CEOs put profit first, and we all feel the pain


The explanation of capitalism according to commentary writer Dennis Carstens sounds like a version of the defense used during the Nuremberg Trials ("There's no crying in capitalism," July 17).

When confronted with the devastation caused by their actions, German officers said they had a duty to their leaders and were just following orders.

Today we are told that the destruction of industries and the devastation of the middle class are just "the way of capitalism," and that the CEO's ultimate responsibility is to owners, shareholders and profit -- not the greatest good of the nation. The generals of capitalism are just fulfilling their fiduciary duties.

Economic power in the hands of a very few, whose orders require capitalism's goal of shareholder profit first and foremost, can lead to widespread pain.


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Thanks to Carstens for reminding us what capitalism is (as if we had forgotten). He makes a valid point about the constraints the system imposes on CEO behavior. For the last 30 years or so, America's CEOs have felt themselves legally, ethically and morally obligated to maximize shareholder value by reducing labor costs in every conceivable way: through offshoring, outsourcing, right-sizing, synergizing, part-timing, union busting, reducing benefits and raiding pension plans.

They've been very successful. Investors have done well as a class, wage earners not so much. You might think that in a consumer-driven economy, enlightened CEOs would have foreseen a time when their businesses would begin to fail for lack of customers who could afford to buy their products.

But that, too, is capitalism.


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Disregard the myths about Lenin, Trotsky


It's amazing to me that there are still people out there who assert that Lenin and Trotsky were supporters of democracy and freedom, and that things in the Soviet Union would have worked out so much better if only their vision hadn't lost out to Stalin's.

A July 16 letter to the editor advanced that very thesis, in response to the recent commentary by Milos Forman in which he equated socialism with Stalinism.

Now, if Lenin and Trotsky had truly supported freedom and democracy, then why did they dismantle the workers' councils (soviets) almost immediately upon seizing power? Why did they refuse to recognize the aspirations to independence of the peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia? Why did Trotsky perpetrate the massacre of leftist, anti-Bolshevik sailors at Kronstadt? And let us never forget that Trotsky was an enthusiastic supporter of the collectivization of agriculture that would lead to the deaths of millions of people, many of them murdered outright when they refused to cooperate in forced collectivization and the theft of their land that this entailed.

If Trotsky didn't kill as many people as Stalin, it's only because he didn't have the opportunity. For a truly humane socialism, we must dispense with the myths that have sprung up around Lenin and Trotsky and turn instead to the welfare states of Western Europe, which have built more just and equitable societies without murdering anyone.


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Muslim youth event focused on service


At a time characterized by an alleged increase in radicalization of Muslim youth, I attended a national Muslim youth convention with the theme "love and loyalty for one's homeland."

The national convention -- organized by America's leading Muslim youth organization, MKA USA -- sought to educate and cultivate loyalty for one's motherland through service to society. MKA USA helped collect more than 200 units of blood in Minnesota cities this past year. It is actively volunteering in efforts to alleviate hunger locally and internationally. Members from the group also distributed thousands of fliers across the state promoting the message of peace, loyalty and the sanctity of life.

Established firmly on a foundation built on service to humanity and love for mankind, Muslim youth from across Minnesota and the nation gathered for a weekend to renew their pledge to continue to spread goodness "for the sake of my country, faith, and nation." On we march as we become better Muslims and Americans.


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Direct ire at politicians, not editorial cartoonists


It bothered me a few days ago when I read the letter critical of how many anti-Obama cartoons Steve Sack had drawn. It bothered me even more that another letter writer had kept score. While I would not suggest that no one ever hold Sack accountable, he does not make public policy decisions. Let's hold the people we elect accountable first, and then we can worry about political cartoonists. Even though I'm generally an entrenched member of the left, I can promise that both sides give Sack plenty of fodder.