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Readers Write (Nov. 23): Fiscal policy, winter recreation, orchestra

  • November 22, 2012 - 7:52 PM


High earners, make your specific case


Now that the election is over, the "fiscal cliff" dominates the news. One particular point of contention is whether to raise taxes on the wealthy. It occurred to me that while corporate America in general is not bashful about expressing opinions, we have a real shortage of wealthy people who are willing to make their case.

Just a few moments on Google reveal that the CEO of Target, Gregg Steinhafel, and the former CEO of 3M, George Buckley, both had compensation of roughly $23 million in 2011. Each received about $1.5 million in salary (taxed at normal rates) and the rest in bonuses, stock options and other compensation, much of which is taxed at capital-gains rates of 15 percent.

I invite them to explain to us voters in Minnesota why we should urge our U.S. senators and representatives to renew the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000. Tell us how many personal employees you have now, and what you plan to do with them if taxes go up. How many additional personal employees you will hire if your taxes do not go up? We are told (endlessly) that raising taxes on the wealthy is a job killer. Please confirm or deny.


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A fair and balanced approach to the debt crisis does not include cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These programs are not the real problem, and should not be part of spending cuts. Republicans are attempting to take advantage of the debt crises to damage and destroy these programs, as they have attempted to do since the programs' inception.

The middle class and working poor have fared poorly these past 30 years, as reflected in flat wages, decreased or eliminated benefits, diminished bargaining power, loss of jobs or underemployment, and stagnant mobility. At the same time, the economic elite, especially the top 1 percent, have influenced policies that have ensured excessive wealth, resulting in extreme income inequality, while negatively impacting our general well-being and democracy.

There would be nothing "fair" nor "balanced" about asking the already hurting middle class and working poor, to say nothing of the very poor, to pay their so-called fair share. The debt crises was not caused by Main Street, but by Wall Street and corporate and CEO greed, the Bush tax cuts, two unpaid for wars, deregulation, tax subsidies to big oil and big agriculture and the like, and a bloated defense budget, which isn't a defense budget at all, but a profit machine for the industrial-military complex and its associates. Payment has already been extracted from the middle class and working poor. It's time for solutions that are just.


• • •

I'm remembering the moment Bill Clinton's presidential campaign clarified our discourse with the mantra: "It's the economy, stupid." Someone needs to step up now and say: "It's an investment, stupid. Good government is an investment in America's future."

We need to stop lamenting that half the country is getting "gifts" and worrying about whether our fellow citizens (never the accuser) are getting handouts. Instead, we need to worry about whether they are getting a hand up to a good start, a new opportunity.

Who wants to live in a community with huge, costly prisons housing mostly the poor? Unsafe working conditions? Toxic drinking water? Dirty air? Or overcrowded, undereducating schools?

Have any of you antigovernment folks left our shores and seen the beautiful airports, highways, train systems, wireless networks, art museums and other public-serving buildings that other developed and developing countries have built? Worry, please, about living in the backwaters of civilization.

If we invest in opportunities for all Americans, we can do amazing things collectively and individually. Let's pull together and shore up the still-untarnished ideals of a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." Our national beacon still shines; we just need to clean off the lens.


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Can it mix safely with wolf hunting?


The "Minnesota Explorer" winter issue included in the Sunday Star Tribune got my winter-fun juices flowing, especially for cross-country skiing.

The deer-hunting season just finished. No one strolls in the woods during that season without orange-blaze clothing, and most have a gun with them, of course. The second wolf-hunting season, however, is to start soon and continue through all of December and January. That gives me second thoughts about the wisdom of my roaming snow-laden forests on my skis or snowshoes.

This is not a veiled attack on the wolf hunt. It is a serious question for the state Department of Natural Resources and all of us winter-sports lovers to consider. Are hunters and winter forest roamers a safe and wise mix?


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We must recognize the size of our market


The standoff between management and musicians continues to erode the support and viability of the Minnesota Orchestra.

This crisis stems from the recently expired 2007 agreement between the parties. It was made at a time of confidence in the economic boom and of international acclaim for Musical Director Osmo Vänskä and our Orchestra. We were euphoric in our recognition as a cultural center and repudiation of any idea we were "fly-over country." Thus the agreement on compensation was based on the "large market" model of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles more than the "small market" examples of St. Louis, Detroit or Atlanta.

Then, in 2008, came the cold bath of reality. Management had to face the fact that the orchestra could not operate on the same basis as the 2007 contract, while the musicians seem to have taken the old salary scale as an entitlement. Current operating needs cannot be met from dedicated capital funds such as the Endowment Fund (already invaded to a dangerous point) or the Building Fund (needed to complete the ongoing renovation of Orchestra Hall.) Something has to give.

I think this community still desires to keep Vänskä and the orchestra in a renewed and potentially profitable Orchestra Hall. Let us break this worsening stalemate and negotiate a fair new salary structure that recognizes our small-market status.


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