Regarding the Aug. 17 Hot Dish Politics column reporting that three Minnesota congressmen had used campaign funds to hire family members for staff positions: If this doesn’t smack of impropriety, I am not sure what does.

While the work these family members were being paid for was perhaps legitimate (or not — who really knows?), there is still a real lack of judgment about the perception of what is right or wrong. Further, this indicates how little we really understand about the rules of engagement for Congress. Did the founding fathers think to enable the compensation of family members when the U.S. government was formed? I think not. Somewhere along the line, someone saw an opportunity to funnel campaign donations to family and made it acceptable.

How is it the people we elect don’t get that this looks fundamentally wrong? Rep. Collin Peterson paid his son in excess of $100,000 as campaign treasurer. Really? Thankfully, the other representatives, including my own, Erik Paulsen, are no longer paying family members. It is time for the Minnesota delegation to back the bill eliminating this questionable practice.

Mark Hayes, Chanhassen


If there are rules and litigation, then what?

The Star Tribune series “Unchecked care,” regarding the lack of training for personal care attendants, appears to be an exposé of a situation in need of change. PCAs are administering health care, including injections, medications, first aid, food preparation decisions, etc., with just hours of training. The series points out that as many as 36,000 Minnesota elderly with special needs are at risk.

I’m curious as to the goals the Star Tribune has set as an outcome of this reporting series. State legislation regarding training? Licensing? Litigations over medical assistance? All of that might be a noble quest, but what is the Star Tribune’s substitute care for these elderly individuals? There is no one else to care for them.

Don Eisenschenk, Minnetonka

• • •

By focusing on medical care, the article “No training, but lives puts in their hands” (Aug. 17) missed the majority of the work that PCAs like me do every day. We assist seniors and people with disabilities with tasks like bathing, dressing and using the toilet, allowing them to live independently in their homes instead of moving into more expensive institutions. Many direct their own support services.

The article also left out that this summer 9,000 home care workers signed cards to trigger the largest union election in state history, and we’ll know the results soon. When we win, we’ll begin negotiating with the state over important issues like training, pay and benefits. In states where home care workers have a union, they’ve made dramatic improvements for both workers and their clients through decreased turnover and better training.

When we win our union, we will finally begin to move toward real solutions. Our work has been invisible for far too long.

Jan Wirpel, St. Louis Park

• • •

The Aug. 17 article was disturbing for a number of reasons. It highlighted the growing unmet needs of our sick, aging population. And it showed how few of our society’s resources are being used to meet these needs.

The sad fact is, when a person runs out of money and ongoing care needs fall outside of the Medicare guidelines, there aren’t a lot of options available. That person must turn to agencies receiving government funding and end up relying on a system that is grossly overstretched, understaffed and underfunded. More regulation will not resolve this.

That being said, it is also inaccurate to paint all home care with the same brush. There are many Medicare-funded and private-pay home care agencies scrupulously adhering to regulations and providing exemplary care. I know, because I work for one of them.

So get mad if you must, advocate for change, contact your elected officials and help your neighbors, but don’t just blame those trying to help from within a broken system.

Mary Claire O’Brien, Rockford



Really, that change is a drop in the bucket

Lee Schafer, in his Aug. 17 column describing the effect the minimum-wage hike has on restaurant income (“Small raise for workers is large cut for owners”), gave examples of two different restaurants. In both cases, the yearly increase in labor costs was less than 1 percent of total yearly sales. Is raising prices by 1 percent to cover this expense a big problem? How many people will walk out of a restaurant when they discover that their $100 meal will now cost $101? Or that their $10 fast-food order has gone up to $10.10?

As a check on whether or not restaurants actually can raise prices and stay in business, I looked at a Rick Nelson restaurant review from July 2013; then, the particular neighborhood restaurant’s pasta prices ranged from $16 to $21. Now the restaurant’s website gives pasta prices ranging from $19 to $22. Depending on the what you order, prices went up between 5 percent and 20 percent in 10 months. Another 19 or 22 cents this year doesn’t sound like a killer.

Dick Hendrickson, Minneapolis



We’re not talking about exact opposites

D.J. Tice (“What kind of minds think alike? Those in politics,” Aug. 17) assigns equal blame to Democrats and Republicans for our polarized politics. His fallacy is in claiming the parties represent poles.

The Republican Party is hard-right, indeed, whereas the Clintonian “New” Democrats are centrist. Bill Clinton deregulated (disastrously, as regards Wall Street), cut taxes (formally apologizing for his budget-balancing 1994 increase), abandoned unions (the rank-and-file already voted Republican) and lobbied for war with Saddam (settling for Slobodan Milosevic).

Obama’s centerpiece Affordable Care Act is Romneycare. His stimulus package was two-thirds tax cuts. And his “retreat” from foreign entanglements involves carrot-on-a-stick withdrawal dates from Afghanistan while the spy establishment has free rein provoking new conflicts in Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine …

The proper perspective for liberal/conservative polarity is not Ronald Reagan and Clinton. It is the Gilded Age (our most corrupt era) and the New Deal (identified with the Greatest Generation). The nation is careening (rightward) off the tracks owing to a proto-fascist Republican Party and a bland, accommodationist Democratic Party with no countervailing liberal principles to keep the passenger load centered.

Mark Warner, Minneapolis

• • •

Seeing that congressional representatives have, over time, increasingly voted in accord with their respective party across a wide array of issues, some as much as 97 percent of the time, legislating becomes more about winning elections than about working to resolve differences in finding solutions to the people’s problems. A consequence can be legislation without any bipartisan support and of dubious value or durability. Allowing for the few who are occasional defectors from the party position, it should not therefore take more than a handful of legislators, rather than 535. At least we’d save some money.

Moreover, the work of casting obligatory votes, if you can call it work, can’t be too fulfilling. So, we should be skeptical when we hear a politician say they want to go to Washington to help do the people’s work. Likely, they have another motive.

Gary Hays, Bloomington