The Case for Three Year Congressional Terms

The Case for Three Year Congressional Terms

                                                Robert A. Levine   2-6-23

For years, there has been considerable discussion about Congressional term limits to reduce corruption, the power of incumbency, and the influence of lobbyists on members of Congress. Term limits would also introduce new and younger members into Congress, where the average age now is close to sixty. However, another way to reform the House of Representatives, with or without term limits, would be to increase the term of members of Congress from two years to three years. This measure would require a Constitutional amendment but would have many positive effects on Congress and its elected members and aid the functioning of the Federal government.

With re-election looming every two years for members of Congress, an inordinate amount of time must be spent by Congressmen and women in raising money for their campaigns. This process literally starts the moment they enter the halls of Congress. Freshman members of Congress are instructed by their party leaders that ‘dialing for dollars’ is an important part of their jobs if they wish to be re-elected. In fact making calls to prospective donors and wealthy backers in and out of their districts is a daily task for most Congressmen and women, often consuming a number of hours each day. They also must meet with lobbyists and donors when they visit Washington and back in their districts when Congress is not in session. The time spent in pursuing funds often exceeds the time spent in in the process of legislating, proposing bills, reading bills of others, and actual Congressional work.

Because raising funds is so important with elections every two years, members of Congress are often willing to do favors for wealthy donors or lobbyists, influencing the way they vote. And in addition to the time employed in making fund-raising calls and individual meetings with lobbyists and donors, Congressmen and women must attend in-person fund raising events in Washington and in their home districts. These fund raisers are often set up for them by lobbyists and wealthy donors, allowing them to glad-hand and speak with people who may be willing to give them money.

Rather than Congresspersons with innovative ideas and legislative abilities, individuals who are the most prolific fundraisers are the people who advance faster and further to positions of power in Congress. This includes appointments to important committees and sub-committees, chairmanships of committees and party officers. In fact, some of the top Congressional fundraisers are able to help their fellow party members in Congress who are less adept at soliciting money. This puts the recipient in the debt of Congressional fundraisers, with a willingness to vote for and with these funders. The same pressure to raise money is not there for senators except during the last two years of their six year terms when re-election campaigns are nearing. Thus they have proportionately more time to be involved in the legislative process.

While term limits on its own may be a worthwhile reform, it will not end the constant need of members of Congress to raise funds for re-election. Ideally, funding for candidates should come from the government and be strictly limited, with no outside money or PACs allowed to play a role in political campaigns. But the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court makes this consideration impossible.

A three year term for Congressional members would not completely eliminate the requirement for time utilized in fundraising, but it would make the need less acute and take some of the pressure off of representatives. Perhaps it would even make them less susceptible to the blandishments offered by lobbyists and wealthy donors. They would have more time to devote to legislating instead of constantly pursuing funding.

The designers of the Constitution wanted two year terms for House members because they saw them as the voice of the people and expected them to constantly interact with their constituents and answerable to them. With social media and the internet, members of Congress can regularly interact with their constituents currently, sometimes to their chagrin, whether or not they are campaigning. Having to be re-elected every two years is no longer necessary. While having a three year term for Congressional members could be scheduled together for all members every three years, having one third of Congress elected every year for a three year term would keep the two parties working fervently to satisfy constituents, or control of Congress could change. This format would neither encourage nor discourage independents and third party candidates. It is a simple and needed change that would benefit the democratic process.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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The Case for Three Year Congressional Terms

The Case for Three Year Congressional Terms

                                                Robert A. Levine  2-6-23

For years, there has been considerable discussion about Congressional term limits to reduce corruption, the power of incumbency, and the influence of lobbyists on members of Congress. Term limits would also introduce new and younger members into Congress, where the average age now is close to sixty. However, another way to reform the House of Representatives, with or without term limits, would be to increase the term of members of Congress from two years to three years. This measure would require a Constitutional amendment but would have many positive effects on Congress and its elected members and aid the functioning of the Federal government.

With re-election looming every two years for members of Congress, an inordinate amount of time must be spent by Congressmen and women in raising money for their campaigns. This process literally starts the moment they enter the halls of Congress. Freshman members of Congress are instructed by their party leaders that ‘dialing for dollars’ is an important part of their jobs if they wish to be re-elected. In fact making calls to prospective donors and wealthy backers in and out of their districts is a daily task for most Congressmen and women, often consuming a number of hours each day. They also must meet with lobbyists and donors when they visit Washington and back in their districts when Congress is not in session. The time spent in pursuing funds often exceeds the time spent in in the process of legislating, proposing bills, reading bills of others, and actual Congressional work.

Because raising funds is so important with elections every two years, members of Congress are often willing to do favors for wealthy donors or lobbyists, influencing the way they vote. And in addition to the time employed in making fund-raising calls and individual meetings with lobbyists and donors, Congressmen and women must attend in-person fund raising events in Washington and in their home districts. These fund raisers are often set up for them by lobbyists and wealthy donors, allowing them to glad-hand and speak with people who may be willing to give them money.

Rather than Congresspersons with innovative ideas and legislative abilities, individuals who are the most prolific fundraisers are the people who advance faster and further to positions of power in Congress. This includes appointments to important committees and sub-committees, chairmanships of committees and party officers. In fact, some of the top Congressional fundraisers are able to help their fellow party members in Congress who are less adept at soliciting money. This puts the recipient in the debt of Congressional fundraisers, with a willingness to vote for and with these funders. The same pressure to raise money is not there for senators except during the last two years of their six year terms when re-election campaigns are nearing. Thus they have proportionately more time to be involved in the legislative process.

While term limits on its own may be a worthwhile reform, it will not end the constant need of members of Congress to raise funds for re-election. Ideally, funding for candidates should come from the government and be strictly limited, with no outside money or PACs allowed to play a role in political campaigns. But the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court makes this consideration impossible.

A three year term for Congressional members would not completely eliminate the requirement for time utilized in fundraising, but it would make the need less acute and take some of the pressure off of representatives. Perhaps it would even make them less susceptible to the blandishments offered by lobbyists and wealthy donors. They would have more time to devote to legislating instead of constantly pursuing funding.

The designers of the Constitution wanted two year terms for House members because they saw them as the voice of the people and expected them to constantly interact with their constituents and answerable to them. With social media and the internet, members of Congress can regularly interact with their constituents currently, sometimes to their chagrin, whether or not they are campaigning. Having to be re-elected every two years is no longer necessary. While having a three year term for Congressional members could be scheduled together for all members every three years, having one third of Congress elected every year for a three year term would keep the two parties working fervently to satisfy constituents, or control of Congress could change. This format would neither encourage nor discourage independents and third party candidates. It is a simple and needed change that would benefit the democratic process.

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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America the Outlier

America the Outlier

            Robert A. Levine 1/24/23

Being an outlier nation can be either good or bad depending on the issue in question. With high GDP or per capita wealth it is obviously good being an outlier in a positive direction as America is. In terms of income inequality being high, it’s bad to be an outlier. In a number of areas such as cost of health care, availability of child care and various social programs, America is a negative outlier. However, probably the worst aspect of American life where the nation is an overwhelming outlier is in the number of gun deaths and mass shootings, where no other nation in the world is even close to the mayhem seen in America.

In fact, the next ten advanced nations added together do not match the annual number of gun deaths in America. The reason for the excessive number of gun deaths is simple. America has more guns per capita than any advanced nation. Actually, there are more guns in circulation in the U.S. than the number of people. And not only are there more guns, people have access to automatic weapons and enlarged magazines to augment the number of bullets a weapon can fire before it has to be reloaded. This allows more people to be killed when a gunman decides that he wants to become a mass killer for one reason or another. (Women are rarely involved in mass shootings.)

Domestic terrorists associated with white nationalist groups are one of the sources of mass killers, usually aimed at minority groups.  However, the two recent mass shootings in California show the disease has spread to Asian-Americans who previously might have been considered targets. However, the two largest groups of people involved in mass killings are mentally deranged individuals and criminal gangs, the latter often using guns to settle turf wars with other gangs. Domestic violence is another factor in mass shootings usually limited to family members.

Aside from mass killings, individual lives are often taken in criminal activities, personal vendettas, or from mentally disturbed individuals. There are also more gun deaths by suicide in America than in any other country. The answer to cutting down on the epidemic of gun deaths is straight forward: cut down on the number of guns. This is merely common sense, but the National Rifle Association, gun lobbies and right-wing zealots are opposed to any common sense measures to reduce gun deaths, claiming that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” They claim that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives Americans the right to own an unlimited number of weapons of all types. However, the Second Amendment is ambiguous in its wording and could be interpreted in several ways, including that arms should be possessed by militia members. The Second Amendment was also written at a time when automatic weapons with extended magazines were not available and when ghost guns that are not registered could not be made by computers at home.

There is no reason for America to be an outlier with its number of gun deaths. Gun ownership should be limited to rifles for hunters and pistols for home self-defense, or for special situations to allow carry outside the home. The majority of Americans want automatic weapons, extended magazines and ghost guns banned and some surveys show that many gun owners feel the same way. But the power of the NRA, gun lobbyists and the right wing gun activists means that Americans will likely continue to kill Americans at an alarming rate and be an outlier in the civilized world.

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Resumed Do-Nothing Congress

Presumed Do-Nothing Congress

                Robert A. Levine  1-10-23

The control of the House of Representatives into Republican hands and the chaotic and traumatic election of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House is predictive of government gridlock and dysfunction. McCarthy squandered much of the power of the Speaker’s position in order to get elected and it is hard to imagine how he will be able to govern with any degree of efficiency. The Republican House candidates ran for office without a definitive platform, except to investigate Democratic officials and the programs that Democrats have initiated. Also a desire to cut government spending, even if it affects social programs like Medicare and Social Security.

McCarthy has allotted chairmanships of important committees to MAGA Congressmen like Jim Jordan, who have already indicated that their man objective is going to be to investigate Democrats. A number of elected Republicans continue to be election deniers and want to re-litigate the 2020 election which they claim that Trump actually won. This is a formula for a government that is non-functional and will not be able to accomplish anything positive for the American public.

The major problem is that McCarthy does not have a working majority in the House to get things done. At least twenty of the GOP members of the House who ultimately voted for him as Speaker demanded and received special concessions and will be able to block any bipartisan legislation or spending bills. A single Congress person can also call for a vote of confidence at any time for the Speaker’s position, diluting much of McCarthy’s power. To keep these votes of confidence at a minimum, he may have to negotiate frequently with individual Congress persons, forcing him to make further concessions.

In order to govern effectively, McCarthy and House GOP members have to come up with specific programs that they wish to pass to move America forward. Changing House rules and investigating government activities is insufficient to positively impact the nation. Unfortunately, many of those recalcitrant Republicans come from deep red districts whose voters don’t care how their representatives conduct themselves in Washington. Some constituents just demand loyalty to Donald Trump or opposition to anything the Democrats propose.

Important spending bills and extension of the nation’s debt limit come up for votes this year. If Republicans block these bills or demand extensive changes, they may damage the world and America’s economy and the nation’s standing in the world. These Republicans are not a good advertisement for a democratic style of government and play into the hands of our autocratic opponents. Unfortunately, some of these House Republicans covertly or overtly support Putin and the Russian government and would be only too happy to see an autocratic government in place in America. The idea of compromise is anathema to many of these politicians who insist that it is ‘my way or the highway’ in governing America.

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Brexit, UK Nationalism and Economic Decline

Brexit, UK Nationalism and Economic Decline

                                    Robert A. Levine    12-27-22

The malign effects of nationalism has been manifest through Brexit’s impact on the British economy and its relationship with European nations. The referendum on Brexit by British citizens in June 2016 passed by about three percentage points, pushing the government to have the UK leave the EU. The British population was sold a bill of goods by nationalists who wanted separation from the European Union because they felt the E.U. was interfering with British prerogatives and culture. The British masses did not like the rules that the E.U. imposed on all member nations, feeling that it interfered with British independence and freedom. There seemed to be little understanding among British voters that when a nation is a member of a group, it has to compromise with other members and loses some of its autonomy.

The British population was warned by its economists that divorce from the European Union would have negative consequences for the British economy in both the short and long term. They predicted that per capita income level and GDP would both be decreased with a separation from the E.U. An estimate from British government agencies noted that economic growth in the UK would diminish from 2-8 percent for fifteen or more years after Brexit. Many of Britain’s trade partners are on the European continent and erecting trade barriers in both directions would only hurt the transfer of goods. But the British nationalists and the Conservative Party ignored economic warnings in going ahead with Brexit despite the likely consequences of the separation from the E.U. The predictions of the economists has proven to be quite true and the U.K is now suffering from the ignorance and nationalist feelings of the British voter with its effects on the British economy.

As soon as Brexit was passed, many EU citizens who had been working in specialized fields in the UK, such as technology and heavy industry, and generalized work such as in hospitality jobs and restaurants, left Britain and returned to their home nations on the continent, feeling that they were not wanted. This had an immediate effect on the British economy which has worsened over time. There is a dearth of both skilled and unskilled workers currently in the UK. Because of the lack of workers, inflation has spiked in the UK more than in the rest of the developed world. Certainly there are other factors also playing a role such as Covid 19 and supply chain issues, but the fact is that many industries can’t find workers. Particularly hard hit are restaurants, unable to find trained servers and kitchen personnel. All kinds of hospitality workers are unavailable. Since tourism is an important source of income to the UK, restaurant, hotel and entertainment venues are all suffering. Some establishments have closed and others have cut their hours to make do with fewer worker.

This economic disaster is the result of British nationalism which railed against EU rules and foreign immigrants. With low birth rates and population decreases, immigrants are necessary in all developed nations to bolster their economies. This is a warning to nationalists worldwide including the United States. Unemployment is low and many jobs are not being filled. To maintain a strong economy, immigrants are a necessity.

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Where Did Trump Go?

Where Did Trump Go?

            Robert A. Levine   12-12-2022

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2024 election, he has been mostly out of sight. Unlike his usual parade of public appearances and rallies, he has been keeping a low profile, with few pronouncements other than his recurrent lament of the 2020 presidential election being stolen from him. Instead of pushing his candidacy, as would be expected, he has had little to say. What had happened to the usually ebullient, narcissistic and loud mouthed Donald?

There are a number of possibilities for his public reticence. One is that he is sick or simply tired. The Donald is not a young man, is obese and has risk factors for cardio-vascular disease. However, for someone who has been almost continuously in the public spotlight for the last eight years, one would have anticipated that some word would have leaked if he were ill in any way. Political fatigue is also an unlikely factor. Trump is a man who always likes to be in the public arena and has been a very energetic figure in the political world. It would be very unusual for him to recede into the background because he is too fatigued to get out there and spout off with his normal bravado, to elicit support from his base and antagonist responses from his adversaries.

Another consideration is that The Donald and his team are reassessing their political approach, particularly after the poor showing of Trump endorsed candidates in the recent elections. The loss in Georgia by Trump supported Hershel Walker in the Senate race was also a tough blow for him. The only prominent Trump acolyte who won was J.D. Vance as Senator in the Ohio election. Not only did most Trump endorsed candidates lose, but many of them asked him to stay away from their campaigns, and many barely mentioned his endorsement as they felt it might hurt rather than help them. His constant moaning about the 2020 election being stolen from him even though it has been thoroughly disproved, is old news. Many Republicans want to project a forward looking image and are reluctant to be weighed down by Trump’s baggage.

Yet another possibility is that The Donald is aggravated by the number of Republicans who seem willing to challenge him to be the next GOP candidate for president in 2024. The front-runner of course is Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, for whom Trump has already devised a derogatory nickname- Ron DeSanctimonious. This early attack by The Donald shows that he is taking deSantis seriously and sees him as a serious opponent. Other possible contenders who seem willing to throw their hats into the ring are Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia and former Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. Former Congresswoman Liz Cheney is another possibility, but it is unclear whether she would run as a Republican or as an independent. This is not a complete list as others have also mentioned consideration of becoming candidates.

Actually, the more candidates there are in Republican primaries, the better the chances of Trump receiving the nomination. Much of Trump’s base is extremely loyal to him and would vote for him in a primary, while the other candidates would split the remaining vote. In this way, Trump might win even with a small percentage of the total Republican primary vote.

But aside from the next election which is two years off, The Donald may be upset by being blamed by many conservative pundits for the poor showing of his handpicked Republican candidates in the 2022 elections. In addition, some recent polls have showed Ron DeSanctimonious ahead of Trump as the desired Republican candidate for president. Trump may also be bothered by all the legal actions to which he is being subjected, his New York company already having been found guilty of fraud. And he has barely started running through his legal gauntlet.

The 2024 is still two years off and many things may change. But the question now remains- where did the usual Donald Trump go?

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Don't Do It, Joe

Don’t Do It, Joe

            Robert Levine

            So far, Joe Biden seems to have done a good job in his term as president, with the country deeply polarized and slim margins to work with in both Houses of Congress. Of course, others may disagree. But in either case, he should not run for a second term as president and should announce his intention soon to allow others to develop the traction necessary to be successful candidates. It is quite possible he could beat Donald Trump if Trump were the Republican candidate, though he would likely have more trouble winning a presidential race against Ron DeSantis. But my concern is not the campaign but how he would function again in office. To put it bluntly, he would be too old. Donald Trump would also be too old and has a major risk factor for dementia, heart disease and strokes. He is obese, no matter what his sycophantic physicians may say. Biden may feel that if he rejects a second term and is a lame duck, he will have less power, but there is no objective evidence to confirm this. For the good of the country and the Democratic Party, he should not run again.

            I am a retired neurologist whose main area of interest has been aging and cognitive impairment. I have had three books published on these subjects. I am not ageist and it is quite possible that Biden might function quite well during his second term. But we do not know that for sure. The older people get, the more susceptible they become to various diseases and the more likely they are to experience cognitive decline. Though many older individuals are intellectually intact and function quite well, it still may take them longer to process new information and memory may not be as sharp as in younger years. This is simply a fact of life. Joe Biden just celebrated his 80th birthday and is the oldest president ever. By the end of this term he will be 82. If he runs again and wins, he would be 86 by the time he finished his second term. Donald Trump would be 82 by the end of his second term, but many Americans already consider his judgement suspect.

            There is a difference between a person’s chronological age and his or her physiological age, with people aging at varying rates due to multiple factors. Thus, two people of the same chronological age may be quite different physiologically. Though it is unlikely our political parties will ever allow this to happen, there should be mandatory physical and cognitive examinations for all candidates before they are allowed to run for Federal offices, especially president and vice-president. Supreme Court justices should also be tested periodically if they are to hold lifetime appointments, though long term limits for the courts should probably be instituted.

            America has always been considered a vital and youthful nation, though the average age of our population is increasing as is true in most advanced nations. However, with decades of polarization imbued in our politicians and our population, it is time to bring in new and younger leadership to government offices at all levels. Perhaps younger officials can find new ways to work together for the betterment of our nation and reach out across the aisle. Whether one agrees or disagrees on the quality and performance of Joe Biden as president and that of Donald Trump, it is time for them to step aside and allow new people to assume leadership roles in our two political parties. Our nation needs to be reinvigorated by younger leaders to meet the challenges of an evolving and complex world.

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Midterm Angst

Midterm Angst

            Robert A. Levine 11-16-22

With the final results yet to be tallied, the Democrats appear to be happy about the way the midterm elections turned out. They held onto the Senate with Georgia yet to be determined, probably lost the House by a hair though there is still a remote chance for them, picked up a number of governorships, secretaries of state, and state legislative seats. However, the Democrats could have done much better if they had presented a more coherent message. Though the party in power generally does poorly in the midterms, there was an opportunity this year for the Democrats to score big. The Republicans were in disarray and running a number of poor candidates who were Trump-backed election deniers who were not beloved by the electorate.

Besides pounding away at these election-deniers and Trump acolytes, the Democrats should have emphasized Rick Scott, the GOP’s Senate campaign leader’s program. Scott, was CEO of Columbia/HCA HealthCare Corporation when it was guilty of the largest Medicare fraud ever at the time, with his company being fined $1.7 billion and Scott being forced to step down as CEO. His huge payouts at Columbia/HCA were responsible for the tainted wealth that he accumulated, which he used to finance his senatorial campaigns. Scott’s policies for the Republicans included cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and raising the ages at which people become eligible for these essential programs.

Since Scott already made his hundreds of millions or more by defrauding Medicare, he doesn’t care about cutting people off from Medicare and other needed government funded programs. He says his and the Republican goal is to balance the budget, yet he and the rest of the GOP were willing to support tax cuts for the wealthy under Trump which increased the deficit. And the GOP is willing to back further tax cuts for corporations and rich people in the future. Certainly many voters could understand what the Republicans want to do if it were more broadly advertised and would be strongly opposed to these Republican policies.

Yet the Democrats did not focus on these Republican objectives, instead concentrating on the abortion issue and saving democracy. Of course, both of these were and are important, but may not have had the same personal impact with much of the electorate as the specific Republican policies to cut off important benefits to the population at large. Had these issues been pushed more avidly in advertisements and speeches by Democratic candidates, even with high inflation, it is possible that a Blue wave might have been initiated instead of a minor Blue ripple.

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Voting Cultural Issues Instead of Economic Needs

 Voting Culture Instead of Economic Needs

                                    Robert A. Levine

Overall, Republican dominated states in America have worse life expectancies and quality of life than states where Democrats prevail. With the quality of life and survival in Red states considerably lagging the Blue states, why do their citizens consistently vote for candidates who do not support their needs. It is because the GOP politicians tend to focus on cultural issues rather than quality of life. In this current election however, they have pummeled the Democrats on some quality of life issues, such as crime and inflation. Though there has indeed been a spike in crime over the last five years, it started during President Trump’s time in office and still has not come close to the peak that was present thirty years ago.

According to the World Bank, in 1991, the homicide rate in the US was 9.71 per 100,000. There was then a fairly steady decline in homicides until 2015 and 2016, when the rates turned around, peaking at 6.52 in 2020, Trump’s last year in office. That was almost a 29% increase prior to Biden’s presidency. In 2021, Biden’s first year in office, violent crime statistics in the US were basically unchanged from the year before according to the DOJ. Statistics are not available for the full year 2022 currently, but it appears that homicide rates are decreasing from the previous year, though not total crime. In 2021, four of the five states with the most homicides were Red states, with Texas far in the lead, followed by North Carolina and Ohio.

So-called deaths of despair, which include drug overdoses, alcohol related deaths and suicides are far more frequent in Red states than Blue ones. In 2020, the top two states from drug overdoses were Missouri and West Virginia. Suicide rates were highest in Wyoming and Alaska followed by Montana and New Mexico. In 2021, alcoholism was most prevalent in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota. According to the CDC, the states with the lowest life expectancy was mainly in the South, prior to the onset of Covid. With Covid, the average life expectancy for the ten lowest states was 73.6 years in 2020, again mainly in the South, compared to the national average of 77 years. The ten states with the longest life expectancy were all Blue, including New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and states from New England and the West Coast.

Obviously, the deaths of despair contributed to the diminished lifespan for people in some of the Red states, but poor health care is a significant factor. People tend not to see physicians regularly and do not get the preventative care that is necessary. This is because medical care is not easily accessible or it is not affordable. The highest rates of poverty are seen in the Red states, with nine of the top ten led by Mississippi and Louisiana.

Yet with all the poverty and health care problems of their constituents, Republican politicians have fought against expanding Medicaid in many states because it was initiated by Obama and is called Obamacare- the Affordable Care Act. Senate campaign chairman Rick Scott and other Republicans have spoken of reducing Medicare and Medicaid benefits if the GOP controls Congress, possibly raising the age for Medicare to 70. Likewise, the Republicans would like to raise the age when Social Security benefits can be obtained to 70. They say they are concerned about the Federal deficit, yet they cut the tax rate for the wealthy during the Trump years and refuse to increase taxes on the wealthy.

These are but a few of the ways that the Republicans are willing to harm ordinary or poor Americans in order to cater to the rich people who fund their campaigns. They lie about the Democratic motives and focus on cultural issues to obtain the votes of the electorate in their states who they are more than willing to ignore once in office and take advantage of them. People in the Red states have to learn which politicians are out to help them and those who really don’t care. Democratic legislation favors the middle classes and the poor while the Republicans constantly favor the wealthy. Education, gay marriage and similar issues are used by Republicans to distract voters from their plans to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security which would have a devastating effect on American society.

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An Election Paradox

An Election Paradox

            Robert A. Levine 11-2-2022

When is an election not an election? When one of the candidates refuses to accept the results of the election even before it is held. There are currently a host of Republican candidates for federal, state and local offices who deny that the results of the 2020 presidential election were valid and state that Donald Trump actually won the election. Some of these so-called election deniers are claiming that their own elections for office in 2022, which have not even yet been held, are also rigged and that they will not accept the results if they lose. What is the point of taking part in an election if you will deny its legality if you do not win. You may as well appoint yourself to the office for which you are running.

Among the candidates who deny that Joe Biden was elected legitimately in 2020, and are now running for office in 2022 and refusing to say they will recognize the results if they lose, are Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for Governor of Arizona. She said she will accept the results if she wins. Other gubernatorial nominees who refuse to commit to honoring the balloting are Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts and Tudor Dixon in Michigan. Senate candidates Blake Masters in Arizona, Ted Budd in North Carolina, Kelly Tshibaka in Alaska and J.D. Vance in Ohio have also not agreed to respect the results of their elections. These candidates all support Donald Trump’s election denial and are all supported by Trump in their quest for office.

According to the political site Five Thirty Eight, 60 percent of American voters will have an election denier on the ballot in the 2022 election. Two hundred of 532 Republican candidates for office fit into the category of election deniers, despite the lack of evidence of fraud and sixty court cases that did not validate Trump’s claims. These politicians stoke distrust in American democracy by ordinary voters. This particularly true of Republicans, two thirds of whom in an NPR poll last year thought elections were unfair. Nine in ten Democrats and 60 percent of independents believed that America’s elections were indeed fair.

It is time for Congress to enter the arena of election denial. A law needs to be passed that mandates every candidate before the election to accept the results of their contest no matter who wins, in order for them to run in the first place. If nominees are unwilling to commit to recognizing the choice of the electorate, they should not be allowed to run. Their refusal to abide by the decision of the voters diminishes the sanctity of America’s elections and demonstrates a disregard for the democratic process. This should disqualify them from running or holding any elective office.

With the election deniers and those who refuse to accept election results all being Republicans, it may be difficult to pass an adequate law on the federal level, since bipartisan support would be necessary to overcome a filibuster. Perhaps it can be passed by referendum on a state to state basis. Being excluded from the ballot in some states would make it difficult for presidential and vice-presidential candidates to run unless they agree to accept the election results.

Election denial and refusal to abide by election results is a direct threat to American democracy and increases partisanship and divisiveness among the electorate. This threat needs to be pursued aggressively and eradicated by men and women of good will in both parties. However, convincing Republicans of the need for this law may be difficult since they worship at the altar of Donald Trump and are afraid of incurring his wrath. However, it is merely common sense not to permit candidates to run for office if they won’t commit to accepting the results.

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Community Safety and Mental Health

Community Safety and Mental Health

                                    Robert A. Levine, M.D.

The primary responsibility of any government is to provide safety for its citizens from external and internal threats. This obligation came to mind recently with an article in the New York Times Metropolitan Section. A forty year old white woman was walking her dog in Prospect Park in Brooklyn around six in the morning when she was attacked by a Black man with dreadlocks who had been searching through some garbage nearby. She had seen him before muttering to himself or cursing and tried to keep away from him. This time on August 3, he began screaming about immigrants taking over the park and tossed some urine in a container at her and her dog. She tried to run away but her eighty pound golden retriever mixture pulled towards the man in an attempt to protect her.

The man carried a heavy stave and he swung this at the woman but did not significantly injure her. However, he continued to swing the stave and beat the dog severely enough that he perforated his intestine, developed sepsis and subsequently died. The police did not appear to make a vigorous effort to locate the perpetrator and there was an argument on social media over whether they should. Some people said the man was obviously emotionally disturbed, which seems to be true, and should not be incarcerated but should be given psychiatric help instead. It became a racial issue with a number white people asking for him to be apprehended and put in jail or a psychiatric institution, and Blacks and progressives wanting him to remain free and treated as an outpatient. Another white woman recounted that she and her dog had been attacked in a similar fashion likely by the same man three years earlier. A number of people said that they did not want the police involved in this situation, going after a presumably homeless man who was mentally ill. They seemed more concerned with the attacker than with the safety of the community. A vigilante group was almost formed to provide safety in the park but never got off the ground. After two months, the police have still not caught the man who could be labeled as a violent sociopath who attacks women and dogs.

Whether one is white or Black, progressive or moderate, there should be agreement that a violent man who has attacked at least two women and dogs should not be allowed to roam the streets or a city park. This man should be apprehended by the police and locked up either in a psychiatric hospital or in jail, but he should not remain free to engage in violent behavior again. As mentioned previously, government’s primary responsibility is its citizens’ safety, notwithstanding any impingement on individual rights. Whether a person is violent because he or she is mentally ill or from an underprivileged background and lacked proper parental guidance does not matter. We can feel empathy and compassion for a violent sociopath, but he or she must be kept incarcerated as long as necessary to provide maximum safety for the public. This is merely common sense in order for society to function.

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