In President Trump’s recent news conference, one that felt more like watching a mugging, Trump fatuously tried to explain away his train wreck of an administration by explaining that he had “inherited a mess” (“Trump delivers a heated defense of his first month,” Feb. 17). When Barack Obama took office in 2009, there were two unfunded wars raging; Osama bin Laden had not been brought to justice; unemployment was more than 8 percent and headed upward; all of the major banks were insolvent; the three major American car companies were bankrupt, and the Dow was at 8,000. The laughably incompetent Donald Trump not only has no understanding of the American system of government, he can’t even distinguish a sweet deal from a mess.

Stephen Kriz, Maple Grove

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Trump “inherited a mess” — yes, a mess created by the founders of the country. It seems he is discovering that the presidency is not an autocracy in which he can give orders without consulting anyone, heedless of the Constitution, and they will be obeyed. Perhaps he thought the office was like being host of a reality TV show. I guess he thought he assumed the office as soon as the vote totals were in. As I recall, he was cautioning Obama that he should no longer be making agreements or decisions, including Russian sanctions, before the inauguration even took place. It would not surprise me if he instructed his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, to contact the Russian ambassador about the sanctions. The ties between Trump and Russia must be thoroughly investigated.

John Geddes, Minneapolis

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Trump spent much of the time at his news conference attacking mainstream media, repeatedly calling their product “fake news.” When challenged on one of his lies about the Electoral College, he replied that “I’ve seen that information around.” It’s clear that he’s the real consumer of fake news and accepts it without factual analysis. A manipulable American president who lives in an alternate fact world is a threat to everyone.

Paul Oman, Brooklyn Center

STADIUM MANAGEMENT

Those perks handled. Next?

Concerning the controversy over management of U.S. Bank Stadium (“Suite use topples 2 stadium officials,” Feb. 17), what a tempest in a Teapot Dome! Everyone knows all those suites are supposed to be reserved for fat cats who can write off the costs as a business expense. And while we tut-tut about such perks, to be consistent let’s also tax everyone who receives special benefits that go with a job, like family members of airline employees who fly for free.

Richard A. Virden, Plymouth

SCHOOL DISCIPLINE LEGISLATION

The real problem gets shrouded by one that really doesn’t exist

I listened with great surprise Thursday while waiting to testify in opposition to HF905 before the Minnesota House Education Innovation Committee when a school district attorney testified that the Minnesota Pupil Fair Dismissal Act’s prohibition against dismissing students for unintentional behavior created “a higher standard than criminal prosecutors face.” I am even more surprised to see that same statement printed without challenge in “Legislation inspired by pocket knife case riles anti-suspensions crowd” (“Class Act” blog, StarTribune.com). Every first-year law student learns that virtually every crime, with very limited exception, requires a showing of intent in order to obtain a conviction. Further, the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal matter, where school districts seeking to expel a student must show only that it is slightly more likely than not that the student committed the offending act.

We have a problem in Minnesota, and it’s not that we can convict a criminal more easily than we can dismiss a student. The Minnesota Department of Education reports that there were more than 47,000 dismissals in our schools during the 2015-16 school year, a statistic that includes a disproportionate number of students of color and students with disabilities. Students who are dismissed from school are more likely to experience a host of negative outcomes, which no doubt contribute to the racial achievement gap. We are not helped in addressing this very real problem when we are distracted, in testimony or in print, by ones that do not exist.

Andrea Jepsen, St. Paul

The writer is an attorney for the School Law Center.

HEALTH INSURANCE

Woe is us, says industry

A story on the front page of the Business section on Feb. 12 (“Insurers want protection from big claims”) explains how a small percentage of health insurance claims represents a large percentage of total dollars spent to cover health treatment expense. What is omitted is the total revenue received by insurance companies for health insurance. If you include the money insurance companies receive, way more than $13 billion, it is clear the amount spent on the claims for the 5,300 costliest people is less than 5 percent of the revenue they have taken in. Isn’t that how insurance is supposed to work? We spread the risk over many households and individuals, and, yes, some claims are going to cost more than others. What the article seems to be saying is: “If only the insurance companies could get rid of having to pay for the most costly bills involved in health care, they could do much better.” I might say: “If only we could eliminate the cost of the insurance companies (and their bloated executive salaries) with a single-payer insurance plan, the American people could do much better.” Come on, Star Tribune! Give us all the facts!

Warren Blechert, Excelsior

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It was shocking to learn that Minnesota’s health insurance companies are being victimized by “sick patients who rack up massive bills.”

It is encouraging that Medica, UnitedHealth and others are willing to step up and seek taxpayer assistance from the Legislature. Otherwise, these companies will continue to shoulder the costs of greedy, demanding patients with serious illnesses and debilitating injuries. Requiring the health insurance industry to pay health care costs from their “skyrocketing premiums” is contrary to our sacrosanct economic model. How long must the health insurance industry continue to suffer?

Gregory R. Solum, Edina

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE

Attention, please

Every year the Minnesota Medical Association hosts a “Day at the Capitol” for physicians to meet with their legislators. I was among many in attendance on Wednesday. My representatives were busy, so I went and sat in on the committees that they were attending. Ordinary people had come to the Capitol to testify and share their perspective on bills that have been introduced. As I watched, I was disappointed to see our elected officials on their phones, staring into space, even passing notes around the table. I felt like I was back in a junior high classroom.

We need to hold elected officials accountable. There are many bills that are discussed that look good on the surface but often have unintended consequences. Testimony from engaged citizens and experts can help elucidate the impact of proposed legislation. I expect our legislators to listen to this testimony so they can make the best decisions for the citizens of Minnesota.

It is also just rude. I watched as one man gave testimony and even the chair of the committee was looking down at her phone. I understand that legislators are juggling busy schedules, but when one of their constituents takes the time out of a busy life to come and testify at the Capitol, that person deserves to be treated respectfully. So put away your phones and get off your Facebook and your e-mails. Pay attention (even when it’s boring). Give encouraging smiles. Listen. And stop being rude.

Dr. Lisa R. Mattson, Plymouth