Thank you, Star Tribune, for keeping us informed on climate change and the environment. Like many Minnesotans, I value our seasons, wildlife, waterways, woods and meadows. Unfortunately, the outdoor world has changed noticeably in the past 50 years: Winters are warmer, especially in northern Minnesota; ice-out times are earlier and the snow season is shorter; summers are wetter with frequent mega-rain events; maple trees are moving north and tamaracks are dying; moose populations are dwindling; lynx and bird populations are shifting. I'm heartbroken that my grandchildren will live in a land more like Kansas than that of my childhood.
With all that is happening right here, why did a third of Minnesotans in a 2019 Yale survey refuse to agree that global warming is real and almost half refuse to say that it is largely due to mankind? Earlier this year, 50 of our Minnesota House members voted against a declaration that human activities are a key cause of climate change. How can so many believe that they know better than the majority of the world's experts who've devoted their professional lives to studying climate science?
Please keep the environmental coverage coming! It's evident we need more reminders and education. Those of my generation have been poor stewards of this Earth, even though the alarm was sounded decades ago. Passing the problem on for future generations to fix is unethical. It's just not an option.
Susan Wehrenberg, Apple Valley
Work requirements don't help
The advocates serving Minnesotans who rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are absolutely correct that tightening work requirements for this program "will make it difficult for those who need help to get it and put even more pressure on food shelves and other community programs" ("Feds to tighten rules for food aid," Dec. 5).
One key reason for this is that work requirements have proved to be ineffective. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Cutting off basic assistance doesn't appear to help individuals get jobs, as research into the SNAP time limit, and similar rules in Medicaid, demonstrates." Further, "Rigid work requirements in government assistance programs have a well-established record of fueling deep poverty."
Nevertheless the Agriculture Department has pursued this and other restrictions on SNAP eligibility. This is despite the fact that these same restrictions were rejected on a bipartisan basis in last year's farm bill and that, during the comment period on this proposed rule on SNAP work requirements, the department received more than 140,000 public comments, which were overwhelmingly negative.
While it is late in the game, there is still time to act. Advocates need to let their elected representatives know the consequences this new rule will have for their constituents and urge their opposition to it.
Martin Fergus, Crystal
• • •
My friends Colleen Moriarty from Hunger Solutions Minnesota and Allison O'Toole from Second Harvest Heartland were absolutely correct to express concern about tightened eligibility for SNAP. Organizations that are alleviating hunger across Minnesota will need to work even harder to absorb the effects of federal policy changes like this one. Loaves and Fishes will keep our doors open and serve fresh plates to anyone for any reason — whether that need is obvious to someone looking in or not. If you find yourself asking where the compassion is in this kind of policy shift, I know where to find it: at every community meal dining site and food shelf in Minnesota.
Volunteer today to work alongside those serving the grateful guests who need a helping hand. You can be an essential ingredient to our collective resolve of filling the gap of hunger in Minnesota.
Cathy Maes, Minneapolis
The writer is executive director of Loaves and Fishes MN.
• • •
We're told the cost savings from tightening work requirements under SNAP is $5.5 billion over five years, a billion a year. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue sells this as "restoring the original intent of food stamps ... moving more able-bodied Americans to self-sufficiency."
In fact, the original intent of the Food Stamp Act of 1964, Public Law 88-525, is clearly listed as follows: "To strengthen the agricultural economy; to help to achieve a fuller and more effective use of food abundances; to provide for improved levels of nutrition among low-income households."
States were warned to "not decrease welfare grants or other similar aid extended to any person or persons as a consequence of ... participation in benefits made available under the provisions of this Act."
So, "Get a job, you lazy slob," was never a goal.
Meanwhile, the U.S. maintains 800 military bases in 80 foreign countries. In 2009, the think tank Foreign Policy in Focus reported that the cost of maintaining those bases plus propagating foreign wars was $250 billion annually (pushing $300 billion in 2019 dollars).
Here's a suggestion for Sonny: Instead of starving SNAP, tell President Trump to cut a billion dollars of fat each year from foreign military spending — one-third of 1%.
We'd have fewer poor, malnourished Americans, and a less-bloated military budget to boot.
William Beyer, St. Louis Park
You have extra? I want it back, then
I know just what to do with the projected state budget surplus: Give it back. ("Good budget news, but proceed warily," editorial, Dec. 6.) It's not your money. Write "Jesse checks" (as former Gov. Jesse Ventura did from 1999-2001) to every taxpayer and let us make use of the excess as we see fit. I know, I know. Politicians see money and are compelled to spend it, like crack addicts whose craving for a hit overwhelms them. But it's not the Legislature's money given as a generous gift by Minnesotans. We sent in what the tax bill required and whatever is left over is not a tip or a "keep the change" situation.
If the Legislature wants to fund other projects, put them in the next biennial budget.
Jack Sheehan, Eden Prairie
Computer glitches are coming for 2020. We need paper backups.
Relegated to the back page of the A section in the Dec. 3 issue of the Star Tribune was probably one of the most important stories as we approach such a consequential election year ("Incorrect vote count lends urgency to paper ballots"). A county in Pennsylvania had some serious election glitches in November, where machines changed voters' straight-ticket ballot choices from their preferred party to the other. This led to an initial vote tally for a judge that had him winning only 164 votes out of 55,000 (prompting a concern of a statistical impossibility). Because the county had paper ballots to refer to, these glitches were corrected and that judge actually won the election!
With all the concern about foreign influence in our last election and the very real possibility that hacking of voting machines and voter rolls may affect next year's elections, paper ballot backups should be required for all states. A bill to that effect was passed by the U.S. House along with money to update voting machines. It sits without action on Sen. Mitch McConnell's desk, as he blocks this extremely important intervention.
Voters of both parties want to know that their candidates are elected fair and square. We must put pressure on the Senate to act on these essential provisions toward that end.
Paula Swiggum, Eagan
We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.