Excellent. Now Apple has given us another reason to keep our heads down even more — a smartwatch.

Awesome. We can now have our bloodshot, tired eyes fixated on our wrists, then immediately switch them over to our smartphone, which is glued to our other hand. Man, our necks are really going to be sore.

How refreshing it was to read of James Cameron’s views in a USA Today interview. Here is a guy who made millions making the two top-grossing high-tech movies of all time — “Titanic” and “Avatar” — and he refuses to own a smartphone.

Says Cameron: “I look around the airport, and every single person is oblivious to the world around them. They don’t live in the moment. I’ve made a conscious choice to not spend all my time … looking down at a device. I refuse to do it. I just see it as a ball and chain. I don’t want to be that available to the world. I don’t want to share every single thing I do.”

Now I feel pretty good about my dumb phone and watch.

Neil F. Anderson, Richfield

THE TAX BURDEN

Editorial failed to acknowledge complexities in the data

The methodology of the March 12 editorial praising the direction of Minnesota tax law changes (“Spreading burden of state income tax”) was deeply flawed. In particular, the Star Tribune Editorial Board asserted that the data from the Department of Revenue’s new Tax Incidence Study suggest that, in 2017 (after the law changes are fully effective), Minnesota’s low-income folks will have continuing grounds for complaint inasmuch as they are projected to carry 1.9 percent of the state’s tax burden while receiving only 0.8 percent of total state income. A share of burden that is more than twice the share of income should send the liberals scurrying back to the Legislature in coming sessions to push for more “equity,” based on your selection and highlighting of this statistic.

In fact, the Tax Incidence Study clearly acknowledges in several places that income data for the low-income deciles are unreliable. This is because they cannot capture almost all of the in-kind and unreported cash benefits received by this category. While some welfare payments and tax credits are captured for those in that group who file returns, the study acknowledges that income excludes most of these payments and all of food stamps, rent subsidies and energy subsidies. Add to those such things as school meal subsidies, child care subsidies, nursing home subsidies, higher-education grants and various private charity initiatives, to name a few.

“Low income” is defined by the Editorial Board as up to $25,000 of annual income. Across that bracket, it is not difficult to argue that the uncounted benefits would easily double, and in many cases more than double, the reported income of the first couple of deciles, with corresponding reduction in real tax burden.

The Department of Revenue has done its job in warning of the limitations of its data gathering. The editorial not only ignores this disclaimer, it picks out a falsehood and uses it to further the self-ascribed wisdom of the editorial position to “spread the [tax] burden evenly across income groups.”

William G. Gardner, Blaine

 

STATE BUDGET SURPLUS

Put the full $1.9 billion toward affordable housing, like so

Simply put, I vote to use the entire state surplus to build affordable housing units for low-income families and individuals. I don’t see any developers interested in stepping up to the plate. They seem to only be interested in building more expensive units in downtown Minneapolis and other high-rent areas.

A few ideas: Low-income people could buy into the buildings and own their unit. “Association fees” could be collected to cover maintenance, taxes, insurance and an amount that would go toward the purchase of their unit, based on some type of sliding-scale formula. Owners would be required to live in their unit for a minimum number of years, unless an unforeseen hardship or event forced them to have to sell prematurely. The seller would have to sell to another family or individual based on income and other criteria. The money they would make selling the unit would be subject to a predetermined formula allowing for repayment of the outstanding balance owing on the unit, with a portion going to the seller (based on the amount they had contributed over the years). Any remaining proceeds would be put into a fund to cover the building of other affordable housing units.

According to a March 8 article (“Poor families struggle in tight housing market”), the Metropolitan Council estimates that the region needs 5,667 affordable units per year to meet the need by 2020. That would mean approximately 28,335 units in five years. Using the full $1.9 billion surplus would allow for approximately $67,000 per unit. I believe this is definitely doable.

Nancy Locken, Minneapolis

 

IRON RANGE BOARD

Thanks for all the help; here’s another constructive task

I want to thank Tom Rukavina for pointing out all of the good that the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board has done for Minnesota schools (“‘Those Rangers’ don’t deserve such wrath,” March 13). One would hope that with millions going here and there, some would land on Indian reservations to rebuild schools. American Indians gave up their land and culture, or we took their land and almost destroyed their culture. The least we could do is give them a decent schoolhouse and teachers so they can save their culture and add to ours.

Jim Goudy, Ranier, Minn.

 

PROTESTS

If the mall is a fair forum, then surely subsidized stadiums are

Some believe, as a March 11 letter writer apparently does, that private property such as the Mall of America can be arbitrarily appropriated for what are, essentially, political demonstrations, especially if development of said property was subsidized by tax dollars. If that’s the case, then the most obscenely subsidized private developments of all — area sports stadiums recently completed or under construction — would be the perfect venues for future demonstrations. Perhaps those who recently occupied parts of the MOA will take the field to press their cause at the next Twins opener. After all, if airing of their grievances takes precedence over selling Legos, it certainly takes precedence over frivolous pastimes like baseball games. And maybe that yet-to-be-finished football stadium would be the most fitting locale of all, given that a disproportionate percentage of young athletes of color will inevitably suffer permanent physical and neurological injuries there, all in the interests of gladiator-style entertainment for the masses.

Scott Anderson, Minneapolis