Editor's note: Letters to the editor offer a significant contribution to the discussion of public policy and life in Tampa Bay. To recognize some of that work by our most engaged readers, the Times will select a letter of the month and the writers will be recognized at the end of the year. We will choose the finalists each month based on relevance on topical issues, persuasiveness and writing style. The writer's opinion does not need to match the editorial board's opinion on the issue to be nominated. But clarity of thinking, brevity and a sense of humor certainly helps.
Help us choose the letter of the month for May 2014 by reading through the three nominated letters and voting on the ballot at the bottom of the web page.
Retirement realities | April 28, commentary
It's income, not assets
Robert Samuelson claims that most baby boomers are prepared for retirement because the median home equity balance for this group is $120,000 and the median retirement plan balance is $100,000. He makes the common mistake of making this about assets rather than income.
In reality, retirement planning is all about how much income one can generate each year. Few financial planners would ever recommend that a retiree withdraw more than 4 percent of their total asset base annually. Therefore, even if we include the home equity (which many would be reluctant to do) as an available asset, these median asset numbers would generate only $8,800 in annual income. Throw in the average Social Security benefit of $1,300 per month and Samuelson is expecting retirees to live off $24,400 per year. And keep in mind that the balances he gives are the median numbers. That means half of the baby boomers would have less than $220,000 in available assets.
He is correct that one possible solution is to work longer. In fact, for many that will be the only solution. Unfortunately, the last I checked there weren't many organizations looking to hire 70-year-olds.
The fact is that we are facing a very real and unfortunately inevitable retirement crisis over the next 30 years. That is the true retirement reality.
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs (May 4)
Lost chance for cleaner springs
May 6, editorial
Thank you to the Tampa Bay Times for the important articles and editorials about the Florida Legislature and lack of money allocated to springs cleanup. The pictures of lawmakers hugging and congratulating themselves after finishing work on the budget was infuriating. There are a lot of issues clamoring for attention, but springs cleanup should have been a priority. How can lawmakers not know or not care that environmental health is essential to human health and the health of the economy?
I grew up in Pinellas County before electronic distractions and we were always outside, enjoying and appreciating the beauty of our salt and freshwater resources. Swimming with the mermaids at Weeki Wachee in the '60s, tubing down the Ichetucknee River in the '70s, and canoeing down the Rainbow River with my children in the '90s was as close to paradise as one could get. I still think Florida is beautiful, but we must repair and actively care for this fragile beauty.
How can our lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, many with children and grandchildren, fail to take immediate action or, worse, make deals with big business at the expense of Florida's environment and our future?
Amy C. Kelly, Palm Harbor (May 10)
Democracy's failure to reverse inequality | May 15, commentary
To remedy inequality, change law
I was dismayed by this column's conclusion that there might be little that democracies can do to stop the rise of inequality. This is a false conclusion drawn from a false framing that only taxation policy can be applied to the problem.
Economies are the sum total of the laws and regulations that make them up. Laws that we write through our elected government have a huge impact on outcomes. For example, there is nothing "natural" about the fact that corporations are chartered at the state level instead of the federal. There is nothing natural about the limited liability joint stock corporation, the company design most of us work for. It is a creature of law.
A proposal that would go a long way toward solving inequality would be a National Companies Act that charters corporations for a national economy at a national level. Under the new definition, in return for limited liability, every corporation employee (and only employees) would be equal voting shareholders. Depending on company size, the employee-shareholders would regularly elect management or the board of directors. These corporations could raise money from banks, crowd-sourcing and selling nonvoting shares. That's it.
This is not some pie-in-the-sky proposal. This institutional design has existed in the United States as long as the corporation. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, every type of business has been organized this way for 100 years. It is called the cooperative.
Cooperative-corporations will compete and operate in a free market economy just like existing corporations they would replace, with no additional regulation or government intervention needed.
But can you imagine employees electing CEOs who pay themselves 1,000 times the average worker's salary? Broad, much more equal wealth distribution would happen "naturally" by design.
Robert Clark, Tampa