It's frustrating to see state Sen. David Osmek blatantly parroting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's line on net neutrality with a fake-moral-outrage twist ("Net neutrality opinion attempts to rewrite history," editorial counterpoint, Dec. 22). Like the mere 1 in 4 Republicans who support Pai's decision, Osmek tries to paint a doctrine of fairness as some sort of anti-market liberal plot. His counterpoint is laden with fallacy. Obviously if throttling and blocking hasn't happened before, then it never will happen, right?
And Osmek's clincher? Trying to tie the thing to U.S. Sen. Al Franken. He pretty much ends the whole commentary on the note of "Sen. Franken's actions are so disgusting, you should find net neutrality disgusting, too!"
Well, I'm even more disgusted with Pai's disregard for the overwhelming public support for net neutrality. He's made it obvious by now that the only reason he had a comment period was to try to drum up support for the decision he was going to make anyway. Most of all, I'm disgusted with the actions of his boss, our bully-and-harasser-in-chief, who supports him on this issue and whose actions toward dozens of individuals make Franken's misdemeanors pale in comparison. Is this enough to disgust you over your anti-consumer position, Sen. Osmek?
Paul F. Villerius, Minneapolis
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Osmek states: "Despite virtually no evidence of an actual threat to our free and open internet, net neutrality proponents cleverly led a misleading public relations campaign." This is patently false. Here is only a handful of net neutrality violations that occurred pre-2015:
• In 2005, Comcast began secretly blocking peer-to-peer technologies that its customers were using over its network.
• From 2007 to 2009, AT&T forced Apple to block Skype and other competing internet phone services on the iPhone.
• From 2011 to 2013, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon blocked Google Wallet, a mobile-payment system that competed with a similar service they were developing.
• In 2012, AT&T announced that it would disable the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers' iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.
• From 2013 to 2014, Comcast and Verizon were found to be throttling Netflix traffic in a successful effort to blackmail Netflix into paying them.
Unfortunately, internet service providers are looking to monetize the internet in a way similar to cable television, with paid packages for different services. The monopolies or duopolies of ISPs prevent any real competition to combat anti-consumer actions. Therefore, these ISPs must be regulated like a utility to ensure equal internet access for all.
Erik Duxstad, Eden Prairie
MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL
Sneaky pay raises put elected officials in a place of their own
At the Dec. 15 meeting of the Minneapolis City Council, a resolution was passed via unanimous vote that increased the salaries of the mayor and council members by $10,000 apiece. The resolution was not on the agenda for this the final council meeting of the year. Nor was the resolution subject to public comment.
Following these increases, council members will earn $98,696 and Mayor-elect Jacob Frey will earn $126,528 in 2018. In the context of a $1.4 billion budget, a pay increase totaling $140,000 for the 13 council members and mayor is but a drop in the bucket. However, the next time such a resolution is considered, the council would do well to be transparent with its intentions and open the process to public scrutiny. The council members' neighbors and constituents, who earn a median annual household income of just $52,611 (according to a 2016 Census Bureau estimate), might have some thoughts on use of their tax dollars to further inflate the lifestyles of their elected representatives.
Brian J. Krause, Minneapolis
New math is working just fine if it's fully apprehended
Two letters published Dec. 22 had incorrect math in their negative comments about the newly passed tax plan. One letter writer stated that his tax payments would have increased by $136 using the new tax laws on his 2016 income tax return. However, he incorrectly used a standard deduction of $24,000. People over 65 (like he and his wife) actually get an additional $1,300 each in the standard deduction. This would give him a reduction in taxes of $312 more ($2,600 times 12 percent, which is his tax bracket). So actually his taxes would have decreased by $176.
A second writer's comparison of the loss of the personal exemption compared with the increase in the standard deduction completely ignores the rest of the tax law changes, resulting in a blatantly incorrect conclusion. While it is true that in many cases the taxable income increases, the income is taxed at lower rates. In almost all situations, this lower tax rate will more than offset the increase in taxable income, resulting in significant tax savings. Furthermore, for families with children, the child tax credit was doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 each, which will further lower the taxes for families.
People need to ask their accountant about the tax law's impact on them and not rely on the half-truths being pushed by Democrats and the media.
Dan Jurek, Bemidji, Minn.
The writer is an accountant.
RESTRICTIONS ON THE CDC
This has been going on for a long time. For example, on firearms.
Restrictions that Congress has placed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amount to far more than the "kerfuffle" described in the Dec. 22 editorial. Despite an ongoing public health epidemic of firearms-related deaths in the U.S., Congress effectively shut down all CDC activities related to studying and understanding firearms issues more than 20 years ago.
In 1996, a peer-reviewed study in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the CDC showed that keeping a gun in the home was strongly and independently associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or friend. The NRA accused the CDC of promoting gun control, and Congress passed the Dickey Amendment forbidding the use of CDC funds "to advocate or promote gun control," which ended all research on firearms because studies could be used in court.
Congress has reauthorized the Dickey Amendment each year. Despite an executive order by President Barack Obama in 2013 asking the CDC to resume firearm fatality studies, the CDC has not done so, fearing punishing funding cuts by Congress.
The CDC is still allowed to collect data, however, and firearms-related injuries are in the top five causes of death in people aged 1 to 64 in the U.S., amounting to more than 30,000 deaths per year. In a polio or diphtheria epidemic half this size, would we allow Congress and the NRA to forbid studying the problem to find a solution? As physicians, we believe it is time for Congress to stop renewing the Dickey Amendment and to empower the CDC to gather, dare we say, science-based information on the epidemic of firearms deaths in our country.