Arguments among Democrats, Republicans, tea party experts, progressives and a host of other political theorist groups often deal with the irksome problem: What can be done for/with the poor? And, predictably, the answers reflect the particular dogma of whatever group in which the speaker is involved.
From some, the charge of "redistribution" of wealth to the poor — those who did not work for the gains experienced by the top portion of our society — is hurled as if the barbarians were at the gate of plenty, ready to hack their way into the 1 percent land of the very rich without any justification at all.
Is there an answer that might satisfy all groups? Perhaps not, but maybe we can at least determine what we ought to be discussing.
The philosopher John Rawls asked that we draw a "veil of ignorance" between us and the real world on the other side. And then he asked that each person on this side of the curtain draw up a social contract, not knowing what he or she would "be" when the veil was lifted. Rich, poor, middle class, woman, man, black, white, skinny, fat — make a list.
Given this scenario, is it not possible to think that each person, while trying to be fair and just when setting up the rules of society, would take every precaution to make sure that all possible fairness and justice should be true for everyone once the curtain was lifted?
Rawls knew that there will always be some people who achieve more than others. But he was also suggesting that a moral view of the world dictates that as some succeed there is an obligation on their part to be fair to all others.
I remember asking my introduction to philosophy high school class of seniors 30 years ago what their future plans included. The majority said success at any cost: "It's the way of the world." There were a few in those classes who seemed to understand the fairness of an obligation to do justice to all groups — not by handouts, but by ensuring a better way of life in some fashion.
The discussion today among the various groups should be how to improve the lot of those less fortunate. That is a just, moral, and fair goal to achieve.
Calvin Branche, Hudson
TV ads defend trauma units | Jan. 19
Competition and care
This article was disappointing and slanted in perspective. The 60 Plus ad campaign supporting access to quality trauma care is underpinned by our quarter-million donors and supporters who support our free-market principles to create greater choice and access to medical care for Florida's seniors and their families.
The article portrays the hospitals opposing access to care as the definitive authority on how best to provide quality trauma care, neglecting to mention that these hospitals want to shutter the doors to competing trauma care units in Marion, Manatee, and Pasco counties for one reason only: to protect their financial self-interest.
The purpose of our ads is very clear: As a seniors organization with over 800,000 supporters in the Sunshine State, we saw an urgent need to inform and educate the public that they stand to lose life-saving trauma care due to the self-interested actions of Tampa General, Shands UF, Bayfront and St. Joseph's. On Christmas Eve, these hospitals quietly colluded to file legal motions asking Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal to "shut down" four trauma centers that are providing desperately needed life-saving trauma care.
Eliminating competition is not what's best for seniors or the general public who have an urgent need for greater access to trauma care. As the head of an organization long committed to patient choice and free competition, I encourage all stakeholders in my home state of Florida to come together and work toward improving a trauma system that not only meets market demands, but works collaboratively to save lives.
Jim Martin, chairman, 60 Plus Association, Alexandria, Va.
Pictures vs. abortions | Jan. 10, commentary
Words of choice
I was struck in reading Katy Waldman's article by her choice of words to express her not-so-subtle disdain of the use of ultrasound offered to women seeking abortions — first off, using "anti-choicers" rather than "pro-lifers," then the dehumanizing words "bean" and "fetus."
As for the "sliver" of abortions prevented by a mother seeing her baby in the ultrasound, we who acknowledge our selfish, sinful natures rejoice for the lives spared, however few.
Carol Quandt, Dade City
GOP's new fight: poverty | Jan. 9
First step: Accept money
In a recent speech expressing his ideas for combating poverty, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio proposed turning U.S. government antipoverty programs and the money spent on them over to the states.
Considering the state of Florida continues to turn down $51 billion to pay for Medicaid expansion, how does the senator plan to get the states to take the money to help their poor?
Joe Whetstone, Valrico
Moving at the speed of failure | Jan. 12
Back to the basics
Every time I read about our failing Florida schools, I think about my mother's elementary education in the 1920s and 1930s.
School was a one-room building with a potbellied stove in the center that the boys would have to stoke during the frigid New York winter. One teacher taught first through sixth grades. The students could read, handle appropriate math for the grade, knew history and geography, practiced handwriting and could spell.
Education today consists of instructing students to achieve suitable grades on state tests. As a result, reading skills lag, math is relegated to the use of calculators, history and geography are altogether absent, and handwriting and spelling are computer exercises corrected by spell check.
The wheel has been reinvented to the extent that it no longer goes around.
David Beck, Safety Harbor
98 changes to Common Core proposed Jan. 14
More power to Florida's education commissioner, Pam Stewart, for taking on the task of including the mastery of cursive writing in Common Core.
The ability to write in cursive, and to print legibly, should be an intrinsic part of students' education. Without this knowledge, how will future citizens sign their name when their signature is required — with an X?
The lack of the skill in reading and writing in cursive amounts to the dumbing down of America.
Victoria Contos, Tampa
Transit tax foes launch campaign | Jan. 22
For a better quality of life
I have lived in or visited many cities in my almost 80 years. And all the ones I could get around the easiest had one thing in common: They had excellent public transit systems, and the best had rail transit systems, either streetcars or light rail. This improved the lives of many, including younger residents who wanted to get to work, parks, entertainment, etc.
It makes me sorry for the greedy ones in my age group who want the younger generation to fund their Medicare but who don't want to share in the quality of life of the younger generation.
In reading some of the comments of the critics, I have to assume they would like us all to go back to walking on dusty trails, hunting for our food every day, and living to the ripe old age of 35.
John Bassett, St. Petersburg
Don't hold up progress
Once again, those who cannot envision the future want to bring progress to a halt. It's just about a guarantee that the same thing happened in New York City over 100 years ago. Forward-thinking visionaries wanted to put trains underground, knowing that it would be hugely important for future generations. Of course, those who think about a week ahead thought it was ridiculous and countered with something like: "What? Trains underground? We have plenty of horses and carriages and this new thing the called the 'automobile.' More streets will do it."
We don't need a 16-lane Howard Frankland Bridge or a 14-lane U.S. 19. We need to think much "bigger" and do something for our kids and grandkids that will provide them with a positive legacy.
Scott Stewart, St. Petersburg
On wealth, mind the gap | Jan. 22, commentary
Where do I sign up?
So two-thirds of all Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in this country. "Distribute," according Webster's, means to give something out to a number of people. Will someone please tell me where that line forms so I can jump in and get my share?
John Waitman, Palm Harbor
The federal government can find a way to come up with $67.8 billion to prop up AIG — a greedy, mismanaged international insurance company — but wants to hold taxpaying citizens solely responsible for a comparatively small $24 billion shortfall in the flood insurance program that is not of their own making. What's wrong with this picture?
Charles Scoggins, St. Petersburg