Readers want real data to inform their views

Before they write another commentary arguing for a minimum-wage hike, Aaron Sojourner and Michael Reich should make sure they don’t base their argument on a disproven study (“Is a raise in order for Minnesotans?” Feb. 24).

The 1994 study they cite, by David Card and Alan Krueger, was subsequently disproved by economists David Neumark and William Wascher. After correcting for substantial errors in the data set used by Card and Krueger, they found a 3.9 to 4 percent decrease in employment following a wage hike — rather than the gains noted by Card and Krueger. As a result, Card and Krueger revised their original claims about minimum-wage increases boosting employment.

The debate in Minnesota over a minimum-wage hike should be based on facts, not misinformation. There’s a reason why 85 percent of the most credible research points to a loss of job opportunities following a minimum wage hike.

Michael Saltsman, Washington, D.C.

The writer is research director for the Employment Policies Institute.

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The headline highlights perfectly my dissatisfaction with the modern media giving equal weight to unequal evidence. Adhering to the principle of false equivalency, a writer and Republican activist who simply doesn’t like the idea of minimum-wage increases is given equal weight to two economists with hard data whose job it is to use evidence to study the economy. You know someone’s opinion is not backed up by facts when they make sweeping absolutist statements like “raising the minimum wage always negatively affects employment opportunity and reduces production,” as the Republican activist did. Not all opinions are equal. Even high school debaters know that you can’t win an argument without proven evidence from peer-reviewed sources. When the Star Tribune gives equal footing to unequally researched and unequally credentialed writers, it is doing a disservice in helping the public make informed decisions.

Betsy Faber, West St. Paul



We need a national solution for rising costs

David Goldhill’s commentary “Health care costs you more than you know” (Feb. 24) does a useful service by pointing out how much of our income goes to one industry. His prescription, however, is misguided.

Why should employers shoulder any of this burden in the first place? We compete with countries that offer their people comprehensive, affordable health care without requiring employers to negotiate and administer complex benefit contracts. A proven national solution, such as Medicare, could be applied to all of us with significant savings.

Goldhill, however, believes that programs such as Medicare fail to control costs because “providers turn to lobbyists to keep prices up.”

Here, he has it exactly backwards. Medicare has been much more successful than the private sector at containing the growth of health care prices. Those lobbyists who Goldhill rightly fears are dedicated to improving the bottom line of their private-sector insurers and hospitals.

Finally, Goldhill’s solution, catastrophic-only insurance, would turn us all into amateur diagnosticians, with obviously disastrous results. Experiments with “consumer-driven” health care show that people do indeed seek less care, bringing down costs of care utilization. The problem is that needed care as well as the marginally useful is avoided, thus bringing into question why we have a health care system in the first place.

Joel Clemmer, St. Paul



Birth control would help in fighting poverty

There is no question that the Catholic Church has been a major help in tackling poverty in Africa and around the world (“Future of Roman Catholic Church may be in Africa,” Feb. 24). A growing population is one major source stressing Africa and several parts of the world — leading to famine, wars and the poverty that follows. Shouldn’t tackling the issue of overpopulation be a moral imperative? Wouldn’t now be an appropriate time for the Catholic Church to relax its standards on birth control?

Ron Linde, Burnsville



Blame treaty, not bass, for Mille Lacs shortage

Once again the Lake Mille Lacs walleye problem is in the news (“Mille Lacs limit slashing looms,” Feb. 24). The new harvest figures are 178,750 pounds for anglers and 71,250 pounds for Native Americans. Common sense has to enter these totals. Almost all of the 71,250 pounds taken by gill nets will be spawning fish, taken before the end of spawning season. One female walleye will lay thousands of eggs, and very few will reach even the fingerling age. But the odds go way down when so many females are taken before spawning.

How many Native Americans actually net the fish? Are these fish used to feed their families or sold to fisheries? The 1857 Treaty allowed Native Americans to hunt, fish and gather to feed their families. The treaty never mentioned nylon gill nets. Once again the Department of Natural Resources waffles and blames the increase of smallmouth bass and northern pike for the shortage of walleye. Indeed! It’s time to modernize the 1857 Treaty.

Phil Bemis, Rosemount