The Constitution gives Congress alone the power to spend the federal government’s money (“Trump declares national emergency to get $8 billion for wall,” StarTribune.com, Feb. 15). Congress has given the president authority in a national emergency to redirect spending of money Congress originally appropriated for one project to finance a different project to deal with that emergency. The president is given that power because effective response to an emergency requires decisions to be made more quickly than Congress is able to act.

President Donald Trump asked Congress to appropriate $5.7 billion for his Southern border wall, but after due consideration Congress refused. The president’s opinion that Congress has acted unwisely in refusing him that money does not constitute an emergency. To get the money he wants for his wall, the president needs to convince Congress to change its course or persuade the voting public to elect different people to serve in Congress. He cannot usurp power the Constitution expressly gives to Congress simply because it didn’t give him what he wants.

Darron C. Knutson, New Brighton

• • •

The dictionary says that an emergency is “a serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.” The word “immediate” apparently means nothing to Trump. He waited for weeks to declare the emergency! May our democracy survive this presidency.

Roger Lilleodden, St. Paul

• • •

The facts are clear: According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, most drugs enter the country through legal ports of entry, and the apprehension of illegal immigrants at the Southern border has decreased significantly since 2000. Furthermore, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes and more likely to start a business than native-born citizens. There is only one word for a political system where the leader forces an unpopular and unwarranted mandate against the will of the elected body and the citizenry: dictatorship.

Roberta Gibbons, Minneapolis

• • •

To all those right-wingers who decry a too-large government and to the Trump minions who wail at government overreach, how’s that going for you?

Trump has fabricated a fictional emergency on our Southern border. Now the ultimate in large governmental overreach is coming. Eminent domain.

Erika Lynn Christensen, Lake Elmo

U.S. REP. ILHAN OMAR

Two views of her efforts on the House Foreign Affairs Committee

America is the most welcoming country on earth, and our diversity is a strength, but not when people don’t assimilate and promote an antidemocratic ideology. My newly elected representative, Ilhan Omar, came to this country many years ago from war-torn Somalia. She, of all people, should realize that this country is a force for good. She has risen to office in the highest levels of our government, a remarkable achievement that she, and we, should be proud of, yet she has used her first days in office in Congress to make anti-Semitic remarks and hand Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro a propaganda coup he could only dream of by excoriating Elliott Abrams, the newly appointed representative to oversee the current Venezuelan crisis.

She chose to dredge up our activities in Central America in the 1980s to publicly humiliate and undermine Abrams. She failed to mention that Fidel Castro was behind the Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries in the region at that time, including backing and training people like Daniel Ortega, who then fed other revolutionaries trying to take power. Standing up to them resulted in democracy eventually being embraced in the region. Ortega himself was thrown out, then moderated his extreme socialist stands to be voted back into power, only to then dismantle the very democracy he became president of.

It’s the same playbook that Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, used in Venezuela and that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to do in Egypt before the military interceded. Ortega is currently suppressing the Nicaraguan people with violent militias, tactics he and Maduro learned from Iran. Meanwhile, Maduro is using his thugs to hold onto power as his people flee to surrounding countries because they are starving. So Omar might want to fast-forward to what’s currently happening instead of trying to relitigate the 1980s. That’s going to require seeing all the geopolitical realities instead of just focusing on her own country’s “transgressions.” Mostly it’s going to mean championing democracy, not dictators.

David Pooley, New Hope

• • •

I was heartened by Omar’s confrontation with Abrams, in which she brought up Abrams’ role in support of the murderous contra gangs that President Ronald Reagan unleashed in Central America in the 1980s. She did a superb job, in the limited time that was allotted to her by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in unveiling the U.S. role in the right-wing pogroms of that period.

Rep. Omar has already been forced to recant by the Godmother (Nancy Pelosi) and other House and Senate members her perfectly justified comments about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier. She faces pressure now to apologize to Abrams. She owes him nothing.

The threat facing Omar now is the very real possibility that Pelosi will remove her from the Foreign Affairs Committee, where she brings a fresh and long-needed perspective on U.S. foreign relations. Her constituents, especially, and all of us, must demand of Pelosi that Omar be retained on the committee. We need her voice!

Thomas J. Hussey, Bellingham, Wash.

ARTS FUNDING

Legacy funds have been crucial and are responsibly administered

Since moving here in 1984, I have had a complex relationship with the Minnesota State Arts Board, as an artist applying for fellowships, as a reading series director applying for support and as a volunteer panelist judging applications from individual artists and from medium-sized and large arts organizations. More often, I have been an audience member for hundreds of activities produced in part with state funding.

The Feb. 9 editorial (“Legacy arts grants need state scrutiny”) rightly claims Legacy Amendment funding put Minnesota at the top of states supporting the arts. In fact, even before the amendment’s passage, the combination of state funding and corporate arts philanthropy created an infrastructure the rest of the nation looked toward for inspiration. Legacy funds, however, allowed the reach of the arts in Minnesota to broaden and deepen. Across boundaries of age, class, race or geography, not a single community is missed by Legacy arts funding. There should be no turning back on this.

If the state auditor, then, in an otherwise favorable analysis, says there exists “room for improvement” in grant reporting policy, fine. State Sen. Ann Rest’s suggestion there is a “cavalier attitude” toward improvement, however, is off-base. I have never known a staff more dedicated to such. I hope Rest will observe a panel discussion of applications and talk to staff to get a better sense of not only the richness of arts activity in this state but the commitment staff has to the responsible expenditure of citizen funds. She will be surprised and delighted on both counts.

Richard Robbins, Mankato

The writer is a professor and director of creative writing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

WINTER WEATHER

Our very own Odyssey

Driving down Hwy. 100 on Thursday morning, I noticed a bright yellow snow shovel that had been pitched onto one of the walls of plowed snow at the margins of the road.

This curious sight somehow brought to mind the plight of poor Odysseus, who was desperate to finally get Poseidon off his back after his long voyage home from the Trojan War. I vaguely recalled from ninth-grade Greek mythology that the blind seer Tiresias counseled Odysseus to make a sacrifice to angry Poseidon once he had shouldered his oar and walked so far inland from his coastal home that the locals didn’t know what the heck he was carrying.

As my car crawled past this bright yellow snow shovel, an analogy occurred to me: How many Minnesotans, beset by Boreas as we have been this snowy month, might shoulder their snow shovels and trudge south through the drifts in the hopes of coming across a local who might ask them what was the point of the flimsy, battered shovel they bore on their shoulder?

Martin Cooney, Golden Valley