It is evident that Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS) seems to have a habit of making others pay for its mistakes (“DHS’ costly errors hit counties,” front page, Nov. 19). As a licensed social worker, I wish to provide my perspective.

DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead acknowledges that these errors undermine “the important work of our partners in serving Minnesotans” but, to me, fails to acknowledge the damage they do to hardworking Minnesotans receiving services through the DHS. According to the department, more than 1 million Minnesotans are served by the agency in 87 counties and 11 tribes. These are people who have little to no income including seniors, people with disabilities, those unable to work because of serious illness and employed people who do not have access to affordable health care.

The executive director of Minnesota Association of County Social Service Administrators suggested a solution “that would hold county programs and services harmless.” Regardless of which pot of money the county chooses for repayment, budgeting for all county programs will likely need to be rebalanced. Whether directly or indirectly, its DHS program and service recipients will inevitably suffer.

Harpstead must do better in publicly acknowledging not only the pains that the counties are going through because of the DHS but also the pains that its program recipients have experienced and will continue to experience. Only then can we move forward and begin to rebuild trust with the DHS.

Annie Myers, Richfield

• • •

Appropriately, the Star Tribune Editorial Board derides the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) agency’s irresponsibility in not demanding top appointees’ personal accountability for having defrauded the U.S. government (“The wrong priorities at federal agency,” Nov. 29).

The Editorial Board contrasts this situation with the recently reported “massive overpayments” from the Minnesota Department of Human Services of U.S. government public assistance funds “to substance abuse providers.” The board opines that a remedial measure for this fraud will be “commendably strengthened oversight” policy.

More accurate than a contrast is a comparison. In each case, government employees are neither charged nor fired. Rather, taxpayers are to accept, without recourse, underwriting the accountability nirvana of their federal and state governments.

Gene Delaune, New Brighton


No, shame is not a good motivator, and it can be harmful to children

Upon reading the Nov. 30 letter to the editor regarding lunch-money shaming, I initially thought it was intended to be humorous (“Shame can motivate kids, though”). To my dismay, by about halfway through the letter it became clear the writer was serious. It is so filled with misinformation, stereotypes and misunderstandings that the question of where to begin a response is a puzzle.

Perhaps the most egregious statement the writer made is that “shame is a great motivator for all manner of behaviors.” As a mental health professional, I can assure the writer that the statement is far from true! Shaming children has the effect of damaging their self-esteem, and children growing up with parents who utilize shaming in their parenting are nearly always damaged by this parental behavior. Indeed, many health and mental health experts view parental shaming as child abuse. Extreme humiliation, a form of shame, only serves to help the people running the registers feel better about expressing their own, personal anger.

The writer’s frequent leaps to judgment about parents or children were difficult for this writer to read. His belief that someone — parents or children — was acting irresponsibly is appalling. The writer has no way to know what led to each family’s situation, but the least likely reason it occurred was a parent or child not being responsible. Disability, death, illness, sudden job loss and simply being unaware of the balance due are far more likely explanations.

Paula Childers, Bloomington


That was an elite decrying the elites

Right off the bat in Stephen B. Young’s opinion piece, we learn two things: He has important, classy friends, and he knows French (“Elite failure ails us, not just Trump’s abuses,” Opinion Exchange, Nov. 29). Those seem like pretty elite bona fides to me. And we quickly know where all of this is going: Trump’s no angel, but the opposition is just as bad and illegitimate. Because ... what? “Clercs”? The wisdom of the ancient Greeks?

That Young can be both a card-carrying member of the elite business and intellectual class — did he mention he went to Harvard yet? — and elitism’s righteous inquisitor is, literally and figuratively, pretty rich. Every few weeks he unspools the same glossy defense of the neoliberal status quo and, like clockwork, incisive readers rip him to shreds and expose the “Whoa Nellie, just trust the people in charge” core of his message. Enough already.

Brian Amelang, Minneapolis

• • •

Apparently Young and I were watching different versions of the impeachment hearings. He writes, “Listening to George Kent, ... Fiona Hill and especially Adam Schiff was to hear the secular clergy for our modern elite excommunicate [President Donald] Trump from their fold for his presumption, his vulgarity, his childish prejudices and, most of all, for his refusal to listen to them — his intellectual betters.”

Wow. That’s not what I heard. I heard them provide detailed and credible testimony to support the accusation that Trump committed bribery and clearly violated the Constitution when he withheld vital, Congress-approved military assistance from Ukraine while at the same time seeking its commitment to investigate his political rivals.

It seems that Mr. Young is a clear example of that which he is criticizing.

Amy Rosenthal, Minneapolis

• • •

Young alludes to mental illness — “derangement” — to describe what he sees as “elite failure.” But physical illness would be a more accurate analogy of what ails us politically. Our system’s checks and balances are like antibodies ready to neutralize a virus like Trump, who is disrupting our collective health. Viruses are infectious, as Trump’s behavior has been with his base, and this has triggered Congress and the so-called “deep state” to do what antibodies do: interfere, block and prevent the virus from spreading.

Yes, the American body politic is ill, but our “derangement” is a sign of our underlying health as we fight what has infected us. Contrary to Young’s claim, all is not lost.

Thomas Fisher, St. Paul


It may work for few, but not most

It’s no surprise or big accomplishment that President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut is working for some folks and businesses (“It’s working for my family,” Readers Write, Nov. 30). What counts is what it is doing for the overall economy. Trump and Republicans touted the cut, saying it would boost the gross domestic product to a 3% to 5% annual growth rate, but it has failed miserably at that. Besides adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, it only boosted the rate to 2.9% in 2018, a projected 2.4% in 2019, and average 1.7% in 2020, not a bit better than during the Obama years.

Lucyan Mech, Lauderdale

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