Consider the full set of responsibilities

The word “shutdown” doesn’t really communicate what is at risk. If the American people had been facing a real shutdown, they would have a better appreciation of what the federal government provides

Let’s close the interstates, unlock the prisons, allow free immigration, stop inspecting nuclear power plants, eat uninspected chicken, burn or dump or flush anything we want, close the VA hospitals, stop predicting weather, charge full price for buses and trains, fly without care about other planes, broadcast on any frequency, walk away from the drawbridges and post offices and courthouses and weapons stockpiles, charge any interest rate, quit paying Social Security and Medicare, close the national parks, steal or kill with impunity, pay our own way through college, stop feeding the troops and turn in the keys for the ships and planes and tanks, close the embassies.

Such a shutdown would last only a split-second, because the people would rise up to take back their government. But this showdown has been a political strategy to see if the other side gets more blame than my side. This is a crisis of egos, not finance. We deserve better.


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We’re Exhibit A in terms of being had

In the current issue of the Atlantic is an insightful article titled “How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers.” (It is an excerpt from the book “The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America,” out this month.)

Minnesota is featured in the article, complete with color photos of the Vikings owner and the Minnesota governor. Per Gregg Easterbrook (the author), Zygmunt Wilf, with an estimated net worth of $322 million, will make a token annual payment of $13 million to use the stadium, keeping the lion’s share of all NFL ticket, concession, parking and, most important, television revenues. Because of the stadium’s advance, the Vikings’ value rose by $200 million.

After approving the $506 million handout for the stadium, Gov. Mark Dayton was quoted as saying “I’m not one to defend the economics of professional sports. … Any deal you make in that world doesn’t make sense from the way the rest of us look at it.”

Per Easterbrook (an ESPN and NFL Network commentator), even by the standards of political pandering, Dayton’s irresponsibility was breathtaking. The article is resplendent with examples of public giveaways to America’s richest sport team owners.

Shame on us!

LYDIA MACKENZIE, Richmond, Minn.

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Much more trouble than they’re worth

The proposal to build a “starter streetcar line” has appeal to those who have never lived with such a line. I do remember the previous Twin Cities streetcar system (“Streetcars tapped for 3.4-mile line,” Sept. 25).

There was excitement over removing the streetcar lines and replacing them with buses. When the system was dismantled, newspapers ran pictures of scrapped streetcars being burned while officials celebrated. The spider web of wires and supporting structures were removed from the streets. There were no longer tracks to grab bicycle and motorcycle tires.

Buses are more flexible. They can be shifted from route to route to respond to hourly or yearly demand changes. They can follow detours and drive around temporary obstructions in the road. Without dedicated lanes, streetcars are nothing more than buses that lack flexibility. Like buses, they are subject to all the unpredictability of traffic.

The justification is that growth will be spurred along the line by businesses and residents who want to locate near mass transit that is no faster and no more comfortable than buses.

For less money, more useful changes could be made to improve ridership. More and improved shelters and nondiesel buses are possible improvements.

AL LARSON, Bloomington

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Why musicians’ salaries aren’t like everyone else’s

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see why some letter writers lose patience with the musicians union while in negotiations with the orchestra management (Readers Write, Sept. 28). The incomes presented with signing bonuses can seem pretty significant in comparison with average incomes of most Minnesotans. Disregarding economic comparisons between professional sports entertainers and professional musicians, there are a significant reasons why the orchestra musicians deserve and need well over a six-figure income.

A 40-year-old, world-class professional musician has probably accrued in the vicinity of 30,000 to 40,000 hours of practice and rehearsal, and $100,000 to $200,000 in educational bills.

And to remain a world-class musician, he or she will have purchased world-class instruments that can cost well more than $100,000, with some having prices close to a seven-figure price tag. (Likewise, a professional NASCAR driver doesn’t drive a Malibu in a race; the average cost of a NASCAR race car is $125,000.)

But wait, there’s more: The musician now incurs costs to insure the instrument, and we all know insurance is not inexpensive.

I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but I would love to see the Twin Cities area keep the orchestra it deserves.

DAVID BERGER, Minneapolis