John Phelan, a staffer with the conservative Center of the American Experiment, makes the argument ("We have a problem," Opinion Exchange, July 12) that Minnesota's progressive tax climate is out of step with other parts of the country and is leading to subpar economic and population growth in this state. He goes on to point out that racial disparities in areas such as education, income, homeownership, unemployment, etc., have persisted despite Minnesota's higher and more progressive tax climate.

After laying all this out, he makes his central point: It's time to try something different (i.e., lower tax rates, presumably). "But what?" he asks, but never answers. It's the question that no conservative seemingly ever gets around to answering. He, along with his conservative think tank and policymakers, continually make the argument that if only we lower taxes, then all of our other problems will be solved! If that's the case, then how about we just get rid of taxes altogether?

We need bright people like Phelan to come forward and speak about the problems that confront our state and realistic solutions to them — realistic as to what those solutions would cost us to enact vs. what it will cost us all if we do not.

If we want schools that educate, if we want police who protect rather than threaten the public, if we want roads and bridges that enable us to move efficiently, all these things are going to take serious financial resources, and it's time we all let our ideological guard down long enough to have some honest discussion about it.

Gregory Olson, Eden Prairie


If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, goes the phrase. Phelan proposes to solve every Minnesota nail, er, problem with the only visible tool in the Center of the American Experiment's tiny toolbox, the hammer of lower taxes for the rich.

According to Phelan, we may be ranked the second-best state to live in, as he concedes up front, but he implies we still need to hammer those nails of GDP growth, in-migration, racial disparities and even "surging" violent crime all with the magic hammer of tax cuts for the rich.

Fortunately for us, Minnesota's second-best-state status was built over decades by leaders, in both public and private capacities, who didn't see the need for all that hammering. Phelan should probably stop by his local hardware store and get acquainted with some of the other tools available.

Peter Hill, Minnetonka


Two letter writers in the July 13 edition responded to Phelan's commentary ("Sorry, we'll stop!" Readers Write). To both letter writers I offer this: "Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining." Enough said.

Jim Moe, Edina


The headline on Phelan's commentary, "We have a problem," was accurate and timeless. But with a mishmash of selective facts and distortions, Phelan absurdly ended up trying to link high income taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans to racial disparities. We do have serious problems with racism and inequality, which are similar to other Upper Midwestern states. But most advocates for racial equity actually want Minnesota to more aggressively apply our egalitarian and liberal traditions, not abandon them in favor of individualism and conservative denial of white privilege. It's highly unlikely that the reputable Black leaders cited by Phelan would embrace solutions advanced in recent years by his colleagues at the Center of the American Experiment. These include: more big tax cuts on the rich and on corporations, less public-sector investment in education and economic security and opposition to most of the policies advanced by anti-racism advocates. The center generally has opposed policing reforms, easier access to voting, higher minimum wages, universal health care access and learning about white privilege and systemic racism in public schools. Moreover, the center has drifted toward Trumpism in recent years and has increasingly separated itself from responsible business leaders on at least three crucial policy areas: welcoming immigrants, addressing climate change and building more public transit options.

And by the way, of the top 10 states for GDP growth in the first quarter of 2021, Minnesota, with its steeply progressive income tax, ranked eighth-highest. And of the top 20 states in 2020 in GDP per capita, 15 were "blue'' in 2020 and not supportive of Trump's appeals to conservative white nationalism and policies favoring the wealthiest Americans.

Dane Smith, St. Paul


Tragic, but different in a key way

To the letter writer defending Ashli Babbitt as an unarmed protestor on Jan. 6, looking for remorse for her death by politicians ("Can she draw the same concern as others struck down by police?" July 13): She was, in fact, participating in a riot on the Capitol — attempting to reach Congress by breaking through the line of police and physical barriers. As per the U.S. Justice Department statement dated April 14, 2021: "The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt's family, the U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter."

Ashli Babbitt likely would be alive had she not participated in this attempted insurrection on Jan. 6. Politicization of her death is not a way to honor her life.

Christine Chambers, Shoreview


As unfortunate as the death of Babbitt was, it is a false comparison to suggest she is just another "protester" needlessly shot by police. She was an active part of a violent mob attacking our Capitol building and, more importantly, trying to interrupt and overturn our presidential election. This mob was attacking and injuring the police trying to keep them out and was calling for the assassination of then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The officer who shot Babbitt was doing his job to protect the legislators under imminent threat from the insurrectionists. The sad part is she was brainwashed into thinking she was being patriotic by those pushing the "big lie" with no proof. They are the ones responsible for her death, not the heroic police.

Marie Reed, Grand Marais, Minn.


The game is doing just fine

I have been wondering why my enthusiasm for the Twins and Major League Baseball in general has been diminishing over the past few years. George Will's commentary "How we can save baseball from itself" in Monday's paper (Opinion Exchange) provided answers: "More pitches and less contact. Longer games ... and less action." He could have added the cost of attending a game as part of the reason in declining attendance — ticket prices, parking, plus food and drinks.

Although he did offer some solutions, I don't think it's baseball that needs saving. I went to the game Saturday night and saw a back-and-forth, highly entertaining game that featured three or four walks, very few strikeouts and only one home run. The ball was constantly put in play by some very talented, enthusiastic ballplayers, and we had great seats behind home plate.

This game was an American Legion tournament game. I am glad to see that real baseball, amateur baseball, is very alive and well.

Bruce Lemke, Orono

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