As members of Physicians for Social Responsibility, we are increasingly concerned by the debate on the "fiscal cliff." We know that if our country fails to reach a compromise before the end of the year, we face a situation where a hatchet may be taken to life-saving programs that prevent diseases, help keep people off the streets, and provide health care to our elderly and poor. We need a patient hand and a sharp scalpel to make the type of responsible and meaningful cuts to our federal budget to preserve our common future.
Our country is spending more money on war and defense than it has since World War II. This is not sustainable and it reflects Congress' desire to fund pet projects more than any reasonable assessment of our national security requirements. Even as our security challenges have changed, Congress continues to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on Cold War-era programs. That war is over. According to a study by the Ploughshares Fund, the United States will spend $640 billion on maintaining our bloated nuclear arsenal over the next 10 years.
This month, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., released a letter signed by 45 congressional leaders outlining cuts that could save our nation much-needed money by reducing our nuclear arsenal along with our Cold War baggage.
More spending discipline is needed in Congress, and we need a clearer definition of the Pentagon's mission. As retired Gen. James Cartwright wrote recently, "The world has changed, but our current arsenal carries the baggage of the Cold War."
Our current arsenal has over 5,000 warheads as of 2010. National security experts have long argued that spending billions to maintain an arsenal of that size is counterproductive and that the United States could maintain an effective deterrent with around 300 nuclear devices. While nuclear weapons are not the only place Congress can find savings from the Pentagon budget to pay down the debt, it should be one of the highest priorities for our elected officials in Florida.
Lynn Ringenberg, M.D., Tampa
Jefry Biehler, M.D., Miami
Lonnie Draper, M.D., Tallahassee
Rani Gereige, M.D., Miami
Todd L. Sack, M.D., Jacksonville
Ron Saff, M.D., Tallahassee
The elephant in the room is the defense budget. We have a Cold War defense without a Cold War enemy. Cut defense spending over 10 years and reform the tax code and we're back to a balanced budget.
Get our soldiers out of Germany and Japan and Afghanistan and focus on undermining the terrorist threat. We've got enough bombs and submarines and aircraft carriers and jet fighters. Our "leaders" are afraid of cutting defense because of the power of the military/industrial complex, and the issue of how to employ in America all those soldiers on standby overseas.
Mike Ahrens, Tampa
Marooned in Tampa | Dec. 12, commentary
Buses worked fine for me
Fabio DeSousa is way off base.
I was recently without a vehicle for six months. In that time, I discovered that both PSTA (Pinellas) and HART (Hillsborough) kept promptly to bus schedules.
I had no problem traversing both sides of the bay area on express buses for only $3. I traveled to the beaches, Bucs games, work, doctor appointments, etc. There were no worries with parking, and in fact I lost over 30 pounds with the increase in walking to and fro after exiting buses. Also, there are discount fares for seniors, students and the handicapped.
Sure, driving is easier (and far more expensive), but I never felt "marooned."
Ted Wolfe, St. Petersburg
Sprawl isn't a strategy
Nearly every Florida citizen without a car is marooned. This is the result of the state's century-long addiction to car-centric sprawl. It continues apace, as developers throw carloads of money at politicians.
The car capital of the world, Los Angeles, now has what is rated as one of the best public transportation systems in the nation, right up there with New York City. California policymakers realized decades ago that there is no way enough roads could be built to solve single-occupant-car freeway gridlock.
This state will remain in the transportation doldrums until Floridians elect policymakers who have the vision to lead us out of the sprawl development quagmire.
Mike MacDonald, Clearwater
In Scott vs. Crist, whom will voters forgive? Dec. 12, Sue Carlton column
Image and reality
Fortunately, there are two years between now and the election for governor, plenty of time for voters to do a better tally of Rick Scott's agenda and impact than Sue Carlton gives us. Voter restrictions are but the latest in a string of ultra-right moves the governor has made, paling beside his first-year cuts to education, efforts to privatize everything from prisons to auto licenses, waffling over the Affordable Care Act, and canceling the light-rail project. No amount of "image-remaking" can gloss over those.
Stephen E. Phillips, St. Petersburg
Citizens proposed loan program comes under fire | Dec. 5
I received notification this week from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. that my homeowner's insurance had been assumed by another company with an address in Tallahassee and a local office in St. Petersburg. There were no local phone numbers.
In doing some research on this company, I found that it filed with the state of Florida to do business in August 2012. What kind of assurance do we, the consumers, have that any claims could or would be paid out by such a new company? What kind of capital do they have to protect policyholders for a catastrophe or even just a simple claim?
I visited their website and did not find anything that would give me any further assurance about my policy assumption. I did find an "opt out" letter in their FAQ section, which I am processing.
We, as consumers, need to do diligent research before accepting blindly the policy assumptions being passed on to us by Citizens.
Carol Hess, St. Petersburg
Lie of the year | Dec. 12
Tax lies trump Romney's
If you think the Mitt Romney lie regarding Chrysler and China is the biggest lie of the year, you have proven your liberal bias. The collective lies from the left regarding the fairness of the tax code, specifically that the wealthy don't pay their fair share, is the lie that has perpetuated a continuous stream of lies from the left.
Steve Stanford, Tampa
Painful truths on the way
The most appropriate "Lie of the Year" would be someone stating that your newspaper is not a shill for the left.
People voting to call a lie the truthful statement by Rush Limbaugh — that the Obamacare tax load is the most onerous in history — because he sometimes distorts the truth are just the type of woefully uninformed people who thus far have kept your paper afloat. The tax truths of Obamacare are starting to unfold and they will keep on coming as we move into 2013 and 214.
Jack Kuechler, Safety Harbor
Chiefs award hefty raises | Dec. 12
Voters are to blame
For the life of me, I cannot fathom what Florida's legislative leaders are thinking. The working poor and middle class are floundering financially, while Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford are handing out substantial pay increases to their staff.
Until we step up to the plate and take responsibility for this behavior by our elected officials in Tallahassee, nothing will change. The folks of Florida will have no one but themselves to blame.
Christopher Jonathan Gerber, St. Petersburg
Close the loopholes
Both parties are ignoring corporations that squirrel away tax dollars in overseas tax havens. For example, Google avoided about $2.2 billion in worldwide income taxes in 2011 by shifting $9.8 billion in revenues to a Bermuda company.
We are talking big tax dollars here, and yet I don't recall hearing anything from either party about closing these loopholes.
William R. Dubin, Hernando Beach