Balancing public and private jobs
Cutting taxes and reducing government has been the approach of conservative thinking to spur the economy and create more private-sector jobs. Unfortunately, the downsizing of government creates fewer consumers and less spending, and it has the added effect of pressuring corporations and small business to tighten their belts, therefore causing additional unemployment in the private sector.
Government jobs provide the crucial balance in buffering inadequate private-sector employment. Such a balance, along with fair wages, has been the cornerstone of America's middle class and decades of consumerism that have made this nation the most powerful economy in the world.
Too many private-sector jobs are part-time, pay little more than minimum wage and have no decent health or additional benefits attached. The current employment picture is an ugly one, creating a heavy burden for families and our communities.
The country needs government work programs. The private sector cannot absorb the current unemployment rate. Government intervention is crucial to breaking the environment of contraction. Inappropriate tax loopholes must end, wage limits for FICA must be increased, tax cuts must end for the wealthy, and Americans must be willing to trust their government and invest in their communities. And of course, the debt limit must be raised.
Marc J. Yacht, Hudson
Verizon against cramming | July 22, letter
Rogue charges on bill
The claims by Verizon are contrary to our recent experiences with cramming.
We received an add-on from another company. After being on hold with them forever, I gave up and called Verizon. When I told the representative there was an unauthorized add-on to our bill, he said the issue was between us and that company.
I said I had already tried that and was unable to contact anyone. I restated that this was a fraudulent charge. The associate stated: Someone in your household had to have ordered this service for you to receive this charge. I said no one in the household has any need of a website development service, because no one in the household has a website.
Finally, in exasperation, I said, "I guess the only way to clear this up is by canceling service." At that point the Verizon associate relented and offered to mark the charges as disputed and told us to remove the amount from our bill. In addition, he set up "Bill Block" on our account, which is supposed to prevent cramming.
The next billing cycle revealed a "clean" invoice. In this month's bill, under "other providers," our old friends from the website development service were back again with their $19.99 charge. I canceled every service on the Verizon bundle.
Chris Pedersen, St. Petersburg
Complaints not addressed
Verizon was certainly agreeable to cramming when I was their customer. Every month my bill was a different amount due to charges for services that I had not ordered and had not received. Every month I spoke with a representative, usually someone from another country, who would apologize and promise to give me a credit.
I kept a detailed record of my mischarges and filed a complaint with the Florida Division of Consumer Services. I canceled my account with Verizon. Eventually I received a final bill with credits, except for one month of a service which I had not ordered nor received. That was several years ago. Verizon "promised" to send me a check. I never received one.
Mary Bernard, Oldsmar
Standing up for Arab democrats July 21, letter
Proceed with caution
This letter writer lauds the United States for being "on the side of democracy" by recognizing the Libyan freedom fighters, referring to this action as "a welcome break with previous policies."
Some points remain unsaid:
One U.S. official (unelected) unilaterally recognized the Libyan rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. We have no idea who they are or if they ever heard the word "democracy" or have ever governed anything.
The "previous policy" is not clear. Is the writer criticizing President Bill Clinton, who sent troops into Bosnia? Clinton did so with the prior approval of Congress and the United Nations. Or is the writer dissing the Bush administration that requested approval from Congress for involvement in Iraq, which was the subject of 14 U.N. resolutions?
The current administration has taken extensive military action in a foreign country without congressional approval.
Finally, while we all hope that "our guys" win and that they create a utopia in Africa, let's not lose all contact with reality until somebody in the Arab world actually does something consistent with free government.
William Broderick, Tampa
Going private is no answer | July 19, editorial
Flawed Florida policies
This editorial rejecting the idea of privatizing parts of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. failed to address the flawed state policies that helped create the property insurance mess we're in today.
Remember that in 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist and his supporters in the Legislature — including state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a constant critic of private insurers — passed a bill that froze insurance rates and put state-run Citizens in direct competition with the private property insurance market. Citizens unfairly retained such competitive advantages as the ability to assess almost all other types of insurance policies (including auto policies) to make up for the cheaper rates it charges its customers on the front end.
The harmful results are still being felt. Today, Citizens is the largest insurer in the state with 1.4 million policies and is growing by 5,000 to 7,000 new policies a week, the private market continues to shrink, and all Floridians face massive state assessments on their insurance policies if a hurricane hits and Citizens runs out of money to pay its claims.
State lawmakers have had four legislative sessions to reverse this ill-conceived socialization of Florida's property insurance market and to help restore the private market. But they have only taken baby steps to do so, meanwhile squandering a period of relatively calm weather.
No one wants to pay higher property insurance rates. But homeowners should pay their fair share based on the true risk of their homes. One group of Floridians should not have to subsidize homeowners' rates for another, and the state should foster true competition among private insurers that leads to market-based rates.
Donald D. Brown, senior fellow, Heartland Institute, DeFuniak Springs