John C. Chalberg’s commentary about political trends and how they are perceived by different ideologies was very interesting. (“The 2020 election? A referendum on progressivism,” May 24.) What does it mean to have big government? To those on the right, it appears to mean restricting various freedoms of individuals or businesses in their use of public land or curbing the externalizing of costs that are burdensome. On the left, big government opens up public land for economic exploitation, allows more pollution by deregulating and in general being burdensome to conservation practices.

Both sides rely on “big government” to further their ideology. Which is favored? Chalberg has a negative view of bureaucracies in general, but especially those that are “government-by-expert.” Government can foster an ideology very effectively by selecting either “watchdogs” or “predators” to guard the chicken coops of their agencies. This was illustrated very well by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Will the agency be guarded by “bureaucracy-by-expert” or by “bureaucracy-by-ideology”? Chalberg makes a number of interesting points, but he and I disagree on which bureaucracy should hold the trump hand.

Richard Meierotto, Afton

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Chalberg did an excellent job outlining the struggles in today’s American politics. Do we want the government telling us what to do, or do we want to tell the government what to do? Our next election will tell us. I’m with Chuck and a government by the people.

Gloria Gardner, River Falls, Wis.

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I read Chalberg’s confusing article about progressive ideology. Progressivism may remind some of socialism, and I say so what. On the other hand, I think today’s federalism resembles fascism, and that scares me.

Wayne Ode, St. Charles, Minn.

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Minnesota is well-served by the Star Tribune’s willingness to print a variety of views in the Opinion Exchange. Extended thoughts such as those presented by Chalberg are particularly welcome. They provide grist for thought. However, readers may be better served if the paper required greater clarity in published pieces.

Chalberg’s contribution suffers due to a series of undefined terms that undercut his argument. What is meant by “progressives,” either historically or presently? “Experts?” “Washington bureaucrats?”

By building straw men, Chalberg glosses over the variety within each term, often inaccurately characterizing U.S. history. To lump the socialism of the early 20th century with the threats that President Dwight Eisenhower was facing from the “socialism” of contemporary left politics is building an edifice with no foundation. Chalberg is right to implicitly identify a central challenge of inhabiting a federal republic and representative democracy: the rights of the individual vs. the collective. The proper balance between these two is unknown, perhaps unknowable. It is a type of “wicked problem” — the definition of a workable solution changes. It is among the tasks of engaged citizens and leaders in a country such as ours to play a role in helping government calibrate and recalibrate that balance. This is called politics.

An important part of expertise is careful thinking to identify incorrect information, concepts or assumptions in the arena of study or action. Perhaps we would be better suited to have citizens, bureaucrats and indeed even editors who emphasize the important linkage between careful thought, precise rhetoric and desirable political outcomes.

John Heydinger, Bloomington


Conditions causing grief today have been in place for a long time

I worked in long-term care facilities in 1976-78 and currently have a mother in long-term care. The problems haven’t changed in decades: (1) poor staff-to-resident ratios, (2) high staff turnover, (3) frequent moving of staff around the facility, creating an unnecessary learning curve with the patients, (4) infrequent showers, (5) rooms separated only by a drape between roommates, (6) slow call-light responses, (7) inadequate training of staff, and (8) poor oversight of staff that are addressed only if the family is aware and brings to management.

If you consider these conditions, it is easy to fathom why these facilities are being hit hard beyond just the fact that these are older individuals (“Nursing home density aids spread,” May 25). As is evident in the current pandemic, there is no room for wiggle or error because of where we started with these facilities. COVID-19 cases and deaths are partly on the backs of those who for decades have overlooked the poor conditions for workers and residents. This is a wake-up call for baby boomers and their families, as these conditions will still be the norm long after this pandemic subsides.

Michele Monfils, St. Louis Park

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I have worked in a long-term care facility as a registered nurse. I cannot applaud Southview Acres enough! Through no fault of their own, the people at this facility (which was mentioned in the May 25 article) have been working through unbelievably difficult times. They have had so much to deal with. They have tried to isolate COVID-19 patients while trying to keep the rest of the residents safe.

I’m sure that if one is ignorant of the workings of a long-term care facility, it might seem that they are not doing enough. Having experience in this, I can only applaud them. If they can’t do my FaceTime call, I completely understand! Thank you to all at Southview Acres who have taken great care of my dad!

Katherine I. Weinberger, Eagan

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On May 7, 81% of the 534 deaths then caused by COVID-19 in Minnesota had occurred in long-term care facilities. In response, Gov. Tim Walz introduced his five-point “battle plan” to combat the spread among our most vulnerable citizens. His plan included impressive sounding phrases like “strike teams” and “active screening.” Stubbornly, however, 81% of Minnesota’s 881 deaths in a more recent count had occurred in long-term care.

Stories like the one published May 25 illustrate that despite the governor’s rhetoric, nothing has changed. Infected patients are not quarantined effectively, and proper hygiene is an ongoing issue. Perhaps we need a “10-point plan.” Or even a “20-point plan.” Or maybe he should just fix it.

Ryan Sheahan, Robbinsdale

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A May 24 letter writer (“Yes, ‘every hour is a battle,’ but also remember residents, families”) misses the five-minute weekly video chats with his dad. There’s a solution. Leaders of Elder Voice, a highly effective group protecting my parent, and yours, turned me on to Nest cameras that let me, members of the family, and our caregivers see and hear mom 24/7. And, I pay $10 a month to have access to 10 days of video with very effective notification technology that directs me to important moments. There are other vendors that provide similar video service. It’s valuable, and my sister in California participates in my mom’s care. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Richard Breitman, Minneapolis