than $250,000 must pay beginning in 2013 impacts only incomes in the top 2 percent.
Now let's look at the taxes Obama has cut. The stimulus bill passed in 2009 gave tax credits of up to $400 for working individuals and up to $800 for married taxpayers filing joint returns in 2009 and 2010.
In 2010, payroll taxes for working Americans were lowered by 2 percentage points, a tax reduction that was extended through the end of this year.
As a result, the effective tax rate that the average middle-class family paid in 2011 was lower than the rate they paid in 2008, a fact that PolitiFact has confirmed.
When the evidence is fairly weighed, the verdict is quite clear: Obama has not raised taxes on the middle class as the Romney campaign asserts. He has lowered them.
Hal Alterman, Clearwater
It can be done, if we try
This defeatist attitude that America cannot provide a health insurance plan, whether private or public, for all its citizens, our greatest asset, is nonsense. Where has the can-do spirit of Americans gone?
In the latter part of the 1800s, as railroads expanded across the country, the call went out for safer trains, particularly in the braking systems. At that time men were required to go from car to car across the roofs of the freight cars applying hand brakes. The railroad managements refused to incorporate safety brakes as invented by Westinghouse. To lose a man to death or injury cost only pennies for a replacement. Safety devices cost a lot more.
Eventually Congress stepped in and mandated safety. Guess what. Management found that the bottom line increased through the increased efficiency of its workforce.
John G. Bassett, St. Petersburg