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.

A third overlooked issue is the failure of our government to make higher eduction affordable to everyone. Too many students are leaving college saddled with almost insurmountable debt that will limit their purchasing power for decades.

Finally, progressive taxes do matter. The tax rate on the wealthiest have never been lower. Many of the problems we have in this country (budget deficits, crumbling infrastructure) are amplified because the very wealthy are not paying their share.

KEN ASCHEMAN, Blaine

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

If anything, apologize for making it wimpy

President Obama’s apology about dropped health insurance coverage, and the subsequent administrative change he enacted to allow policies to be reinstated for one year, are weak political moves and bad policy. The insureds who lost their policies had junk policies that really didn’t give them much coverage and were very profitable for insurance companies. Those effected should go into the marketplace exchange and buy some quality insurance that will work for them when they need it, and thank Mr. Obama for covering their back.

What the president should apologize for is not supporting Medicare for all, or at least a public option.

BRUCE FISHER, St. Louis Park

CHARITABLE GIVING

Criticism of Dayton is shortsighted

The writer of the Nov. 15 Letter of the Day (“Dayton’s giving reflects the ideology of compassion”) missed an opportunity to teach his 18-year-old son about the true meaning of compassion and giving. The parent failed to teach the child that giving does not need to be reflected in the amount of money, but rather the time and energy one sacrifices.

For a politician like Gov. Mark Dayton, a lifelong career in the public sector is a true exercise in giving and compassion. Coming from a family of wealth and connections, he took the compassionate road by following a career with low pay and minimal recognition.

And oh, yeah, isn’t Dayton the man who forewent an entire year’s public salary (while in the U.S. Senate, on behalf of seniors buying prescription drugs) and still did a hard year’s work? That sounds like the spirit of giving to me.

ALEXANDER CAHILL, Brooklyn Park

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