While U.S. wages may be flat, today's manufacturing workers earn 20 times what a Chinese worker does. Companies like mine are continually challenged to drive costs down and quality up in order to keep jobs in the United States.
However, a then-and-now comparison in a given industry like welding is misleading. The $17-an-hour wage cited in "The skills gap: Myth or reality?" (Aug. 5) is an annual wage of $34,000, and possibly more with overtime, plus paid medical benefits, vacation, and an opportunity to earn more with additional training and experience.
As noted, jobs are plentiful, and the required training is a one-year certificate that costs about $5,000. Compare that with statistics for food prep and serving, for which the starting wage is $10.44 an hour. Yet there doesn't seem to be a supply-and-demand problem in the fast-food industry.
Our company has consistently avoided the "race to the bottom," providing competitive wages and training that lets our workers increase their earning power. We find ourselves up against a population that is increasingly split between low graduation rates at one end and the belief that a four-year degree is the only path to success at the other end. That creates a gap where the "middle-skills worker" has traditionally been found.
ERICK AJAX, FRIDLEY
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Andrew Hasek, arguing against St. Paul's student-housing ordinance, presents one perspective on the issue. A larger perspective would address the impact of unregulated rental properties in our community.
First of all, college students are transient members of our communities. They don't invest in the community; they simply occupy it for a period of time. Many do so respectfully. The greater their number, though, the less well they integrate themselves.
Likewise, landlords are too frequently not members of our communities. They exploit the demand created by excessive local enrollments and provide a lower standard of property care than do permanent residents. In our community, this problem has been fueled in large part by the University of St. Thomas and its unregulated growth. St. Thomas now enrolls 6,000 undergraduates within a space originally intended for 2,000.
Hasek also mentions but undersells the difficulties that these rental properties create: excessive numbers of cars, increased traffic, underage drinking and public drunkenness, and noise complaints, all of which detract from the value of our properties.
Finally, he argues that the ordinance works to the detriment of the St. Thomas community. I note an absence of concern for the Merriam Park and Macalester-Groveland communities.
As a college professor, I do not view college students as a problem. Their institutions, on the other hand, have a duty at the least not to burden their communities.
JOHN SCHMIT, ST PAUL
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Yes, Iceland is doing better emerging from its economic downturn than the United States is ("Meltdown lessons," Aug. 4)
Iceland is becoming a pioneer in banking reform. Quoting an Icelandic lawmaker: The best way to stop banks creating asset bubbles is to pass laws akin to the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial and investment banking in the United States for more than six decades.
All well and good, but the concrete steps Iceland has already taken are sadly missing in our country's response to the crisis. Iceland is suing and indicting bankers.
Where are the criminal indictments in the United States for the banking-sector architects of our financial collapse?
MICHAEL DOYLE, BLOOMINGTON
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Tying the Wisconsin shootings to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Readers Write, Aug. 7) is really a stretch. Why is she not free to speak her mind -- no matter the topic? This, my friend, is why we ought to be in awe of this great land, where we are free to live and write and say and believe.
If you don't like her, don't vote for her. Run for office, serve others. You take on the challenges.
If each one of us would try to be what they say others should be, perhaps we would at least see some progress.
As for violence: We should get serious about mandating stiff sentences for crime -- really stiff, with hard labor and minimal comforts. Countries that have laws taking off people's hands for stealing don't have much theft.
Also, when we took authority out of parents' hands, we forfeited society's ability to maintain control. Violence has to do with evil in the individual. But without a standard that says it is evil, and law with the teeth to reduce it, it will have its way.
MARGARET LOVELESS, MAPLEWOOD
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God bless the interfaith leaders who came forward to say that Bachmann's fear-mongering does not represent their views of religion (Aug. 6). However, they and others who have spoken out against the representative are missing the point. People who believe that Bachmann may have insider information will see such a stand as more of the political correctness she has called out consistently.
The real problem is that to an outsider, Bachmann appears educated. With a position on the House Intelligence Committee, she should know more than the average citizen about the state of our defense and threat levels. In-the-know people like Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the committee, need to step forward to say that an uninformed conspiracist is making a name for herself by fomenting fear. In a world that devalues expertise, we need experts explaining in no uncertain terms what the truth is.
MARA J. COREY, HOPKINS
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.