Today some relish calling President Obama "the great divider," claiming a policy like the Buffett Rule is so extreme that it produces "class hatred." But when asked about their estimate of President Ronald Reagan, they rank him, at times, above President Abraham Lincoln. Yet, Reagan claimed about unfair taxation: "We're going to close the unproductive loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. ... They sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that's crazy." How different is this from Obama's stressing that a billionaire pays a smaller percentage in taxes than his secretary?
Obama doesn't divide us, but the most inequitable distribution of income since the 1920s does, when it also dried up demand and caused unemployment. Dividing us is the fact that in 2009 the average CEO for the largest companies earned $9.6 million, as middle-class wages stagnated and benefits were lost. Dividing us is the fact that some of the highest-paid executives in Minnesota who, according to the Star Tribune, received up to $600,000 in yearly perks, while 45 million Americans earned less than $15,000, qualifying them for food stamps.
Obama's pointing out such facts makes him a "divider," while Reagan's saying much the same qualifies him for canonization, and the same falsehood fails to recognize that over 65 percent of all Americans favor taxing the richest in line with the Reagan years.
GREG VAN HEE, PERHAM, MINN.
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While the behavior of Accretive employees reported in the April 25 article "Attorney general: Fairview put squeeze on patients" is appalling, it should hardly surprise us. As stated, Minnesota hospitals write off hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated health care each year. I applaud the AG for highlighting the shameful practice of harassing sick people for money they don't have, but I implore readers to recognize that this situation simply underscores the giant health care mess we are in, and there is no end in sight.
The need for our hospitals to provide uncompensated care to uninsured and underinsured Minnesotans will continue to grow if we do not fundamentally change our system. Assuming the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, more than 250,000 Minnesotans will remain uninsured, while hundreds of thousands more will rely on skimpy insurance that does not properly protect them from serious financial strain if they fall ill.
As a practicing physician representing more than 900 Minnesota physicians and medical students in our chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, I continue to find the injustice of our nonsystem shocking. But I do not despair, because there is a solution. Under a unified single-payer system, hospitals would reliably receive the compensation they deserve for the valuable work they do, and patients would seek care when they need it without being subjected to humiliating harassment. Let's do the right thing and change our system for real.
ANN SETTGAST, MINNEAPOLIS
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The Minnesota Vikings brought in a big gun -- the NFL commissioner -- last week, and it seemed to rouse a dilly-dally Legislature to get moving again on a new stadium bill. Maybe the Highway 14 Coalition (New Ulm to Owatonna) should bring in a big gun -- such as the U.S. transportation commissioner -- to put some pressure on our Legislature, too. He should take a drive on Hwy. 14 from New Ulm to Mankato and learn firsthand why that stretch of highway is far above the state average in fatal accidents.
For about 40 years, that dangerous stretch of highway has been on the state's 20-year plan -- but decades come and go with nothing more than a short stretch of improvements. State funding is needed to get matching federal highway funds.
Around 1,000 semitrailer trucks operate in and out of New Ulm, and Hwy. 14 is their major route. This 1920s road is woefully inadequate.
DON BRAND, NEW ULM, MINN.
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I would like to offer another viewpoint about the April 26 commentary about the television show "Mad Men" ("Thank goodness that era is over"). My first jobs were in advertising, just out of college in the early 1970s. The "times they were a-changin'," but my Minneapolis-based experiences in ad agencies were similar to the TV show. I look back rather fondly on those days. The office used to be fun. I was a young woman surrounded by creative, artistic people who lead interesting lives. We worked long hours, and we deserved the perks. Now things are more dreary and serious. One can be sued for telling a joke; you can't compliment a coworker on a nice outfit -- no wonder young people don't even bother to greet their coworkers in the morning.
It was wonderful to get in the office elevator and have the men hold open the doors while the scent of Arpege, Chanel No. 5 and Shalimar wafted out.
The modern workplace has been taken over by the HR geeks: scent-free, distraction-free, humor-free and cubicle-clustered. No one wants to go back to separate help-wanted ads for men and women, but are women really paid equally today? Bring back civility and mirth.
LINDA BENZINGER, MINNEAPOLIS