2 panhandling plans on the table | June 17
Moral duty to help less fortunate
I was astounded to see that Tampa's City Council continues to seek ways of outlawing the asking for alms (a.k.a. the more pejorative term "panhandling"). I can't imagine why the council would seek to outlaw a practice that has been endorsed and practiced by Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed, the popes, Mother Teresa and other major religious and secular leaders and followers throughout history.
I belong to a church that provides "manna bags" with canned food, water, socks and other basics to people in need on the streets. This is a ministry, like others at churches and nonchurch organizations throughout Tampa, that is organized and supported by compassionate people who care about the less fortunate. Our efforts would be in vain if the council bans the asking and giving of alms. Many of the folks who rely on handouts simply cannot receive the support they need from cash-strapped nonprofits, shelters, etc., and would be left without their lifeline if the asking of alms is banned.
City Council members should remember their moral obligations and not let fear or other short-term, shortsighted concerns override their conscience.
Ed Cronyn, Tampa
AARP and Social Security
No need to cut benefits; Social Security will do fine
AARP says it's open to cuts in Social Security benefits. The reason is it wants to see the system "made solvent." First, the Social Security benefits paid out now are barely enough to get by on. The average retirement benefit is just under $1,200 a month. How many people can eat and pay the rent on that? What's to cut?
Second, the Social Security solvency issue is an accounting game played by those who want to see the program end. The Social Security program stands on its own and is financed by payroll taxes. And with just a little adjusting, it will be able to support the increase in retirees coming up. I would rather have my payroll taxes increase by a couple of dollars in my working years than to have to struggle to make ends meet in my retirement years.
Rick France, Ph.D., MPH, Tampa
The rise of selfishness
As a person old enough to remember some of World War II era, I am amazed by how the American psyche has evolved. I can remember people saving gum wrappers to provide aluminum for defense. There were other sacrifices in daily living, such as gas rationing, the suspension of new car manufacture, and shortages in some foods. Many of these sacrifices were made without a government mandate, done voluntarily by people concerned about their country and the threats against it.
Today we have different threats but a different response. We are concerned about dependence on foreign sources of energy, but when asked to simply change our lightbulbs to a more efficient system, members of Congress complain that that would be an assault on personal liberty. I would expect that the citizens of 1940, given this option, would have flocked to the store to make the conversion.
In education, the comparison of American students to those of the rest of the world confirms the difficulties we have. What do we do about this problem? We cut education budgets, lay off teachers in the name of fiscal austerity and claim that educating our children is just too expensive. All of this to avoid paying higher taxes. The adage that you get what you pay for is certainly appropriate. We are getting what we pay for — very little.
There are many other examples showing that a country that rose to the challenge of attempted world domination in 1940 with uncomplaining personal sacrifice and hard work is sadly a thing of the past. We have become a self-centered, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately generation.
We need a president who will tell the American people that if they want to remain the most influential and most admired country in the world, it will take sacrifice to make it so.
John Rowley, St. Petersburg
Group adapts to voting law while decrying it June 19
Turn the tables by voting
That Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Earl Lennard refused to comment on the new voter registration law actually speaks volumes. As Lennard noted, his job "is to get people to vote, to help them vote, to make it a convenience to vote."
But this law is intended to do just the opposite: discourage people (especially people most likely to vote for Democrats) from voting, and actively hinder them from voting by making it as inconvenient as possible.
"Voter fraud" is a red herring. The sponsors of this bill knew what they were doing and are fooling no one.
To all Floridians eligible to vote, I say: Voting is the foundation of all that America stands for. By doing all within their power to deny you your right to vote, the legislators who sponsored and voted for this law attacked your most fundamental right as an American.
Will you let that attack stand? You must not. You must register, even if it's inconvenient. You must vote, even if it's inconvenient. And above all, you must turn the tables on those who sought to deny you your right to vote by voting them all out of office.
Bill Hirschi, Ocala
Haridopolos gets club's claws | June 18
Ethics aren't left or right
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who recently spoke before the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa Bay, said afterwards that the questions left him thinking that the members were "a little left of center, or far left of center."
Since when is it "left of center" to inquire why Haridopolos received $152,000 to write a book that apparently has sold to only a handful of people, or to ask about his failure to disclose his finances on state ethics forms?
John Starkey, St. Petersburg
Manly men of yore | June 20, commentary
Decline and fall
Columnist Sara Lipton makes no attempt to draw a distinction between the "dizzying number of unfaithful men" cited in her opinion piece. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of being a rapist. The others, for the most part, had extramarital affairs. All are considered so-called alpha males.
Are there no successful men with drive, ambition and confidence capable of resisting the need for illicit sex? Must self-assurance be linked to unrestrained sexual behavior? Of course not.
The Roman Empire fell for many reasons, not the least of which was rampant sexual promiscuity and a general decline of morality by its leaders, alpha males.
James Paladino, Tampa