GUARDIANS AD LITEM

The system steers kids back to poor situations

As a former guardian ad litem for Hennepin County, I agree with the conclusion by a current guardian ad litem that the “system acts in the best interests of the parents rather than the best interests of the children” (“The boy in the closet,” Feb. 9). During preparatory training, our class was repeatedly taught this orientation and bias. We were actively encouraged to do all possible to reunite the family.

Once, a former child (now adult) under protection who was permanently placed in foster care was invited to speak to us of his longing to have returned to the parents who abused him. Another time, in a meeting with an abusive mother to stake out a new plan for her improved behavior so she could reunite with a teen I represented, I asked her a simple question: “What about your commitments you made today should make us believe you will fulfill them, when you have not fulfilled your previous commitments?” It was a valid and serious question that resulted in the mother cursing me and no further answer.

The guardian ad litem role should represent the best interests of the child. I resigned because I could not tolerate the repetitive return of children or babies to environments in which one or more of their caregivers abused them. If the system changes to offer these children better options with either foster parents or adoptive parents who will not be abusive, I would rejoin.

DONNA STERNBERG, Eden Prairie

 

FARM BILL

It’s not like subsidies only flow in rural areas

The Feb. 9 editorial on the new farm bill seemed to imply that farmers get subsidies and urban workers get nothing.

Let’s compare tax treatment of income for a self-employed farmer and an urban worker. FICA rate for a farmer: 15.3 percent. Worker rate: 7.65 percent (employer rate 7.65 percent, given to employee tax-free). The farmer pays his own health insurance and workers’ comp, and doesn’t get unemployment insurance or matching funds for a 401(k), all of which are given to urban workers tax-free. There is also local government aid (cut off for townships in 2001, minimal amount added for 2014), and grants for city water, streets, curb and gutter, sewer and water mains, historic buildings, state bonding, etc. — all of which are designed to keep city property taxes low, and none of which are means-tested.

Any special tax treatment like this that applies to the upper income brackets you would call a loophole. If you are looking for funds for a noble cause like helping the poor, the least you could do is pay taxes on all your income instead of always looking to tax others.

DARCY KROELLS, Green Isle, Minn.

• • •

Steve Sack’s Feb. 9 editorial cartoon about the farm bill shows a bloated scarecrow representing agri-biz subsidies and a puny scarecrow representing food stamps. Elsewhere in the paper, an article on the farm bill states that about 15 percent of the money will go to subsidies for farmers and that “most of the rest of the money in the almost $100 billion-a-year law will go to food stamps.”

Fifteen billion to subsidies and around $80 billion to food stamps? Which scarecrow should be puny?

Bob Knoch, Apple Valley

 

WORKING POOR

Combination of efforts are necessary now

After reading D.J. Tice’s Feb. 9 column about tax credits and the minimum wage, I believe he qualifies as a thoughtful, moderate, legal and modern Robin Hood. The working poor in this country need assistance, and they certainly do not need any extra visits from the sheriff of Nottingham. Personally, I think a combination of tax credits and an increase in the minimum wage would go a long way toward allowing both rich and poor to share the wealth of this great nation. I’ll leave it to our lawmakers to work out the details.

By the way, narrowing the economic gap between families can only help to narrow the academic achievement gap in our schools.

JOHN BRODRICK, St. Paul

 

The writer is a member of the St. Paul school board.

• • •

It is a mind-twister to argue that poverty-battling measures like the minimum wage harm the poor. But that is exactly what Tice contends.

He argues that as wages rise, low-income workers will be harmed by losing their eligibility for income support programs. But if American workers were paid what they deserve, none would currently qualify, as many do, for public-assistance programs. Raise the minimum wage so that the food-drive boxes in workplaces go to local foodshelves instead of to the most impoverished coworkers.

Tice further suggests that an expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit should trump any increase in the minimum wage. The EITC is valuable policy that allows more of a small paycheck to stay with a family. But in the average year, one in four eligible Minnesotans do not apply for it.

In a time of record high child poverty and income inequality, a wide variety of poverty-fighting tools are needed to provide Minnesota families economic security.

SHERI SMITH, St. Paul

 

TRAVEL TIPS

No, you can’t take more than you’ve paid for

I was astonished to see a recommendation in the otherwise informative article “Tips to tone down spending on your next foreign vacation” (Feb. 9) that, having eaten the hotel breakfast, one should “grab some for later, too.”

By any standard, this is stealing.

If readers can afford the airfare, hotel costs and other expenses incurred on vacation, including expensive smartphone use abroad, they have no excuse to resort to petty theft.

Such behavior does nothing to endear U.S. or other foreign visitors to their host countries.

PAUL MCCARTHY, Eastbourne, England