Marketplace Fairness Act
Allow states to enforce tax laws
The bipartisan Marketplace Fairness Act, recently introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would restore the right of states to collect and remit sales taxes that are already owed under current state tax laws. Because of a loophole in federal law after a 1992 Supreme Court decision, some online-only retailers have been exempted from collecting sales taxes unless they have a physical presence, such as a store or warehouse, in the purchaser's state.
With the growth of technology and the Internet over the last 20 years, brick-and-mortar retailers have been at a distinct disadvantage. They continue to lose sales to online retailers, and that loss of sales means loss of revenue to the states. Most purchasers are not aware that many states, including Florida, have what is called a "use tax" that requires the purchaser to remit this tax if a sales tax is not collected. The consumer is supposed to calculate and pay this tax along with his or her annual state tax return.
Because of the lack of awareness on the part of the purchaser, often the tax is not reported, which adds to the misconception that some online shopping is tax-free. The cost to Florida is estimated to be a high as $1.5 billion in uncollected revenue in 2012 alone. Unless our state can enforce its existing laws, our residents and businesses risk increases in sales, business, or property tax rates.
A sale is a sale, no matter where it takes place: in a brick-and-mortar store, shopping center, by email, or over the Internet. A true free market will only work without government restrictions and preferences. Congress should no longer deny the states their right to enforce their own tax laws. The Marketplace Fairness Act can return this right to the states and provide all retailers with the opportunity to compete in a flourishing marketplace.
Greg Sembler, CEO, Sembler Co., St. Petersburg
Florida International University
FIU's successes on and off the field benefit all Florida
Today, the Florida International University Panthers will play Marshall University at the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg. At FIU we are proud to be invited to our second bowl game in as many years and of everything our young football team has been able to accomplish under the leadership of coach Mario Cristobal. Panthers are proud not only of our team's performance on the field but of how closely the football team's trajectory reflects the history of the university itself. In both cases we have been successful at turning the impossible into the inevitable in an impressive amount of time.
Through sheer determination and the hard work of an entire community, FIU graduates more Hispanics than any other university in the country and has become a leader in the production of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees. In 2012 our College of Law will celebrate its 10th anniversary and our College of Medicine will admit its fourth class.
Giving qualified students in our community an opportunity to pursue careers in these fields not only helps individual families, but also elevates the standard of living in the region and benefits the entire state economy. Forty percent of our undergraduate students represent the first generation in their families to go to college.
FIU is helping to address some of our most urgent problems such as K-12 education, health care, job creation and economic development. We are busy growing our research enterprise and pursuing a variety of endeavors that we are confident will make ever greater contributions to the economic revitalization of our community. And we do all this while enjoying very exciting football games.
We thank the St. Petersburg community for hosting us for the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl and hope you enjoy the game as much as we will.
Mark B. Rosenberg, president, Florida International University, Miami
On visits to Cuba, no turning back Dec. 15, editorial
Stop living in the past
Years ago I met a young Cuban engineer and learned that he had come to the United States as a political refugee. Not only that, but Uncle Sam footed the bill for his college education. Lucky him. My family in South America went through extraordinary sacrifices so that I could attend college in the United States.
I remember what he said when I asked him if he would return to Cuba if the Castro brothers would somehow disappear. He said: "No; this is my country now, so I have no reason to go back."
Which brings me to the small number of ex-Cuban politicians in South Florida who are often in the news for some political maneuver they have pulled to try to thwart possible U.S.-Cuba rapprochement. Isn't 50 or 60 years enough? The United States has normalized relations with Vietnam — still a communist country — and it trades with Russia and China. Why not Cuba?
Humberto A. Calderon, Temple Terrace
Czech statesman led 'Velvet Revolution' Dec. 19
Beacon of human rights
All those who care about human rights, democracy, a literate voice and nonviolent change mourn the death of Vaclav Havel. He became the icon of anticommunist dissent and the symbol of the democratization of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Havel is most famous for using his dry wit and savage humor to ridicule the Soviet bloc's Communist regimes. As Czech president, he strove to provide moral leadership.
When receiving the Sonning Prize in Copenhagen in 1991, he painted a vision for political engagement by saying: "Politics is an area of human endeavor that places greater stress on moral sensitivity, on the ability to reflect critically on oneself, on genuine responsibility, on taste and tact, on the capacity to empathize with others, on a sense of moderation, on humility. It is a job for modest people, for people who cannot be deceived."
One wishes that our own politicians would seek to embody that high ideal.
The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Clearwater
Iraq war ends
Nation's stability in doubt
On a false premise of weapons of mass destruction, 4,500 U.S. soldiers died, 30,000-plus were wounded and need continuing care (not including those who suffer from post-traumatic stress) and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi noncombatants either perished or were displaced. In nine years, the explanation of U.S. objectives morphed but never passed the test of common sense.
We now leave the Iraq we created with its stability in serious doubt. A once vibrant Iraqi society and economy, admittedly ruled by a brutal dictator, has been reduced to a point that will require massive amounts of continuing U.S. investment to prevent internal and perhaps regional upheaval.
Through shortsighted miscalculation, we have crippled a major counter to Iran and diminished our international image. This misuse of human and financial capital will negatively affect the United States for years. As an Army veteran, I honor the sacrifice of our military. I personally know many who served, and some who perished. Their devotion to our nation has been sorely misused.
Thom Kenning, Valrico