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Salim Furth in his commentary on March 23 ("To aid renters, ease up on investors, landlords") argues that, since people of color often rent, it's a good idea to allow investors to buy up single-family homes to rent to renters. Never mind that investors have severely damaged low-income neighborhoods, many of them with majority-minority populations, by using cash to buy up properties that might otherwise have been acquired by members of the population he claims to defend. This is the ultimate cynicism — defending destructive vulture capitalist practices by claiming they are good for the victims of that practice.
Tim Mungavan, Minneapolis
The writer is a nonprofit housing developer.
A recent article in the New York Times called "Why poverty persists in America" (by Matthew Desmond, a Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist) is worth being sent to every City Council member, mayor and legislator to read. In it, Desmond makes the case that unbridled pursuit of wealth and the little-regulated capitalism of owning rental property is one of the unseen drivers of poverty. Investment companies snap up modest family homes, forcing those of limited means to rent rather than buy a home. Weak renter protections (relative to renter protections in places such as Germany) mean that these situations are tenuous rather than stable.
I can hear capitalists and anti-authority voices now: "You want to regulate the free market!" Yes, I do. Unfettered investor-ownership is not serving our communities well anymore, if it ever did. Our neighborhood fought to keep Minneapolis from selling the public housing we advocated decades ago to have built. It would have gone to private developers, who would have increased rents to market rate on many units while maintaining some subset as "affordable." We knew the damage that would cause to the community fabric for our neighbors to be uprooted from their homes. I don't deny that it's nice to hold land or buildings and make a profit from their use. But I think there needs to be a communitywide limit to investors buying up all the small-housing stock and turning it into permanent rental housing. Perhaps the limit is to require investors to sell a single-family house to the occupants after a certain period of years; maybe the limit is to mandate that no more than a certain percentage of homes may be purchased by investors in a given geographic area; maybe the limit is that landlords do not have the power to evict or raise rents unless the building is actually damaged through storm or mishap; maybe the limit is that single-family homes must be owner- or first-degree family-member-occupied.
I don't have a best answer. But I do know that the fabric of a neighborhood is stronger when homes are homeowner-occupied, when young people and newcomers can buy homes, and when new homeowners are supported by their neighbors and by resources in the community. How about that?
Chris Larson, Minneapolis
Can't ignore incoming implosion
At our current rate, the Social Security trust fund will run out of money by 2035. At that point, retirees will receive only 78% of their full benefit. This is a dire, current problem, not something that can be passed off to future generations.
Democrats and Republicans must recognize Social Security reform as a bipartisan issue, not a political hot potato. The parties must form bipartisan committees to develop concrete plans to secure benefits for the long run.
Our citizens are smart enough to understand that longer-living seniors and fewer working-age contributors are the reasons for our predicament. Politicians can be frank about these reasons and enlist the public's support for reform.
Solutions could include abolishing limits on Social Security taxable income, raising payroll taxes on workers and employers and/or gradually increasing program eligibility ages.
The time to act is now while the federal budget is being highly debated. Start the conversations now. We and our elected officials need to have the courage to address Social Security reform before it becomes a crisis.
Margaret Rutledge, Long Lake
I am a grandfather who is happy to pay taxes on my Social Security income. I want Minnesota to have the revenue necessary to address our common challenges like child care, health care and climate change — to make life better for all of us, especially our grandchildren. I agree with state Reps. Dave Pinto, Esther Agbaje, Steve Elkins and Michael Howard in Tuesday's Star Tribune: Tax-free Social Security doesn't make sense for Minnesota.
I want Minnesota to make child care affordable to all families and for child care teachers to earn fair wages and benefits. For my grandchildren, quality, affordable child care is essential as their parents all work. With Minnesota's tight labor market, we must make it easier for all parents to hold jobs. Affordable child care is crucial for that!
One of my children worked in child care for five years. He liked it and was good at it. When he turned 25, he left that field because it didn't pay enough. For him to start a family, he needed a better-paying field. He found a good union job in another industry and now has a brighter future. I want Minnesota to create a child care system where talented young men and women can keep working with our young children!
I would rather have Minnesota improve our child care system than put a few dollars back in my pocket as a retiree. Giving a $1.2 billion tax cut to us seniors with comfortable incomes does not make sense. I urge the Legislature to vote no on cutting the Social Security income tax.
David M. Scheie, Golden Valley
Concern about violence is why the war must continue
On March 22, a reader wrote regarding "the need to question our escalating involvement in the war in Ukraine." I agree with her concern of "senseless" and "pointless violence" (such as Russia's war crimes against civilians) and the imminent threat posed by climate change, but I disagree that her analogies to when "our nation invaded Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq" are applicable to Ukraine.
"Our nation" did not invade Ukraine; Russia did. Russia seeks to conquer and swallow a sovereign country. Ukrainians are bravely defending their country and democracy. Withdrawing U.S. support would be "abandon[ing] those who'd assisted us," which the writer deplores.
I agree with the author that "the real peril is so much worse today" than in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq times. The more apt analogy is from 1938 when Nazi Germany annexed portions of the sovereign country of Czechoslovakia and then took over the remainder of it five months later. We and other nations failed to respond to this violation of international order. Millions eventually died as a result.
Russia's nuclear saber-rattling, while frightening, should not deter our response. If we bow to Russian nuclear threats in Ukraine, will we also bow to similar Russian threats accompanying invasions of other countries neighboring Russia, such as Finland and the Baltic states?
Diplomacy is certainly preferable to war, but leverage is required to bring Russia to the negotiating table. Until the economic sanctions or Russia's enablers such as China bring pressure on Russia to act responsibly, military resistance unfortunately appears necessary to create that leverage.
We have the right "to question our escalating involvement in the war in Ukraine." I regret the Russian people do not have that right regarding their government's actions. If they did, the war would end before the next harvest of Ukrainian wheat.
Brad Engdahl, Golden Valley