I was astounded to run across an article in Monday's paper sharing the good news that child poverty in the United States has fallen by 59% since 1993 ("Child poverty plummets in U.S. thanks to safety net," Sept. 12). The New York Times article reported this reduction had been accomplished largely by expansion of the social safety net for low-income families over that time period — investment in supports such as the earned income tax credits, SNAP and child care assistance.
I was disappointed this article was buried inside the paper on page A6.
The study cited in the article was conducted by Child Trends, a national organization that researches policies to improve the lives of our nation's children. I had the opportunity to work with Child Trends about 25 years ago, as part of a group of officials from several states.
One of the projects we undertook was to study how to most effectively message the importance of programs to support low-income families with children. The study found when people learn about programs that are proven effective, they will support investment and expansion. Unfortunately, reporting on poverty in this country often makes it appear intractable, and successes are underreported.
I hope my letter can help inform a few more people about this important news.
Charles Johnson, Bloomington
I am sure I am not the only one to notice the fascinating interplay between two headlines in the Sept. 14 paper: "Inflation not fading with summer" (front page) and "U.S. poverty rate in 2021 was lowest ever recorded." Personally, I think the poverty rate level is such a big win that I would have made it the front page headline, and I will gladly suffer some inflation in my life if it can help lift families and children in particular out of poverty. The article on poverty contains cross-connections to the article on inflation, like that some inflationary pressures included the large-scale federal aid in stimulus dollars over the past couple of years. Perhaps that is a blueprint for what attitudes we as a nation need to take about spending in order to help the less fortunate of us rise up.
Look, I know there are many issues to be resolved as we really look at what poverty is and how we measure it, but since Lyndon Johnson declared the War on Poverty in 1964, this is one of the best headlines we have seen. Ironically, I think Wall Street reacted to the inflation news with a huge drop while ignoring the potentially fabulous progress made in moving our fellow Americans out of poverty.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Place blame where it belongs
Minnesota Senate Republicans have shamelessly launched an error-filled attack against the Minnesota Department of Education ("MDE blamed in fraud inquiry," front page, Sept. 13). Sen. Roger Chamberlain is engaging in allegations against MDE similar to blaming the police for failure to prevent the crime rather than blaming the alleged criminal.
Clearly, fraud exists in COVID-relief programs because, as Willie Sutton reportedly said, "That's where the money is." It seems that MDE's early fraud concerns were rebuffed by U.S. Department of Agriculture and later the courts. An FBI investigation of this complex case is not completed. I don't know, nor does anyone, how it might be resolved.
But I do know many folks who work in our state and county governmental institutions. They are hardworking and committed to public service. They are highly professional and some of the most principled people I've known and worked with professionally.
An attack on essential government systems erodes those very institutions. Systems, MDE, the state Department of Health and others are not perfect. Rational oversight is important. But neither are these systems the enemy. Distortion-laden attacks undermine our public interest and our democracy.
It's time to stop demonization of our governmental institutions and work together for the common good.
Kathleen Sweetman, Maple Plain
More to life than pure economics
It is ironic that on the same page of the paper on Sept. 11 there would be two articles that contradict each other. "Writing well, life go hand in hand" elicited a "No kidding" response from me. And then "Oh, the humanities: Most-regretted college majors also pay low" could have explained why the first article's point should be well taken. Instead, the second article will likely result in fewer individuals becoming liberal-arts majors, which is a big — call it a major — mistake.
Liberal arts teaches students how to think and how to learn. It doesn't give students the answers to questions; it teaches them how to find the answers. It teaches problem-solving skills and, yes, writing skills. (I had engineering neighbors in married student housing who couldn't pass their one required English class without paying someone else to write it for them.)
Yes, the second did point out that while "techie" grads will get their first job more quickly, liberal-arts majors will usually advance higher and faster in the organization. However, the salary numbers are too often the most persuasive thing in a young person's mind. Instead, the ideal is to heed one of my professors' wise advice: "A liberal-arts major will make you a better whatever it is you want to be." Do the liberal-arts major for a real learning experience, then go to tech school!
Jan Meyer, Rochester
How was this woman out driving?
Minnesota DWI laws are outrageous. Last year, Tammy Olson killed a pedestrian while driving drunk ("Unlicensed motorist admits to pedestrian's hit-and-run death in Brooklyn Center last year," Sept. 15). She had five drunken-driving convictions and had been stripped of her license years prior to her latest offense. She has admitted to criminal vehicular homicide. Her plea deal calls for a four-year sentence of which she is expected to serve less than three years in prison and then will be under supervised release.
It is outrageous that this chronic offender will be out of prison in less than four years. It's clear that Minnesota lawmakers don't want to address DWI issues. So lawmakers, how about gun control? Inform all gang members that they don't need a gun to kill their adversaries: Just get drunk, run over your adversary, and you will be out of prison in a few years. If you were to use a gun, you could face years and years in prison. Think of the advantages: far fewer guns on the street, and our legislators wouldn't have to do their job on these laws.
Doug Jensen, Minnetonka
"AG probe targets North Side corner" (front page, Sept. 16) exposes the most backward, upside-down and inside-out thinking I have ever seen. According to the article, private business is now fully responsible for crime control. The attorney general tells us these businesses are "turning a blind eye" to chronic violence. What? These people are civilians with no police training and business is a full-time job, remember. And the AG has the nerve to say they are "turning a blind eye." We are also told that this is one of the city's largest open-air drug bazaars, where residents must push their way past dealers who crowd the parking lot of local business. Wait a minute ... why aren't the police pushing their way past dealers who crowd the parking lot?
And then of all things, Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander has the gall to utter this gem: "Any time you have that many violent events around one establishment, there should be some pretty harsh consequences." Well, yes, there should be — as in harsh consequences to the criminal, delivered by the police and the courts.
If the police and the AG are going to blame private business for not doing more to stop crime at "murder station," the least they can do is provide the business owners some handcuffs and Kevlar vests.
Earl Faulkner Sr., Edina