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Watching fledgling attempts at democracy abroad, I am reminded how long our own democracy has been evolving, and how difficult a transition from iron-fisted rule can be in places where democratic behavior is not a familiar aspect of day to day life. Democracy is difficult.
A supreme leader who simply silences the voices of dissenters does not have the challenges of governing an ungovernable Congress or standing in front of a room full of reporters who may ask and print whatever they’d like without fear of imprisonment or worse.
Is Iraq better off without Saddam Hussein? Would Zimbabwe have descended into chaos like Egypt if Robert Mugabe had not stolen his re-election with fraudulent votes and voter manipulations? And what will happen in Syria? And Libya?
We who have the privilege of criticizing those who do not share our political views, or who have different solutions to address health care, national security, the economy, or the dichotomy of environmental stewardship vs. convenience, should consider how lucky we are.
STEPHEN HARLAN-MARKS, Robbinsdale
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Seniors would lose with ‘marketplace fairness’
As Congress considers passing the Marketplace Fairness Act, there has been some discussion about what the law would mean for small businesses. Another important dimension of the debate, however, is the devastating effect this legislation would have on our seniors, the disabled and rural communities.
I am the president of the Assisted Living Store. Our online business sells essential products for the elderly and the disabled. The MFA will raise prices of these goods for a vulnerable segment of the U.S. population. Though many products needed for medical reasons qualify for tax exemptions, many others do not. For our customers, these products are often impossible to physically access, given their conditions. The Internet has made it easier and more affordable for them to do so. (According to research by the Nielsen Norman Group, U.S. seniors are the fastest-growing demographic using the Internet, up 16 percent per year.)
The MFA also would tax mail order catalog sales. Since studies by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce show that households with disabilities, lower incomes and less education are less likely to have Internet access, it’s not far-fetched to think they may rely on traditional catalog shopping. Today, determining taxes on mail order catalogs is easy. The MFA would require people to know more than 9,600 different taxing jurisdictions — each with different rules on what is taxable and what is not.
KIMBERLY A. CARLSON, South St. Paul
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.