Readers Write: Our unserious politics, health care, bird flu

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

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We all know how magicians pull off their amazing tricks: misdirection. While we are staring intently at the card in front of us, their hands are under the table doing the dirty work. Well, the same is true about many politicians. While we listen intently to their public rants about pedophilia rings or renaming elementary schools, their hands are “under the table” cleverly deceiving us by not addressing really important issues — things like climate change, racial and religious bigotry, Ukraine and the general breakdown of working class and rural society. This lets them avoid expressing positions that might anger their voters and lose their support. So instead they pander to the base with made-up concerns, like transgender bathrooms, and scary apparitions, like hordes of murderers and rapists crossing our southern border. This way they have no worries about getting anyone upset, but our country is also no closer to solving its important problems.

I do not care whether you vote GOP, DFL, independent, or choose not to vote at all. But I do care that we all demand forthrightness and intelligence from our political candidates. So the next time some elected official starts railing about “Critical Race Theory,” please stop them and say you would rather hear their educational plans for closing the achievement gap, helping failing schools, increasing teacher salaries and improving STEM education. If a candidate starts riffing on “defunding the police,” ask them instead to address specific ways to improve police recruitment and training and to deal with the exploding crime problem affecting residents and small businesses. And when a politician screams “stop the steal,” politely interrupt and say you would prefer to hear their policy positions on inflation, taxes, Russian cyberhacking, abortion rights and income inequality.

It is fun and entertaining to be cleverly deceived by a skilled magician, but it is not fun to have that same thing done to you by a deceitful and condescending political candidate. Please ask more.

G. Michael Schneider, Minneapolis

HEALTH CARE

As the CEO of Accra, Minnesota’s largest home care provider, I wholeheartedly agree with the urgency of the employment crisis outlined in the recent article “$1B plan aimed at ‘dire’ care staffing” (April 9). Yet it is essential to note that this crisis is not just a significant problem for nursing homes but also for people across Minnesota who choose to receive their care at home.

As the COVID pandemic stressed our hospital systems in 2020, personal care assistants — who are among the lowest-paid employees in our state — helped care for Minnesota’s high-risk populations in their homes, outside of ICUs and long-term care facilities where COVID was more prevalent.

Today, in addition to the 23,000 current long-term care job openings in Minnesota that the article describes, many more families across the state seek PCAs to come into their homes to care for children or adults with disabilities or aging parents. Yet they are having trouble finding PCAs willing to do challenging work at such low pay.

We look forward to working with the governor and legislative leaders as they negotiate an agreement over the next few weeks, and we hope that all Minnesotans appreciate the hard work of the PCAs who help our friends and neighbors continue to live in their homes in our communities across the state.

John Dahm, Minnetonka

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The article “Severe worker shortage seen for state health care” (April 13) alerted us to the fact that Minnesota faces catastrophic health care personnel shortages, unless decisive action is taken immediately. Mental health and substance use care lag far behind when it comes to filling positions and staff retention, due largely to high levels of burnout.

As a current graduate student, I can attest to the staggering staff turnaround throughout this field. My current clients suffer from both mental illness and chemical dependency. This combination frequently leads to low incomes and dependency on Medicaid. Agencies that provide intensive person-centered care for these clients do so under the pressure of low wages and high workloads.

During the pandemic, states’ income decreased, at the same time as eligibility for Medicaid and the need for mental health and substance use care increased. Minnesota’s Sen. Tina Smith has introduced the bill S. 1727 that would significantly increase federal matching of Medicaid funds spent by the states. This legislation specifically mandates measures that lead to increasing the number of health care staff and decreasing staff turnover in mental and chemical health care settings. I urge you to consider sending a letter to your senator, no matter the state, and ask them to support this bill immediately as one of the measures critical to ensure that there will be a health care professional for all those who may need one.

Rosmarie Dauth, Minnetonka

BIRD FLU

I want to applaud the demonstrator at the recent Wolves game (“Woman at Timberwolves game protests bird-flu deaths at Taylor company,” April 14), protesting the use of ventilation shutdown plus to euthanize factory-raised chickens and turkeys. Minnesota is a top turkey producer with many factory farms. With another bird flu arriving this spring, we hear about the blow to turkey farmers, but we hear very little about the cruel means in which many millions of turkeys and chickens will be euthanized. Each time we hear about bird flu, or swine flu, or any of the epidemics hitting factory-farmed animals, we should also know that most of these animals will be killed using the inexpensive method known as VSD+. With VSD+, operators seal the barn, turn off air flow and add heat and sometimes steam to raise the temperature as high as 170 degrees Fahrenheit, causing extreme distress to the animals as they bake in their own bodies. The US Department of Agriculture then provides payments — often exceeding a million dollars — to cover the costs to producers to “depopulate” chickens, turkeys or pigs, claiming insufficient access to slaughter facilities.

The Animal Welfare Institute and its network of animal protection groups is urging the American Veterinary Medical Association to revise its guidelines to no longer permit the killing of animals by inducing heat stroke, and, moreover, to prohibit the use of federal funds to farmers who kill animals with VSD+ method. Our tax dollars should not be used to reimburse factory farmers for killing millions of animals in this utterly cruel way. When we treat other species inhumanely, we lose our own humanity.

Carol Dines, Minneapolis

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I wonder how many readers are upset to learn that wild birds are dying as a result of this (latest) outbreak of avian flu (“Eagles and owls are taking a major hit from bird flu,” April 13). I also wonder how many readers are as upset by the many more domesticated poultry (by a few orders of magnitude) who have been “culled” in recent weeks in an attempt to slow the spread — “culled” being a preferred industry euphemism (and in journalism! can’t upset readers) for unmitigated, mass slaughter of animals in these sorts of situations. Feel free to look up preferred methods of culling used by prominent and very successful animal-agriculture firms. The whitewashing of industrialized animal agriculture is a failing of today’s press, this paper included. If you’re willing to take down a bird feeder to help a few local owls and raptors but not consider eating a few dozen fewer pounds of industrialized, mass-produced, genetically modified meat each year then I say you’re a hypocrite. Those of you who have access to and can afford healthy protein alternatives need to take a hard look in the mirror and decide whether you want to continue participating in this industry.

If you can’t bear to think of animals as conscious, complex beings with rich, subjective experiences, then at least do it to mitigate future outbreaks of disease.

Henry Rollings, Minneapolis

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