“If I, a guy who knows this business, if I did a tenth, a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.” (Michael Flynn at the 2016 Republican National Convention, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.)
Looks like we can remove the conditional “if,” and the percentage may be off a bit. The “today” part is undetermined.
David Hauschild, Blaine
The political hypocrisy and the tangible outcomes of that
So far, the Republican agenda is rolling right along:
Appoint right-wing ideologues to the judiciary? Check.
Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy? Check.
Tax hikes for the poor and middle class? Check.
Increase the federal deficit so that they can later claim we desperately need to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Check.
After vowing to return to “regular order” in Congress, trashing any pretense of it and strong-arming major legislation through without a single hearing or even a chance to read it? Check.
The next time you hear a Republican spouting off about caring for due process and “the little guy,” you can go ahead and laugh in their face. They’ve shown their true colors.
Bob Guenter, St. Paul
• • •
GOP tax bill lowlights:
• The greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to corporations and the wealthy in history, adding to our country’s existing enormous gulf between the rich and the poor.
• Removal of the keystone of the Affordable Care Act, ensuring a spike in health care premiums and loss of coverage by millions.
• Punishes public schools, teachers and graduate students while providing new government subsidies to private religious education.
• Permits political electioneering from the pulpit and by charities.
• Provides corporations, which are already enjoying their greatest profits in history with even more profits; it’s already known that these profits will be used to enrich shareholders and executives, and for corporate stock buybacks.
• Opened the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
• Added $1.5 trillion to our nation’s debt, burdening our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
• Puts us on a path to the elimination of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
David Pederson, Minnetrista
• • •
Does anyone doubt society works best when people help each other in the family, at work or in the community? Why then, in their haste to pass a tax bill, can Republicans not see the effect of reducing the number of itemizing filers and the option of deducting charitable giving? Many citizens wish to be of assistance to those in need. By restoring an entry box on page one of a 1040, thereby encouraging deductible, charitable giving, people will continue supporting organizations dedicated to assisting others.
Frank C. Feinberg, St. Louis Park
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Buried in the GOP tax measure is the taxation of waived tuition for college and university graduate students. I shall call this taxation of “implied income.” It seems likely this measure will probably survive and become precedent. Are there other forms of implied income? Yes. One’s employer matches one’s payroll deductions to Social Security and Medicare — are those matches implied income? Employers who have employee health benefits pay a portion of the premiums — are those portions implied income? These are but two examples; there must be others. We need a real expert to weigh in here. May I respectfully claim credit for coining the term “implied income”?
John Ferman, Minneapolis
• • •
The current U.S. House tax reform bill hurts Minnesota’s students. It calls for taxation of the tuition benefits that graduate students receive as part of their training at higher education institutions all over this country. Today’s investment in our future workforce is being redefined as a taxable wage. Graduate students, who are granted a stipend for their service as research or teaching assistants, would have to pay additional tax on the very training that our country is calling out for.
It’s easy to think of graduate school as a luxury item but, in most cases, it isn’t. The time that graduate students spend as teaching assistants or researchers is an integral part of their education. It is an apprentice-like situation. This training time helps them master the skills that they will be deploying as drivers of our future economy. Medical researchers, social-science practitioners and many engineering fields benefit from the mentorship and skill building that this time provides. A university setting allows for innovation and growth, while providing the safety net of close supervision of experts and mentors.
If tuition benefits become taxable, you run the risk that students would have to take on additional jobs just to pay their taxes. Think about that — working an extra job, not to pay for living expenses or education, but just to pay the tax bill.
Taxing tuition benefits is also an equity issue. Nobody wants to set up a situation where the best and brightest are cast aside and professions that require a graduate degree are available only to those who can afford them. How much innovation and potential would that stifle?
Our Minnesota educational system is one of the best in the world, and penalizing students for the stipends they receive (which, let’s be honest, are often less than the market value of the work that others would be doing in their absence) would not only hurt the economic solvency of our universities, but also easily would reduce our global competitiveness.
Minnesota’s future economy needs the very people this proposal is designed to punish. As leaders of business in Minnesota, we call on Congress to support our graduate students.
B Kyle and Jonathan Weinhagen
The writers are president and CEOs, respectively, of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce.
MINNESOTA’S NEXT ELECTION
Governor’s race looks populated by health care know-nothings
As a person who has spent my entire career in health care management, I read with alarm and incredulity the front-page story “Health care is top issue in Minnesota governor’s race” (Dec. 4). The various candidates’ positions and proposals are so wide-ranging and have such little basis in actual knowledge of either health insurance or health economics that the result is a torrential and frightening flow of illogic.
It appears that not one of the candidates on either side of the aisle relied on any health policy advice. Rather, they have apparently relied on their historic parties’ values in concocting these schemes (free choice, market-based competition, for-profit vs. government-based, etc.). As an example of the most far-fetched option, I would cite state Sen. David Osmek’s plan — a “cafeteria-style” approach in which some conditions wouldn’t have to be covered, but the customers could select health plans based on “the risks you believe you have in your life.” What rational person could assign the entire state’s population the task of setting their own disease risk profiles, when these are historically largely unknown and only predictable at the most general level by actuaries with a great deal of actual data? This is the ultimate in risky behavior — for the individual and the government.
It should be apparent that setting health policy in an arena that costs billions of dollars should not be left to little more than political tribal beliefs.
David Miller, Mendota Heights