A job is a job, but 'value' is in eye of the beholder


In his May 24 commentary "You say 'jobs,' I say 'rhetoric,' " economics Prof. Steven Horwitz essentially calls jobs that do not create value worthless. While I understand his assertion, it relies heavily on "value" as an absolute that we would all measure in the same way.

My computer dictionary defines value as "the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something." That would suggest that everyone would value something exactly the same.

It seems clear to me that a job would have much higher value to the employee than to the boss, business owner or investor Therefore, I would assume that Horwitz means the value to the society as a whole, which would be the classical economic definition.

But it is apparent that value does not have a universally common definition. Horwitz states that "if value hasn't also been created, new jobs are only creating unnecessary work."

Again, it is a question of who is judging something to be necessary or unnecessary. To me, rebuilding infrastructure or even creating art is valuable and necessary, whereas a great portion of our military and defense spending is unnecessary.

I daresay there are many who would disagree with my judgment on those matters. This letter is written merely to indicate that matters of value and necessity are not nearly as cut-and-dried as the professor would suggest.


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Article undervalued Xcel's many efforts


A May 24 commentary ("An energy switch, waiting to be flipped") arguing that Xcel Energy's programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency have come up short ignored the plain facts.

Xcel's comprehensive suite of energy-efficiency programs surpassed Minnesota's very aggressive goal, with our customers now saving enough electricity to power every single home in the city of Bloomington -- and then some.

We lead the nation in renewable energy as the top provider of wind power for the eighth year in a row, and we are well ahead of the most aggressive Renewable Energy Standard in the region. Among our contributions to Minneapolis is Minnesota's largest solar electric array on the Convention Center.

Xcel is ahead of the curve on environmental improvements, beginning with our $1 billion investment that dramatically reduced emissions at three Twin Cities power plants. At the same time, we have undertaken the award-winning Energy Innovation Corridor project that is developing a showcase for energy innovation along the light-rail corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

These and other accomplishments provide our customers and communities great value: Our rates are significantly below the national average; our environmental performance is exceptional, and we have created jobs and spurred innovation.


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Not sure it was really missing in the Senate


I disagree somewhat with Ellen Hoerle's implication ("Two ways of dealing with dirty laundry," May 25) that there were no consequences for those attempting to manage the Amy Koch/Michael Brodkorb situation. Meeting in December of last year, Senate Republicans stripped Geoff Michel of his position as interim majority leader. He was not named to his old position of deputy majority leader. Later, he announced he would not run for reelection. Before this episode, Mr. Michel must have been considered a likely candidate for higher office.


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Stacking the deck against our children


Almost two-thirds of all children in Minnesota are overweight or obese. And the worst part: The problem is only getting worse.

Are we simply overfeeding them? Perhaps, but the real answer is far more complicated. In reality, the poor state of our children's health is a reflection of the political agendas and economic priorities of government programs like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which allow powerful food corporations to infiltrate almost every aspect of our children's lives -- particularly the school lunch system.

In the Twin Cities, many schools include junk-food items from companies like Pizza Hut and Clux Delux on their menus. And it's no wonder, since fast foods have the highest profit margins and are therefore made abundantly available by school districts looking to make a buck.

Essentially, the school lunch system is an industry and our children are viewed as eager consumers -- more than willing to spend their parents' money on products that will eventually and inevitably make them sick.

So where is the government in all of this? The USDA has a lot more on its plate than we realize, and its biggest responsibility is not protecting the health of our children but maintaining balance in our agriculture system. This means buying up crops that are government-subsidized and in surplus.

Not coincidentally, the largest and most profitable crop in Minnesota is corn, which can be found in almost every type of junk food on the market.


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In language a child could understand


A study by the Sunlight Foundation states that Congress aims to eschew obfuscation. The average speech from last year's Congressional Record went from a 10th-grade to a ninth-grade reading level.

With elections near, we will see prose worthy of a McGuffey Reader. See Congress. See Congress tax. See Congress spend. See Congress tax and spend ...

By the way, this letter was written at an eighth-grade level.