Assessing the nature of the opposition

Justifying their effort to defund the Affordable Care Act and vowing to keep up the fight, Republicans cite polls showing that a majority of citizens dislike “Obamacare.”

While the scare tactics and misinformation have no doubt played a part in the acknowledged result, maybe another factor should be considered. Roughly 85 percent of Americans have health insurance, so many may feel they have nothing to gain and possibly something to lose if they, in effect, subsidize the others. They probably don’t realize they already subsidize the uninsured, at greater cost, in emergency rooms, etc. Also, a significant portion of the 15 percent choose not to buy health insurance, so the mandate is resented.

In other words, a significant majority of polled Americans are either misinformed or selfish. I choose to believe misinformation is the problem, and that as understanding increases, Americans will embrace “Obamacare.” And I sincerely hope the demagogues will give up a losing battle without further damage to the economy.


• • •



If only her concern were more cogent

Since I think it’s important to try to understand the thought process of people who think differently than I do, I read Katherine Kersten’s most recent column carefully (“Two Americas, because of liberal ways,” Oct. 20). I thought, for instance, that I might get a better understanding of the conservative desire to return to simpler times that were guided by a black-and-white moral code, and how the related adherence to certain principles may be the trigger for some conservatives’ unwillingness to compromise — on virtually any issue.

But rather than gaining insight, I was treated to an exercise in stretching logic to the preposterous, with the endpoint of pinning the blame for social and cultural evils on liberals. Supposedly, university, government, the media and nonprofit “elites” have selfishly banded together to promote a mushy set of values that has robbed poor people of their moral compass. She must have broken our secret code.

I could perhaps counter that conservatives, in turn, have waged a selfish, single-minded “war on the weak” by opposing any measure (breaking cycles of poverty, access to affordable health care and education, etc.) to help marginalized people fully participate in society. Of course, it’s nowhere near that simple or onerous, but it shows how gratuitous vilification escalates.

I found it heartwarming that Ms. Kersten is concerned about the plight of America’s underclass. Now I’d like to hear a cogent, fact-based argument on how conservatism — in today’s political context — benefits all Americans, not just the “haves.”


• • •

After reading Kersten’s commentary, I came to an obvious conclusion. According to her stated statistics, if you want to raise the moral fiber of the poor in America, just do one thing — educate them


• • •



Volunteers help give names to numbers

Another way in which those who died in state institutions are being honored (“Respect, at last, for lives locked away,” Oct. 20) is by volunteers at who create individual memorial pages online with at least the first and last names and date of death. These listings are picked up quickly by search engines and so that family members can find them with a simple search.

I was trying to find the grave of the mother who was not buried near her family members. When I obtained her obituary at the Cottonwood County Historical Society, I found she had died at Willmar. Others there told me that when people from this county die in Willmar or St. Peter, usually they were patients in the institutions in those places. So I contacted the Kandiyohi County Historical Society, which sent me a list of patients buried at Oak Knoll. It also told me about the three-digit markers that were used instead of headstones.

As a dedicated graver, I was appalled that anyone could be treated like that. It made the cemetery seem like a filing cabinet. My anger moved me to create individual listings for the 194 burials in the Catholic section. A descendant of one of those folks later took the Protestant listings and has created the balance of the 864 listings.

Of all the thanks I have received for creating memorial pages, none have had the depth of feeling of the ones I have received for my pages at Oak Knoll.

The Rev. MARILLA J. WHITNEY, Windom, Minn.

• • •



One thing to be willing, another to be wanted

Roger Feldman’s Oct. 20 commentary about working after age 65 is all well and good, but I fear he missed a crucial point: those older workers have to be wanted.

A few weeks ago, a report on Minnesota Public Radio told of a study comparing the prerecession workforce to the postrecession one. The current workforce contains 600,000 fewer women who are 55 and older. The researchers have concluded that a full third — and possibly more — of those 600,000 have simply given up and dropped out of the workforce because no one is interested in hiring them.

I am one of those women. After 30-plus years of varied and successful professional experience, I’ve been told I have too much experience, or that my experience commands too much money, or that I’m just not a good fit for the job. And that’s if I’m told anything at all. In our modern world of online applications and automated responses, who knows if anyone ever really looks at my résumé or considers my qualifications?

Feldman writes as though it’s a matter of choice whether older workers retire or continue to work. What world does he live in?


• • •



The Oct. 20 commentary “Alive and working after 65” misstated the rules governing pensions under the Public Employees Retirement Association. PERA members who work past age 66 continue to earn a larger pension for each year of service.