When I hear a newscaster repeat the line about Warren Buffett's secretary paying a higher percentage of federal taxes than Buffett does, I think either the broadcaster doesn't understand our federal tax system, or else he does but thinks it is more sensational and inflammatory to state untruths.
Buffett paid 35 percent taxes on his earned income, and then he invested the earned money, and either earned capital gains or dividends, which are taxed at 15 percent. His secretary is paying earned income taxes, which are from zero to 35 percent.
I was appalled to hear the president of the United States, in the State of the Union address, characterize these facts in a misleading way.
Kris Nielsen, Clearwater
Retirees left out
Where is your "fair shot" for retirees, Mr. President? None of your proposals and actions to date have helped seniors cope with the high cost of gasoline, food and clothing, insurance, medication and other items seniors need to merely survive.
Your policies, which allow the Federal Reserve to print more money to lend to banks at no interest, lets banks offer low-interest loans but hurts seniors by severely reducing earnings on savings and buying power.
A nation is judged by how it cares for its old and young.
Richard Golden, San Antonio
Rivals pounce on pay, taxes | Jan. 25
Although no allegations of wrongdoing were quoted, the tenor of this article and many others that appear in the popular press seems to be that if you work hard, become a success and pay all your taxes as prescribed by law, that you are somehow cheating the poor out of something that is owed to them.
Then, on the sports page of the same issue, a pitcher for San Francisco Giants is awarded a $40.5 million contract to play a kids' game for two years and he is held up as a star and an icon. We pay movie stars millions to pretend to fight wars on the screen while we send our young people into war with real bullets at barely livable wages.
What has happened to our society? That is the real issue, and it seems to be lost in the babble of political rhetoric.
Jack Summers, Sun City Center
Matter of fairness
When someone makes $40 million in income over two years and pays taxes at a 15 percent rate, and I make a small fraction of that and pay at a 25 percent rate, something is wrong.
It is not envy but fairness that someone having a higher income than me should at least pay the same rate as I do. The additional $4 million dollars in taxes could be used to balance the budget, improve education or fix infrastructure.
Ronald Piencykoski, Clearwater
The candidates' tax returns | Jan. 25
Stingy toward charities
The main thing that strikes me about this comparison chart is the disparity on charitable donations. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama both contributed roughly 14 percent of their gross income to charity in 2010. In comparison, Newt Gingrich gave about 2.7 percent.
This "family values" man making over $3 million per year doesn't choose to make more than a token donation to charities. But at least Gingrich shows consistency of character — a man who has betrayed his office and multiple wives for his own self-interest would have no qualms about donating little to the less fortunate.
Linda Alex, Apollo Beach
Romney punches back | Jan. 24, editorial
Rolling the dice on Gingrich
This editorial should alert Florida voters to the fact that Newt Gingrich has accepted $10 million from Las Vegas casino executive Sheldon Adelson and his wife. They are disguising themselves under the super PAC Winning Our Future, which is flooding Florida with negative ads about Mitt Romney.
What do the Adelsons expect from Gingrich in return? Could it be that Gingrich will do his "influence-peddling" in Florida with the Florida Legislature to push for the acceptance of Las Vegas-style casinos?
I think the editors of the Tampa Bay Times are correct when they indicated that the Adelsons are looking for a much bigger prize with their $10 million. The voters are tired of dirty politics.
Betty Dobson, Brooksville
Pinellas is No. 49 on schools list | Jan. 24
Poverty, performance link
The Florida Department of Education's latest list, ranking the 67 school districts in Florida based solely on FCAT scores, has critics denouncing it as a "disservice." I'm not sure about that, but one thing is crystal clear: There is a direct relation between poverty and school performance. It is no coincidence that St. Johns County, with the lowest rate of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches, came in with the highest FCAT scores; while Madison County, with a high level of needy students, finished last.
Why are we afraid to address this issue? We need to stop blaming the teachers and the schools for the students' performance on FCAT and other standardized tests. While a good teacher can do a lot to help students learn, it is the home environment that is key. Until we figure out a way to make sure every child gets enough nutritional food to eat, enough quality rest, lots of intellectual stimulation at home and a sense of stability, we are going to see these unfortunate numbers. I don't know the answer, but I do know that we need to stop obsessing about test scores and school accountability, and start focusing on our society at large.
Jennie Renfrow Ibarguen, St. Petersburg
I would like to express my concern regarding the neglect of landscaping on Interstate 275. While driving from St. Petersburg to Tampa, I have noticed for several years the lack of upkeep of palm trees along the highway when approaching the Howard Frankland Bridge.
They are unsightly and have many years of dead, hanging palm fronds. If I were coming into the area from Tampa to St. Petersburg for the first time, I would not be impressed. To top off the eyesore that these palms have become, there have been new palms planted. To know that they will be neglected for several years to come is a real disgrace.
When I complained to officials, I was first told that Pinellas County has a "no trim" policy. Then I called back a few months later and was told they should be trimmed within three to six months. A year has gone by and the palms are still looking very sad.
Debbie Hogan, St. Petersburg
Ever more aware of the dangers | Jan. 22
Firepower isn't answer
This was a frustrating article for those of us saddened by the loss of the officers but rightfully troubled by the apparent desire of the St. Petersburg police department to hastily ramp up the potential for violence with unnecessary force.
All the officer deaths were the result of a gunshot from a common handgun. Yet the response from the department has been to stock up on a military-grade armored vehicle and allow freer access to combat assault rifles for officers. These weapons belong on the battlefield, not pointed at the citizens of the city. And they certainly have no place in everyday policing.
The two examples in the story — car theft and a citation for window tinting — are a good taste of how this heightened, heavily armed anxiety has no business in the policing of our streets.
It would be heartening to see stronger attempts at community outreach to accomplish the incredibly difficult role of policing the city. But stockpiling combat-grade hardware will achieve nothing but intensifying the potential for lethal confrontations. As Lt. Antonio Gilliam said himself, "Things can still go wrong. Just. Like. That."
Lane Baling, St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg pier
Make use of the water
A plan for the pier in St. Petersburg that I have not heard discussed would be to turn it into a ferry port that would shuttle passengers to and from the Channelside District in Tampa. Many waterfront cities utilize ferries — New York, Seattle, New Orleans, to name a few. This would make the space functional as well as a place to house shops and restaurants.
I would cross the bay much more frequently if I didn't have to face the horrible traffic on I-275 and parking issues, and I'm fairly certain many bay area residents share my feelings.
Lisa Spencer, St. Petersburg