“Refreshingly Honest!” That was the phrase emblazoned across the boxer shorts that were the must-have item from Tom Rukavina’s campaign for governor. (Rukavina died Monday at 68.) I had the pleasure of serving in the House with Tommy. When he learned that our grandparents were from the same small town in Croatia, I immediately became known as his cousin, and the nickname stuck. On more than one occasion he appealed to our common roots to get me to vote with him. He really was refreshingly honest. Minnesota has lost a legend.
Maria Ruud, Minnetonka
The writer was a member of the Minnesota House from 2005 to 2010.
HEALTH CARE, PART ONE
Provider tax is an unfair way to pay for a societal priority
I have been a family physician in Cottage Grove since 1982. Every year since, there have been changes in the health care system or its financing — some good and some bad. On Jan. 8, the Star Tribune Editorial Board wrote about the so-called “provider” tax, which by current law is set to sunset at the end of 2019 (“Minnesota faces a health care dilemma”). By law, Minnesota physicians and hospitals are required to pay 2 percent of their revenue to the state to fund health care for poor people.
In my opinion, the provider tax is simply wrong and unethical, and is discriminatory. No other profession is singled out by law to provide funding for the less fortunate to receive such services. Don’t get me wrong — I think that all of us have the right to receive a certain level of health care and that together as a society we should pay for it. But do we require teachers to pay a tax to cover those who cannot afford education? Do we require legislators to pay a tax to cover those who cannot afford the cost of government? Do we require business owners to pay a tax for those who cannot afford the goods or services provided by those businesses? Think of the howls that would occur should the Legislature pass such laws.
The reality is that our society needs to decide whether or not we believe it is appropriate and fair to provide funding for all to receive health care. If we do, then it is appropriate for general funds derived from income tax and sales tax to cover the cost of such care.
Dr. Jeffrey D. Nelson, Cottage Grove
HEALTH CARE, PART TWO
Coverage for children is one disparity. Gender is another.
While I appreciate the Editorial Board’s analysis of children and health care coverage (“Troubling data on health care for kids,” Jan. 7), it was sobering to see that gender was not addressed at all. People interested in gaining a greater understanding of how gender influences access can view a state Department of Health website on coverage disparities, including a chart of “Minnesotans without health insurance, by sex” (tinyurl.com/mn-coverage).
What is interesting is not just the data, but how it is presented. A separate graph clearly showing that females age 0-25 consistently face higher rates of being uninsured than their male counterparts is labeled “Young men are most likely to be uninsured.” Why not “Females uninsured at higher rates from cradle to young adulthood”? This sobering reality is visually dwarfed by the bar graphs for males and females in the 26- to 34-year-old age group, when people are no longer eligible for coverage under their parents’ policies; the number of males who are uninsured jumps significantly. At this point, the percentage of men who are uninsured remains higher than the percentage of women until the 55-64 age group. From ages 55 to 64, women are more vulnerable. People younger than 65 cannot qualify for Medicare. If a woman is married to an older man who decides to retire and her coverage had been through his policy, she will lose coverage — Medicare recipients must be 65 or older regardless of their work history and their history of coverage through their spouse. Think about that one.
Julie A. Risser, Edina
To give in or not to give in?
OK, the government shutdown has gone on long enough. My advice to Democrats is to let President Donald Trump have his wall. It is never a sign of weakness to take the high road and keep the country running smoothly. In all probability, you will make political hay for the foreseeable future as the wall becomes known as “Trump’s Folly.” Besides, I can’t stand the thought of a U.S. president stomping his feet and holding his breath until he gets his way.
John Jackson, Bloomington
• • •
Is a border wall really necessary for national security, or is it necessary so that President Trump can save face, having assured his supporters, countless times, that he would build one?
Mark O’Neill, St. Michael, Minn.
U.S. REP. RASHIDA TLAIB
Is a woman in our society allowed to be justifiably ‘good and mad’?
Rashida Tlaib captures this moment well (“Rep. Tlaib profanely promises impeachment,” Jan. 5, and responses in Readers Write, Jan. 8). We struggle to be heard in the din of distress. Journalist Rebecca Trais- ter’s book “Good and Mad” captures the dilemma of being heard — and listened to. When a woman employs too powerful an expression, there will be an attempt to shame her and distract from the message. I’m ashamed of the president for the same reason. Actually, I’m good and mad at the president. I TiVo news with the luxury of fast-forwarding any time he is speaking. My precious attention as an informed citizen needs to be spent on accurate background information — I have no time for bully posturing.
Barbara Vaile, Minneapolis
BOUNDARY WATERS AND MINING
A state-owned solution
I have a cabin on the edge of the Boundary Waters. On the South Kawishiwi. It is my favorite place in the world. I promised myself when I was a boy that I would defend the place I love should harm ever threaten it. Harm is now at the doorstep in the form of mining, and, as I have learned as I have gotten older, this is not the first time. With any foresight, one can see it will not be the last. Minerals are a finite resource, and we like to use them.
I know the folks who live there love the land, too. Otherwise they wouldn’t live in the economically depressed, bitter cold of northern Minnesota.
It is time we come together, miner and environmentalist, and have an honest conversation as Minnesotans. This issue is about jobs for miners. Anyone who has been off Main Street in Ely knows the place is run down. The tourist industry has only reached so far. And for the environmentalists, the issue is about the water. In a water-rich and highly vulnerable ecosystem, mining could be devastating. The giant elephant in the room, looming silently over the conversation, is Antofagasta — the mining corporation from South America that I’m guessing no Minnesotan really likes but that is promising jobs.
What I’m proposing is we come together to create jobs and protect the environment, under the bipartisan leadership of Gov. Tim Walz, and create a state-owned mining company. One whose main objective is not profit but to create sustainable, high-paying jobs for Minnesotans and do it in a way that is the most environmentally sensitive possible — using the latest technology possible to ensure the land we love is protected for all time.
Antofagasta is perfectly happy to stay out of the conversation and let us fight this battle among ourselves. They don’t want the attention because — well, one look and it’s obvious. They are some foreign company with no love for the land or the people who live here, and everybody knows it.
Look, I’m an environmentalist, but also a practicalist. The folks who won the battle for us last time did not win the war. If they wanted to, they would have kept working to build a love for the BWCA that spread far enough to support all the people of Ely and the surrounding areas. They did not. It is time we call an end to this war and come together to create a future that is beneficial to all of Minnesota.
Sam Engel, Minneapolis