Tax on dividends
Don't let low dividend tax expire
Congress should act soon to extend the current tax rate on dividends to help with Florida's needs and economic recovery.
Congress temporarily reduced the tax rate on dividends from nearly 40 percent to 15 percent in 2003. The temporary reduction was extended in 2010 but is due to expire Dec. 31.
As our national economy searches for firm footing, now is no time for Congress to fail the American people and allow the maximum tax rate on dividends to nearly triple.
Income from dividends and capital gains are taxed at the same rate. But the maximum rate on dividends could rise well above the capital gains rate. This would disadvantage dividend-paying companies by discouraging investment, making it more expensive for companies such as TECO Energy to raise the money needed to build and modernize infrastructure. That hurts energy prices, our customers and the economy.
Obviously, the tax increase also would harm investors, but I think there is a misconception about who those investors are. A recent Ernst & Young study shows that 63 percent of tax returns with dividends are filed by taxpayers age 50 or older, and 68 percent of those returns are filed by taxpayers with income of less than $100,000 a year.
I urge Congress to vote in favor of the American people and extend the current dividend tax treatment.
Sandy Callahan, TECO Energy senior vice president of finance and accounting and chief financial officer, Tampa
Movie massacre | July 21
Support mental health care
In light of the mass killing in Colorado, we must consider reopening state mental hospitals and reception centers. The lack of mental health services leaves too many mentally ill walking the streets.
This Colorado incident aside, we read too regularly of terrible tragedies brought about by deranged people. Often services were requested but denied. Some mentally ill were released from jail and sent back into society with no support.
President Ronald Reagan's reduction of Medicaid funds to the mentally ill during the '80s resulted in the closing of state mental hospitals nationally. The effort to halfway-house these patients or provide services through community mental health centers failed miserably. The result is felt today and lends itself to ongoing tragedies involving an increased mentally ill homeless population, preventable violence and the serious weakening of community safety nets.
One-third of our homeless community are described as mentally ill; 15 percent of the U.S. population will seek mental health services; and it is suggested that 15 million people walk the streets of America with serious mental disorders without medication or care.
Drugs available for the mentally ill have never been more effective, yet millions go without them. Public safety would be best served by a state mental health facility housing properly assessed sociopathic individuals. They can be treated and cared for and require appropriate evaluation for release. On the streets without medication and necessary followup, the seriously mentally ill pose a danger to themselves, children and all citizens living in every American community.
Marc J. Yacht, M.D., MPH, Hudson
Gun rights aren't unlimited
What more does it take for us to say enough is enough? To make us shout loudly to force lawmakers to show courage and ban automatic weapons and handguns? How many more massacres, street killings and accidental deaths will it take to overcome the ignorance and arrogance? I don't want to hear again the idiotic defense that "guns don't kill, people do."
You want to hunt, fine. But, how many bullets does it take to kill a deer? You want to shoot an automatic weapon or pistol, go to a licensed range. Pick out a firearm. Have fun and return the gun when you leave.
The right to bear arms is a right granted by the people. It is not an unalienable right bestowed by God or moral law, and it can be revoked or amended by man-made law.
Tom Iaquinta, Seminole
A toll of loss, heartbreak
How many more innocent lives have to be lost in tragic events like this? How many more families have to suffer loss and heartbreak because somebody has been able to acquire weapons freely available to be able to destroy lives and to inflict serious injuries?
When is somebody in this country going to have the conversation that would lead to the moderation of existing gun laws?
This country is the only one of the industrialized nations of the world that has such lax gun laws. How very sad.
Gillian Maden, Spring Hill
Obama missed chance
Upon learning about the carnage in Aurora, Colo., I waited to hear the words of President Barack Obama. Truly, this would be a defining moment for our leader. Except that when it came time for him to take a stand against the most powerful lobby in our nation's history, the NRA, the president merely announced he would suspend his campaign.
Afterwards, there was some vague mention that his daughters could have been sitting in the theater. But most Americans don't have the Secret Service guarding our children 24/7.
This was the biggest letdown I could expect from a man whose own colleague, Gabby Gifford, was shot in Tucson last year. If the president of United States would not take this opportunity to demand Congress reinstate the assault weapons ban, who would?
Clancy Dixon, Seminole
Weapon of war only
Assault rifles have one purpose. They are designed to produce withering firepower in the form of a high-speed spray of bullets. The only function they have is to kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. Their use on a battlefield during a war is easy to understand. Their use anywhere else doesn't make sense. They should not be available to an increasingly stressed and deranged public.
Jeff Cutting, Brandon