Prisons and jails are not the answer

As an emergency medical services (EMS) provider in central Minnesota, I see up close the struggles in dealing with mentally ill patients (“In jail, in limbo, untreated,” Sept. 8). Patients from local hospitals placed on a psychiatric hold are transported to psychiatric units by ambulance.

In just the past few years, a state hospital and an inpatient facility have closed in our area. It’s common for local doctors to place patients three hours away or more, causing inconvenience and financial strain for patients, family members, and an already overloaded EMS system.

No one wants a return to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” days of lifetime institutionalism, but the fact is there are people who need an alternative to mainstream society, either for the short term or long term, and jail or an emergency room are not appropriate options. I applaud the idea that mental health is a medical issue, but unless we take seriously the need to provide adequate facilities for these patients, all of us suffer.

DAVID HOADLEY, Little Falls, Minn.

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Something not adequately emphasized but clearly a big factor in the scandalous neglect of the mentally ill in county jails is the endless string of budget cuts ­Minnesota has inflicted upon itself in the past decade. It’s self-delusion, pure and simple, for a citizenry to keep telling itself that government can “do more with less” without suffering terrible human consequences.

STEVEN SCHILD, Winona, Minn.

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Is population density truly the answer?

Recommending more-dense development in Minneapolis to increase its population when data clearly show that people prefer the opposite does little for the credibility of the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s four-part series (“Sizing up the city,” Sept. 8). To reverse Minneapolis’ decline, radical solutions are needed that go against the city’s voters and leaders’ ideology, which is why families such as mine left the city years ago.

RYAN ANDERSON, Albertville, Minn.

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The editorial stated that “without more taxpayers, the city will soon be unable to afford the services residents expect. Or, to put it another way, adding middle-class population is the best way — perhaps the only way — to keep property taxes at a barely tolerable level.” Today, many people in Minneapolis pay up to 30 percent or more in property taxes. And then there are people who pay less than 2 percent. So what is the “tolerable level” of property tax burden? Did the Star Tribune even bother to check with the Minnesota Department of Revenue? The editorial would have had more credibility if attention was paid to this detail.


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Horner and Penny offer bad advice

Tom Horner and Tim Penny were off the mark in “Five ways to promote job growth” (Sept. 8). Chief among their errors is their citation of the infamous Reinhart-Rogoff piece that linked public debt to slow growth and job creation. Professors and students at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst debunked that piece months ago.

Perhaps Horner and Penny should learn from economists like Paul Krugman and Ben Bernanke, who have studied the Great Depression and have concluded that we need more spending to fix our ailing economy. During the Great Depression and World War II, we borrowed and spent our way to the largest budget deficits in our nation’s history. Those deficits and accrued debt led to the greatest expansion of the middle class we’ve ever seen, decades of economic prosperity, and a rapid decline in the deficit.


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Economic professor’s views didn’t add up

Michael J. McIlhon’s commentary stated that “the law of demand predicts that when the price of low-productivity labor is increased, employers will respond by purchasing less such labor” (“Raise wages? Actually not so helpful,” Sept. 8) My understanding of the “law of demand” is that it pertains to goods and services, and not labor. Putting academic theory aside and not to discount it, from my experience of selling goods and paying labor, when I pay a higher wage it does not directly translate to cutting workers. I have other choices. I can reduce my profit, reduce other expenses or raise my prices, to name three obvious and preferable outcomes. I’m surprised that as an educator, McIlhon did not proffer those outcomes.

STEVE EIDE, Buffalo, Minn.

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McIlhon wrote that it is foolish to raise the minimum wage because “employers will respond by purchasing less labor.” He may be right, but why is it that this “law of economics” does not apply to executive pay, which continues to soar? How is it that increasing wages for those who live on the edge of poverty has such ugly such side effects as to make the very idea so ridiculous, yet it makes perfect sense to increase the already ridiculous pay of those who already make more than they can ever need?

DONN SATROM, Roseville

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A suggestion for the team’s owner

Regarding “Zygi Wilf sees threats in sharing info” (Sept. 11): Wilf can easily avoid financial scrutiny by paying his share of the proposed stadium up front, along with a 25 percent security deposit for possible cost overruns. Indeed, such managed trusts might be a standard for all such projects.