White House, lawmakers tussle over contraception | Feb. 14
Republicans open can of worms
As someone old enough to remember the election of John F. Kennedy, I find it odd listening to Republicans defend the Catholic Church. When Kennedy was the Democratic nominee, Republicans screamed about how Kennedy would be taking his instructions from the pope in Rome and how his Catholicism would impact his policies should he become president. It sounds as though quite a few prominent Republicans are now taking their instructions from Rome.
I doubt the Republicans would be such great protectors of religious rights being infringed by our government if the beliefs were Muslim beliefs. Sharia law, anyone? Yes, we are a predominately Christian country, but those speaking so vociferously now should be careful about how far they want to champion religious organizations being able to circumvent U.S. law. If one group can do it, they all can.
Jan Forsch, Weeki Wachee
Mixed bag on mortgage assistance | Feb. 11
Ploy to buy votes
Taking personal responsibility might be a foreign concept to the Times, but the administration's proposal to bail out the banks and irresponsible borrowers is disgusting to those of us who paid our mortgages and took responsibility for our actions.
What lesson do we learn from this? It seems that playing the system, not paying debts and waiting for a government bailout is the current model. As is obvious, this is another ploy by President Barack Obama to buy votes.
Bruce Harting, Clearwater
Encourage good behavior
I appreciate that our country has fallen on hard times with the recession and mortgage crisis. We have seen bailouts for the banks (as well as other industries), assistance programs, and now the latest round of bank monies slated to go back to those who may have lost their homes or fell on hard times due to their mortgages.
During those same hard times, many Americans continued to pay their obligations as others walked away and filed bankruptcy. So what about those Americans who held up their part of their debt obligations? What kind of relief or helping hand do they receive?
A novel approach might be for the government to offer some type of incentive. Why not allow those in good standing with their lender to withdraw monies from their retirement accounts, tax- and penalty-free, for the sole purpose of paying down or retiring their mortgages?
This may be too sensible an approach, and we will likely continue to see many people simply walk away as rebates, incentives, etc., are offered that the average hard-working, mortgage-paying American may not have access to.
J. Burkette, Tampa
Pork project run amok
I do not understand why the USF Polytech nonsense rolls on. The issue is not about better education in Florida. We are not talking Cal Tech, MIT or Georgia Tech here. USF Polytech is an educational backwater — it has no buildings, almost no faculty, zero research, no tech teaching equipment and a handful of students whose average test scores are 100 points lower (according to USF data) than their counterparts on the Tampa campus. It is a tiny bump attached to the Tampa campus. The Polytech student body is smaller than many high schools.
So with that as a starting point, and adding the catastrophically crashing state funding to the state university system, does it make any sense to create a new university-of-anything (anywhere) in Florida? Of course not. Make no mistake, this issue has nothing to do with improving university-level quality education in Florida. Instead, it may be one of the finest examples ever seen of Florida legislative pork-barrel politics run amok.
USF Polytech was a bad idea to start with and it needs to stop being such a distraction and, more important, such a huge potential waste of dwindling resources. Cut it loose and see if it can run with the big dogs.
Sidney K. Pierce, Odessa
Tax case won't cost aide his job | Feb. 12
Actions speak volumes
This article on state Sen. Jim Norman's chief of staff, Ben Kelly, being charged with failure to file income tax returns reflects directly on the character of Norman, who himself has been investigated for ethics violations.
Norman still faces charges after having failed to disclose asset information before running for the Senate. As a taxpayer, it makes me sick to think that Kelly will receive another dime from the state after failing to file taxes for the last five years.
The fact that Norman has no problem with this and says he will retain Kelly speaks volumes about Norman and Kelly.
Robert Bruns, Valrico
Bill would ban food stamps for candy, soda Jan. 26
Ah, the sound of politicians beginning their run for office. For those of you who live in eastern Hillsborough County, you can always tell when the elections season starts. It is the sound of Ronda "don't let them eat cake" Storms raising some foolish wedge issue to make the voters stop looking at the real issues and focus on something totally absurd.
In this case, Storms is trying to stop people on food stamps from buying potato chips and soda with their food stamps. Maybe in this age of obesity, it is a good thing to try to prompt healthy eating. But to have Storms make purchasing a pack of chips illegal is really idiotic. It's more regulation.
What the real focus should be on is creating more stable, sustainable jobs with wages that allow workers to make a living wage. If more people had jobs, there would be less need for food stamps and, in turn, fewer people on food stamps buying soda and potato chips.
Elizabeth Belcher, Seffner
Three key issues in Obama plan | Feb. 14
Our own Greek tragedy
The president seems to think that larger deficits and higher taxes are the path to prosperity. They're trying that in Greece and other parts of Europe. Look where it's getting them. The United States is on the same trajectory as Europe. We're just bigger, and as the old saying goes, the bigger you are, the harder you fall.
We should take a lesson from Europe and understand that we can't keep spending vastly more than we take in. We need tax and regulatory policies that encourage, not stifle, private sector growth. Europe is a financial example we don't want to follow.
Bob Potter, St. Petersburg