Letters to the Editor

'Absurd' to spend tax monies to produce 'worthless' products (Florida Today, July 21, 1996)

[This letter was published in response to a George Thompson column on methods of dealing with tobacco and its problems.]


You listed several ideas on how to deal with tobacco companies.  However, you missed one idea that would require no new laws and would actually save the taxpayers money:

We should simply end all price supports, low-interest loans, and other federal programs for tobacco farmers.  It is absurd that we are spending millions of dollars a year to aid farmers who produce a worthless product.

The wastefulness of the federal government's tobacco programs, past and present, are well-documented in James Bovard's excellent book, The Farm Fiasco.

Inform the public about libertarians (Florida Today, July 12, 1996)

I agree with recent letter-writer Barbara Lombard's assessment of the media coverage of the Libertarian Party.

It is especially shameful in light of all the media attention that Ross Perot's Reform Party has received.

The Reform Party has a barely defined platform, will have a candidate for only one office and is entirely dependent on the whims of an eccentric billionaire.

The Libertarian Party, however, has a well-developed platform with planks on all major issues and will field candidates for federal, state and local offices all over the country, including a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If you are serious about keeping the voters informed, then you need to cover the Libertarian Party at least as much as you cover the Reform Party.

However, if you are just interested in the latest flash-in-the-pan, then by all means please keep us up to date on the latest antics of kooky rich people like Perot.

Amend the constitution to put NOTA on every ballot (Florida Today, August 18, 1996)

[This letter was published in response to a George Thompson column on the 1996 presidential election and his decision to cast a write-in vote for Ralph Nader, since Nader was unable to get on the ballot in Florida.]

Although I'm sure you disagree greatly with many Libertarian Party positions, you could at least have mentioned them. After all, it is the only party that fully endorses the NOTA [None Of The Above] option as part of its party platform.

Why not have it on the ballot? That way voters could show their active dislike for all of candidates, rather than have their absence be dismissed as citizen apathy.

A constitutional amendment requiring NOTA on all ballots would empower the voters who feel that none of the current candidates are worthy of the office they seek. The amendment could specify that if NOTA won a majority, another election would be held with new candidates. Perhaps the office would even go unfilled until the next election cycle.

The bottom line is that voters need real choices, not just Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

In that light, I hope that Ralph Nader gets on the ballot in every state, even though I already know that I'm voting for Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate.

Maglev: A devastating critique (submitted to Florida Today, unpublished)

[This essay was written in response to a Florida Today editorial supporting the Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) Light Rail Project being discussed by local government transportation officials.]

Dear Sirs,

Your recent gushing editorial in praise of the proposed maglev track reads more like an advertisement than a opinion piece. The gaping holes in this project are obvious even from a casual reading.

First, you neglect to mention its total price tag of $200 million. Even that is a minimum and doesn't count the cost of demonstration projects, or the possibility that, like many government projects, it might go over budget. If the cost per mile is similar to Japanese or German projects, the total cost might be as high as $500 or even $900 million. The local boon of 1400 jobs seems mighty nice until you realize that each job will cost over $140,000 and possibly as high as $600,000 to create.

Second, no time frame is specified, but considering that the proposed $6 million prototype will take two years to complete, I suspect that the full system is decades away, at best. Considering how long it has taken the government to expand SR 3, I won't be holding my breath waiting for the maglev.

Finally, whoever made the estimate of a 75% (7 cents per ton mile as opposed to 30 cents) savings in transportation costs must be the same guy who said we'd be flying 50 shuttle missions a year with launch costs less than $1000 a pound by now. If such a savings were truly possible, private industry would be building the system right now, without having to shake down the taxpayer for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Feds' tobacco tax is detrimental (Florida Today, March 2, 1998)

[Note: This letter was written in response to a Florida Today editorial supporting a "sin" tax on cigarettes to curb cigarette use and to finance a variety of government programs.]

The inherent contradiction in the "sin" tax on cigarettes that you endorse is blatantly obvious. On the one hand, it is supposed to curb use of the product, and on the other hand, it is supposed to raise billions of dollars for the federal government. Clearly, if it is successful at reducing or eliminating cigarette consumption, there will be little or no revenue.

There are other problems inherent in this type of tax. It is disproportionately paid for by the poor. It risks creating a black market with all the attendant violence and corruption. It can encourage people to try to get more bang for their buck by using stronger products such as unfiltered cigarettes.

This is not the first time that the government has tried to save us from ourselves through higher taxes and more regulation. I fear it will not be the last.

End the trade embargo with Cuba (Florida Today, April 7, 1998)

The March 27 Florida Today editorial regarding improving relations with Cuba was good, but it didn't go far enough.  The trade embargo that we've been engaged in for over thirty years has been a complete failure, and it's done nothing but make the Cuban people suffer needlessly.

We should repeal the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, end the trade embargo and restore the policy of granting Cuban refugees political asylum in the U.S.

The best tools we have for changing Cuba from a communist dictatorship to a free market democracy are free trade and open immigration.   Allowing Cubans to see the benefits of freedom by merely opening trade and eliminating travel restrictions give us an easy and moral way to undermine Castro's repressive regime.

Tobacco about money, not protecting kids (Florida Today, June 9, 1998)

Your recent editorial is a classic example of trying to have it both ways.  On the one hand, you claim that 297,108 people currently under the age of 18 will die prematurely from tobacco-related illnesses, and on the other you claim that anyone who doesn't want to foot the $600 billion bill should just quit.

How can Florida Today believe that tobacco is so addictive that teen-agers will smoke until they die and simultaneously believe that "it isn't rocket science to quit"?

It is definitely about money, not protecting kids.  The politicians and trial lawyers are all salivating at getting a piece of the $600 billion.

Nance Ad was misleading

The ad placed by attorney James H. Nance regarding the Florida tobacco settlement was misleading, to say the least.  The suit was brought for one reason: To fatten the coffers of the state at the expense of an unpopular industry.

In Nance's attempt to convince the readers of Florida Today that giving billions to trial lawyers will make us all better off, he left out many facts.

First, not only does Florida's congressional delegation support tobacco subsidies, but Florida has also manufactured and sold cigarettes and invested $825 million of its pension funds into tobacco stocks.

Florida reached the pinnacle of hypocrisy when it was sued by an prisoner addicted to cigarettes manufactured by the state.  State attorneys claimed that Florida was no more responsible for his purchase of cigarettes than for his "buying a candy bar at the canteen."

Perhaps the most important fact of all is how much Nance and the other "hand-picked" attorneys gave to the Democratic party and to Lawton Chiles' last election fund.

Will Nance engage in some voluntary disclosure?  I doubt it.

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