Readers Write: Walking safely in treacherous conditions, assessing spending and revenue concerns, declaring a state dog

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Here are four words that can help seniors avoid falling and breaking their hips, or much worse: Walk like a penguin.

Penguins can teach us a few things about walking on ice and snow. Spreading their feet wide apart, extending arms to their sides, to maintain balance, bending slightly, walking flat-footed and taking smaller steps. Might be a little funny-looking, but it might be helpful advice for our seniors, who are very, very afraid of falling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the No. 1 cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in Americans aged 65 and older. Each year, 2.8 million elderly adults are treated for fall-related injuries. More than 800,000 require hospitalization, most of them with head injuries or hip fracture. The chances of suffering a fall in colder weather increases after age 65, and significantly so after age 75.

On my way into the hardware store early Monday morning, to get some ice melt, I saw an elderly woman take a fall. After helping her up, I gave her the “penguin advice” and she thanked me, saying she did not know that.

Neil F. Anderson, Richfield

SPENDING, REVENUE, DEFICITS

Be skeptical when American Experiment wields statistics

When I attended the University of Minnesota, I was required to read “How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff. This short book, first published in 1954, clearly describes how easy it is to use statistics to support any position convincingly, even using the same statistics to support opposite views. When I read John Phelan’s Feb. 4 commentary “The U.S. is (still) heading toward an inevitable crisis,” it reminded me of that book.

Phelan uses statistics from the Congressional Budget Office to mislead readers and support views of the Center of the American Experiment, a right-wing “think” tank. In speaking of federal revenue, spending and our debt, he states, “The CBO is clear that it isn’t caused by a shortage of revenue.” That isn’t the CBO’s position, it’s his. Phelan is taking figures released by the CBO and misusing them to support the CAE’s opinion. The statistics he uses from the Tax Policy Center are meaningless. When the tax rates were much higher, income disparity was much lower. The top 10 percent earned 34.5 percent of total U.S. income in 1950; today, the top 10 percent earn close to 50 percent of all income. A higher tax rate would have a greater effect now on revenue because more people in those high-income tax brackets are earning a disproportionately higher amount due to income inequality.

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We just approved a tax cut that will cost $1.5 trillion in lost revenue. I’d say it’s both a revenue and a spending problem. Let’s find a solution for both without gutting Medicare and Social Security.

Barb Lutz, Minneapolis

• • •

Phelan argues that an inevitable federal deficit and debt crisis is “a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” and that increased spending on programs such as free college tuition, “Medicare for All” or the “Green New Deal” is “delusional.” To dismiss adding revenue out of hand and not to even consider whether needs are legitimate is callous and arbitrary.

Do we continue saddling the next generations with debilitating debt? Does so-called entitlement reform mean to restrict care for those with limited means? Do we ignore the impending climate change calamity? Developed countries in Europe provide universal health care and comprehensive education while enjoying a high standard of living and raise the necessary revenue to pay for it. So, it is possible to provide; it is a matter of choice.

The fiscal 2019 budget calls for $4.4 trillion in spending and projects $3.4 trillion in revenue, for a $1 trillion deficit. Two-thirds of that spending goes to “Mandatory Programs” including Social Security and Medicare, 26 percent to military spending. Fifty percent of revenue is expected to come from income taxes and 36 percent from payroll taxes. Military spending has doubled since 2003 to $890 billion in 2019. Budgeted 2019 military spending is four times that of China and 10 times that of Russia. Shouldn’t that “be on the table” for cuts as well? The Trump tax cuts cost $1.5 trillion in lost revenue over the next 10 years, or about 15 percent of each annual deficit; how does that make sense? Certainly, moderate tax increases and/or wealth-based revenue should be considered. Perhaps treating capital gains as ordinary income would be appropriate.

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A comprehensive and objective review of needs and revenue options is needed. Isn’t that what congressional committees do? Doesn’t seem so difficult except for special interests and partisanship. The financial future is dire and human needs are mounting, and we will face the consequences without sound leadership and compassion.

Donald Bailey, Bloomington

DECLARING A STATE DOG

Mixed breeds are good. Rescues, too. So can be careful breeding.

I am a breeder of Cairn Terriers. I consider myself a hobby breeder, as I breed to show my dogs, not to sell puppies. I do sell the puppies that don’t have great show potential. I also breed to preserve and improve an ancient line of wonderful dogs that originated on Scotland’s Isle of Skye. It is said the origin of the breed goes back 500 years. I am not suggesting the Cairn Terrier become the next official state dog (“A fetching choice?” Jan. 30), but feel that I need to address the mistaken notion that purebred dogs are less healthy than mixed breeds, as suggested by the Feb. 4 letter “Legislators, go with mixed breed.”

The notion that a mixed breed is healthier is not true. As an American Kennel Club “Breeder of Merit,” I have done extensive health clearances on the five generations of my dogs. Foremost, I breed for health and temperament. If the sire or dam of a mixed breed has a health problem, a certain percentage of those puppies will acquire it though simple genetics. An example is the designer dog that is diagnosed with hip dysplasia. One of the parents passed that gene on to the puppy.

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I believe in rescuing dogs. My first two Cairns were rescues, and they cemented my love for the breed. Like many in purebred breed clubs, I also work through the local Cairn club to rehome/rescue Cairns that can no longer stay with their original owners. There is room for those who wish to live with a mixed breed, and there should be room for those of us who prefer a purebred. Let’s not demonize each other.

Dick Rueter, Minneapolis

The writer is president of the Minneapolis Kennel Club.

• • •

I take issue with the use of the word “win” in the caption of Rhyker’s photo accompanying the Monday letter regarding mixed-breed dogs. A Canine Good Citizenship certificate, as indicated in the letter saying that Rhyker “aced the test,” is not “won,” but “earned” through the training and efforts of the dog and handler. It is a great accomplishment that requires that the dog have a calm and steady personality and the ability to live harmoniously with humans and other dogs.

Kathleen A Green, St. Paul

• • •

Agreeing with two letters on Monday, I also say, “Legislators, important state business first.” However, if they must vote to choose an official state dog, please go along with the person who nominated a rescued dog. After all, our 1993 mutt from the St. Paul Humane Society shelter turned out to be The Best Dog In The World.

Susan Downing, St. Paul

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