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A TAXING DEBATE

Columnists get the heat from the left and right

In his April 18 column ("Taxing the wealthy? Now that's rich''), Nick Coleman claims, "We can't afford not to make the well-off pay their fair share." I would like to see from Coleman an honest answer (devoid of name-calling, accusations and innuendo) of how far down into the middle class and to what percentage taxes would have to be raised to make Minnesota's bloated budget balance. I don't know how much Coleman claims as income, but I'm sure that if he is so outraged, the state would gladly accept a check from him for more than his minimum "fair share."

JIM BENDTSEN, RAMSEY

• • •

Katherine Kersten is correct in noting that, over time, the proportion of federal income taxes paid by the wealthy has risen ("Who's not paying their fair share?,'' April 18). She fails, however, to mention the obvious cause of this change: the dramatic growth in the disparity of income distribution in this country. I, for one, would enjoy seeing Kersten fulminate one day against the cause, and not just its effect.

SCOTT PETERSON, ST. PAUL

• • •

Everyone should check out Page 3 of the April 18 Opinion Exchange. On the left side (appropriately) is a column by Nick Coleman making a case for increasing taxes on the rich because they aren't paying their fair share. In the right-hand column, Katherine Kersten states that the top 1 percent of income earners pay a whopping 40 percent of all federal income taxes. And the top 10 percent contribute more than 70 percent.

This pretty much encapsulates the current debate. And on and on it goes.

JAMES BRUNNER, OWATONNA, MINN.

• • •

The score is 12 to 9. Unfortunately, the rich are ahead because they're behind. After 31 total paragraphs of statistics and statements from Nick Coleman and Katherine Kersten, it's really the score that finally counts. In total taxes, not just income taxes, average Minnesota taxpayers pay 12 percent of their income, and the $250,000 crowd just 9 percent. See the forest through the trees. Otherwise it all becomes a jungle.

JIM BARTOS, BROOKLYN PARK

tuition squeeze

American dream is in jeopardy if we don't act

We, the once proud middle class, seem to have no serious problem seeing our children and grandchildren lose the opportunity for upward mobility. The April 22 editorial ("Charting a course to end tuition trend") is a call to action. The ever-increasing tuition squeeze is a direct result of monopoly pricing in education. Monopolies have one objective -- to maximize wages and fringe benefits. First, we squeezed the middle class for increases. Then we offered scholarships to bridge the gap. Then we turned to the most corrosive alternative, student loans. We have now maxed out, a situation further complicated by the steady decline of incomes among the middle class. We need a serious roll-back on the monopoly pricing of education. Unless we act now, our children and grandchildren will never experience the great American dream.

DENNIS CAVANAUGH, ST. ANTHONY

avoiding politics

Ideas are one thing;

delivering is another

Why are we so reticent to advocate and engage politically as part of civic leadership? The Itasca Project Job Growth Task Force report, chaired by leaders of General Mills and Carlson Companies, echoes what others have said: We're stagnating ("Twin Cities needs regional jobs push,'' editorial, April 18). Yet the task force's leaders purposely omitted public-policy steps, wanting to avoid giving their recommendations a partisan slant. But if public policy is essential to results, then not only should policy steps be included, but so should a strategy for building public and political support.

Too often we create ideas for someone else to run with. That someone never comes, and another document is archived in the Land of 10,000 white papers. We have to move to a new civic leadership paradigm in the Twin Cities, one that's less show horse and more workhorse by going beyond ideas to building coalitions, public understanding and support for ideas, and then ardently advocating for them. We have the ideas. When will we have the will?

ERIC SCHUBERT, INVER GROVE HEIGHTS

protecting consumers

Minnesota defends its most vulnerable buyers

Thanks to Lora Pabst for her timely and informative Whistleblower article about high-pressure sales tactics and elderly consumers ("Before she knew it, bed was signed, sealed, delivered,'' April 18).

While Minnesota does not currently extend the cancellation period for seniors' purchases to 15 days like North Dakota does, the state's consumer protection and criminal laws do take account of a buyer's vulnerability. The consumer protection section includes an additional civil penalty for deceptive acts against senior citizens and the disabled.

The Attorney General's Office, 651-296-6196, can respond to questions and complaints about sales and solicitations. Another resource is the Minnesota Fraud Enforcement Partnership at the state Department of Public Safety, which takes reports of scams at its website, mnscams.org.

IRIS C. FREEMAN, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, WILLIAM MITCHELL COLLEGE OF LAW, ST. PAUL

inflammatory caption

'Hostage' label only makes matters worse

The caption for a photo accompanying an April 18 story about three Americans being held in Iran says the detainees were "taken hostage.'' The facts of the case remain murky, but this inflammatory language makes matters worse for the trio. If non-Mexican foreigners hiking in northern Mexico strayed into U.S. territory and were nabbed by border patrol agents, would newspapers call the transgressors "hostages''?

HENRY GEKONDE, MINNEAPOLIS