I’m transgender, and simply using a public restroom is always unnerving or even terrifying. Sometimes I avoid drinking water, which is especially unhealthy when you’ve donated a kidney like I have. I’ve left events early or have driven 15 minutes out of the way to a Starbucks because I knew it had an inclusive restroom policy. I’ve asked friends to escort me to the bathroom for safety and have done the same for them. Almost every trans person I know has these stories.
I feel unsafe in public restrooms partly because people like a July 24 letter writer (who called a proposed University of Minnesota policy on personal pronouns “both appalling and stupid”) either paint transgender people as automatic sexual predators or suggest that transgender-inclusive policies will empower cisgender predators to act. Both of these ideas have been proven false in the numerous states, cities and companies that protect access to the restrooms and other facilities we deem most appropriate or safe for ourselves.
In 2016, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women released a consensus statement from 324 organizations affirming that “Discriminating against transgender people does not give anyone more control over their body or security. Those who perpetuate falsehoods about transgender people and nondiscrimination laws are putting transgender people in harm’s way and making no one safer.”
Ironically, asking hypothetical “safety” questions puts me in real danger by encouraging self-styled restroom safety vigilantes.
Erika von Kampen, Minneapolis
How much needed? Less than that, even for a lavish lifestyle
A July 26 letter writer, reacting to a July 22 article about executive compensation (“Calculating the gap”), posed an important question: How much money does a person really need? I’d like to try to answer.
Imagine you own a $2 million house in the city and a $1 million beach home. Your spouse has a $25,000 per month allowance for food, clothing and household items. Your children attend MIT and Harvard. You own three luxury cars; your family goes on multiple exotic vacations every year; and you have an entertainment budget of $10,000 per month. You carry the highest-quality health insurance and have a “slush fund” of $100,000 per year for incidentals. How much money is required to support such a lavish lifestyle? By my calculations, an annual take-home of $1.5 million, or gross pay of about $3 million.
If you can live this sumptuous lifestyle with an annual salary of “only” $3 million, why do Minnesota corporations feel the need to compensate CEOs with $60 million, $47 million and $27 million, as reported by the Star Tribune? It seems corporate boards have changed their policy of providing top executives with an extremely comfortable lifestyle to providing an utterly opulent one reminiscent of the excesses of Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs and Saudi sheikhs.
G. Michael Schneider, Minneapolis
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Every CEO in Minnesota should be ashamed. I realize that many of these men (there might be a woman or two in the mix — but I doubt it) are quite generous with their financial gift-giving to organizations in our state. Thank you. But it was reported, for instance, that the CEO of Best Buy earns $699 for every $1 the company’s lowest-paid employee makes. Best Buy’s lowest-paid employee has to pay the same price for a banana, for gas, for a car, for health care and other expenses as the CEO. How can this be right?
In fact, in some cases, lower-paid employees may have to pay more for their health insurance and other expenses, as these are upgraded perks for CEOs. Target’s CEO earns 408 times more than its lowest earner; 3M’s CEO, $324.
My husband is a teacher. No one wants to pay higher taxes to increase teachers’ salaries — but I can assure you he makes nothing close to any of these top earners.
Our society continually turns a blind eye and looks away and acts as if it’s OK that CEOs earn these salaries. Ben & Jerry’s was started with the belief that the highest-paid employee should not earn more than 10 times the lowest-paid employee. Let’s return to that idealism. Or, if not, maybe one of these CEOs can buy everyone in Minnesota a Ben & Jerry’s cone, since we’re too busy trying to make ends meet to afford them on our own.
Sonja Brown, Minnetonka
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The “Calculating the gap” article was somewhat interesting, but not helpful. CEO pay is irrelevant to the median worker, unless the CEO is incompetent because he is underpaid. In that case, they would be better off with a higher-paid competent CEO.
The CEO pay-ratio metric is needlessly troubling. A better metric would be CEO pay per full-time employee. For example; the Target CEO makes about $19.15 million per year, and there are 345,000 full-time employees. The CEO pay per employee is $56 per year. So if you took the CEO’s full pay and distributed it among all the employees, they would each get $56 per year more. The CEO’s pay per employee for three other big companies is similar: For Best Buy, 3M and UnitedHealth, it is $180, $214 and $95, respectively.
High CEO pay is not robbing employees of a better wage, but company performance is a big factor, which a good CEO can improve. We are willing to pay high dollars for a winning coach for our favorite team. Why not pay high dollars for a winning CEO to improve your company and secure your job?
Dennis A. Helander, White Bear Lake
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Readers disposed to addition might notice in the report on executive compensation that UnitedHealth’s CEO made $20.1 million; the president, $83.2 million; the vice chair, $23.1 million; and the chief legal officer, $11.4 million. This adds up to $137.8 million in top-tier executive compensation for one insurance company. This may help explain why health care is so expensive.
John Sherman, Moorhead, Minn.
We’re beginning to see actual effects, and it’s not promising
The Star Tribune’s online “Morning Hot Dish” political newsletter recently referenced a New York Times report that the amount of corporate taxes collected by the federal government has plunged to historically low levels, pushing up the federal budget deficit to $1 trillion. The Trump administration had said that the tax cuts would pay for themselves by generating increased revenue from faster economic growth, but the White House has acknowledged in recent weeks that the deficit is growing faster than it had expected.
I heard on public radio Thursday morning that corporate tax windfalls are not going to investments in R&D, facilities or job creation but to stock buybacks and executive salary increases. Does anyone doubt that the individuals who get those moneys will pass some of them along as donations to Republicans in Congress and the Trump re-election campaign as a quid pro quo?
Nancy Beach, Minneapolis
Asking Paulsen to take a position on this is clearly asking too much
The July 26 editorial “Southwest LRT needs friend in GOP” calls on U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen to become a supporter of this rail line, which would largely run through his district. It is also a highly contentious matter.
A couple of months ago, I called Paulsen’s Eden Prairie office and asked his staff person about Paulsen’s position on Southwest LRT. He responded that Paulsen had no position because it was not a federal matter. I responded that this was curious, since a billion dollars of federal money is involved. He reiterated that Paulsen had no position.
Paulsen has obviously been walking a narrow plank because he knows that either pro or con on Southwest LRT will alienate many in his district.
Bill Hay, Edina