We Hear You: Socialism, Sweden, Minimum Wage, and Obamacare

Ken McIntyre /

Young Americans’ affection for socialism and other government-run or mandated aspects of life stirs vocal opinions from The Daily Signal’s audience. Here is a sampling. Write us at [email protected]—Ken McIntyre

Dear Daily Signal: It is difficult to compare the U.S. to any of the Nordic countries, is my thought on John Stossel’s commentary headlined “Sweden Isn’t Socialist.” They are primarily homogenous nations, filled with disciplined, law-abiding people with a uniform work ethic. They detest needing to get assistance, as they are fiercely independent.

The U.S. is a combination of a First World nation with folks with similar traits to the Nordics and mini-Third World nations, making up urban inner cities that can have more people than an entire Nordic country.

Too many Americans are raised with no discipline, are poorly educated, have no work ethic, and have a propensity to crime and violence. Americans are the most generous in the world, but too much of our money (charity and welfare) goes to people who are lazy and uninspired. They are the takers.

My wife and I own a rental property that we have designated as our chance to give back. We rent to two Hispanic families who have worked hard, followed the law, and raised their kids with morality and discipline. They simply never made enough, despite long hours, to afford this NYC suburb.

So we have always kept their rents hundreds of dollars per month below market, and today, they are like family to us. They became citizens, raised two college grads, and started a business.

We couldn’t save the world, but we did our part with a couple of good families.—Anthony Alafero

Sweden’s welfare expenses have skyrocketed with importation of Middle Eastern and African “immigrants.” The two main problems they’re facing are a sharp increase in crime (especially rape), and the immigrants who refuse to work.

Maybe Sweden should take a new tact—work or face a firing squad. Better still would be to take them back and parachute them out over or near their country of origin.—Thomas L. Stafford

A country with a smaller population of similar values works in unison. While adjustments to government may be required, the population tends to adjust better without division, unlike in the U.S., where division is encouraged and soon hate follows.

Another point is that Sweden spends next to nothing on defense. By counting on the armies of other nations to come to their rescue, that frees up more funds for social spending.

Due to perceived threats from Russia, the Swedish government is considering raising defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product, still short of that demanded of NATO members. In spite of not being a member of NATO, they continue to count on NATO members if Russia invades.—Bill Meeker

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Sweden was never socialist. They were more fascist, in that the government mandated benefits be paid by Sweden’s businesses when workers met certain requirements such as hours worked, days worked, etc.

The requirements got so stringent that every time a new condition was imposed by the government, the companies laid off workers or restricted workers’ requirements.

At the time, I was working for a large company that was jointly developing a product to be marketed in both the U.S. and Sweden. An engineer from Sweden was assigned to me and sent to the U.S. on temporary status.

He told me that his girlfriend from Sweden worked for six different companies there on various days and times that met requirements of the government for temporary worker status. She was highly prized by all of her employers, and each would have gladly taken her on full time but for the restrictions.

She was never able to work as efficiently as she would like because of the environment imposed by the government. I think that this is one of the reasons Sweden abandoned the so-called socialist paradise.

Another reason is that Europe has lived under the protection of the defense blanket the U.S. has provided ever since World War II and has never paid for it, which has allowed money for their social programs.—Bill Nunnery

The Problem With a Fast-Rising Minimum Wage

Dear Daily Signal: Regarding Jarrett Stepman’s commentary on the minimum wage (“Owner of Historic Boston Restaurant Says Minimum Wage Hikes Hastened Its Demise”): If I, for my own reasons, decide to take a job that pays a certain wage offered by an employer, that should be my choice, not the government’s.

If I need more money to support myself (and family), it should be incumbent on me to develop marketable skills that command a higher rate of pay. Arguments over the minimum wage seldom, if ever, discuss this option.

If an employer needs people to help run his business, it should be left solely to the employer to determine the rates of pay to the employees hired. The rates of pay have historically been determined by an employer’s needs and the availability of employees who can meet those needs (supply and demand).

What people need in terms of pay are irrelevant to their value to an employer. Among several ways for people to increase their income, one is to develop skills that are worth higher levels of compensation by employers who need those advanced skills, whatever they may be.

If income equality is the goal, everyone who works should be paid only $15 an hour, regardless of the skills, experience, levels of performance, rates of production, or value to others.

From the president of the U.S. down to those working at the local car wash—doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, pizza delivery people, dishwashers, and broom pushers—all should be paid $15 an hour. There you have it, “income equality.”

Think it will work? How many doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and carpenters would we have?

If I really need the services of an experienced professional, I will be happy to pay that professional significantly more than $15 an hour, but that’s just me.—Drew Page

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In the 1960s and 1970s, Durgin-Park was a thriving business with good food and saucy waitresses. It was always an enjoyable outing, often requiring a wait in a long line to gain entrance on a Saturday night.

Last year, on a trip to Boston for a granddaughter’s wedding, my wife and I went to Durgin-Park to relive some good memories. Sadly, it was not a pleasant experience, on either the food or service.

While I doubt the only reason was an increase in labor costs, the place had lost its panache. It just could not keep customers following such bad experiences as I am sure others had.—David Peters

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Before I sold my business three years ago, I had three crews of five. Dictates from the federal government and projections forced me to change to three crews of four and one floater.

I lost two workers—low end, less educated, but still decent workers.

Today, my old company has two crews of five. It lost one-third of the employees, but is still making a profit.

The surviving employees tow the load because they know how easy it would be to eliminate one more body.—Marty Miller

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I was introduced to Durgin-Park as a kid and loved that restaurant. I’ll be sorry to see another piece of history go.

You may also look at Sweden, which had a socialist form of government. The Swedish people finally woke up to the economic burden that such a “program” has. The country has since moved back to the capitalistic economic system.

I cannot remember who said that democracy may be the worst form of government until you compare it to other forms of government. I believe that thought also applies to our economic system.—William Downey

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There should not even be a government-mandated minimum wage. An employee should be paid exactly what he is worth to the company, and only the company can know that.

It is an egregious abuse of governmental authority to dictate what a company must pay its employees.—Maud St. James

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The costs of running this Boston restaurant have been going up and up. When this happens, the menu may suffer from much higher prices and maybe the quality of food.

Where I live in Central Missouri, the cost of living is not nearly as high. But due to the same reasons on a different level, restaurants are experiencing a decrease in people going out to eat.

I know for a fact that my going out to eat is down at least 40 to 50 percent. Just too expensive. We already quit going to the movies completely—invested in a smart TV and two recliners.

Government needs to back off. The minimum wage is also about productivity. Fifteen dollars an hour for a dishwasher? A McDonald’s worker? Really?

A good chef has to start off somewhere, and work his or her way up. And some should never be chefs.

“If you pay me more, I will cook better” is a bad excuse—you’d be fired on the spot. Money will never be enough to make him or her happy.

As the minimum wage goes up, so will the cost, and then the buying power will be void. Don’t forget about the people who worked hard to get to $15 already. Will they be happy that a common dishwasher is paid the same as an EMT? No. Their wages will go up.

The cost of goods and services go up, and $15 will be like $5 today. Backward we go again. My buying power was 10 times what it is today in the early 1970s and has been creeping down ever since.—Doran Theresa Pline

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So what about those who are earning $12 or $15 an hour now, do they get a raise as well?

Seems only fair. Some lamebrain goes from $8 to $12 for no reason, then I should also get a $4 raise.—Charles McKelroy

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When will the liberals and Democrats learn that socialism, no matter under what name it is disguised (i.e., social democracy) does not work?

Minimum wage jobs are not meant to be jobs at which someone can earn a living wage. Rather, they are meant to be an entry-level job where someone learns valuable jobs skills. They then can earn promotions and a higher wage, or take those job skills to another job where they can learn more skills and earn a higher wage.

The politicians and activists forcing a mandatory $15 minimum wage are causing businesses to cut employee hours, cut the number of employees, or shutter their doors, eliminating the number of jobs available for low-income workers.

Having a $10-an-hour job is a whole lot better than not having a $15-an-hour job because the business had to close because it could no longer afford to stay in business since it could no longer meet the expenses of operating.

Businesses cannot increase their prices enough to cover the mandated pay increases. The buying public will not pay the increased prices, so the volume of business decreases. Then the number of hours employees work have to be cut or employees have to be laid off, or the business closes.

Activists and politicians do not take into account the negative effects their mandated rules, regulations, and legislation will have in the long run. They only look at the short-term benefits that quickly become liabilities.—Marion E. Daniels-Price

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This article didn’t make any compelling case that the minimum wage is what brought this Boston restaurant down.

It then cites a University of Washington study from a year ago, which was recanted several months ago due to flaws in methodology. This isn’t enough evidence to overturn what is well-established fact in the study of increasing the minimum wage: There are no downsides if you do it over time.—Kevin Mahoney

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This is the Democratic Party way. I remember when I was growing up in the 1930s. My mother used to find something for the men to do when they knocked on the door for work. Then she would send them to my father’s company to see if he could hire them.

President Franklin Roosevelt did nothing to help the small business owner but plenty to hurt them. The two powerful unions were attacking each other.

My father’s company made neon signs. When an order went to a city controlled by the CIO, the union member pulled the ladder out from under the man hanging the AFL sign and threw a brick through the store owner’s window. The AFL did the same thing in cities they controlled.

My father had to build two manufacturing plants so that there was both a CIO plant and an AFL plant. The National Labor Relations Board couldn’t have cared less.

My father was not allowed by law to tell his employees what was going on. They could not understand why he had plants in Ohio and Indiana.

Roosevelt did nothing to help business. World War II saved him. He gave regular fireside chats to make people feel good about being out of work.

The marketplace determines the wages. You cannot pay an employee money that you don’t have. Henry Ford raised his employees’ wages because he was paying so little they were not responsible about showing up for work. It was cheaper to pay more to keep them on the job.

Few politicians have ever met a payroll that wasn’t paid by the taxpayer.—Louise White Ford

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Some state laws allow employers to pay less than minimum wage for those who get tips—a lot less.

I’ve owned a couple of small businesses and I can tell you, people in government make it almost impossible for small business owners to make any money.—Millie Tyler

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Don’t forget the silent partner who gains a guaranteed benefit from all wage increases: Uncle Sam.

It’s simple: Force wage increases and new payroll tax revenues magically appear. Don’t you love self-serving bureaucrats posing as being for the poor guy?—Steven Glick

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It’s funny how when I made a $1.60-an-hour minimum wage, I had more money in my pocket and more buying power.

Now they do a $15-an-hour minimum wage. So you get $15 an hour as an unskilled worker (minimum), and the sort-of-skilled worker who was already at $15 will demand a wage hike because he or she is more skilled than the minimum-wage job.

Let’s say that worker demands $20. And then the semi-skilled worker who gets $20 won’t want to be paid the same as a sort-of-skilled worker, so he wants more money—let’s say $25. And it keeps on going up the food chain.

In the end, with inflation to pay for all of these pay raises, the new $15 an hour will be more like $1 less than what they were getting before.

In other words, you just lost $1 an hour in buying power. Don’t like it? Complain to your politicians, as they just got a 10 percent pay raise.—Jeff Pearson

What Comes After Obamacare

Dear Daily Signal: There is no solution to the health care “problem” described by Marie Fishpaw and John Malcolm in their commentary (“Why a Judge Ruled Obamacare Unconstitutional, and What Policymakers Should Do Next”).

Health care isn’t a problem to be solved, like a math or chemistry problem. It is a condition of modern life and all we can do is muddle through until we die.

We have an unlimited need/want for health care. And, unlike normal goods, the more health care (which I call a perverse good) you have, the more you need.

Even if we spent the entire gross domestic product on health care, there would still be unmet needs and wants.

The central problem of Obamacare is pre-existing conditions. Covering pre-existing conditions is the reason that it costs so much, because insurance companies can’t accurately predict their liability.

A program that covers an event that already has happened isn’t insurance. It is charity. You can’t buy insurance on your house while it is on fire, can you?

I understand that it is unfortunate that people with pre-existing conditions must pay exorbitant premiums or be denied coverage altogether, but that is the nature of insurance.—Tom Fin

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It’s been two years since Republicans took over, and we’re still waiting for the repeal of Obamacare. They are liars just like the Democrats.

When the idiot who basically wrote Obamacare went on TV and said they counted on the stupidity of Americans to pass the legislation, Congress should have repealed it on the spot.

You ain’t never going to get great health insurance unless you’re rich and can afford it. They will keep bleeding anyone with insurance. That’s why it’s so expensive. Got to pay for the bums on welfare and the illegal immigrants who get it for free, when they never paid any taxes to deserve it.—Richard Bagenstose

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Note to the authors of this article, Marie Fishpaw and John Malcolm: Obamacare was not a health care solution, it was a health insurance solution.

Health care is provided by doctors, medical technicians, hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies. These health care providers charge for their services and supplies. Is anyone blaming hospitals and doctors for what they charge?

Health insurance is provided by insurance companies. Health insurance companies offer a financial service designed to meet the needs of customers and to make a profit by doing so. Health insurance policies are designed to help pay the costs of the health care received from providers.

Health insurance provided by private enterprise financial institutions is not a social welfare benefit program, and was never under any obligation to provide insurance to any who apply for it. At least that’s the way it was before Obamacare.

Prior to Obamacare, health insurance companies were under no more of an obligation to provide insurance to people who had large medical bills than fire insurance companies were obligated to sell fire insurance policies to people whose homes were burning. The time to buy insurance is before you suffer a loss, not once a loss occurs.

Some people mistakenly believe that health insurance policies should pay for any and all charges by providers. This is not the case, nor has it ever been. Health insurance policies can be written with employers to cover their employees, or with individuals who do not have an employer-sponsored insurance plan.

Whether people are covered by an employer’s group health insurance plan or by an individual policy, such policies contain terms and conditions of coverage, definitions of terms used in these policies, and an itemization of covered expenses, limitations, and exclusions.

All of these terms, conditions, etc. must meet and comply with state and federal laws, regulations, rules, and mandates of what must be covered and what can be limited or excluded. Within these limits and reasonable underwriting guidelines, policies are written and sold to the public.

Fishpaw and Malcolm write: “Those who seem to benefit most from Obamacare are the big insurance companies who embraced the law and receive a steady stream of taxpayer subsidies.”

I would suggest they look into the number of insurance companies that have pulled out of the Obamacare insurance exchanges. I would suggest they look into the number of insurance companies that were never fully reimbursed by the government for losses they incurred as a result of accepting people for coverage with pre-existing conditions.

If health insurance companies were making big profits, why would the number of companies participating in the Obamacare insurance exchanges be fewer? Were these companies leaving the exchanges tired of making “big profits”?

Did their consciences bother them? If big profits were available, insurance companies wanting to participate would be growing, not shrinking.

The point is, no solution will make everyone happy. No matter the solution or compromise, there will be those howling in protest about how “unfair” it is.

Questions also arise when Fishpaw and Malcolm write:  “Congress has a role to play in ‘helping’ families and individuals get the quality private coverage they want and ‘helping’ health care professionals meet their needs.”

What kind of help? How much will this help cost? And who exactly is going to pay for this help?—Drew Page

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Let’s see. Under Obamacare, my family’s insurance cost increased about 600 percent, before you consider our deductible increased from $2,000 to $13,000.

That meant we could no longer afford to use our insurance, much less buy it. A decrease in price under the new plan of 32 percent is a joke.—Rudy Malmgren

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Fishpaw and Malcolm don’t seem to understand what the free market is. If the U.S. government is not making autos, why should it be involved at all in the health care industry?

Just get the government out, and the free market will do the rest. The government must remove all of its hundreds of thousands of rules for health care.—Thomas Wayne

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How about stop with the “Congress has a role” and “Give states the power” and turn health care 100 percent over to the private sector?

Stop with this government meddling and let health insurance be 100 percent private and competitive. It works for every other consumer industry, why not health care?—Stephen Agnew

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The Constitution doesn’t authorize the feds to mandate that people buy anything. The Constitution doesn’t authorize the feds to be involved in insurance or health care.

This Obamanation is/was unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment. Are we a country of laws, or are we a country ruled by fools?—James May

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The sticking point in the eyes of Congress is pre-existing conditions. A sensible way of dealing with this dilemma exists.

First, these conditions must be treated as more than one classification.

If someone has no health insurance and applies with a pre-existing condition that is not controlled by meds or treatment, then that condition must be treated at a high copay and deductible.

A condition that is controlled by meds should be treated at a lower copay. And those that have been under control for one year or more should be reclassified as controlled conditions.

If a condition is in remission for three years or more, that policyholder should be treated as one who has no pre-existing conditions. Not quite straightforward, but fair.

Someone born with a condition should be dealt with as one without a pre-existing condition if coverage was in place through a parental policy at the time of birth.—R. Jeffrey Savlov

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Democrats try to convince everyone with pre-existing conditions that government-run Medicaid for all is the answer because it’s “free.”

The problem with government-run health care is that it is free until you need to use it and find out it doesn’t cover any pre-existing conditions.—David Gray

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Health care will continue to be a losing issue for the GOP until it gets a brain and decides to conduct an information campaign, explaining to people that the lying Democrats and the lapdog media have deceived them.

Republicans must explain that Affordable Care Act is not just the positive aspect that the left treats as the whole story. The negatives are massive and far-reaching—like outrageous deductibles that make millions functionally uninsured. Like the surging premiums and inferior coverage.

And like how one group of hardworking Americans is forced to subsidize another group, just because the path to good income requires more effort than they are willing to expend.—Anthony Alafero

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If politicians were not being paid by Big Insurance and Big Pharma, this could be worked out very easily. Once again, it is proof that our elected officials are working against the taxpayer and not for the people.

These are no longer backroom deals. They are doing it out front, in the open, and people are hypnotized by the mainstream media.—Joseph Sarnak

Colorado Goes After Jack Phillips

Dear Daily Signal: Having read David Harsanyi’s commentary headlined “Colorado Is Still Trying to Destroy Jack Phillips,” I want the world to know that I, Keri Lynn Siegel of Siegel International Interpretation Services, in partnership with Dr. Yvonne Baxter-Bentley of IK Connection, stand wholeheartedly with Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado.

We will not be intimidated. If I’m asked to write, edit, or proofread something that goes against my moral or spiritual convictions, I shall not do it. I will in no wise compromise my relationship with my God to satisfy some political activists who are acting like a mob of bullies.

What Colorado officials are doing to Jack Phillips is harassment, and it needs to stop. It is cruel and it is unconstitutional.

To Mr. Phillips: As a Bible-believing Christian, I stand with you, sir, and I am praying for you. I will take whatever repercussions are necessary to stand alongside my spiritual brother in Christ, because I know that it is God alone who empowers me to prosper.

Be encouraged, sir; this is merely a test, and when you have passed the test, you will be a witness to the glory of God. You shall have prosperity beyond your wildest dreams, whether financial or otherwise, because some things are more important than money and because you have proven yourself faithful to God.

To the staff and audience of The Daily Signal: If we don’t take a stand against evil, it will run right over us.

I also would like to encourage the writers and the staff of The Daily Signal to keep speaking the truth and reporting the real issues. You do a fine job. God bless you.—Keri Lynn Siegel, Delray Beach, Fla.

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The thought police in David Harsanyi’s commentary on baker Jack Phillips can, in my estimation, be equated with the designation of “hate crimes” elsewhere.—Ralph Swenson, Accord, N.Y.

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I support this guy Jack Phillips, who is trying to stick to his principles. It’s only fair.—D. McDowell, Los Alamos, N.M.

This and That

Dear Daily Signal: I have a friend whose grandmother was born in Germany when Hitler’s socialist ideology was beginning to take control. She was a young girl when she escaped, came to the U.S., and became a naturalized citizen.

Now this friend is very concerned about what is happening in the U.S. She said, “This is the way it was in Germany then.”

The best way to honor Bre Payton after her untimely death, perhaps, would be to have hundreds of Americans take up the banner where she left off (“Remembering the ‘Problematic’ Bre Payton“).

I have no idea how to do that, so I’m writing to find out if your strategists can start an effective and positive movement that would eclipse the sadness of Bre’s passing.

We need to block the noise and hype and “light” coming from the mindless, socialist thinkers who have been perpetrating a deadly doctrine by dressing it up as being “sensible” or “current” or “smart” or “popular.” Good will overcome evil, but it has to be clever about it. And believe me, selling evil is very well thought through and promoted.

I’m currently in ongoing, full-on, caregiver burnout, so my energies are in short supply. But I can think and I can write. We need to find effective ways to pick up Bre’s mantle and turn what is our nation’s loss into the beginning of a true movement.

This movement would challenge and overcome the cleverness of those who want to overtake this nation and destroy the freedoms guaranteed by our Founding Fathers—and the women who stood behind and with them.  We’ve allowed them to run amok too long. But enough is enough.—Dollie Morrall

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Hallelujah! Finally, a voice of effective clarity from a conservative. Communication consultant Beverly Hallberg’s recent comments on Fox News included a reference to President Obama’s wall around his home.

Our own catchphrase about this is: “Why him and not the rest of us?”

Also, we use the most unanswerable retort when discussing the border wall with opponents:  “Don’t you have a lock on your front door at home? Why?” 

Obviously, it’s to control who comes in.

Please do help us to encourage others who have a public voice to forget the lengthy discussions and just use good old American salesmanship. Hit them with a few simple words like these.—Moira and Jack Vander Woude, Redlands, Calif. 

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God bless Dennis Prager for his article about Christmas (“I’m a Jew. Here’s Why I Support Saying ‘Merry Christmas.’“). I love the Jewish people, and pray for Israel and for their accepting of their (my) savior, Jesus Christ.

Mr. Prager, even though you and other Jews may not accept Jesus as your personal savior, you are not biased in your writing. I pray that God leads, blesses, and guides you through the rest of your life.—Shirley Kotsanos

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I find the so-called compromise on the LGBT issue and religious liberty, as described by Ryan T. Anderson, very disturbing (“Misguided Proposal Between Christian Leaders and LGBT Activists Is Anything but ‘Fairness for All’“).

Our Constitution gives all Americans rights. Christians should not have to give up religious freedoms. What is being done to preserve our rights?—Richard Depew

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Thank you to Kevin Mooney for actually investigating and giving us, the public, actual information about the caravans of migrants from Central America (“Money, Support for Migrant Caravans Flow Through Chicago“).

It seems investigative reporting is a dying occupation, and I’m struggling to find those reporters who tell the truth. So I want you to know, I appreciate Kevin Mooney for that.—JoAnn Rizkowski  

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As an 85-year-old who has seen unions get carried away with their own power, thank you to Kevin Mooney for thoughtfully reporting truth (“Unions Defy Supreme Court on Mandatory Dues, Suit Says“). That’s all I want to say.—Barb Kaper

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How Are We Doing?

Dear Daily Signal: I really enjoy your daily emails and find them to be very informative.—Ron B.

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Can you stop the annoying pop-up that comes up every time I open The Daily Signal?—Robert Sonnelitter

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Excellent. Thank you.—Pete McDonald

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Keep up the good work. We need you.—Priscilla Humphrey

Sarah Sleem and Joshua Nelson helped to compile this edition of “We Hear You.”