Regarding opposition to Florida Speaker Will Weatherford's plan to close the state-funded pension plan to new employees: State workers and unions ought to contemplate possible consequences to we citizens of this state who pay the taxes that support their lifestyles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (December 2009), state and local government employees earn 44 percent more than private-sector employees. This includes 35 percent higher wages and almost 70 percent greater benefits. In spite of this, studies show that private-sector workers tend to be more productive. Also, according to BLS, private-sector workers work 12 percent more than government employees.
On top of this, government employees enjoy notoriously ironclad job security; they're hard to get rid of - even poor performance or unethical behavior tends not to be reason for dismissal. Government employees hardly ever quit because they can't find jobs that pay as well or employers who tolerate poor performance or bad attitudes.
State employers and their minions say cutting off new members from the plan as Weatherford suggests ". starves the fund of that revenue stream of contributions from new employees and employers." This is revealing. What they must realize is the pension plan is a Ponzi scheme because retirees will take out more than they paid into the system; and consider the recent unusually high 11 percent return. By the way, that's a great job the state Board of Administration has done, but good luck with a sustained return of that kind in the future. In spite of this, the plan is only 87 percent funded, it has a $19 billion unfunded liability that costs Floridians $500 million a year.
I suggest the best way to solve this problem is to do away with as many government agencies and jobs as possible and to farm out as many as possible to the private sector, which is clearly more efficient and, it seems, 44 percent less costly. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Imagine, for example, a privately run DMV where you're treated like a real customer. Contracts to the private sector could be renewable or renegotiated yearly to keep things competitive. Seems the government and government employees have somehow forgotten for whom they work.
Why rail will fail
During my military career I lived and worked in New York City and Tokyo for more than six years. Therefore, I know how important rail transportation (light rail) is in large metropolitan cities where there is little parking space available for automobiles, and what parking is available is too costly for the average resident.
First, let me say that you cannot compare New York City and Tokyo to Clearwater/St Petersburg, or for that matter Pinellas County. We are fortunate in Pinellas to have adequate parking space for automobiles, and our road system has been vastly improved by the addition of Bryan Dairy Road and others. Improvements are continuing.
Considering the type of residents in Pinellas - mostly retirees and winter visitors - it is extremely unlikely that any light-rail system would be successful, and I feel it is not in our best interest to consider a 25-mile rail line from Clearwater to downtown St Petersburg that would require a referendum to raise our sales tax by 1 percent. That would be the highest sales tax in Florida and would certainly not be good for business.
I feel that Pinellas will do exactly as Hillsborough County did in 2010, and vote against a referendum to increase the sales tax for light rail. I feel it is time for Pinellas residents to say "no more taxpayers' money for pro-light rail PR firms and monies for a referendum to increase sales tax for light rail."
Regarding Army Ranger gender-neutral standards: If I were commanding forces with the possibility of facing the United States in combat situations, I would be having a great day. This administration, with its obsession with political correctness, has done me a big favor.
If your standards have to be changed to allow for gender, it would seem logical that your combat effectiveness in certain situations might be adversely effected. I'm not going to change my training standards except to point out to my forces that the "Ranger" they face, of either gender, has met "gender-neutral standards."
In this case, political correctness does not benefit either gender. There will be additional difficulties in special operations because of the physical, mental and psychological differences between genders, and I fear that people will needlessly die for the sake of political correctness.
Sun City Center
Learning from Cuba
I was pleased to see "U.S., Cuba resume direct mail talks" (June 18), as well as "Stalemate with Cuba has to end" by Tribune columnist Joe Henderson. And I also appreciate the encouraging remarks of Rep. Kathy Castor following her trip to Cuba. It's way past time to end the embargo and have normal relations with that country. As far as Cuba's human rights record, I believe that some positive changes are being made. And let's not forget the pre-Castro corrupt and villainous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who gave the mafia free rein and absconded stealing millions from that country's treasury. We have a lot to learn from Cuba, a country that has universal health care and sends medical teams around the world in any emergency.
We haven't come to the conclusion yet that health care should be a human right, not a commodity. I hope the progress continues, and I look forward to visiting Cuba one day soon.
Claire McCarthy Lutzmann
Throw them out
Regarding "Escape from Obamacare" (Your Views, June 18):
Fred Ionata got it right. However, I would add one thing to what he recommends.
Considering that Congress has allowed President Obama to get away with every underhanded trick in the book, it might be more satisfying to march on Washington and throw all of them, bodily, out of town.
J. W. Knox