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November 2022

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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