The assertion by Mark Dayton ("This time, let's be fair about the budget gap," March 24) that the richest people in Minnesota don't pay their "fair" share of taxes is without merit.

It's not his fault. Dayton cites a study that attempts to allocate all state taxes (franchise, property, excise, personal sales and corporate sales taxes) across the earning household landscape. It's an interesting methodology but hardly informative. The reality is in the underlying data if you use your calculator: The top 5 percent of earning households pay 43 percent of the individual income taxes collected in Minnesota. The remaining 95 percent of earning households pay 57 percent of the income taxes. Hardly a regressive system. Reality: The "rich" are paying their fair share and more of this directly correlated tax.

There is only one tax that is based on earned income and that is the income tax; it is unavoidable. Seems we need to focus our attention on those other taxes.


Acclaiming Abeler's courage and independence

I'd like to thank Republican Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka for his courage and moral fiber for voting to override the governor's veto of the transportation bill. Jim voted for his constituents instead of his party. After all, Jim works for us and being a Republican does come a distant second in my opinion.

I don't necessarily agree with his decision, but I will remember his courage to split with his party when he thinks that they are wrong, and he will get my vote. If the party wasn't wrong to begin with, it certainly is now trying to impose punitive measures against politicians voting their conscience and for their constituents. I'm very disappointed that our Independent Republicans were replaced with this inferior lot.


Health care, like mortgage industry, needs regulation

Peter J. Nelson's March 27 opinion piece arguing for less governmental intrusion into the health care marketplace is yet another claim by conservatives that the free market can solve all of our problems. I find these arguments both unpersuasive and extremely difficult to understand as we watch our economy, our communities and homeowners struggle through one financial crisis after another brought about by unregulated and underregulated mortgage lending practices.

It seems apparent to me that if home buyers and home equity borrowers were confused and misled by the easy credit schemes made available to them by lending institutions, they will be completely bewildered by the coverages, exclusions, deductibles and numerous other variables of the health insurance marketplace. I remain highly skeptical that we can rely upon insurance companies to be more ethical in their offerings to consumers than home lending institutions have been, especially given the immense profits to be reaped.


Climate change and Michele Bachmann

On March 26 I read two Strib articles connected to climate change. In one, we learned that a massive piece of the Antarctic ice shelf has broken away due to warming. In the other, we learned about U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's new bill fighting the phaseout of incandescent light bulbs. (In short, she suspects climate change is voodoo, a hoax.)

I sure hope that if Bachmann goes on a fact-finding trip to learn about the ice shelf she does her homework first. It would be terrible for her to fly in the wrong direction -- right off the edge of the flat Earth she apparently lives on.


A visual imperative

Syl Jones' March 23 column emphasizing statements that Barack Obama couldn't and didn't say in The Speech is important in the discussion of difference. As long as humans are, at some level, scared or threatened by beliefs, looks, practices or other differences, we will continue to encourage hatred and divisiveness. The healing that can occur when we no longer see or judge someone based on how much they are or are not like us is called love.


Instead of authenticity, Obama offered obfuscation

The March 23 "A house divided" Opinion Exchange section shared the views of Charles Krauthammer, a Pulitzer Prize winner from the Washington Post opposite local pundit Syl Jones. Jones wrote about what Barack Obama might have said and used pseudo-Obama quotes to lend credence to his opinion. That's obfuscation not redaction.

Barack Obama soared poetically in the Jeremiah Wright/race speech, as he often does. However, Obama struggled with extemporaneous interviews with the press about the same controversy.

The issue with Obama's speech isn't race which is a topic I can't speak to. In the 1980s, I thought I was being hip when I called a black colleague the N-word in a greeting. I will never forget his quick and emphatic reply, "Don't ever call me that again."

The speech had little to do with Wright, even though that's why Obama gave it. As Watergate reminds us, it's not the act that will hurt you as much as the denial and cover-up. Wright's "controversial" comments circulated in the media were beneath contempt. Obama was dancing and obfuscating in his speech. He elegantly disguised and rationalized Wright's comments. On top of that, Obama threw his grandmother (her race doesn't matter) under the bus.

Obama didn't answer why he exposed his children to Wright's venom or why Obama gave $22,500 to a pastor who damned America. Obama cherry-picked "wrong and divisive" Wright statements to condemn but didn't explain why he didn't leave his church.

The speech had everything to do with Obama. Obama has positioned his candidacy as someone who transcends race and politics as usual. Instead, Obama demonstrated in his speech he's looking for cover and is not authentic.