Misleading assertions regarding the deficit
It is time to call out George F. Will and others on perpetuating the misleading understanding of Social Security financing ("Government: A most inappropriate engineer," Dec. 13).
Aided by a member of the program's board of trustees, Will states that Sen. Richard Durban, D.-Ill., is "off by 16,500,000,000,000 pennies" when he notes Social Security has not added one penny to the deficit. This is misleading (actually deceitful), and must be challenged.
If in fact Social Security payments exceed receipts this year, the program will cover the shortfall by cashing (redeeming) a small portion of the bonds it holds, owed by the United States.
For too long, the annual federal deficit has been artfully reduced by considering the Social Security surplus as a reduction. The Social Security Administration (SSA) should be considered as a separate entity, which lends, as do millionaires, China and other countries, its surplus to the U.S. Government. The SSA has in fact received U.S. bonds for prior surpluses.
When any other party redeems its bonds, no one claims this adds to the deficit; such redemptions are merely refinanced. So it is deceitful to state that refinancing SSA redemptions adds to the deficit. A member of the Social Security board so stating should be disqualified as a board member.
As no one challenges, the SSA is solvent for many years, as its bonds will cover revenue shortfalls. If reported federal debt does not include what is owed to SSA, it should be restated to include that debt. It must be a separate entity for understanding, and the existence of a separate board supports that.
DARRELL EGERTSON, BLOOMINGTON
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U.S. Sen. Al Franken's long litany of deficits ("Let's keep our balance around this fiscal cliff," Dec. 13) leaves out one of the most obvious ones -- the mental deficit among some of our career politicians; either they lie or are too lazy to check out the "facts" about which they speak.
George Will, in his adjacent column, points out how Durbin's public statement that Social Security "has not added one penny to the deficit" doesn't seem to align with the opinion of a member of the Social Security board of trustees on this subject; I would put my money on this member's opinion. Why must our career politicians rely on twisting facts in order to persuade?
GENE FLOERSCH, MINNEAPOLIS
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STUDENT BUS PASSES
Give time for benefits to overcome any flaws
On the heels of the article ("Attendance down in wake of bus passes," Dec. 14) explaining the city bus pass program to increase attendance and to give freedom to attend extracurricular activities, it is no surprise that a certain percentage of kids will take a mile when given an inch. It is also no surprise that many critics cry out, "Obviously! What were you expecting?" This is a superficial reaction.
Mobility is freedom -- freedom to leave your neighborhood and see new things, and to be exposed to new job markets, opportunities and all the things your neighborhood may not offer. A vehicle is not an option for every 16-year-old student, but the ability to attend postsecondary classes or an internship or whatever else the students and their families deem necessary for their personal and academic development should be. We should be encouraging development, not isolation.
This new program must be given time to mature, because there is a need for it; an increase in school busing does not seem forthcoming. The article even describes a new measure in which parents can regulate the hours that the passes can be used. Just because upon first receiving greater freedom teenagers stray does not mean it will be the norm (the 30.5 percent increase in the number of students who had better attendance should not be disregarded). After all, who among us did not feel the powerful pull of freedom when we were finally mobile?
MICHAEL TATONE, GOLDEN VALLEY
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Self-fulfillment can be achieved in isolation
I take issue with the Variety section article about mastery ("Top not reserved for the famous," Dec. 11). The reporter writes: "Isolation will kill mastery, and perpetual curiosity will fuel it."
Readers seeking this level of excellence are encouraged to seek out mentors and confidants. But I don't believe it's necessarily true that goals are best achieved with a mentor, life coach or teacher.
For many, self-fulfillment comes from within, perhaps fueled through creative or intellectual isolation. Some people may need help with self-motivation and study, but not all. Please stop perpetuating the myth that collaboration is essential to mastery.
CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS, MINNEAPOLIS
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Don't let preachers take away our joy and light
Last week, two of my daughters and two of my young grandchildren went to the Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" at Duluth's Bayfront Festival Park ("Duluth's park preachers get legal thumbs-up," Dec. 12). It was the most beautiful display of lights that I have ever seen. The Christmas manger scene and Noah's Ark were among many displays there.
My children, grandchildren and I all believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That's why Nathan Bentley should be allowed to continue to bring us the joy without interference from two aggressive religious preachers and court battles with them.
This display is for young and old alike. If he can afford to build it and pay the huge electric bills that must accompany it, let him do so in peace.
NANCY KALIHER, ELK RIVER
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Two-party system is failing us regularly
We see weekly that our country is poorly served by the two-party system. Democrats continue to resist necessary changes to entitlement programs, and Republicans continue to resist necessary changes in tax rates. Each party implements unbalanced policies when in power.
What can we do? Support independent and centrist candidates. Support ranked-choice voting reforms. Support nonpartisan, fact-based organizations. The next generation is depending on us.
STUART CHASTAIN, SHOREVIEW