If sales tax is expanded, it'll be a one-way trip


Our state sales tax just had its 45th birthday. It was mandated in 1967 as a "three percent temporary sales tax on luxury items." I am sure the legislators at that time all said "trust me," but I can't confirm that. Needless to say, the sales tax has never gone away. It has more than doubled statewide, and depending on your zip code, due to local piling on, it may have tripled. The base has expanded -- the only things still off the grid are groceries, clothing and services.

Once again, our legislators, championed by our governor, are saying "trust us -- we will broaden the base and lower the rate" ("Sales tax on clothes likely target for Dayton," Jan. 20). In the preparation of income tax returns for 40 years, I have never experienced a tax being reduced or ever going away once it is initiated.


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On one hand, learning; on the other, economics


I see there is debate about starting school earlier in August ("School start date spurs fights," Jan. 21). I find it interesting that U.S. test scores are continually being compared with those in other countries and that we seem to be falling behind. I think you would find that most of the countries scoring higher than us do not have three-month vacations during the summer.

When I briefly taught in Denmark, I was asked why we had that long break and how much time we needed to get the students back to where they had been in May. As a former U.S. teacher, I did do a lot of refreshing in September. There are many reasons we are "falling behind" in test scores, but the long summer vacation doesn't help.

I want you to know that when I was teaching, I would have loved to work for 11 months and be compensated accordingly. It would have eliminated the low-paying second job I had to find every summer.


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Our school districts, school boards and superintendents need to remember who serves whom in the relationship of educating our students. Since we live in a state where tourism is so important to our economy and where the season for families to enjoy warm weather is so short, I think starting school after Labor Day and ending on Memorial Day or soon thereafter needs to be a priority.

We need to grow this economy for our children's futures. Parents and schools need to be on the same page to have the best outcome for future generations. I believe, as do most of you, that with all the days off schools have in the fall and winter seasons, surely we can find a way to make this work. Education lobbyists should not be pushing for this statute change to let schools adopt their own calendars. Whom are they serving?


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Should paramedics' role be expanded?


Whoever created the program using paramedics to make medical home calls to the elderly is my hero ("Paramedic trades in sirens for a Honda," Jan. 21). When my mother was elderly, she lived 60 miles from me, and I worked full time. I had to rely on her self-reporting, which wasn't accurate, because she didn't want me to worry. I couldn't take her to the doctor because of my job, and although others did, the doctor wasn't able to see that she wasn't eating, because my mother said she was. A paramedic would have noticed and arranged for Meals on Wheels.

This is a program that should grow nationwide. It is good for the elderly, a godsend to their families and a practical solution to health care costs.


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I do not understand how the role of community paramedic adds value to the health care system. There are visiting nurses and public health nurses who already perform these duties, without further training required. Paramedics are trained in emergency medicine and do not have the necessary skill set to involve themselves in what I view as the provision of nursing care. Professional nurses have the ability and license to provide a full range of health-related services in the community, in clinics and in acute-care settings. Why create yet another duplication in services and the funding that will accompany this expansion in the role of paramedics?


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Stories reveal decline in a middle ground


If you want hard evidence that economic inequality is accelerating the loss of the middle class, check out two articles in the Jan. 20 issue of the Star Tribune. In the Business section, you will find the following headline: "Million-dollar market shows life," with the summary "Twin Cities sales were up nearly 20 percent, a sign the housing recovery is climbing the wealth ladder." In the Homes section, you will find "Home squeezed home," with the summary "Tiny houses -- measuring just 100 to 200 square feet -- are finding fans, especially among young buyers who don't want to be 'trapped' by a big mortgage."

The housing market is moving, all right. Moving right out to the ends -- one end really big and expensive, and the other end really small and cheap. I noticed no articles about a middle.


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It's not just athletes who seek a boost


There has been a lot of speculation about Lance Armstrong's admission to using performance-enhancing drugs. The consequences of using steroids cause me to wonder why anyone would take that risk. However, in our society, we have to consider that athletics aren't the only places we can deceive others.

We have taken away countless titles and awards from athletes using steroids, but what have we done to photographers and models who have used Photoshop? Nothing. And why do we insist on listening to musicians who use AutoTune? We have been entrapped in a web of what society wants us to become: better, stronger, faster and above average.

Even though we use celebrities and athletes as role models, we need to realize as a nation that athletes aren't the only ones who cheat, but they seem to be the only ones that we care to note. Should we really let society debate what we should do with our lives? No. We need to realize that overcoming society is the key to pursuing our own dreams and goals.