Health insurance too costly for guards

With one in six Americans lacking health insurance coverage, the uninsured are everywhere. For example, they very likely include every security guard you see in and around commercial buildings in the Twin Cities.

The guards' insurance status was brought to light last week by the Service Employees International Union, which found in a survey that 98 percent of private security officers in the Twin Cities cannot afford the family health insurance provided by their employers, and 83 percent take no employer-sponsored health coverage at all. Security employers contribute far less than average Minnesota employers to health insurance benefits for their employees, the study found.

That industry-specific research makes a valuable contribution to Minnesotans' understanding of a problem that's widespread, yet often invisible. Employers who don't provide such basic employee benefits deserve the kind of scrutiny the SEIU is providing. They also deserve the public's disapproval.


Our state is a national joke

We bet we weren't the only Minnesotans who winced at Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's choice of words as he defended his Arkansas gubernatorial record in Thursday night's debate in South Carolina.

"I took on the worst road system in the country," Huckabee said. "When I left, they said it was the most improved road system in the country. We had no bridges falling down in Arkansas."

Let the stewards of this state's good name -- that is, its citizens, and especially its elected officials -- take note. This state's reputation for good government went down with the Interstate 35W bridge on Aug. 1. Minnesota is being held up implicitly, if not by name, as a state where infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate to an unacceptable level -- by a governor of a state Minnesotans used to scorn. The 2008 Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have a chance to change that -- and they should.

WHO'S NO. 1?

Time for a college football playoff

It's part of the New Year's ritual: Four or five days of great college football bowl games and eight months of arguing which team was the best in the nation. And this year is no different. By handily beating Ohio State in the BCS title game, LSU was awarded the mythical national championship. But that doesn't mean that the Tigers were the best team in the country. Far from it. In fact, five other teams -- Georgia, USC, Missouri, Kansas and West Virginia -- could make a legitimate argument that they are as deserving as LSU of being called the No. 1 in college football. To some, it might be one of the fun parts of being a fan. To most, it's getting old. It's time to scrap the current system and implement a playoff system.

Traditionalists argue that a playoff would take students' focus off of school. What about the storied history of the bowl games? Wouldn't a playoff render them meaningless?

These are all flawed arguments. A playoff might extend the season for a week for only two teams (although it is refreshing to hear schools express rare concern about athletes' performance in the classroom). An eight-team playoff could be played within the existing bowl structure.

College basketball and college baseball have playoffs. So should college football.