Border enforcement must be reprioritized

The March 23 report on the penetration of the Mexican cartels into the Twin Cities drug market (“Cartels pipe heroin, death to heartland”) was timely — if not overdue. A suburban student of mine was one of those heroin death statistics. The question that the article raises for me is: How do the cartels move so easily across the U.S. border, while the poor are caught and deported? Their only sin is to live in countries that don’t provide for their basic needs and want something more for their children. They aren’t the ones killing off our young people with $10 bags of poison.

Rosemary Ruffenach, St. Louis Park



‘Farm country’ isn’t as ‘OK’ as it appears

Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses can make people feel at ease, but reality is a stark black-and-white. Lee Schafer’s “Main Street looks lonely, but farm country’s OK” (March 23) paints a picture that shades over the reality of present life in rural America. With consolidation of landownership comes greater concentration of wealth. So, of course a median income will appear to look just fine, but Schafer overlooks the poverty rate of this area that sits at just over 10 percent.

It’s easy to say things are hunky-dory when you only interview a large-farm financial adviser and a director at a nearby tractor manufacturing plant. Schafer may have found a different tone had he interviewed some of the employees at that plant. This director boasts that two-thirds of his staff has some sort of experience with agriculture, but how many of these employees wish they were farming like their parents or grandparents had done?

I was born and raised and currently live and work in “farm country.” Over the years, I’ve gotten to know plenty of people whose dream is to farm but who feel the barriers are too great and therefore take less-than-fulfilling jobs. Rural America has had to adapt, but at what cost?

David Rosmann, Chatfield, Minn.



The infamous ‘47%’ is mostly hard at work

In his March 23 column (“Ryan, taking on poverty, travels the razor’s edge”), D.J. Tice joins U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in addressing the “47 percent” of citizens who don’t pay federal income tax. Is this group primarily composed of welfare recipients, as Ryan and Tice imply?

Actually, less than 4 percent of the group are welfare recipients. That leaves about 43 percent who are working poor, many working multiple jobs yet still not earning enough to pay federal income tax. Ryan nonetheless proposes to fix the problem by gutting our welfare system.

A real solution would mandate a higher minimum wage on which a worker and his or her family could live with dignity and begin to contribute more to our tax coffers, to our economy and to their community. Due primarily to increased worker productivity, profit margins for American businesses are at record-high levels. It’s time to share some of those profits with the worker.

Joseph Ehrlich, Arden Hills

• • •

First, the Republican Party has no earthly idea about how to address poverty, inasmuch as it serves those who are not now and have never been in poverty. Second, the right-wing, redneck, reactionary Republicans are fundamentally and inalterably opposed to the single answer to most poverty in America. That answer is: Join a union.

Union members have higher wages, better health care, safer working conditions, higher retirement security and much greater chances for general financial success compared with those workers who are “on their own.” These are incontrovertible facts.

The Republican Party is against the interests of working people. Anyone who can’t see this is simply blind or a registered Republican.

Jerry Stinson, Bloomington



Career readiness should actually start before

Michael J. Petrilli (“Off to college? For some, it just doesn’t fit,” March 23) suggests a narrower approach to career and college readiness than the one envisioned by the Minnesota Career and Technical Education Task Force. As part of the work of the task force, it became clear that few well-paying technical jobs will be accessible to students with the academic skill levels Petrilli describes. The key is to engage those students more effectively and motivate them to acquire the academic and noncognitive skills they need to be career- and college-ready.

The recommendations of the task force highlight the need for students and their families to engage in more effective career and college planning, building on the “World’s Best Workforce” legislation, so they understand where they are in relation to their ambitions. The task force also recommends the inclusion of experiential learning as a regular part of high school students’ education. Rather than seeing work-based and classroom-based learning as separate tracks, we envision connecting the two in ways that allow students to find meaning in both work and school.

Richard Rosivach, Spring Lake Park


The writer is co-chair of the Career Pathways and Technical Education Task Force.