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Sen. Ropes owes retraction, apology (05/10/2009)
By John Edstrom

There is actual good news on the economic front these days, although it can be a bit hard to interpret. The latest unemployment figures for April, while still trending up, have slowed their increase; the numbers came in significantly lower than expected. Overall unemployment sits at 8.9% nationwide and now looks as if it will not top 10%, although that will be a near thing. Unlike unemployment, which usually lags behind economic recovery, the stock market generally turns around first to signal the end of a recession. This seems surely to be taking place now, with the S&P 500 having regained all its 2009 losses and surging ahead even at this writing (Friday afternoon).

This is all taking place before any meaningful amount of the Obama stimulus package has reached the U.S. economy, so it might be time to start focusing hope on the possibility that government intervention will cause as little lasting damage as possible. Is it possible that at least some of that mindless blizzard of spending could yet be stayed?

And while on the subject of government blundering about and the actual damage it can cause, would it be too much to ask our state senator, Sharon Ropes, to exercise a little caution in making doomsday pronouncements designed to promote tax increases, but which might have all sorts of unintended consequences? She was quoted prominently to the effect that Governor Pawlenty’s intended budget was so meager that Winona’s Community Memorial Hospital “probably would have to close.”

Someone should explain to her that Community Memorial and Winona Health are not public, but private enterprises, (though nonprofit), whose income is derived mainly from the private sector. As such, they must compete strenuously for customers and income with other health care providers, particularly in La Crosse and Rochester.

If their business slips, they cannot go begging to the taxpayers to bail them out, even though their function is more nearly essential than the vast majority of government activity. Any recession will pinch the income of a hospital like Community Memorial, if for no other reason than that so many medical and health care items are elective. Like many other businesses, they have been forced to cut jobs and hours by this recession, and compete hard for a smaller number of health care dollars.

For Ropes, a prominent elected official, to state publicly that Community Memorial is likely to shut down is to damage that institution’s credibility at a crucial juncture, in a highly competitive field where consumer confidence is critical to survival. To make such a wild, baseless assertion in an attempt to score some sort of partisan point is the height of irresponsibility and shows an amazing disregard for the overall good of the district and all her constituents

Senator Ropes, to my knowledge, has yet to issue a plainly worded retraction of her baseless and irresponsible statement regarding Community Memorial’s continued viability. This she owes her district and constituents, as well as a sincere apology.


Note: In last week’s editorial, U.S. Senate candidate Pat Toomey was mistakenly identified as Senator Rick Santorum. I retract this wrongful statement and sincerely apologize for it. 


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