Readers Write: (Nov. 17): University of Minnesota, the middle class, Affordable Care Act,

  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 4:24 PM

The costs of higher education are merely being shifted back to the state.

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UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

Should’ve asked Kaler about efficiency efforts

I wish one more question had been asked in the interview with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler (“U treads into unknown territory,” Nov. 10), namely, “What is the U doing to make real productivity gains in the cost of educating undergraduates?” While I applaud Kaler for freezing tuition, he is not reducing the real cost of educating each student but rather hoping to shift more of that cost back to the state. With real productivity gains, tuition could actually be reduced, not just frozen, assuming state funding for the U holds where it is at currently.

We expect most every other sector of our society and economy to use innovation to become more efficient. Many of them go out of business if they do not. As consumers of their product, we should expect no less of higher education.

RICHARD J. SAUER, Blue Springs, Mo.

The writer is a former interim president of the University of Minnesota.

THE MIDDLE CLASS

If it’s flying apart, focus on the real reasons

America’s middle class may be “flying apart,” as the headline for Stephen Young’s Nov. 10 commentary contends, but Young’s detailed analysis of troubling economic and demographic changes overlooks a key development that helped create America’s broad middle class: the rise of a muscular labor movement in the years after World War II. By 1970, the middle class constituted 60 percent of the U.S. population, twice as much as 20 years earlier. That 60 percent was composed of millions of blue-collar families who were part of the economic mainstream for the first time in American history.

Young concludes his analysis of middle-class decline by citing such familiar causes as globalization and technological change, but he ignores a key cause of that decline: a marginalized labor movement that now represents less than 12 percent of American workers. Even with the economic and political headwinds that it must face today, a reinvigorated American labor movement is this country’s best hope in halting and even reversing the disturbing trends that are causing the middle class to fly apart.

IRIC NATHANSON, Minneapolis

The writer is the author of “Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century.”

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While Young’s reasons have merit, they do not go far enough to drive to the root cause. Globalization has been very hard on the middle class because of our government’s free-trade policies. Trade must also be fair. Tariffs should be imposed as needed to ensure there is no advantage to the offshoring of jobs simply for lower costs or to avoid complying with environmental regulations.

Another cause not addressed was the need for all companies to pay a living wage in the United States. Too many companies have business models built on paying their associates poverty-level wages. Not only does this keep many people out of the middle class, but it creates extra costs to a society that must provide things like food stamps and housing assistance to these workers.

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