image

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from readers online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

•••

This is just ridiculous. As U.S. debt hits $34.7 trillion, an amount which precipitates interest payments larger than the military budget, we hear from our elected representatives: … (pause for effect) … crickets. I don’t get it. It shouldn’t matter if you are Democrat, Republican or any other flavor of partisan. This is vital stuff and a plan needs to be made. All of us know that only garbage will arise from continuing a pattern of irresponsible fiscal management; spending without consequence is a “let’s pretend” approach.

A June 18 article highlights that the debt could swell to $50.7 trillion within the next decade. Our representatives in the House and Senate are responsible for our fiscal well-being, and it’s time they act like it. Of course they will have to discuss, negotiate and compromise. That’s what real leaders do. But if they don’t, and allow this to pile up alongside all the other problems they “pretend” with, the U.S. will actually become the real mess each political party says the other is creating. That’s not what any of us want. (Right? Republicans and Democrats?)

Let’s all keep that in mind through this election cycle. If your candidate isn’t concerned about this, be very concerned about their commitment and qualification. You need someone who is. Someone who is willing to not blame it away and instead wants to work with others to improve this. I for one do not want to leave this debt for my children and grandchildren to wade in.

Alan Briesemeister, Delano

SOCIAL SECURITY

Keep the tax, but spend it better

Minnesota is only one of a small number of states that tax Social Security. But there is something missing in this discussion (Readers Write, June 19). Who will really benefit from eliminating this tax? I volunteered to prepare taxes for AARP for six years, and the majority of clients were low-income, and the majority of them paid no tax on Social Security anyway. A recent report from the Minnesota House Research Department titled “Minnesota Taxation of Social Security Income” from March 2024 states that “In tax year 2024, taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes below $105,380 (married joint returns) or $82,190 (single/head of household) do not pay state income tax on Social Security.” Eliminating tax on Social Security does nothing for low-income taxpayers; it only helps the wealthier. If Minnesota wants to do something to help low-income taxpayers, the state should keep this tax and put the proceeds into a program that helps low-income residents. Minnesota should be a leader in this effort, not a lemming.

Michael Herman, Chisago City, Minn.

DEVELOPMENT

We like urban sprawl. Oops!

Articles such as “Growth fastest in outer suburbs” (June 16) should maybe come with some sort of disclaimer:

To our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., we’d like to apologize for the trillions of dollars of costs related to cleaning up and rebuilding after “enhanced” storms, floods and fires; dealing with the dwindling supply of fresh, drinkable water and the overflows of sea water and river water; the mass movements of people seeking livable climates, including right up over our (your) borders; the various physical manifestations including heat stroke, drowning and being crushed by your house; rising insurance costs and much more. However, we are unable to cut back on our mostly solo trips in the car (OK, crossover, SUV, truck), flights across the globe, gas-powered mowers, boats, yachts, ATVs, RVs, snowmobiles and, don’t forget, leaf blowers! You’ll just have to work extra hard to make enough to cover the taxes that will be required to clean up our mess. But there’s really nothing we can do about it. And don’t forget there’ll be elder care costs for us, too. You have to think about the future, you know. Thank you.

Luke Soiseth, Lake St. Croix Beach

JUNETEENTH

Slavery’s abolished … kind of

Juneteenth is celebrated in the U.S. every year on June 19 to commemorate the end of slavery.

But slavery has not ended in the U.S. Section 1 of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution reads as follows: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

A key statistic is that the percent of Black Americans in the general U.S. population is 13% or so. The percentage of people in prison or jail who are Black in the U.S. is 37%.

Most Americans are not aware of the penal labor and industrial complex that exists in the U.S. According to the NAACP: “The prison-industrial complex is a set of interest groups and institutions. Private prisons’ business model is contingent upon incarcerating more and more people. Hundreds of corporations benefit from penal labor, including some of our largest major corporations. 7% of state prisoners and 18% of federal prisoners are employed by for-profit companies. Wages are equivalent to less than $1 per hour in most penal labor programs with up to 12-hour workdays. The pay scale for federal prisoners is $0.12 to $0.40 per hour. In Texas, inmates are not paid for labor. The Texas penal labor system, managed by Texas Correctional Industries, is valued at $88.9 million in 2014. The estimated annual value of prison and jail industrial output is $2 billion.”

Juneteenth cannot truly be celebrated annually as the day slavery ended in the U.S. until Congress acts to amend the exception clause to slavery and involuntary servitude.

Melvin Ogurak, Eden Prairie

TEN COMMANDMENTS

Do as the GOP says, not as it does

I found myself very surprised that Louisiana Republicans have decided that the Ten Commandments need to be placed in all of their classrooms (“La. orders Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools,” June 20). If this is the moral code they wish to impress on their children, I wonder why they seem likely to try to elect a president whose behavior is the exact opposite of these commandments. Perhaps a better way to instill these values would be to elect to the nation’s highest office someone who exemplifies them.

Micki Rasmussen, Bloomington

•••

I am not surprised by the continuing back and forth regarding the Ten Commandments, but I am surprised at the place they have taken in Christianity and in our culture. They were originally given to the Jews, and, like the many Levitical laws of the Old Testament, not intended for Gentiles. I do not understand why so many Christians continue to cling — in many cases quite selectively — to the laws and demands of a religion with its roots in the Bronze Age and based initially on animal — and now, for the past 2,000 years, human — sacrifice. My father, a fundamentalist preacher, taught me that the Law — the Old Testament — has been fulfilled and that Jesus said there is now only one commandment: to love. How about we print that word all over the walls everywhere?

Mark Storry, Minneapolis

ISRAEL/HAMAS WAR

First step to peace: humility

Thanks for Stephen B. Young’s eloquent June 20 take on Israel and Gaza, “To bring peace to the Holy Land.” It is the only argument I’ve read lately that was clearly made in good faith; no pun intended.

But a recent Facebook meme also caught my eye:

“There is no ‘Holy Land.’ There are no ‘Chosen People.’ The entire earth is sacred and every person of distinctly unique value.”

Maybe that’s the place to start.

William Beyer, St. Louis Park