The cult of balance | July 31, commentary
Courage needed to do right thing
Paul Krugman is right when he says that "wisdom does not necessarily reside in the middle of the road." Like Krugman, I want leaders who have the courage to do the right thing, not the centrist thing. Sadly, that kind of courage appears lacking in the face of unprecedented pressure from the tea party extremists.
The zealots have managed to hijack the Republican Party with clever rhetoric about fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, yet how fiscally responsible is a budget that would leave intact huge tax breaks for the very wealthiest? How moral is the same budget that would slash vital services and benefits for the neediest among us?
The real motive behind the whole tea party movement, with its demand for cut, cap and balance, is not the good of the country but to destroy the Obama presidency, followed by the entire New Deal and Great Society legacy, including Social Security, the minimum wage, environmental and safety regulations, Medicaid and Medicare.
Opinion polls show that the vast majority of ordinary Americans oppose the tea party vision, which is both bad fiscal policy and antithetical to our traditional values of compassion and community. Yet every time there is a compromise, it appears it is the White House and the Democratic leadership that are doing the compromising. It is high time our Democratic leaders find some spine and stop being intimidated by a small but noisy band of extremists.
Diana Legg, Tampa
PIP ensures all drivers are covered for health costs
Recent articles have focused on personal injury protection fraud in the auto insurance arena causing higher insurance rates for Florida drivers. Although fraud is a problem that needs to be addressed, many drivers in this state do not have adequate health insurance, and the PIP requirement is the only way for them to get treatment if an injury occurs. If this coverage is not required, then the taxpayers will bear the burden.
Big auto insurance companies play both sides of the fence by crying each year how much money they are losing while posting millions of dollars in profit. Each year they spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, and now they want us to believe they are going broke.
Florida is one of the most dangerous places in the country to drive. Our roads have the perfect storm of tourists, snowbirds and urban congestion. Do not let the insurance companies increase their profits at the detriment of our citizens. With the number of people losing their health insurance benefits, we need to make sure that every driver in Florida is required to carry some type of health insurance for themselves and others.
Dr. Marc J. Rogers, Largo
Charge those at fault
The recent article and letters about huge price increases in sinkhole insurance did not help at all.
It would help if the Legislature taxed the cause of sinkholes — pumping ground water in affected counties — and dedicated the revenue to repairing the damage caused. This would reduce such pumping and reduce the costs to insurers, thus allowing rates to fall.
Is this too logical for our politicians to understand or for the newspaper to advocate?
Rolf H. Parta, Bradenton
It's the elderly, stupid | Aug. 1, commentary
We've paid our share
Robert Samuelson, in his half-page rant against Social Security and other benefit programs, somehow fails to acknowledge contributions that millions of us have made through payroll taxes, some of us for 50 years or more.
I suspect he is aware that Social Security has never contributed to the federal deficit. He ignores that point, though, and turns the discussion to percentage of federal outlays. It seems to me that is irrelevant if Social Security is being funded by the payroll tax trust fund and interest earned on that trust fund.
Let's start by taking Social Security out of the federal budget discussion, then look at how to ensure that it remains viable for future generations.
Jim Becker, Lutz
Fine-tune the programs
I understand that Robert Samuelson is trying to emphasize that the biggest government expenditures are Medicare, Social Security and defense (which he left out). But to imply that the elderly on Social Security and Medicare are to blame for our government's present financial problems is out of bounds. We did what our government asked us to do for all of our working lives — contributed to both programs in the amount required of us (in my case for 50 years). All we ask now is for the government to do for us what was promised.
The elderly also understand that both programs are in trouble. This has been ignored for years. It is time for our present leadership to do some fine-tuning to these programs, as neither need to be "gutted" as claimed frequently by those trying to put fear in the populace.
Finally, it is time to quit blaming the old folks!
Charles Lambert, Palm Harbor
Rising to the education challenge | Aug. 1, editorial
'Reform' is anything but
I just returned from Washington, D.C., and the Save our Schools March and National Call to Action, where thousands of teachers, parents, students and citizens from across the nation gathered to organize against the current assault on public education in the name of "reform."
As the effects of the federal No Child Left Behind Law have rippled across the nation, many grass roots organizations have risen up in protest. Of course, we Floridians have been dealing with this for over a decade. Heavy-handed policies that take away local control, emphasize high-stakes tests, vouchers, charter schools and other schemes that hurt public schools have become almost normal here.
Your praise of "innovators, such as Hillsborough's MaryEllen Elia" and Board of Education member Roberto Martinez, is a good example, even though both of these leaders are perfect examples of the hypocrisy of those in charge of education today. Neither shows respect for teachers and both are happy to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on yet more standardized tests, instead of other meaningful ways to help teachers and students.
Sarah Robinson, Safety Harbor