LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
**Past Published Letters to the Editor**
WHY IS TRUMP NOT IN JAIL...?
Why is Donald Trump not in jail? Mueller said, "If Trump were not president, I would indict him for obstruction of justice." He is no longer president. Since his first days in office, Trump trashed the Constitution by ignoring the emolument clause. He cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by using his property for retreats. He cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans by lying about the covid virus. He extorted the President of Ukraine. He incited the January 6 riot in an attempt to stop our election process. He colluded with Putin in plain sight by trying to eliminate sanctions, weakening NATO, divulging classified information, trying to get Putin back in the G7 and tearing up notes of their private meetings. He ran our government as a criminal enterprise by placing people in positions, judged by their loyalty not competency. Many of our government departments, the IRS, Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Postal Service, etc. were decimated due to his deliberate destruction. His abuse of power is legendary: pardoning his criminal cronies, while firing and trash-talking those courageous enough to speak truth to power.
Let's not forget his efforts to bankrupt us with his obscene tax cuts for the wealthy. One thing Trump knows how to do is go bankrupt.
Let's make certain that never again will a person lacking in character and integrity be elected to a position of such power.
PENNSYLVANIA SHOULD JOIN THE RGGI...
In the past, coal and natural gas helped Pennsylvania economically, but now they are declining industries. We must look for new energy sources for the 21st century, while helping workers shift from old to new energy industries. RGGI, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, will help us do both. The 11 northeast states from Maine to Virginia that are participating in RGGI have reduced their carbon emissions by 47% while increasing GDP growth rate by 31%. This is a win, win situation. Joining RGGI will bolster our economy and create good paying jobs in the commonwealth. It will lower the cost of electricity and help in fighting climate change.
A September poll from Yale found 72% of Pennsylvania residents support our state joining the RGGI. Business and industry leaders, as well as medical professionals, support this move. Farmers, who see up close the devastation caused by climate change, also support this initiative.
Unfortunately our state legislatures do not agree with 72% of us. They are attempting to sabotage the will of the people. Pay attention to what they do. Will they be on the side of their constituents or on the side of their fossil fuel donors?
THE WEALTHY SHOULD PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE
Your AP article "The Tax Man Cometh", 6/13 Trib, highlights our growing wealth inequality. The fact that the richest 25 people in the U.S. have paid very little income tax illustrates our failed tax system. ProPublica also mentioned the fact that 55 of the largest corporations in the U.S. paid no federal corporate income taxes last year but spent nearly $450 million on lobbying. These companies even received $3.5 billion in rebates from the Treasury Department. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not create many jobs but it did create a windfall for the wealthy few. We must demand an end to the 2017 Act. Additionally, the government should tax capitol gains at the same rate as earned income, tax inherited capitol gains, institute a 2% wealth tax and a minimum corporate tax, to help equalize our tax system. These are all ideas supported by the democrats and the Biden administration but the GOP is adamant in its opposition to raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy few. Do not let the GOP perpetuate a tax system where the wealthy few do not pay their fair share. Corporations and the wealthy few use government services just like me and you, and should also pay their fair share of taxes.
A LIVABLE WAGE...
Governor Wolf's budget contains a golden nugget: a raise in the minimum wage. This would improve the lives of 1.6 million Pennsylvania workers. It would be our shot in the arm for 27.5 % of our workforce. With our ridiculous wage inequality this increase is essential for the well-being of our workers. We know that improving the salaries of our lowest paid workers does not hurt, but helps the economy. Americans for Prosperity and the Chamber of Commerce have opposed increasing wages for years and still promote their outdated checklist. They have a hidden agenda: they are on the side of big business. Our surrounding states have already raised their minimum wage. It is time for our state to do so. The majority of us favor this action. Call your state lawmakers. Urge them to listen to the will of their constituents. It is vital for our for our workers. (Welfare vs. wages, 6/4. Trib)
UPMC NON-PROFIT PAYS CEO $9.5 MILLION...
Three separate but related thoughts came to mind as I read the May 15, Trib article, "UPMC paid CEO $9.5 Million". The first was our growing income inequality and the damage it does to our society. Executive compensation of $9.5 million is excessive when you consider that 50% of our work force makes less than $35,000 a year. The CEO of UPMC earns 270 times the amount of income of many Americans. Such a discrepancy is difficult to justify.
The second thought was the high cost of health care. At a time when many of us are struggling to pay our healthcare bills, when two out of three bankruptcies are due to medical debt, paying almost $10 million a year to one person seems exorbitant. The customers using UPMC health care are paying for that oversized salary. It does make you wonder if it is time for a change in our healthcare system.
The third thought concerns non-profit organizations. With the recent high profile scandals around non-profits, it is time to re-think the tax structure of these organizations. When a company has great wealth, they should pay a fair share of income tax, not be exempt. After all, they use the protection and services of our government, too.
FOR THE SAFETY OF YOUR LOVED ONES
For developed countries life expectancy has been increasing with one exception, the American white male. In studying this phenomenon researchers found a correlation between their decrease in life expectancy and an increase in suicide rates. In the U.S. suicides outnumber homicides almost 2 to 1. The increase in suicide rate was noticeable only for U.S. white males. Suicidal thoughts are mostly temporary. It is an impulsive act in a moment of panic or despair. 9 out of 10 people who survive suicidal attempts never take their lives. However, when a gun is used, the attempt is fatal 85% of the time. The use of guns in suicide deaths also correlates to state gun laws. For U.S. white males there is a relationship between suicide rate, gun ownership and lax gun laws.
For the safety of your loved ones dispose of your firearms, or keep them locked away, or store them outside the home. And urge our state legislators to enact sensible gun safety laws.
Over 200 years ago, our ancestors fought a revolution over taxation without representation, they fought a revolution for the right to create a democracy and as a result, the United States of America was born. But to this day, the residents of Washington D.C., our nations's capital, are denied a vote in Congress. They are denied the right of full representation and participation in our government despite paying more total federal income taxes than residents of 22 states. This is the essence of taxation without representation, and it is going on in OUR country, in 2021. D.C. residents pay their share of federal taxes and have given their sons and daughters to defend and protect the very rights that they themselves have been denied for so long.
Our representatives must act now to give the 712,000 residents of D.C. (more than the 600,000 population of Hawaii when it was admitted as a state) th e right to fully participate in our democracy. It is time to right a wrong, and stand for the values upon which we as a nation were founded. Help us all live up to the ideals of democracy and to evidence true and just equality by voting now for D.C. Statehood.
AT THE VERY LEAST, A LIVING WAGE
The article "The mildly encouraging minimum-wage debate", (Trib, 3/4) deals with the danger of raising the wage of workers. George Will argues that raising wages kills jobs and slows economic growth. I believe there is ample evidence to suggest the exact opposite. A 1994 Princeton study compared the results of New Jersey raising the minimum-wage while Pennsylvania did not. The study found an increase in employment in New Jersey, but not in Pennsylvania. Twenty plus years of research confirms the Princeton findings. An increase in wages for those making minimum wage results in an increase in spending which in a consumption-driven economy stimulates economic growth. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, every $1 per hour in wage increase for a minimum wage worker results in a $3,500 yearly increase in their spending. Through the decades we have learned that trickle down and austerity during an economic downturn does not improve the situation, but stimulating growth does. We also know if minimum wage had kept pace with gains in productivity-as it did from 1938 to 1968- minimum wage would be $24 an hour. Minimum wage needs to be increased now.
VOTE NO ON THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS (QUESTIONS 1 & 2) ON EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS
In the movie "Horsefeathers" Groucho Marx sings, "I don't know what they have to say; It makes no difference anyway; Whatever it is, I'm against it; No matter what it is or who commenced it, I'm against it."
The GOP's proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution are proof they have adopted in full this (Groucho) Marxist folly as their approach to handling the pandemic, as if their approach to it in the past 13 months wasn't enough proof of that!! The amendments they offer the voters supposedly "limit" the governor's constitutional powers to handle emergencies and disasters.
In fact, they totally negate any attempt by any governor to keep Pennsylvania safe from a future dire, long-term and state-wide emergency. The two amendments transfer the power to handle ongoing emergencies from the governor to the 253 person legislature, regardless of whether it is something that happens occasionally such as flooding, or something that happens once in a generation such as COVID. As we have seen during the pandemic, some emergencies and disasters don't have a time limit and can be so widespread that their scope is practically unlimited in terns of the impact on the entire state.
The folly of these proposed amendments can be seen in Michigan, where the Michigan Supreme Court ruled as a matter of the Michigan Constitution that the governor could not extend the COVID related emergency declarations. While there are many reasons for the spike in Michigan, politically that ruling, which negated any ability to have a coherent response to COVID, certainly contributed to the frequent public displays of safety and common sense that helped spur Michigan's spike.
COMMISSIONER CHEW'S EFFORT TO SUPPRESS
Commissioner Doug Chew does not think you, the voter in Westmoreland County, want a mail-in ballot option. He has labeled it as "no excuse" mail-in ballot.
He appeared before the Senate's Election Integrity and Reform Committee laying blame on everyone but himself. The company who failed to mail out many of the mail-in ballots ( I didn't get mine) is a pro-Trump company (Trump flag flying high) in Ohio who was handed the mail-in voter list to mail out the ballots. Really?
Nothing fishy there.
Many didn't get their mail-in ballot which is why so many provisional ballots were filled out. To compound the issue, many of the provisional ballots were discarded because of poor direction so blame the voter??
Doug Chew thinks we need to educate the voter but failed to address what voters could have done in the 2020 election when they didn't get their mail-in ballots.
I think we need to educate Commissioner Chew but not at taxpayers expense. It's his job.
He said he was concerned by the timeframe. Well, if you don't start early enough you will have a time issue so again, blame Chew. His solution? Shorten the time to mail out the ballots.
Chances are if you checked the box to receive an application for 2021 chances are you didn't get it. Or, you got it and it clearly was a voter suppression playbook.
Let Commissioner Chew know that voter suppression has got to stop!
THE POWER TO SUPPRESS OUR VOTE
Our Westmoreland County Commissioners let us down when COVID hit. Instead of helping to deal with the virus, they followed the Republican Party lead and politicized a public health issue, encouraging us to not wear masks even though doing so saves lives. It has been reported that had we had competent national leadership, 200,000 American lives would have been saved.
Now the Republicans are at it again, this time with our voting rights (Chew says constituents don't want mail-in ballots, Trib, 3/24). Chew wants to make voting harder, and state Republicans have 11 bills restricting voting. Nationwide as of February 2021, 43 states have 253 voter suppression bills. Some of these bills will allow state legislatures to have the authority to nullify elections, to take away our votes and place in leadership someone of their, not our, choice. We know there was no massive voter fraud. None of the multiple court cases showed misdeeds. Many citizens work diligently to make certain we have free and fair elections.
The Republican response to both the COVID virus and the election results show a willful disregard of our wishes, health and well being. They are not concerned with working for the American people but with maintaining their power. We must end this abuse of power. Write to your government official. Let them know we want voting rights expanded not suppressed.
POLITICIZING OUR RIGHT TO VOTE
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo's net worth is $188 billion. The three heirs to Walmart have seen their fortunes grow last year by $40.7 billion. Thousands of Amazon and Walmart employees incomes are so low that they qualify for food stamps, meaning that taxpayers are subsidizing employees of people who not only are billionaires but have wealth of over $100 billion. That is why democrats are fighting for an increase in the minimum wage (Trib, Feb. 27, "Dems aim to rescue"). Raising the minimum wage would be a massive and much needed economic stimulus that would directly benefit many of the most vulnerable workers. We must begin to reduce our obscene inequality in wealth and taxes. We must push forward to a system where everyone pays their fair share of taxes, and where worker compensation is fair and just. American workers should not be a few steps away from servitude. Redistributing money upwards must stop.
RESPONDING TO COMMISSIONER CHEW'S STATEMENT TO THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ELECTION INTEGRITY
Commissioner Douglas Chew's statement before the Special Committee on Election Integrity and Reform is a classic case of starting with a valid point, and then wildly over-swinging to argue that no-excuse mail-in voting must be limited if not eliminated.
He begins with the need to educate voters and election officials on the no excuse mail-in voting reforms, passed with the substantial support of Pennsylvania Republicans, in both houses of the legislature. That is laudable, as echoed by one of the comments he appended to his statement. Mr. Chew calls upon the Pennsylvania State Department to "to undertake a campaign for the next year to educate the electorate on the many changes to the election code and to educate Precinct Election Boards (e.g. judges of election, inspectors) on the statute governing voting" and he urges the Legislature to provide funds for this "educational objective."
It is not surprising that the changes in Act 77, when combined with the extraordinary crisis of COVID, created confusion, delays and systemic stresses in 2020. Educating voters and officials on the "ins and outs" of no excuse mail-in voting, including when to apply for the ballot, how to apply, the use of provisional ballots when the voter, for whatever reason, does not timely receive his/her mail-in ballot, etc., is clearly warranted.
However, he then uses the 2020 confusion to call for limiting/eliminating no excuse mail-in voting. He cites concern over potential delays caused by the Post Office as an argument for shorter deadlines for receipt of applications or completed ballots. He fails to acknowledge that the most significant delays in the mail-in process in 2020 were at the County's end, because of failures on the part of the vendor chosen by the County, and the lack of proper staffing due to the flood of applications caused on part by COVID. The County needs to look in the mirror and deal with its own role in causing the delays. If the timeframe is to be shortened at the back end, it should be enlarged at the front end, and the county must be properly staffed for timely processing. Simply shortening the timeframe guarantees stress and confusion.
Mr. Chew also calls for the elimination of the option to request a permanent mail ballot for the election year. He cites in support the very confusion over provisional ballots he claims can--and should--be addressed by the education of voters and officials he specifically requests! He also avoids mentioning how many provisional voters were voting in person because they did not receive their mail-in ballot which again, appears to have been largely caused at the county level.
Mr. Chew implies, if not expressly states, that the problem is with no excuse mail-in voting itself. However, other states have successfully used this for several years before Pennsylvania adopted it. Mr. Chew disingenuously states "most of my constituents" want no excuse mail-in voting "eliminated." The reference to "my" is a back-handed insult to those citizens in the county who clearly do not. It is a sly trick to say "my constituents" want it eliminated while expressly calling for it himself. It is clear from the totality of his statement what he means by "his constituents," i.e. only those who voted for him and not all citizens of the county.
Perhaps instead of blaming no excuse mail-in voting, he needs to look in the mirror, examine the processes used by those other states, and make a serious effort to educate himself on how those states have made it work.
WE NEED A HEALTH DEPARTMENT
I ask myself, "Why are the residents of Westmoreland County less worthy than the residents of Allegheny, Erie, Bucks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties? Why do Westmoreland County residents not have the benefit of a critically needed public health department? Allegheny County and Erie County both have had health departments since the mid-1950s. Westmoreland County still has no public health department.
Many residents are outraged to realize that Westmoreland County has no public health department. Just recently the county commissioners voted against establishing one. It is unthinkable that during a deadly public health crisis such as Covid-19 that the commissioners would reject establishing a public health department.
Westmoreland residents have been struggling to locate vaccine appointments. Many traveled to other counties or other states to obtain the vaccine. Westmoreland residents have been left out in the cold by their elected officials!
This is not a political decision, nor should it ever be one, this is a public health decision. It is also an economic decision to save businesses, jobs,and the economy of our area. I implore the Westmoreland County Commissioners to re-evaluate their decision. Begin the establishment of a Westmoreland County Health Department now!
In the 1800's the Republican Party championed the democratic principals of freedom, liberty, justice and equality for all. The Democratic Party stood for the wealthy and powerful, the plantation owners, the captains of industry. It was a tug-of-war between democracy and oligarchy. Today we are in that same tug-of-war. This time the Democrats espouse those principals, while the Republican legislators are in the pockets of the wealthy and powerful. It is evident in their refusal to increase the minimum wage, while endorsing huge tax cuts for the top 1%, reducing the inheritance tax, using tax payer money to bail out bad acting, to big to fail banks and Wall Street: all actions that continue to redistribute money upwards. The list goes on especially in the regulatory area by eliminating worker rights, and reducing financial and environmental standards. They have failed to hold the wealthy and powerful accountable for their criminal behavior. One standard gives the elites impunity from the law, assaults on honesty with alternative facts and conspiracy theories, while projecting onto others their misdeeds. Republican lawmakers believe that government should stay out of the way of business making money with no regulation, no social contract, no protection for workers. This type of government might work for the wealthy but not for you and me. Who is going to protect us from domestic and foreign terrorists, pandemics, the ravishment of climate change. This is not an individual task, but together by pooling our resources, we can help one another. That is what democracy is all about, government of, by, and for the people, not just for the wealthy and powerful.
So, after a year of denying Covid is a problem, complaining about mask mandates, and ignoring hundreds of grieving Westmoreland County families, Commissioners Sean Kertes, Doug Chew and their enablers in the state legislature now complain that vaccines aren't happening as they want?
Give me a break!
Perhaps if they actually supported mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus and spent the past year actually formulating a plan to deal with the local impacts of the pandemic they might actually have some credibility. Instead what they accomplished is merely a publicity stunt.
Commissioners Kertes and Chew had the chance to lead. They failed. And the Westmoreland Republican legislative delegation is merely playing politics now while they did nothing over the past year except complain.
It's an insult to the residents of Westmoreland County and a total lack of leadership. We deserve better.
I am so grateful that PA has a governor like Wolf rather than someone like Abbott or past Governor Perry in Texas. First, Governor Abbott refused to follow CDC guidelines, and more Texans than needed died. Now, more Texans are unnecessarily dying due to a lack of electricity and water. This is a result of a conscious decision by the state of Texas to deregulate and privatize electricity. What were they thinking? We know from past experience that privatization of essential services is filled with pitfalls. When you privatize, you must make a profit and that usually means decreasing capital investment, reducing service and or labor.
The claim that they want freedom from regulations is flawed. Regulations give us freedoms. Because of regulations, we do not have the chaos we now see in Texas. Because of regulations we have the freedom to breath clean air, drink clean water, stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Fox News tried to blame green energy initiatives for the problems in Texas, but that lie was quickly exposed. We should hold the radical right wing media such as Fox News and Newsmax accountable for the lies they tell. They should not be allowed to use the public airways to spread falsehoods with impunity.
DEMOCRACY VS TYRANNY
We are living in precarious times. It appears that one political party, the Republican party, no longer believe in democracy. They are trying to restrict our voting rights (11 bills in PA) plus expand gerrymandering to include judges. A select group of men suggested nullifying the last election. They support people who promoted sedition and are refusing to hold those responsible for insurrection accountable. A part of our government appears to be working not for their constituents but for the donor class. We the 99% must unite in solidarity against the tyranny of the extremely wealthy and powerful and those who would destroy our democracy.
REPUBLICANS METHOD OF TAXATION
"Wolf seeks tax hike on PA's earners" (2/4, Trib), illustrates an often repeated phrase: "Republicans know how to message, how to campaign, and Democrats know how to govern." The comments by our Republican lawmakers were all standard sound bites: "raising taxes and spending more, massive 50% tax increase, "tax hikes will hurt our economy, etc." But if you read the article, only the top third income group will see increased taxes, shift the tax burden to higher income earners by exemptions that would reduce the tax rate among about 40% of taxpayers. In other words, this budget, in a small way would decrease the massive economic inequality we have in our state. Currently, the top 1% of PA taxpayers pay the lowest percent rate, 6%, while the lowest 20% of PA taxpayers pay the highest 13.8% rate, in local and state taxes. You would think people would be in favor of everyone paying their fair share of taxes. But Republicans seem to want to tax the poor and middle class, but not the wealthy.
REPUBLICANS "ALL IN FOR TRUMP"
It is tragic to see that one of the Western World's heretofore great political parties, the Republican Party, has gone "all in for Trump," including Pennsylvania's Republicans. For Example, see https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/28/us/politics/pennsylvania-republicans-trump.html.
In doing so, it has made a profound Moral Choice, antithetical to its founding principles.
The Republican Party was established on the principle of opposing slavery. It also stood against the political philosophy underlying slavery-a political philosophy of minority rule, despotism and violence against those the minority deemed "unworthy" of the rights in the Declaration of Independence.
It is said that the Founding Fathers were worried that parties would destroy the infant Republic. Yet, as some historians have noted, the rise of parties in the 1790's may have helped the Republic to develop, channeling political disagreement away from the threat of violence and to the ballot box. When our Nation was founded, the peaceful transfer of political power was an untested idea. Many observers at that time thought such a transfer could only happen violently, given that the French Revolution was unfolding for all to see. America was the first nation to demonstrate that the transfer of power could occur peacefully, without violence; the rise of parties did play a role in that, promoting the idea that we all have a shared civic responsibility, despite our policy differences, and that the responsibility of citizenship in this Republic is what binds us all together.
The events of the past 3 months, particularly the chain of lies and violent rhetoric, that led to the attack on Congress and deaths of January 6; the refusal to publicly rebuke those who encouraged those lies and that rhetoric; the rise of fantasy conspiracy mongers overtaking the modern Republican Party; all reveal what this party has become. A once great political party that stood for the principles the Founders held now stands against those very principles. It no longer stands for the peaceful transfer of power; it stands against fact and reality; it believes in delegitimizing and dehumanizing these who do not share its "facts"; it embraces the rhetoric of violence and looks away when that embrace results in acts of violence. All of this leads towards one inexorable conclusion---the Republican Party in 2021 no longer accepts the very idea of a Republic, rejects the notion of responsible civic obligations, and has embraced what former speechwriter for George W. Bush, Michael Gerson. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumpism-is-american-fascism/2021/02/01/c410f662-64b2-11eb-8c64-9595888caa15_story.html.
The Republican Party in 2021 will be judged by the Moral Choice it has made. The eyes of all people, indeed of history, are upon it. That this has happened to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan is a great tragedy for America.
February 11, Trib Live Featured Commentary