Today's Letters: Lies, deception and greed have eroded public trust

Published August 6, 2007

Trustworthiness is a personal attribute consisting of both character and competence. Although I seriously doubt the levels of competence nowadays, it's fairly obvious from reading news reports that there is a serious shortfall when it comes to the character of many of our leaders.

The evolving scandal in Pinellas County with the commissioners, the county attorney and the tax appraiser only contributes to the growing list of disgraceful and despicable situations throughout our nation today. The Catholic Church has paid out $2-billion in settlements related to clergy sex abuse. The United States is building a consulate in the heart of a bloody battlefield with seemingly no oversight. Members of Congress seem to be taking home more money from lobbyists than they are from their own paychecks. Insurance companies are making unprecedented profits and yet some are threatening to drop policyholders in Florida if they're not allowed to increase premiums by 35 percent. Gasoline prices seem to fluctuate with the whim of oil company executives, and serious efforts to deal with global warming seem to be nonexistent. And on top of all that, just the other day, it was revealed that one of the pricier brands of bottled water is actually tap water. Unfortunately the list can go on and on and on.

Dr. Stephen Covey once noted that trust is much like an emotional bank account: Your deposits need to exceed your withdrawals. Today with all the lies, deception and greed, it seems that withdrawals are running rampant and that when it comes to trust, there just ain't none no more.

Thomas P. Schroeder, Clearwater

DCF is in need of

a complete overhaul

Legally and ethically, the responsibility to care for Florida's children and mentally ill people who cannot be taken care of by their own families belongs to the Department of Children and Families.

The aims and goals for that department should be focused on high levels of professional care and treatment for those entrusted to them.

The aims and goals of business are to make profits for their organization, better to pay stockholders and managers.

When state government abdicates responsibility and turns the care and treatment of the mentally ill, and of needy children, over to private business, it should not be surprising to find humanitarian ethics replaced by the ethics of the marketplace.

There is a crying need for an overhaul of the Department of Children and Families. It must begin with a separation into two distinct departments: one with responsibility for children and families, and the other with responsibility for mentally ill people. Both should be led and staffed by professional personnel.

The immediate question will be raised about how to pay for that, especially in these days of revenue shortfalls. Answers come to mind that refer to huge sums being expended for war, graft, greed and the like. Why not use some for humane, ethical expenditures for the neediest of our Florida citizens?

Mortimer Brown, Lutz

Gates: U.S. misread Iraq split Aug. 3, story

A house divided

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a gloomy statement about the splits among ethnic groups in the Iraqi government: "I just think in some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation, which, let's face it, is not just some kind of secondary thing."

He could just as well have been talking about our own Congress. Both parties are posturing for advantage while our soldiers and the Iraqi people are dying, bridges are collapsing, New Orleans residents are homeless, etc.

How about some leadership? Vision? Concern for the greater good? Is our country so lost that someone exhibiting these character traits is ignored?

David Beaven, Clearwater

Fueling the flames

The Bush-Cheney approach to international diplomacy seems to be:

1. Do unto others before others do unto you.

2. Arms for everyone.

When will this administration realize that all of the players in the Middle East are demanding independence for themselves and none will accept domination by another faction? Distributing tens of billions of dollars for arms throughout the Middle East can only lead to a conflagration of epic proportions.

Our Congress failed the American people by allowing the Bush-Cheney administration to invade Iraq. Will they fail us again by approving an arms race in the most dangerous region on Earth?

Richard Gilgan, Oldsmar

Budget comes up $1.5B short Aug. 2, story

Another Bush mess

Once again we can thank Jeb Bush for his lasting legacies. His unrelenting efforts to cut taxes ignored Florida's overreliance on the sales tax (and actually made the reliance greater by eliminating or reducing other taxes).

Thanks, Jeb. We can add this mess to those other two created during your "reign": the insurance and property tax crises.

While the economic slowdown isn't of Jeb's making, the total lack of planning (when state coffers were overflowing) to prepare for the inevitable rainy day is certainly his responsibility (and that of the Republican-controlled Legislature).

Then there's Jeb's clone, Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio. Rubio wants to significantly increase the sales tax and make the state's budget even more vulnerable to the economy's swings.

Hang in there, Gov. Crist. Your actions are right on, and hopefully the voters of Florida will send legislators to Tallahassee who will start thinking outside the box about budgets and taxes.

Charles Peters, Seminole

Budget comes up $1.5B short Aug. 2, story

Expect more cuts

The state faces a large shortfall in revenue. Jeb Bush boasted of cutting taxes by $20-billion. Reversing only 10 percent of that would more than cover the shortfall.

My guess is that instead of bolstering the state's tax base, the Legislature will choose to cut education, medical services and other services, as it has for the past eight years.

Michael Porter, Clearwater

Stay focused on tax reform July 29, editorial

Broaden sales tax

The Times editorial raised the question for consideration by the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission if it would "... be fairer, for example, to remove some exemptions from the sales tax and lower the rate for everyone?"

The editors later conclude that "the state ... can at least make sure the sales tax is spread more fairly across the economy."

I can only hope that the Tax Commission will take this admonition seriously and do the correct thing. However, given the fact that the commission members were appointed during the Bush reign, they probably will not take the "broad view" and, instead, adopt a nonproductive, antitax bias.

Wallace F. Witham, Belleair Bluffs

Macy's back-to-school ad Aug. 3

Unseemly seduction

With the exploitation of children at an all-time high, I was troubled by the almost full-page ad taken out by a large mall-anchor chain promoting the latest back-to-school fashion for teens.

Has anyone out there noticed the blatant sexuality in these photos? When did we become so blase as to equate a come-hither look (by models who are probably only teens themselves) with the seriousness of learning and studious achievement?

I understand the necessity of advertisements to the rise or fall of a newspaper, but when a not-so-subtle seduction is needed to lure children to "dare to be you for back to school" and is undermining the well-being of our most precious commodity, then something has gone terribly wrong.

Norma McCulliss, Palm Harbor

Distorting values

"Be the envy of your school" reads the Alltel ads for the "cool new Hue," the company's latest cell phone product in the ever-competitive wireless communications industry.

If this is what being "cool" is all about and what it takes to earn the respect of our children's peers, then we can thank Alltel and other companies like it for bending what true human value is by ads such as this.

True self-worth and human value are certainly not derived from what we wear or the possessions (cell phones or the like) we have, but rather come from who and what we are deep down inside.

Hopefully, parents will remind their children of this, despite the ongoing blitz of advertisements that set out to establish a different set of values.

Carlo N. Minieri, North Redington Beach