I'm opposed to the Republican tax plan for the following reasons:
1) Several of the middle-class tax cuts are planned to sunset in about eight years. On the other hand, the estate tax is significantly decreased immediately and is eliminated entirely about the time the middle-class cuts disappear. In other words, the middle class is subsidizing tax cuts for those with multimillion-dollar estates. Thomas Piketty in his book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" makes a strong argument that an estate tax is an effective way to reverse the alarming trend of concentrating more and more of the nation's wealth in the 1 percent.
2) Middle-class deductions like medical expenses, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes are on the chopping block. The reason is to subsidize the corporate tax cuts and still stay within the $1.4 trillion that's being added to the budget deficit. Some of the middle-class tax deductions could be preserved if the plan wasn't to eliminate the alternative minimum tax. The purpose of the AMT was to assure that the upper middle class and the wealthy pay at least some income taxes and aren't able to use loopholes and gimmicks to completely avoid taxation.
3) What do you think the consequences of adding at least $1.4 trillion to the budget deficit might be at a time when baby boomers are retiring in record numbers? After all, Medicare is set to run short of money within 10 years and Social Security within 25 years. Any downturn in the economy will create a crisis for both of those entitlements. Remember President George W. Bush's aborted plan to privatize Social Security? And House Speaker Paul Ryan also published a plan that advocated privatizing Social Security and switching to fixed premium subsidies for Medicare, which would result in spiraling out-of-pocket costs to seniors.
President Trump's lower- and middle-income supporters should look carefully at who's benefiting from this plan and contact their representatives if they're not in favor of it.
Valerie Nebel, St. Paul
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS
To treat all claims seriously, we must treat some skeptically
I felt — and still feel — sick to my stomach over U.S. Sen. Al Franken's unwanted kiss and pathetic photo with the radio personality. That said, I found Franken's apology thoughtful and sincere. I respect that he has requested an ethics investigation. Nonetheless, even while I was feeling sick to my stomach, I never thought he should resign. It was one incident — a really, really stupid incident — but only one. There is no pattern here.
I do not believe the woman who claims she was groped while having her photo taken at the State Fair ("Second woman accuses Franken," Nov. 21).
Franken has his photo taken with thousands of people (including me), and if he were a groper, many dozens, if not hundreds, of women would have been groped. What on earth made this woman so special that out of thousands of women, Franken somehow could not resist touching her behind? Could attention-seeking be at work here? I know it is now de rigeur to accept all claims by women, but this is as mindless as not accepting any of them.
In the current climate, there is an almost irresistible urge to pile on. I hope that every claim is investigated. I do not believe that the Minnesota State Fair claim was adequately investigated. Even journalists can fall into the "pile-on" trap.
How can Franken prove his innocence in this case — except to say, as he has, that he takes thousands of photos with people? I expect that male candidates for office may henceforth have staff members standing behind him — and, for all I know, taking a photo — when the male candidate poses for a photo with a woman.
I have been the unhappy object of male sexual harassment, so I do know, firsthand, that it exists, and I am glad it is finally being taken seriously. But serious minds should also be open minds.
Claire Thoen, St. Paul
• • •
I'm not at all shocked by the allegations against Franken. No matter that I voted for him and respect his politics, I am unsurprised by any allegation of sexual misconduct by any man. This is the culture in which we live; incidents like Franken's are sadly a dime a dozen in our society. It may be appropriate for Franken to resign — or it may be an overcorrection in order to make an important point. Either way, if he resigns, it stands to reason that every legislator who has committed equivalent acts should also resign. Are we prepared for that? Is our system of government strong enough to withstand the sudden loss of what is surely a significant percentage of Congress? This growing movement is vitally important — but let's not pretend that Al Franken is the only one. A scapegoat will not satisfy this time.
Kristin Nilsen, Minneapolis
• • •
I am a woman, and I want to apologize to a former male employee under my control who I sexually made a pass at. I did not understand at the time it might have been considered harassment. He rejected my advances. But in my defense, he did not suffer any consequences. He was so cute! And a few years later, he was doing just fine and was glad to see me! So, where do we draw the line? I have an idea about where I draw it. And grabbing someone's butt is not the same as telling someone they will be fired if they reject the advance.
Gretchen Baltuff, Plymouth
• • •
My first introduction to "Things I thought everyone knew, but apparently not" was in the mid-1970s when people expressed shock and dismay when they learned that the Ford Pinto and the Mercury Bobcat were the same car. Here are a few current examples that might help forestall more unpleasant surprises. (1) Hollywood is a meat market where attractive young women trade their morals for a chance at stardom. (2) Washington, D.C., is a free-market economy where elected officials — even those who don't like free-market economies — trade government manipulation of markets for contributions to their re-election campaigns. (3) Al Franken is a professional comedian. Some people think he is funny. And, yes, the Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcat were the same car.
Bryan E. Dowd, Minneapolis
There's a dangerous double standard in confirmation process
In response to the Nov. 17 article "Bypassing protocol, Stras gets new hearing": We are alarmed by Senate Republican leaders' attempts to make the rules up as they go along. By disregarding the blue-slip policy, Sen. Charles Grassley is upending 100 years of tradition in an attempt to confirm David Stras, President Donald Trump's appeals court nominee who happens to be the one of the youngest people on the infamous Supreme Court shortlist. In stark contrast, Grassley made zero such exceptions during the Obama years and used blue slips as an excuse for blocking 18 Obama nominees, including six to the circuit courts (where Stras is nominated).
Stras has a dangerous judicial record, and his blue slip was withheld for a reason, not having anything to do with partisan politics. Grassley must understand that you can't change the rules because you don't like the outcome of the game. It is troubling, to say the least, that there seems to be one policy for Republican presidents' nominees and another for Democratic presidents' nominees. Grassley not only is going against historical convention, but is abating the Senate Judiciary Committee. This compromises the independence of the federal judiciary and its ability to keep our checks and balances of the U.S. government in working order, a dangerous precedent to set for all of us.
Kristy Wesson, Minneapolis
The writer is a coordinator for Courts Matter Minnesota.