Saturday, March 24, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Third-rail ride of Social Security needs long-term fix

For decades, politicians have referred to Social Security as the third rail of politics; tinkering with it meant committing political suicide. Now I'm not a politician, so I'm in no danger of losing votes that could cost me an election.

However, I am in danger of losing the respect of my 16 grandchildren if I don't speak out about the so called "third rail," and losing their respect would make losing an election pale in comparison.

I've not only touched the third rail, and survived but I'm riding on it daily.

A few years ago I was issued my boarding pass as a result of a lifetime of pre-purchasing my ticket through something that showed up on my paycheck as an OASDI deduction. Right across the top of my boarding pass in bold letters was "I'm entitled," and now I can go anytime, anywhere the third rail goes — no more tolls, no pat downs, no electronic screening, no waiting,

When I do decide to disembark, say at a local diner, my boarding pass even gets me a meal deal. Wow, this really is All About Retired People; isn't it?

Now our children and grandchildren aren't eligible for this third-rail ride just yet, but they do participate by funding the boarding pass program, and like everything else, the boarding pass price has increased significantly. For example, a 1960 retiree's boarding pass fee was only 1.6 percent of their working lifetime wage; for a 1980 retiree, it was 5.15 percent; a 2000 retiree, 9.66 percent. For those just entering the boarding pass program in 2010, the fee was 12.4 percent of their annual wages. Do you see a trend here?

Here is why this had to happen. Baby boomers were pre-purchasing their boarding passes, and politicians were concerned the third rail would overload; you know, be operating in the red. So they introduced a new super-funding fee for the third-rail program in 1983. This new super fee was hailed as a plan to ensure boarding pass funding for the next 75 years. Not knowing the full story, working Americans applauded, saying Congress and the president demonstrated great political courage.

Now less than 30 years later, we're beginning to sense the wheels could be coming off. In fact, some even suggest the 1983 super fee program wasn't an act of political courage at all. They say it was a virtual-world political dream that's morphing into a real-world economic nightmare. If that's the case, maybe we should slow down this third-rail ride, catch our collective breath, and open a dialogue with those who are funding our ride. Failure to do so may leave us holding a boarding pass with nowhere to go.

God forbid I should have to get out there on that old dirt road and hitchhike a ride. After riding the third rail, hitchhiking would just put a crimp in my style, after all I have an "I'm entitled" boarding pass that entitles me to ride the third rail anytime anywhere. Need I remind you again: It's All About Retired People, isn't it?

Don't think your elected officials are going to wave their magic wand and fix it anytime soon. They're too scared to even touch it; after all, it is the third rail.

So my best advice is, get involved before the wheels come off and our third-rail ride is over.

Jim Gries lives in Weeki Wachee.


Monday’s letters: Driverless cars on perilous roads

Driverless cautions | March 23, commentaryDriverless carson perilous roadsHaving watched the video of the tragedy in Tempe, Ariz., I believe the police are correct. This accident could not have been avoided as the pedestrian stepped out of the sh...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Friday’s letters: Think through assault weapons ban

Gun controlThink through assault rifle banI recently emailed a Florida state representative who had pledged, among other things, to ban assault rifles in the state. I asked him if he would ban the sale and transfer of these guns or ultimately make th...
Published: 03/22/18

Saturday’s letters: Tax guns to pay for security

Million-dollar questions | March 21Tax firearms to pay for securitySo public officials are wondering where they’ll get the money for stationing an armed guard in every school. How about heavily taxing every gun? It’s the proliferation of the weap...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Thursday’s letters: School safety requires funding

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Published: 03/21/18

Wednesday’s letters: Let the teachers decide on guns

Trump touts arming staff as key in plan for school security | March 12It’s the teacher’s call on weaponsPlease, let’s try an alternate view about guns in the classroom. First, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the preponderance of letters about guns ...
Published: 03/20/18

Pasco Letters to the Editor for March 23

Re: Residents object to solar farm | March 16, storyLakeland Electric has shown that residential customers can be incentivized to allow placement of utility-owned solar panels on their roofs. Likewise, business owners can be incentivized to allow...
Published: 03/19/18

Tuesday’s letters: It shouldn’t be this hard to fly

Tampa International AirportIt shouldn’t be this hard to flyI’ve given the train two tries now from economy parking at Tampa airport. It’s a lot of work. How silly to go down one bank of elevators, then take a good walk to the next set of elevators to...
Published: 03/19/18

Monday’s letters: Protect Floridians’ right to privacy

People push for changes at Constitution hearing | March 14Protect Florida’s right to privacyI attended the Constitution Revision Commission’s public hearing at USF St. Petersburg last week. I was there because I thought it was important to have m...
Published: 03/18/18

Sunday’s letters: Effort to stem pet cruelty pays off

Puppy millsEffort to stem cruelty pays offThank you to everyone who contacted their legislators, and a huge shout-out to the Tampa Bay Times for letting us know that state legislators were considering a bill to eliminate the hard-achieved gains on lo...
Published: 03/17/18

Saturday’s letters: Insurer focused on repairs, not fees

Citizens hit with $12.7M verdict | March 15Insurer’s focus: repairs, not feesCitizens Property Insurance Corp. has spent the past several years making sure that insurance proceeds for sinkhole repairs are used to restore a home and make it whole....
Published: 03/16/18