Dwindling deficit disorder | March 14, commentary
Rule No. 1: There's no free lunch
The first thing I learned in freshman economics is that there is no free lunch. Now, economist Paul Krugman assures us that indeed there is. Deficits don't matter as long as the economy grows faster than the debt. His prescription for faster economic growth? More deficit spending.
The fairy dust that makes this circular argument work is called the "Keynesian multiplier," which states that a dollar of government spending grows the economy by more than a dollar. As evidence of this working, he does not cite the booming economy (because it isn't), but how bad the economy might have been had we not run the deficits we did. In other words, he proves a theory with a hypothesis: dismal reasoning for a dismal science.
Incidentally, the advanced placement economics textbook used in Pinellas County is written by none other than the distinguished professor and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman. No word on whether the newly discovered free lunch appears in the latest edition.
Eric Burns, Palm Harbor
More Medicaid not right for state March 13, commentary
The article on Medicaid by Will Weatherford presented such convoluted thinking that one hopes it was a cut-and-paste effort by an aide rather than the speaker's actual understanding of the issue.
An example of his bizarre reasoning is his objection to Medicaid expansion covering "able-bodied adults." You're able-bodied until you need help. What is intended is helping thousands of working folks access preventive, early intervention health care that will result in better outcomes and less costly treatment and slammed emergency rooms.
Throughout, Weatherford argues against health care for Florida citizens who need help and offers no concrete proposal to serve the "best interest of all Floridians" in this regard.
Karen Putney, Tampa
Tables turn on gambling | March 15
Money is root of problem
The lights have been switched on and the cockroaches are scattering for cover.
That pretty much describes the fallout of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation in the wake of charges against 60 people associated with alleged fraud by Internet cafe mogul Allied Veterans.
Should we be surprised that this segment of the gambling industry has showered both political parties and legislators with almost $1 million in campaign contributions in the last two years? Should we be surprised that the politicians and industry lobbyists are now heading for cover?
To their credit, some of those same politicians are falling over themselves to deny undue influence and pledge to close the loophole that has allowed Internet cafes to operate.
But the real problem is the corrosive influence of money in politics. Legislators shouldn't stop at banning Internet cafes; they should pass meaningful campaign finance reform.
Peter Butzin, volunteer state chair, Common Cause/Florida, Tallahassee
CPAC grasps for way upward | March 16
It's not just the tone
Speakers at the CPAC gathering revealed that Republicans still don't get it.
They appeared either very naive, completely out of touch or outright delusional when they proposed that it's their tone, rather than their message, that needs changing.
They can't seem to understand why there's such push-back from unemployed people when the GOP proposes taking away unemployment benefits because, according to conservative views, these jobless individuals will be happier and enjoy more freedom.
They can't seem to grasp why people at the poverty level, who have no health insurance, reject Republican efforts to eliminate Medicaid.
They can't seem to understand why seniors so strongly oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare. And they're baffled as to why Latino citizens distain Republican efforts to deny a path to citizenship for their undocumented friends and relatives.
These conservatives just don't get it that, no matter how gentle and sanguine their tone, it's essentially the content of their message that the American people reject.
Terrence Gourdine, Clearwater
Tea party trouble
As a closet conservative, I was interested in the style and substance of the messages delivered by invited Republicans at the recent CPAC. The theme espoused by several within the GOP in your article is that the answer rests not with a different message but one that is better articulated. I hope this means we will no longer hear tired, knee-jerk comments referencing rising tides, makers and takers, and tax-and-spend liberals.
What I did not see in the article was any reference to the tea party. As I understand it, the junior senator from Kentucky, a tea party member, was well received by those in attendance. What I don't understand is who or what the tea party is. Has it been adopted or subsumed by the Republican Party? Or can the tea party be the long-awaited and sought-after viable third political party? As currently construed, tea partiers don't seem to play nice with either the speaker of the House, the Senate minority leader or any elected Democrat. Whatever it is, it needs to stop being the rock in the GOP's shoe.
Jim Murphy, Sun City Center
Driver texting ban advances | March 8
Send a message on safety
Texting and driving has been proven to be as dangerous as drunken driving. Drivers who send or receive text messages take their eyes off the road an average of 5 seconds — which is the same as driving the entire length of a football field at 55 mph blind.
Florida is one of only a handful of states that have not passed laws restricting texting while driving. We can turn this around with Senate Bill 52, which bans texting while driving as a secondary offense and is an important step toward improving the safety of our roads and highways.
We have all been impacted negatively by distracted drivers — while out walking with our children, riding our bikes, or driving to work. As an avid walker, I have often had to stop short as a driver rolled through a crosswalk while staring at a cellphone. We need to send a message that it is not okay to text and drive.
Alyssa Mayer, Tampa