We're learning what's really essential in state

As the long fight drags on between those who believe government should match revenue and those who believe revenue should match government, I can't help but notice that the courts are conveniently compiling for us a handy list of what the state doesn't really need to be doing in the first place.

From what I can gather, many welfare payments continue, but many license renewals do not. Thus the courts seem to believe that the transfer of wealth, rather than the creation of wealth, constitutes the essential business of the state.

If this is the case, perhaps we should consider devolving business regulatory responsibilities to the cities and counties to deal with as they see fit. The state budget would thereby be spared the awful burden of providing such needless services. The citizens might then also escape the worst effects of those who aggrandize power and then refuse to exercise it.


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That phrase "essential government functions will still operate during the shutdown" drives me crazy. Shouldn't all government services and programs be essential? Government should only step in where private ventures fail or prove unprofitable.

We've seen the extensive impact our squabbling state Legislature and governor have had on profits of our state's private companies. Take Canterbury Park: It's lost millions at the hand of representatives who aren't doing their jobs.

After all, that's what a shutdown is -- the failure of our elected officials to do what they are elected (and paid) to do. Rarely do I call for more regulation, but we need incentives in place to keep this from happening in the future. Eliminating our politician's paychecks during a shutdown would be a good start.


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When the Republicans took over in January, their very first committee meetings were about shutting down the government. Obviously, they were very successful.


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As one of my liberal friends commented recently about the budget deal being cut, "It's like the guy who says, 'I paid all my bills ... I put them on my credit card!'"


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Labor deserves credit for protecting workers

It is really nauseating to read letters to the editor and watch television ads excoriating unions, especially teacher unions and their "lavish" benefits. Unions are blamed for protecting the jobs of inferior teachers, causing economic collapse of government and electing corrupt candidates with their "secret" donations. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Unions ensure the rights of teachers being considered for firing to due process guaranteed by the Tenure Act, an act Republicans are eager to dismantle so that experienced, well-educated teachers can be replaced by cheaper, younger ones.

My "lavish" benefits consisted of affordable health care and a contract containing a salary schedule that allowed me to plan my future. I am not sure which "corrupt" candidates I helped elect, but I know that the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers was forced by its membership to drop "choice" as its stance on birth control because a large number of members opposed it.

What I recall most clearly is that during times of great prosperity, the truly rich paid a much higher percentage of their taxable income than they do now. I also recall that a short-term surtax saved the state (and federal) economy in days of yore. Those were also days when our elected officials could be said to care, really care.


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Just how far has the corruption spread?

Rupert Murdoch says that News of the World is only 1 percent of News Corp. Kind of makes you wonder what the other 99 percent is doing, doesn't it? Maybe our goverment should find out. But I suspect, like the English authorities, they already know.


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Murdoch and his confederates ought to be tried, convicted and sentenced to two years at hard labor, and his newspapers should be fined $5 billion. Oscar Wilde served as long for less.


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We pay our dues in winter and summer

Don't you hate when people say, "Don't complain about the hot weather, winter will be here before you know it." I say we're Minnesotans and we've earned the right to complain about the hot weather in the summer and the cold weather in the winter. We live in the state of extremes and if it makes us feel better to complain, let us complain in peace.


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As temperatures soar along with humidity, for basic health reasons people need to slow down, up their liquid intake, and try to keep cool. For people without access to air conditioning, pools or swimmable lakes, a cold washcloth on the back of the neck can help.

In the evening sleeping with a damp sheet, 100 percent cotton if available, brings comfort. As the water evaporates from the sheet, it pulls heat away from the body. I used this technique when I was in Ouagadougou, West Africa, where I did not have access to electricity. It worked surprisingly well.


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Ad campaign could educate the public

So far we've had two power outages this year. The first one happened when the weather was not as bad, but there was dangerous heat Monday and the outage lasted three hours.

We understand that it's hard to provide energy, especially when everyone is using twice as much, yet I haven't heard of any backup plans from Xcel.

It would be nice to see commercials on all media encouraging people to not use as much energy when everyone needs the AC and fans on. It would also be nice to see commercials about the best ways to keep our houses cool with the least use of energy.

And it would be very nice if Xcel would learn to be empathetic and to apologize to extremely frustrated customers who are experiencing 115-degree weather inside their homes.