CNN did a surprisingly great job running the most recent Republican presidential debate, held Wednesday. Republicans would be wise to keep Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie. They should send home Rand Paul for being a naive isolationist and extreme outlier; Scott Walker for being a horrible fiscal manager as governor; Mike Huckabee for being a far-right religious extremist; John Kasich for crazily believing in the Iran deal inspections; Jeb Bush for being an Iraq war and immigrant amnesty supporter who foolishly hired his brother’s advisers, and Ben Carson for being a novice and lifeless leader with no management experience.

Any of the keepers would be a far better alternative to what the Democrats have to offer.

Corby Pelto, Plymouth

• • •

John McCain and the Republicans got waxed by Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Reflecting upon their loss, the Republicans said that they had to make nice with Latinos, gays and women. They didn’t. So in 2012 President Obama waxed Mitt Romney and the Republicans again. And they again said that in order to win back the presidency, they had to make nice with Latinos, gays and women.

After watching the second Republican debate, it does not appear to me that the candidates got the message. Trump rails against Latinos, Huckabee and Cruz rail against gays (and the Supreme Court), and every candidate on the debate stage Wednesday expressed outrage toward Planned Parenthood (women), wanting to defund it.

Yet nearly three years ago, 20 children were slaughtered in their school by a deranged individual with multiple guns — children only six or seven years removed from the womb — and gun violence today is epidemic. Where is the outrage? The only mention of guns during the debate was the candidates’ crowing about the rights of an armed populace.

In 2016, we may see history repeat itself!

Douglas Broad, St. Louis Park

• • •

I thought several of the candidates articulated their positions very well — especially given the time constraint and sheer number of participants. I thought Rubio was particularly successful in helping the viewers understand his positions. His position on guns was clear and precise. The trouble with stricter gun laws, he said, is that they would disarm only law-abiding citizens, not criminals. (Where have we heard that before?) I was struck by that in light of recent news articles in the Star Tribune. The murder-suicide in Greenwood. The shooting of the 65-year-old son by his 90-year-old father over a disagreement about television. The sentencing of the man who shot his neighbor after an ongoing dispute. All criminals? Not until they pulled the trigger of the gun that was readily available.

Jim Gillis, Northfield

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I suffered through both of Wednesday’s debates, and there was much that can be commented on, but one thing in particular struck me as noteworthy. All but three of the 15 candidates in the two debates stressed how they would build up our military into a huge, intimidating force that would command respect from the world. The three not advocating such buildup did not call the others out on it, and none of the 15 proposed a way to pay for such buildup. In fact, they all proposed cutting taxes.

Now, I’m not a trained economist nor a financial expert, but there seems to be a disconnect in that plan. Our best choice might be Trump, for he says that he would have Mexico pay for the border wall and that he would have our enemies pay for our military buildup. Perhaps he can intimidate them into helping us lower our debt, too.

Bob Goligowski, Brooklyn Park

• • •

Most of the candidates (Rand Paul excepted) want to increase our military intervention and involvement in the chaos of the Middle East and many are ready to start a new war in the region against Iran. But none of them offered a cogent reason why it is in the interest of the U.S. to intervene unilaterally.

None of these countries — including Iran — represents any direct threat to this country. Yes, there are terrorists in those places, and we should continue to ensure that they are contained and do not commit acts of terror in our country. And we should support international efforts to aid refugees. But we cannot “fix” those societies or make them adopt our values. Apparently most Republican candidates have not learned from the failures of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. God help us if any of these folks becomes commander in chief.

Eric Forsberg, Golden Valley



To find better pay, sometimes all you need to do is look

A front-page story Sept. 17 laments that the median annual income for black households in Minnesota plunged to $27,000 in 2014. The same page has an article describing a school bus driver shortage — employers are so desperate that they’re forcing their staffers to drive. The starting wage is $16 per hour with a $1,000 signing bonus. That’s $34,280 in the first year for just one family member.

Steven Belton, interim president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, is quoted in the first story as saying that “the alleged rising tide has not lifted all boats.” Maybe instead of decrying the prosperity of others, he ought to just read the rest of the newspaper.

Bill Baldwin, Bloomington

• • •

While the news about income levels is disturbing, it is not surprising to those who have carefully assessed the economics of African-Americans in Minnesota. In a recent Wall Street Journal study, Minnesota was ranked as the second-worst state for black people in the U.S.; only Wisconsin was worse. A part of this reality is “Minnesota Nice” racism that does not attack black people — except literally with police brutality — but essentially ignores them. For many whites in Minnesota, black people do not exist in their life experiences, except through the media. For many government, business and philanthropic policymakers, the well-being of black people is not a priority in meaningful ways. Even Minnesota’s outstanding charitable giving reflects this reality: A couple of years ago, Minneapolis was No. 1 in per-capita charitable giving among the top 25 cities in the country. It was also first among the 25 in the disparities between white and black income.

Arthur Himmelman, Minneapolis



Don’t underestimate the value of health plans in Minnesota

Do we really need managed care in Minnesota? A recent commentary proposing to end the state’s managed-care “experiment” (Opinion Exchange, Sept. 14) asks the question once again. And when you assemble facts and analyze the issues, the answer remains the same: yes.

Health plans open the door to doctors and others on the health care team. They push to make care better, to help manage serious illnesses and, as a result, to make care more affordable. Look at the state’s report comparing managed care and fee-for-service on 19 questions around health care quality, timeliness and access, and you see our local plans are a better deal for Minnesotans.

Everyone knows that a health plan’s role is difficult — plans are hired to raise economic issues right when people feel vulnerable. But the recent commentary indicated plans have more power than they do.

The state, not health plans, adds and removes people from coverage. Laws create barriers and rules. And provider networks, drug formularies, prior authorizations and other tools are used across the world to help ensure safe and effective use of health care dollars.

It’s tempting to take shortcuts, but ignoring past problems and avoiding tough questions just leads to bad policy.

Jim Schowalter, Eagan

The writer is president and CEO, Minnesota Council of Health Plans.