ECONOMIC POLICY

On jobless benefits, tax cuts, spending and debt

Apparently the Republicans, and some heartless Democrats, are taking on the role of the Grinch. By denying the extension of unemployment funds to some 2 million workers who have exhausted their benefits, they have given the word "giving" new meaning, as instead they want to extend the billions in unpaid-for tax cuts to the top 2 percent of earners ("Jobless to lose federal benefits," Nov. 26).

This is being done without any regard to the national debt. Shame on them for such blatant disregard for the majority of people they serve.

CAROL OLSON, MINNEAPOLIS

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Our tax system is broken because our elected leaders have forgotten the fundamentals on which it should be based. Taxes are meant to be a way for citizens to fund things that are for the common good, as it would be inefficient and disastrous if citizens were left to build private roads, hire private police and otherwise assume individual responsibility for core government services. Everyone who benefits should expect to contribute.

Many of our elected officials think taxes are something that should be paid by other people -- namely the rich. There should, however, be a litmus test for any new taxes. If we are not all willing to spend our own money for something in exchange for the benefits that will come from the spending, then it isn't worth doing.

I am not in the "rich" category as defined by either President Obama or probable Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, and I think it is shameful that our government would try to make high earners pay even more than the grossly disproportionate share they already pay.

We're all in this together. Let's all pay our fair share -- and that doesn't mean that rich people have to pay a higher percentage of their incomes for the exact same benefits.

BOB GUST, BLOOMINGTON

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If tax cuts for the rich create jobs, why did the Bush administration create 1 million jobs and the Clinton administration create 22 million?

BRUCE HOLMSTROM, Robbinsdale

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While I was a strong proponent of candidate Barack Obama in 2008, I am dismayed by his timidity in public policy as president. He was in favor of preventing a depression, but caved into the Republican notion that tax cuts were the way out, so nearly 40 percent of the stimulus bill was in tax cuts, rather than infrastructure construction as in the Great Depression.

Do Republicans remember that when they say no jobs were created by the stimulus bill? Obama was in favor of a single-payer health care system, but he gave the policy away before the real policy fight. Now Republicans grouse about how the bill does "nothing" to contain costs. Obama gave into building more nuclear plants and increasing deep offshore oil drilling, while Republican leaders apologize to BP for holding it responsible for the worst environmental disaster of our lifetimes. And now during the lame-duck session in Congress, when there is a chance to still change tax policy and shore up the middle class, Obama proposes a freeze in government workers' wages. Why was that not a bargaining chip, along with extensions of unemployment insurance for those caught in the throes of the worst recession in our lifetimes?

Why do Republicans berate this president after he let them off the political "canvas" in 2008, when they should have been knocked out of political significance for a generation?

KURT ROGNESS, MINNEAPOLIS

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I'm looking at my recent supplemental truth-in-taxation notice from the city of Minneapolis. I'm astounded to read under "Pension Direct Levies" an increase of 48.4 percent from 2010. The next category, "other," is footnoted as "Teacher retirement," among other items, and there is an increase of 12.1 percent.

Hasn't the taxpayer done enough for the public union worker? Didn't teachers just get awarded back pay while awaiting their new contract? Now a further payment from part of the 12.1 percent increase? Wow.

Am I correct that this segment of the workforce has continued to enjoy annual salary increases with no hit to their health or retirement benefits during this Great Recession? I'd like to know how these benefits are calculated, as I believe the projections are overly generous to maintain the benefit level.

As I witness the value of my home continue to decline and my health care premiums continue to increase (by double digits annually), and now as a whopping double-digit property tax increase is proposed for 2011, I ask: Why? This is not only unfair; it's unsustainable.

We can't keep on like this. The growth in this economy comes from the private sector, not government workers.

Despite being liberal, I now have great affection for New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie. It looks like the public sector is just another fat cat that we, the taxpayer, are again bailing out.

JAN CLYMER, MINNEAPOLIS

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What a refreshing editorial on Dec. 1 ("Get serious about improving teaching"). It's the first time I can remember that an editorial on education did not blame the failure of our school systems on a lack of funding.

Welcome to our side of the equation -- glad to have you aboard.

If, after addressing the real problems of education, we still need more finances, then so be it -- we'll get 'er done. But at least we will do it knowing that we're not just throwing money at the problem.

Hallelujah!

DOUG CLEMENS, BLOOMINGTON

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Who'da thunk it? Two rich senators -- Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Kent Conrad, D-N.D. -- are in favor of balancing the budget on the backs of others by cutting Social Security benefits ("Debt panel's vote put off until Friday," Dec. 1).

I wonder how they would feel about removing the income cap on FICA contributions? I imagine they would be opposed on the grounds of unfairness, since something that hits their pocketbooks rather than those of the poor people could not possibly be fair.

What goes around only comes around if the rich senators step out of the way.

WAYNE SATHER, EAGAN