A fighting spirit won't save your life | Jan. 26
The human mind can be a powerful healer
As a patient with advanced breast cancer and as a professional who has been a licensed psychologist for almost 30 years, I read this article with interest. Although I do not doubt the validity of the study cited, I strongly disagree with the results that indicate that an upbeat, positive attitude has no significant influence on cancer survival.
I feel a responsibility to call readers' attention to the fact that there are numerous legitimate scientific studies which indicate that an individual's mind-set and attitude can boost the immune system, improve quality of life, and increase survival time in advanced cancer patients. Support groups and practices such as meditation, yoga and qigong can also be used to develop inner strength and have been shown to have measurable positive influences on the immune system. To paraphrase a book written a number of years ago, the mind is indeed a powerful healer.
This is not to place an additional burden on the cancer patient to have the "right" attitude. Rather, it is to emphasize that we can control our minds and this may well improve our survival chances or at the very least improve the quality of our lives.
Ellen O. Jonassen, Belleair Beach
Bid of $10,000 takes the cake | Jan. 28
Sign of the times
A chocolate hazelnut cake baked by the daughter of our state agriculture commissioner is somehow worth a $10,000 "auction" bid by Mosaic Co., a fertilizer manufacturer which of course has no interest in influencing Putnam's decisions, now does it?
Kudos to Adam Putnam's daughter for regifting this money. Maybe some spin doctor coached her in that move to try to dissipate the fertilizer stink, but bless her anyway.
People in Tunisia and Egypt and Sudan are in the streets over the long-term effects of high-handed corruption and kleptocracy. One wonders when Americans might also reach the "enough already" point and take to our own streets.
Jon McPhee, St. Petersburg
Agency sticks to plan for new office | Jan. 28
A building alternative
Heaven forbid the St. Petersburg Housing Authority from even considering utilizing a relatively new building it already owns right smack in the middle of its clientele base in Midtown. It's the right size, has adequate parking, but, alas, no private escape hatch for its executive director.
Since there is apparently no legal authority for anyone or the city to do anything about it, I have another idea. Why not have the St. Petersburg Police Department purchase it at a negotiated discount to build a Midtown police substation? That's where the people need it, as a deterrent and for quicker response.
Scott Wagman, St. Petersburg
Remove income cap
Social Security is paid for through the payroll tax. Currently, the payroll tax raises more money than Social Security pays out, and things are projected to keep going this way for another couple of decades. Simply put, Social Security will run a surplus for decades. The rest of the budget runs a deficit. So, why are we even talking about Social Security in the same sentence with budget deficits?
Social Security tax is capped at $106,800. In order to keep Social Security safe all we need to do is scrap the cap and make the payroll tax fair and equal for everyone. Cuts to Social Security, including raising the retirement age — which will force seniors to work until 70 — will kill jobs for young Americans while putting the elderly, poor and sick at a higher risk in their greatest time of need.
Haydee Negroni Diaz, St. Petersburg
Money's already spent
Social Security is receiving more news coverage today than at any other time in decades, but the real Social Security problem is rarely included in the discussion. That problem is the fact that the $2.6 trillion in surplus revenue, generated by the 1983 payroll tax hike, has already been spent. It was supposed to have been saved and invested to build up a large reserve for paying benefits to the baby boomers, but that never happened.
The money was spent on other programs and replaced with IOUs. These IOUs are not real bonds, and they are not marketable. They are claims against future tax collections, which can be redeemed only by raising taxes, cutting other programs or increased borrowing.
Beginning in 2015, when benefit costs will exceed payroll tax revenue, full Social Security benefits cannot be paid unless the government starts repaying the spent money, but the government has made no provisions for repayment. I have been researching and writing about Social Security funding for more than a decade, and I am concerned that the real Social Security problem is rarely reported by the media.
Allen W. Smith, Winter Haven
Cuba travel restrictions
I wonder why media and political pundits rarely include Cuba's restrictions in their generally positive coverage of the Obama administration's relaxing of Americans' travel to Cuba.
I think there should be some quid pro quo. We take some action and a corresponding action is taken by Cuba. If Cuba allows more Cubans to travel to the United States, I believe that Americans would support more friendly relations with Cuba.
Rarely do I see criticism of Cuba's control of its citizens' freedom to travel.
Wayne Mock, St. Petersburg
Slogans don't work
Here is the political formula that is gaining acceptance on par with the holy Scriptures: Less taxes plus less regulation equals jobs. Looks simple and reasonable. Once achieved, we are told companies will flock to Florida and we will all live happily ever after.
But wait. What are those regulations that we are going to eliminate? Maybe knock off some of those pesky environmental or hurricane-inspired building codes or growth management rules. But why were they adopted? The answer, generally, is that after serious thought, hearings and often votes, the rules were written to solve specific problems.
Or let's look at cutting taxes. What is the impact on infrastructure, schools, roads, or neighborhood protection and budgets? How many people will be laid off to balance the tax cuts? As the host state, how inviting will Florida become to prospective corporations with our newly diminished infrastructure? Or put another way, just how inviting are employers who come to Florida in the first place because we are a bargain?
Let's seriously think about our direction and not be steamrollered with simplistic formulas.
Arnold Frigeri, Sun City Center
Scott runs into messy realities | Jan. 15
It's not a business
The idea that government can be run like a business is rooted in two false notions.
First is the claim that what is good for business is necessarily good for the state. We don't have to look far to understand why this is false. Policies that helped the bottom line of BP turned out to be disastrous for people along the Gulf Coast. This is just one example in a long list. The business sector is but one part of the community that is Florida. Treating the state as a business is like treating a patient as a single organ.
The second false notion is that business principles will work in running the state as they do in managing a business. If Florida is a business, what are its 18,801,310 residents: employees, owners or customers? Markets are adversarial processes in which everyone keeps everyone else at arm's length while attempting to maximize their own self-interest. Whose interest is the government optimizing?
"Government of, by and for the people" should work to improve the quality of life for its citizens, not just the profitability of businesses.
Unfortunately, quality-of-life measures are often contradictory to the profitability of businesses, which explains the vehemence with which business lobbyists argue against things that have proven benefits for people, such as paid maternity leave, job security for workers, clean air, clean rivers, etc.
Etienne Pracht, Lithia