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Open Forum

Affordable Care Act

Letter to the Editor:

I have had my usual discussion of Obama Care with a Republican that has a better education on economics than I. They not only took courses in economics but enjoyed micro- and macro- economics. Our discussion came to that Obama Care wouldn’t bring down the cost of healthcare. The only way to bring down the cost of healthcare would be to cut down the use of healthcare which could only be accomplished by getting rid of the ability of people to receive free medical treatment. Make people have the money to pay for healthcare before they received it. Do away with the requirements, for medicade to cover poor people and emergency rooms to treat people who come in  without cash, or an insurance card. This would eliminate a lot of tests and unnecessary treatment. People that couldn’t afford or gambled they wouldn’t need healthcare would just die. That isn’t “rationing healthcare” it is just free market adjusting. With less use of healthcare, nurses and doctors wouldn’t be needed as much so there would be a surplus and they wouldn’t be able to charge as much. The unions wouldn’t have as much leverage. That would bring down the price of healthcare.

My thought on the matter is that it would eliminate a lot of babies being born in a hospital. Now days a simple birth at the hospital is around $20,000. Most working class people in the child bearing age couldn’t afford that so it would happen at home with the help of dad and maybe a relative or neighbor like it used to be. It would keep  babies affordable, however, there would probably be a lot of mothers dying of complications. It should bring down the cost of Social Security pretty quick as a lot less people would survive long enough to collect it.

I sort of like the affordable care act even if doesn’t affect me. A republican solution scares me for those who don’t have a plan that can’t be changed like relying on Medicare and Tricare they are funded by the government and that requires taxes, which, the free market doesn’t recognize as being useful. They are a drag on the very rich. Many of the very rich don’t subscribe to the radical free market system that the greediest among us subscribe to.

Jesse Nix
Emily, MN

Wealth Disparity

Letter to the Editor:

President Obama is scheduled to present the state of the union address, and reportedly will discuss raising taxes on the wealthy.

Why target the wealthy? Aren’t their taxes too high already? They constantly say they are.

Apparently they weren’t too high to prevent them becoming wealthy.

Many different ways are being used to illustrate the tremendous disparities we have in wealth and privilege in the United States. The one that first stuck with me was that 80% of our people own just 7% of our entire wealth.

We’re told, by the wealthy, that hard work will reward us. To an extent, that’s true. If we’re working at a good, living wage job, and work overtime, or a second job, we’ll certainly earn more. However, we’ll never become “wealthy”. No one can do enough work.

The only way to become wealthy is to “profit”. Profit is the extra money you obtain, over and above what your own work is worth.

The only way to generate this extra wealth is through work: the work and efforts of others. For example, if you employ 1,000 people, and underpay each of them by just $1.00/hour, in a year you’ll have amassed an extra $2.08 million ($2,080,000). There are a thousand, more subtle schemes, accomplishing this. “Mitt” Romney’s history is just one example.

“Wealth” in a material sense only comes through work. One person can only do so much work. To go beyond that, you must take advantage of the work of others. Or steal.

Flag lapel pins don’t create a ‘democracy’, but wealth disparity can and will destroy one.

It’s a repetition, although disguised, of the disparity, inequality, and injustice of our old European feudal system of kings and peasants.

It’s what George HW Bush meant when he proclaimed a “New World Order”.

A. Martin
Merrifield, MN

House File - 21 Pipeline Routing Permits

Letter to the Editor:

It would appear that the majority of citizens believe that transporting crude oil in pipelines, like the proposed Sandpiper line and the replacement Line 3 both by Enbridge, is the safest method to transport this natural resource. Most of the pipeline concerns relate to the current and future environment impact on the Enbridge selected pipeline location which must be approved by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

What is even more concerning is the introduction of House File-21 in the current legislative session. This bill is to require PUC to issue or denied pipeline routing permits within 150 days of permit submission and other permitting steps. It does not say if this is calendar days or standard work days.

One wonders if this means that good environmental reviews by all the regulatory agencies are not truly needed? This piece of legislation is directed at only the installation of these new pipelines in Minnesota. What if tomorrow a new electrical transmission line is proposed to meet the growing demand for electric? What if a new power plant is proposed including nuclear power to reduce the dependence of fossil fuels. Will these also have just a 150 day review by all regulatory agencies? Or is House File-21 a selective pipeline money bill for some?

Kent Rees
Emily, MN

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Inside the First Amendment: SURE, YOU CAN SAY THAT – BUT PLEASE DON’T

The hecklers appear to be winning this one.

A growing number of news, commentary and information sites are doing away with comments on some or all of their online offerings – exhausted, disgusted or repelled by the likelihood that the posts quickly will deteriorate into a morass (yes, that’s a pun) of vulgarity, obscenity, racism or just plain old irrelevance.

As much as we all might wish for the most free and open exchange as possible, there seems little alternative. I’ve even developed my own rule about online comments: Even if the back-and-forth begins on a high plane, on average, discussions spiral into blarney, bologna and worse by five comments down. Just picture this exchange:

WChurchill@London.org: “I’ve just read a fine article on the pursuit of WWII from the British point of view. Our small Island at one time stood alone against the greatest threat to democracy and freedom in world history. It was indeed our greatest hour.”

HSTruman@MoGuy.com: “Winnie, you ninny. I’m glad you said ‘British point of view.’ Fact is, you Brits didn’t win it alone. The good ole U-S-of-A did its share. Do a little more reading and less speaking. Ever heard of something called ‘arsenal of democracy?’ ”

BirtherBiggie@right.org: “And don’t forget that Barack Hussein Obama was born in Kenya. The nation has got to wake up and resist high taxes and big government and …” [remainder of comment redacted for length]

LWinger@left.org: “(Expletive) What has all that got to do with the Keystone pipeline? Shut up. Go away. So there! (Expletive) …” [remainder of comment redacted for length]

AnonGuy@home.net: “You’re all full of (expletive) … you all can go [deleted for content]. And [deleted for content] …. So [deleted for content]. (Expletive)”

An irony in all of this is that just as the Internet and World Wide Web are reaching the electronic equivalent of adulthood, these kinds of childish exchanges, bottom-feeder hate mail and racist posts, have led to less free and open exchange of views, in cutting-edge social media enterprises and traditional news outlets. A report in November on the Poynter Institute Web site noted the co-executive editors of Re/code, a site known for knowledgeable reporting on technology and media, wrote Nov. 20 that “the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place (on social media), making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

The Chicago Sun-Times and its parent company slam-dunked their “comments” area in mid- 2014, saying the forums often were marked by “… negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.”

The worldwide news service Reuters ended comments on stories, noting that social communities offer chances for “vibrant conversation” and “… importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting.” But the self-selected nature of social media may well mean commenters are just preaching to the choir.

In 2013, Popular Science magazine ended comments on its stories, calling them “bad for science.” A Sept. 24 post on the magazine’s site said that research had found “even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.”

Therein is the free speech dilemma – allowing a small group to shut down the exchange of ideas and information by a larger group. But news operations and others have their own First Amendment right to determine what they  and their sites stand for – and at this stage in the Web’s life span, many are deciding that they stand for more than giving voice to the lowest common denominator.

The decision to end comments can affect not just the online community. On Dec. 8, the St. Louis Post Dispatch announced in an editorial that it would end comments for at least two months in a section devoted to discussion about the events in nearby Ferguson, Mo.

Along with some enlightening thoughts, the area attracted “vile and racist comments, shouting and personal attacks.” Readers can still comment on news items – but an opportunity was lost for a time for deep discussion on race, a subject the region “has been avoiding for years,” the paper noted.

There’s nothing in the 45 words of the First Amendment that says our free speech can’t be vulgar or vile, or even racist and insulting. But the intent of protecting free speech was in the opposite direction – encouraging free discussion among informed citizens so that public policy could be formed by the governed, not by government.

Support for free speech runs deep in this nation: In a survey in 2013 by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, free speech was named our most important freedom.

Surely, that sentiment should run deeper than “five comments down.”

Gene Policinski is Chief Operating Officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the Institute’s First Amendment Center. He can be reached at gpolicinski@newseum.org

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