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Economist John Phelan claims that we’re lucky to have capitalism, and that “it’s worth considering if you favor systemic change” (“We live in the luckiest era in history, and here’s why,” Dec. 24). A couple of points, Mr. Phelan:

In November, a report of the Journal of the American Medical Association found an increasing mortality rate and falling life expectancy for Americans aged 25-64, in contrast to trends in other wealthy countries. Dr. Steven Woolf, the report’s lead author, said the results represented a “distinctly American phenomenon,” and that the deaths are “so diverse that it makes us think something systemic is responsible.”

In other news, the U.S. infant mortality rate in 1960 was 25.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, the 12th-lowest in the world. By 2017 the rate had dropped to around 6 per thousand, but the U.S. rank had gone from 12th to 55th.

Oops! It appears that nations as lucky as ours, which base their health outcomes on rolling the dice in the systemically crooked health care marketplace, might have crapped out.

Thanks, capitalism!

William Beyer, St. Louis Park

• • •

Phelan makes a weak case crediting capitalism with the decrease in childhood mortality over the last couple of generations. He does this without mentioning the childhood vaccines that are actually responsible for it. Smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella were the cause of many of these deaths, and the vaccines developed to prevent these were the product of medical science and compassion rather than capitalism. If there is a drug with a strong connection to capitalism I would suggest that it’s OxyContin and the wonderful purveyors of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family. Now there are some fine capitalists!

William Voje, Newport, Minn.

GUN LEGISLATION

The bill is being misunderstood

I was disappointed to see the letter on gun legislation printed in the Dec. 23 Star Tribune Readers Write section because it contained false statements about House File 8. It claimed that it would have made it “impossible for hunters and competitive shooters to share a rifle with a friend, co-worker or even some relatives without first paying government fees and getting a federal background check done on them.” No. By going online to the text of the bill, anyone with an internet connection can readily see that on lines 7.13 and 7.14 of the bill (in item 6 of Subdivision 12 on Exclusions), the text explicitly excludes “a loan between persons lawfully engaged in hunting or target shooting if the loan is intended for a period of no more than 12 hours” from the requirements for criminal background checks for the transfer of firearms (see tinyurl.com/housefile8). Those opposing any action on background check legislation should consider that those of us urging action to address at least some of the gun safety issues currently facing the public just might have nuanced views, and expect legislation to be written carefully. I am more supportive of legislators doing the hard work to draft, edit and debate good legislation than I am of Sen. Warren Limmer, who just calls it bad and blocks it from getting to the full Legislature for debate, possible amendment and a full vote. In any case, he or his supporters should take more care not to mischaracterize the bills that have been proposed.

Bill Kaemmerer, Edina

EDITORIAL CARTOONS

Thanks for showing both sides

As a lifetime supporter of the Republican platform, it has been gratifying to see recent political cartoons on the Opinion Exchange page about our party’s recent accomplishments (“Editorial cartoon: Dana Summers on Democrats,” Dec. 25). As newspaper readers, we are aware that political cartoon artists greatly exaggerate the author’s opinion. Thank you for Star Tribune Opinion’s efforts to present both sides of any political party’s opinion that are presented with one big picture and a few words on your Opinion Exchange page.

Theodore Giannobile, Minnetonka

• • •

Dana Summers’ Christmas Day cartoon depicting a donkey being ungrateful for a booming economy neglects to include an important fact: Every one of the economic indicators he cites has been on a steady upward trajectory since 2008.

Rather than take advantage of a decade of increasing prosperity to ensure that our nation is secure, our air and water are clean, our food is safe and our citizens have access to health care, President Donald Trump has chosen to give kickbacks to his wealthy friends and drive the country further into debt.

Let’s hope next Christmas sees an end to this travesty of democracy and a return to the values of a once-great nation.

Natalie Sentz, Crosslake, Minn.

DRAKE HOTEL FIRE

Mayor Frey displays true leadership

I did not vote for Mayor Jacob Frey. But his compassion and love were shown Christmas morning to those who lost everything in the Drake shelter fire (“For many, Drake fire is another displacement,” Dec. 26). It reminded me of President Barack Obama’s eloquent plea of grace for the little ones slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

America needs more leaders with this type of concern for others’ misfortunes. St. Paul, Washington, D.C., and Mar-a-Lago, please take note.

Roger Kiemele, Minneapolis

METRO TRANSIT

Bus use is declining due to safety

There is a Dec. 24 article in the Star Tribune that I feel is missing the mark (“Transit betting big on rapid rides”). The fact is that our public buses are not a safe, pleasant mode of transportation. We may need faster lines as the reporter indicates, meaning more funding. In the second paragraph she states many reasons for the persistent decline of people taking the bus.

The stated reasons have some validity, but there is a glaring omission: The public doesn’t feel safe on the city buses. My husband and I live in Minneapolis and have made a real effort to use public transportation as much as is feasible. Due to several incidents of being harassed and nearly stalked, we have made the decision that it just isn’t worth it. These sentiments have been echoed in very recent articles in the Opinion pages from other citizens. In the same section as this transit article, the title of another article reads: “Person stabbed on train after altercation at mall.”

Jane Ramsey, Minneapolis

U.S. REP. COLLIN PETERSON

Not your district, not your problem

I found it interesting, but not surprising, that two letters reflecting on Collin Peterson’s legacy were written by individuals outside of his district (Readers Write, Dec. 24). They wrote from Golden Valley and Minneapolis. Just another example of the metro area telling us rural podunks how things should be. Keep it up, people! You’re obviously smarter than we are.

Joel Solie, Morgan, Minn.

TARGET'S PLASTIC BAGS

There are better solutions

Really, a protest against plastic bags at Target? (“Petition: 455K people want Target to abandon plastic bags,” StarTribune.com, Dec. 26.) This means more trees will be destroyed in the Amazon to make paper bags.

Solve the entire problem — bring your own bags. Just keep them in the car. Grab one every time before walking into any store.

Zero waste. Such an easy habit to develop. Please, the planet needs this.

Jan Daker, Apple Valley

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