Like it or not, AARP is running the country | Feb. 21
Elderly not culprits in budget crisis
Robert J. Samuelson attributes almost mythic powers to AARP in this column. What is of concern is his notion that older Americans don't care about our nation's fiscal problems. Our polls and countless conversations show they care deeply. But they and all Americans also deserve a debate on how to improve the health and financial security of ordinary Americans, not just one focused on budget bottom lines.
Samuelson needs to remember this is about real people, not budget numbers. Social Security and Medicare keep millions out of poverty, enable them to see their doctors, pay for prescriptions and afford heating bills in the winter. One out of three retiree households, aged 65 or older, rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
AARP will continue to work with political leaders of both parties to focus a national dialogue on the health and retirement security needs of current and future generations.
Samuelson fails to mention that a key culprit driving future government deficits is the relentless rise of costs throughout our overall health care system — not the number of seniors or the nature of their benefits. Unless our society can agree on ways to contain health care costs, while also protecting quality and access to care, any clampdown on Medicare or Medicaid will only shift costs or cause suffering.
W. Lee Hammond, president, AARP, Washington
Fund land-buying program
It is great news to hear Gov. Rick Scott say he isn't supporting a drastic budget proposal that would shut down 53 state parks. He told reporters: "We've got great parks, and we've got to make sure we preserve them and take care of them."
The governor is right. We are so lucky that our leaders have been wise enough to fund state conservation land-buying over the years, so that people come here, spend money and provide us with jobs.
Sadly, Scott's budget proposal includes no funding for the program responsible for these great public lands — the Florida Forever conservation land-buying initiative. It is now up to the Legislature to fund Florida Forever in this year's state budget, and it is up to every Floridian to let lawmakers know how much we support this successful program.
It makes little sense to cut Florida Forever funding now, when the real estate slump means that some rare bargains are available (for a change) to make our tax dollars go further.
Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Florida have an overall economic impact of a whopping $11.6 billion and generate more than 140,000 Florida jobs. For every 1,000 people attending a state park, the total direct impact on the local community is more than $43,000.
Public land is one of the wisest investments that government can make for taxpayers. Take a minute to visit supportfloridaforever.org and learn how you can let local leaders, state lawmakers and the governor know how much you value our Florida Forever conservation land-buying program.
Eric Draper, executive director, Audubon of Florida, Tallahassee
When will we act?
How much longer will America and its allies stand by and watch the slaughter of the Libyan people? At what point does it become a moral imperative that we take action? Is it 1,000 dead? We've already seen that. Five thousand? Or do we continue to sit on our hands as the "civilized world" did during the Rwandan genocide, where the numbers reached 800,000 dead?
Roland Medeiros-Pruitt, Brooksville
Recent letters to the editor concerning Gov. Rick Scott, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former President George W. Bush have reached a truly ridiculous level of accusation, hyperbole and falsehoods.
Scott has been in office two months. Two months! And yet the dogs are already howling at the door. I don't see this same level of concern at the fact that Barack Obama has engineered the worst economic recovery from recession in modern history. The issue is no longer George Bush or how we got here. The fact is that Obama has produced a jobless recovery.
The lies about Scott Walker are even worse. Walker isn't practicing "class warfare" or trying to end unions in this country. He's doing what he promised to do — bring sanity back to state government. Public employee unions own many Northern state governments and have for years. Walker isn't trying to "break the unions," he's trying to make them accountable.
Jay Johnson, St. Petersburg
The continued propaganda that the public is subjected to about teachers working for low pay is tiresome.
Teachers are paid for 185 days of working six-hour days. Even at a starting salary, the amount earned is comparable to other salaries that also require a degree, eight or more hours at work, and more than 185 days on the job.
Other professionals work 50 to 51 weeks of the year to get a week or two of vacation. Many also must maintain credentials through continuing education.
What makes teachers so special that they obtain college degrees, get certified, continue to go to school, and expect rewards just because they do? Other people do the same and don't expect their salaries to increase as much as teachers.
Besides, teachers are able to supplement their incomes because they are contracted to work only 185 days. That leaves another 180 days to work at another job.
Elvina L. Bergmann, St. Pete Beach
Study: Too many breast biopsies are surgical Feb. 19
Weigh risks, benefits
Recently, the media has shed light on an important issue facing women who receive abnormal mammograms: whether or not to have a surgical or a needle biopsy to determine if their tumor is cancerous.
As a physician who specializes in pathology, I diagnose breast cancer and other diseases. I know how frightening it can be for a woman who is faced with an abnormal mammogram result. Her first thought may be, "I want this out of my body," which may lead her to pursue a surgical biopsy.
Pathologists can accurately assess most diagnostic features on core biopsies. In some cases, however, the imaging findings may indicate that a surgical biopsy is preferable to core needle biopsy. As a pathologist, I encourage patients faced with this decision to weigh the benefits and risks associated with both procedures.
Whether a woman receives a core needle or surgical biopsy, patients benefit most when pathologists and other physicians come together to discuss the clinical, imaging and biopsy findings to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. This multidisciplinary approach leads to better outcomes for all patients.
Nicole D. Riddle, M.D., Tampa