In criticizing Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders often mentions that Biden voted for the war in Iraq, while saying, “I led the opposition.” Right there, that is the problem. The opposition failed. The Iraq resolution passed in the U.S. House 296 to 133 and in the Senate 77 to 23.
Sure, it is great to fight the righteous fight, but it would have been better to win — to change enough minds, pass limiting amendments or make some degree of progress.
It is easy to be against things — like the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Wall Street bailout or Obamacare — but leadership means getting involved and passing your preferred alternatives, or at least a better alternative. When Sanders talks about Medicare for All, he says he wrote the damn bill. Great. The bill may be written, but it hasn’t gone anywhere.
It is easy to want a revolution; it is wonderful to have new ideas. The hard part is getting them implemented. Leading a failed opposition is not worth bragging about.
Rochelle Eastman, Savage
No, age is more than a number
Stephen L. Carter misses the whole point when he says that the age of presidential candidates shouldn’t be an important factor (“Too old? Actuarially ...,” Opinion Exchange, March 9). It is an important factor. Life expectancy may be very high now, but that doesn’t mean everyone ages the same way. I know people who are in their 80s and even 90s. Basically they are healthy and can function. But they forget things. Say things that sometimes make no sense. Are a hazard on the highway. Trip and fall in their own homes. Look at Biden — he can’t even remember his own name or what state he’s in, or if he’s running for the Senate or the presidency.
The liberal press made fun of Ronald Reagan for falling asleep in meetings. And he was younger than both Sanders and Biden when he was elected president. Jimmy Carter, who is 95, recently said that there is no way he could have handled the presidency when he was in his 80s.
So yes, when it comes to running the most powerful country in the world, the mental shortcomings that come with age are a huge factor.
Tom R. Kovach, Nevis, Minn.
COVID-19 is not the seasonal flu
The number of comparisons I have seen between the mortality rate of the flu and of COVID-19 is staggering and just embarrassing — all done to justify that COVID-19 is not that serious. Far too many have taken the total annual deaths in the U.S. from the flu and have compared it with the current death toll from COVID-19; just on Monday the president did that on Twitter.
We cannot continue to take the annual death numbers and compare them with the death toll of a virus that had only entered the U.S. over a month ago. Can we please go back to understanding basic math? As has been reported many times, the flu mortality rate is far below 1%. On Monday, the president touted the fact that up to that point, only 22 people had died from COVID-19 in the U.S., comparing that with the 37,000 total deaths reported in the 2018-2019 flu season. Yes, those numbers are drastically different, but here we are comparing an annual estimate to an estimate of one month. On top of that the president mentioned only 546 confirmed cases. Please, please do the math! Because 22 deaths out of 546 cases is a 4% mortality rate.
While there are likely more cases to come that have not been officially confirmed, it’s likely we are going to see fluctuations in the COVID-19 mortality rate. But please take time to do basic math when given these numbers, and please stop comparing this outbreak to the flu. It is an apples-and-oranges comparison.
Jack Parker, Minneapolis
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How is it that the United States, which spends more money per capita on health care, is so far behind the curve responding to COVID-19? Maybe it’s because all of that spending only gets the U.S. ranked 37th by the World Health Organization in overall health care. Just above Slovenia and just below Costa Rica.
Best doctors in the world, maybe. Best hospitals in the world, maybe. Best outcomes, not.
Steven Hanson, Minnetonka
• • •
I have the honor of serving as the head of the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners work to understand, prevent and reduce major public health problems that are a result of biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors. Most of the work that we do to address problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, eating disorders, obesity and infectious disease goes on behind the scenes.
Unfortunately, with the emergence and spread of COVID-19, the type of work we do has been brought into the public eye, with words such as “epidemiology,” “incidence,” and “denominators” being discussed across circles.
I am writing to thank the Star Tribune Editorial Board for acknowledging the hard work being done by the public health force, many of whom were trained through educational programs at the School of Public Health (“Virus will test state’s health expertise,” editorial, March 7). I also want to express my sincere gratitude. I concur with the recommendations made in Saturday’s editorial — to ensure adequate funding for this work and to take recommendations being made by the Department of Health seriously.
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, St. Louis Park
Consider a Kmart replacement
While I understand Minneapolis’ wish to reopen Nicollet Avenue, its decision to buy out Kmart’s contract so the store can be demolished will have significant consequences for the people who depended on Kmart as a place to get necessary items at economical prices (“Intersection of past, future,” March 8). Kmart stocked basic items that for the most part were well-made and basic; they were the only store I’ve shopped at where one could buy sturdy and economical ware. Minneapolis should consider factors such as these when it allows retail stores to be dissolved. I’d hope the city would have made arrangements with Kmart management to find a suitable space to rebuild so that resource could be kept. Considering south Minneapolis recently lost one of its largest thrift stores, Savers, on Lake Street, the current loss of Kmart is especially unfair to those who depended on reasonably priced goods.
Lois Willand, Minneapolis
Which can we solve, and which not?
As I read the local news each day, I become more convinced we have lost our sense of scale of which of our many social issues can be addressed best by which of our systems. St. Paul teachers call for school board investments in mental health care (“St. Paul district, teachers union talk as strike deadline looms,” StarTribune.com, March 9). The city of St. Paul struggles to find money to provide affordable housing. Yet we never ask ourselves whether these are appropriate targets for our smallest governmental bodies.
I am reminded of a man in a small boat, busily bailing water as the waves crash over the bow, the futility obvious to an outsider yet unrecognized by the man seeking to save his craft. If the waves can be fought at all, they require a larger effort on a broader scale. So must issues such as homelessness, a lack of affordable housing, the lack of adequate mental health care for our children and many other problems our cities, counties and regions struggle with each day.
Like the man in the boat and his bucket, local efforts are well-intentioned but ultimately of little long-term value. Like the waters coming over the bow, people will flow into those communities in which they believe they may find help and overwhelm the local effort.
If we are to win against any of these ills, we must begin to fight them on the larger front and devote our local resources to those problems most susceptible to local cures.
JAMES M. HAMILTON, St. Paul
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