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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Right On, Mayor Bob!

I’m finding that the most informative section of the Tampa Bay Time these days is the section called “The Tampa Tribune.” Ernest Hooper is its editor, and he (or someone) has had the good sense to reach out to reporter William (Windy) March. Long with the real Tampa Tribune, which folded last year after more than a century of publication, Windy always was the most astute political writer in our area, with the widest network of contacts willing to trust him. I’m so glad to be able to read his work again.

Last Sunday’s edition, though, included another treat: an excellent editorial from Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He was expanding on his recent announcement that the City of Tampa will be offering paid parental leave to its full-time employees. Both Mom and Dad are entitled to benefits, with as much as eight weeks of paid leave to the primary caregiver for the new baby. This is the sort of thing that pro-life people should be promoting: it’s not enough for a woman merely to deliver a newborn to the world; we have an obligation to get that child off to a proper start.

I’ve known Mayor Bob since he came to town as a twenty-something salesman for Land ‘o Lakes (he provided creamy quiche mix for political fundraisers), and I’ve watched him grow and mature. Nothing matures a person faster than parenthood, and he said: “I understand innately the importance of time to bond and care for a new child in the first few weeks of their arrival. I remember vividly the first weeks with my daughters and how much effort it took to manage the careers of my wife [a physician and professor in the USF College of Medicine] and myself… We are the only advanced nation that fails to provide wide-ranging parental leave for our workers.”

Mayors Pam Iorio and Sandy Freedman doubtless favored this policy, but prejudices against women remain so strong that it would have been harder for them to implement this. Thus I especially liked Mayor Buckhorn’s acknowledgment: “Far too often, paid parental leave is viewed as a women’s issue. Today women make up nearly half of the American workforce… Outdated workplace policies that make life harder for women…affect our economic competitiveness… I urge other employers to follow my lead. Parental leave, child care, and the like are not women’s issues – they are economic issues.”

While We’re Handing Out Bouquets

Times editor of editorials Tim Nickens also merits a “right-on,” as does Jim Verhulst, the editor of “Perspective,” which is the Times’ editorial section on Sundays. The most recent was the meatiest in months. I hope this trend continues, as we have been very disheartened by the fact that on some weekdays, the paper has no op-ed page at all. Hubby and I need two: we exchange the main page and the op-ed page with two meals of the day. Last Sunday’s “Perspective,” though, offered fodder for several meals.

I was especially pleased with an editorial by the deputy editorial editor of the Wall Street Journal. That longtime conservative newspaper may have seen the error of its ways in failing to do the investigative journalism it should have done on its neighbor who lives atop Trump Tower. Journal spokesman Bret Stephens wrote:

“First, the obvious: Had it been Barack Obama, rather than Donald Trump, who suggested a moral equivalency between the United States and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Republican politicians would…call it treason and spend the next four years playing the same clip on repeat…

“If you are the sort who believes the CIA assassinated JFK, masterminded the crack-cocaine epidemic, and deliberately lied us into war – conspiracy theories on a moral par with the way the Putin regime behaves in actual fact – than this is the president for you.

“Only he’s worse...”

From the Wall Street Journal! I could hardly believe my eyes!

And One Bouquet of Dead Roses

On the other hand, “Politifact” made a major boo-boo in the business section of Sunday’s Times. The headline was “House speaker stumbles on issue of U.S. tariffs,” but the writer of this piece stumbled even more. House Speaker Paul Ryan was given a “Half True” in Politifact’s rating system, which should have been “Pants on Fire.” This particular analysis was farmed out to Wisconsin, which Ryan calls home, and because it was on taxes, the writer assigned to it presumably specializes in business, not law or legislation.

The article quoted Ryan: “Oh, and by the way, here’s what the rest of the world does that we don’t do: They take the tax off their exports and place a tax on their imports. We do the opposite. We tax our exports and don’t tax our imports.” Again, I could not believe my eyes! Paul Ryan, who leads the House of Representatives and considers himself THE expert on economic issues, evidently does not know that not only does the United States not tax its exports, our Constitution expressly prohibits that! His ignorance would earn him an F in any first-year history or government class that I taught.

This was a major issue in the writing of the Constitution. The North had begun to industrialize and wanted tariffs (or import taxes) on goods from Europe. Making European things more expensive via hidden taxes would enable our infant industries to compete with lower-cost products from abroad. These American businesses did not want American consumers to be able to buy cheaper textiles or tools or furniture or whatever from Europe, and future Congresses would obligingly impose taxes that made imports more costly.

This is exactly what some businesses want today ala the things we buy at Wal-Mart that come from China or Indonesia. Or cars from Korea or Germany. Or whatever makes life more expensive for middle-class people, while corporations are protected from the competition they often praise.

But back to the Constitution. The South had not industrialized, and Southerners did not want to pay higher prices for manufactured goods that were artificially inflated by taxes. Southerners did intend to export a great deal, though, especially sending cotton to British mills, which then returned it to us as cloth and clothing. The conflict on import/export taxes therefore arose long before the slavery question would sever relations between the North and South. The compromise adopted by the writers of the Constitution was an explicit prohibition of export taxes. Adopted in 1789 and never repealed (nor ever threatened with repeal), Article I, Section 9, Clause 5 says: “No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State.”

By his own words, the man who follows only the vice president in presidential succession does not know this. Sadly, I wouldn’t expect more from Vice President Whatshisname, and you can bet the guy who occupies the White House would have to be told (again) by the courts what is and is not constitutional. Proud of his indifference to reading, he probably never has read the Constitution. So-called conservatives could start with that.

Two Good Women

Tampa lost two women last week who made many important contributions to our welfare. Both were friends of my late friend State Senator Helen Gordon Davis, and their deaths are a reminder of the passing of an era when women did much unheralded good.

Elaine Newman came to Tampa in 1954 with her husband Stanford, and they ran the Newman Cigar Company. After her children were grown, she became director of community relations for the late, lamented Maas Brothers Department Store. In that role and in her personal commitment, she helped relocate and modernize the downtown library. She served on the boards of many organizations, including the Tampa Museum of Art, the Plant Museum, and the Tampa Philharmonic, and she was a leader in Congregation Schaarai Zedek. She died at 95.

Anne Thal, sadly, was much younger at 71. She was a graduate of the prestigious School of Social Service at the University of Chicago – the nation’s first such, founded in 1924. Anne practiced as a clinical therapist, while also pioneering local institutions of great value. She was the founder of the Suicide and Crisis Center and also ran Jewish Family Services. She served on many boards, but her most distinctive work may be as president/CEO of LifePath Hospice. The concept of hospice originated in Pinellas County, and Anne led Tampa’s to its status as the third largest in the world. Also a member of Congregation Scharai Zedek, her family asks that contributions in her memory be made to Planned Parenthood or Equality Florida.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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