When I first read the series (http://strib.mn/2zOUOJR) about the nursing home abuse investigations, I thought how fortunate that Dr. Edward Ehlinger was the health commissioner. I collaborated with Ed on a variety of projects while he was at the University of Minnesota and believe he is one of the most capable administrators I have ever worked with. He was innovative, demanding of excellence, involved and not afraid to deal with a challenge. So I was very disheartened to hear that he had resigned his position (front page, Dec. 20). Although I do not know the specifics of this chaos, I was sure that Ed would be able to get to the bottom of it. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace him with someone as skilled and caring.
Patricia la Plante, Minneapolis
The writer is a psychologist.
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Who is to blame for the horror stories of senior neglect and abuse in our state’s nursing homes? Is it Ehlinger? Could it be years of underfunding by the Legislature — starving the regulatory mechanisms set up to protect our vulnerable citizens — for political purposes? Do we all have to take a share of the blame for this ugly story, by not insisting that our legislators provide adequate funding for our most vulnerable citizens? Is Dr. Ehlinger, with his strong career in public health service, being forced to “walk the plank” for us all?
Ed Flahavan, St. Paul
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
To have this productive man in the Oval Office? How refreshing.
President Donald Trump, one of the most hated men in America with both Democrats and much of the media, just keeps humming along, this week crossing off another item on his campaign promises to-do list: tax reform.
How refreshing: a president, a politician who does what he says he is going to do. The reality for decades: presidents, politicians never meaning what they say. Never saying what they mean.
How refreshing: a president, a politician who spends his time working, being on the job instead of attending Hollywood fundraisers and/or going on late-night talk shows.
How refreshing: a president, a politician who really seems to love the job. And is willing to do the job for $1 a year. Choosing to donate the normal $400,000 annual salary for presidents. In November, Trump said that his third-quarter salary will be donated to the Department of Health and Human Services to help fight the opioid crisis. In April, he donated his first three months of salary to the National Park Service — a check totaling $78,333.32.
And how refreshing: a president, a politician who is cheerfully willing to say “merry Christmas.”
Neil F. Anderson, Richfield
How’s that new math going to work out for you?
My wife and I are over 65, retired, living on a fixed income. Out of curiosity, I used the new tax code on our 2016 tax return to see how it affected our tax payment. It would have increased our payment by $136. How is this possible when we were told we would get a huge reduction? Simple: Our $8,100 dependent reduction and our itemized deductions exceeded the new $24,000 standard deduction, thereby lowering our taxable income. Yes, I did take into consideration the new 10- to 12-percent bracket vs. the old 10- to 15-percent bracket; not enough to lower our tax bill. Oh, well, I suppose if there are enough who experience a $136 increase, we could offset the president’s and Congress’ massive tax cuts and still do something about our failing infrastructure.
Richard H. Raser, Savage
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Finally, someone has pointed out (Readers Write, Dec. 20) a significant, and so far virtually unreported, unfavorable change in the Republicans’ tax bill: the elimination of the personal exemption. The highly touted “doubling” of the standard deduction is mostly offset by the elimination of your personal exemption(s) if you are single or a couple. If you are a couple with one child, the elimination of your personal exemptions wipes out the benefit of all the increase in the standard deduction and then some. If you are the average family with two parents and 2.2 children, the elimination of your personal exemptions not only eliminates all the benefit of the increase in the standard deduction, but also increases your taxable income by about $4,900. Here’s the math (family size, loss of personal exemption, increase in standard deduction, net change in taxable income):
1 | $4,050 | $5,650 | down $1,600
2 | $8,100 | $11,300 | down $3,200
3 | $12,150 | $11,300 | up $850
4 | $16,200 | $11,300 | up $4,900
5 | $20,250 | $11,300 | up $8,950
6 | $24,300 | $11,300 | up $13,000
And it just keeps getting worse; the larger your family, the greater your pain. That’s because the increase in the standard deduction is capped at $11,300, while the loss of the personal exemption continues to multiply, adding $4,050 to your taxable income for every child.
This seems like a big deal to me, so I am mystified by the lack of reporting on this really negative feature. The Republicans will never mention it, but neither do the news media that we depend on to tell both sides of the story. Even the Democrats in Congress seem to have overlooked it. Why does it take an obscure letter to the editor to point out this lie of omission by Republican leaders?
Marc Brown, Minneapolis
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Congress tells us that the unpopular tax bill will become popular once people receive their paycheck in January. The Bible tells us that Esau sold his entire birthright for just one meal. Of course, at that tiny point in time, Esau really, really needed that meal.
Will people be desperate enough to trade their world for some thin vegetable soup? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Frank Malley, Minnetonka
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I personally agree with some of the GOP tax plan. Given our extreme gap in the distribution of wealth, the benefits going to the bottom 80 percent are good. Corporate tax rates coming down to be competitive so corporations don’t waste effort playing tax-avoidance games is good.
The improvement could have come by making the capital-gains tax rate the same as the tax rate on labor. The rich ultimately are the big winners, since they disproportionately own the stock that increases in value from a lower corporate tax. Capital-gains rates also cause wasted effort in the playing of games to get income into the lower tier of rates.
If we want to help small business by lowering the tax rate on the pass-through incomes, do it on the first $100,000 of profits, but don’t reward the big winners in our system by cutting their rates below labor rates. All wealth ultimately comes from someone’s labor, and most wealthy individuals win by skimming from labor, meaning we need to value labor more.
Jeffrey Jensen, Blaine
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For all the Democrats’ moaning and gnashing of teeth regarding passage of the tax bill, where were they nine years ago when they held both houses of Congress and the presidency and could have placed a potent arrow in the quiver of working people with passage of the Employee Free Choice Act? That law would have made it easier for the working people they claim to represent to form unions, the easiest and most potent way to raise wages and living standards. All data confirm that union workers earn more per hour and enjoy the economic security that only increased wealth confers. Yet no sooner did the 2008 election make such a monumental gain possible when Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Dianne Feinstein among others withdrew their support, showing yet again how easy it is for them to sing praises for legislation when the possibility of enactment is impossible, only to become stage-door Johnnies when workers depend on them to act.
Kieran Hughes, St. Paul