If cash for clunkers program is sputtering ...

The government sponsored the cash-for-clunkers program, which has reportedly been a huge success. Now that the details of the program start to emerge, it is truly beginning to sound like the typical government bureaucracy: Reports say the government's computer system is overloaded, dealers need to submit 20 pages of documentation for reimbursement, the program is flat broke after only four days, junk yards unprepared to accept the large numbers of vehicles being traded in, dealers are left in the lurch facing potential loses in the millions.

Is this the same government that Barack Obama wants to rush a health care bill through?



Well capitalized, well run, well positioned

I was greatly disappointed by your July 27 story on credit union lending trends. While the story highlighted some of the lending challenges credit unions have recently encountered, it neglects to clarify that these difficulties are anomalies in the credit union industry. Only a handful of credit unions were involved in risky lending practices, and for the most part, these loans only made up a small portion of their portfolios.

Minnesota credit unions have a long and proud history of lending conservatively to their members. In fact, only 2.5 percent of the state's credit unions have capital levels that are below what regulators consider to be "adequately capitalized." As of March 31, 2009, the end of the most recent reporting period, the capital ratio for Minnesota credit unions stood at 9.8 percent, well above the 7 percent ratio the National Credit Union Administration uses to define a credit union as "well capitalized."

During this economic recession, all financial institutions are experiencing difficulties. However, credit unions are using their own resources to recover their losses and stabilize the industry, which has a direct impact on their overall earnings.

In addition, the money that credit union members have on deposit is insured up to $250,000, much like the FDIC. There is no problem that could occur in the credit union industry that cannot be handled by the existing deposit insurance system.





Maybe it's time to update the forms

I was delighted to read a July 30 letter writer's comments on the inconsistency in the property tax forms (put an "X" in the oval), but that wasn't the only "minor matter" that the state of Minnesota is having trouble keeping consistent.

The instructions for filling out the M1PR form clearly state that the filer no longer needs to include a property tax statement with the form. The back of the envelope reminds the filer to sign the form and include a copy of their property tax statement. Which is it, folks?


Ellison's trip

Self-interest in tension with the greater good

Whether or not U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison acted appropriately, i.e., within House ethics rules, in accepting the gift of a trip to Mecca, this is a small example of a major flaw in our government: Public officials aren't separated from the influence of private money.

Individuals act in their own self-interest. This is pretty much a given of human nature. The job of elected officials supposedly is to act in the best interest of the country, but when private money from special interests provide them with a considerable source of revenue, how many government officials will put the best interests of the country above the best interests of themselves?

What would the health care reform debate look like if members of Congress (like committee chairman Max Baucus) weren't beholden to the health care industry? What would reform of the financial system look like if members of Congress, as well as appointed officials, weren't entwined with the financial services industry? How much is our government simply controlled by private money?

Sever all financial ties between public officials and the private sector, and we might have a government more attuned to "What's in the best interest of the country?" than "What's in the best interest of me?"

Great idea. Odds of anything being done about it? Well, there's that self-interest thing. Close to zero.



The Star Tribune's effort to make a case out of thin air against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is making it look like a tabloid.

The newspaper must show some parity in how it covers stories of other politicians and their umpteen nonprofit paid trips to various hot spots in the world.