Heading toward economic cliff
What's old is new again as Republicans ask, "Are you better off now than four years ago?" Hearing the question, I decided to look back, and the answer is, "Yes, I am." But here's the rub — I still haven't caught up to where I was six years ago before the economy crashed under the Bush administration.
My situation seems to mirror what I read about the U.S. economy in general. Ronald Reagan used this question very effectively during his campaign against an economically incompetent Carter administration. Asking the question today seems more likely to highlight the shortcomings of the last Republican administration than the current Obama administration.
The question I have is ,"Will I be better off in a year?" and I'm afraid the answer to that question is "no" regardless of who wins the election. I expect both parties to continue to jockey for position during this election year and ultimately take us over the economic cliff that looms at the end of the year. It's unfortunate, but that seems to be the state of today's American politics.
Jerry Stephens, Riverview
Too much 'me' and too little 'we' | Sept. 4, commentary
Those left behind
As a Democrat, I was surprised to read David Brooks' column in which he wrote that he doesn't see "what the (Republican) Party is offering the waitress with two kids, or the warehouse worker whose wages have stagnated for a decade, or the factory worker whose skills are now obsolete." How refreshing to read those words from someone within the Republican fold. How many other people in the party feel the same way? Why are they not speaking out?
Pamela Avis, Dunedin
Presidential vagueness | Sept. 4, letter
Laying out the record
The letter writer who complained about the Tampa Bay Times' lack of examination of President Barack Obama's "specifics" should refer to Sunday's edition. A front-page article addressed the 508 pledges that Obama made during his campaign to see how well he had delivered. Every single pledge was rated on a scale from "promise kept" to "not yet rated." That should clear things up.
Jane Young, Tampa
Feeling the tax pinch
President Barack Obama is disingenuous when he says he is championing small business and the middle class. Obama knows the challenges I and other small business owners face. He is counting on you, the voter, to lump small business owners into his campaign to denigrate high earners.
What he doesn't want you to know is that small business people often take a lesser salary while earning more than his definition of "rich" because they pay taxes on the combined total of salary and business earnings. I've run a small business going on 25 years. I pay taxes on my salary as an employee and on the income my small business earns — both as ordinary income.
Today my income tax rate on ordinary income is 28 percent. In another Obama administration it could be much higher, at least 35 percent. That's huge. Even more significant, most small businesses reinvest their income. This practice creates jobs in all segments of the business.
Alan Wiessner, Safety Harbor
Income tax rates
Concede, move on
It seems that most Americans agree that the tax rate should be raised for those earning over a million dollars a year. Even Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and others have supported this rate hike.
It baffles me why Republicans don't see this as a no-brainer, concede the point, and move on to the discussion of other reforms. They would certainly win over some voters.
Carl P. Hansen, Clearwater
A toxic mix of politics and anger | Sept. 2, commentary
Value of compromise
Bill Schneider's column is timely. Compromise is a necessity, not a dirty word. No matter how sensible the proposals, they are pointless if ignored. That is why we need leadership from a president who understands the value of compromise.
According to Pew Research Center polling last year: "Overall, 55 percent of Americans, including 53 percent of independents and 69 percent of Democrats, want lawmakers whose views they agree with to compromise. But 50 percent of Republicans, including 56 percent of conservative Republicans, want lawmakers who share their views to stand by their principles, even if that means the government will shut down."
Both houses of Congress in 2013 are likely to be in Republican hands, but executive leadership is another matter. We need a president who recognizes that in politics we must give to get.
Daniel Rutenberg, Tampa
Two choices for reform
The issue of Medicare's future is possibly the most important public policy debate since President Ronald Reagan convened a commission on strengthening Social Security in the early 1980s that ultimately extended solvency for the program for decades.
On Medicare there are two options: Americans will have to accept higher taxes for this critical program, like most other industrialized countries do, or convert to a voucher-style system that will mean more out-of-pocket expenses.
I can't speak for all Americans, but private health insurance is eating up my family's budget. I understand that I have to rely on private insurance until I qualify for Medicare; however, I would still rather pay a higher Medicare payroll tax than receive a voucher in my old age that would leave me to the private insurance sharks.
Scott Shoup, Tampa
Cut costs or raise revenue
It's not surprising that few voters believe that either political party as a practical answer for sustaining Medicare, because there isn't one. The system as it currently exists is being swamped by an aging population and health care costs that continually outpace inflation. It's simple math. When costs go up faster than revenue, your only options are to cut costs and/or raise revenue. Either solution will lead to a drastically different Medicare program. Both parties have known this for years, but the easiest path to re-election is always to keep promising more and more government goodies rather than deal with the problem at hand.
I'd be willing to bet that if the government had asked us to pay the true costs of Medicare all along, the taxpayers would have demanded cutbacks in this program years ago.
Scott Stolz, Tarpon Springs