Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Oct. 1, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justice pick is Judge Amy Coney Barrett, age 48. Barrett is favored by gun rights interests, anti-abortion activists, and leans right on immigration and discrimination, The New York Times reports. Senate Republicans hope to have her serving before Election Day, with a Senate vote tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22. Time allotted for the hearing process has been cut by about two-thirds.

Why such a quick confirmation? Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have said that election “chaos” from the extended time required for counting mail-in ballots could result in the Supreme Court deciding who the next president is, The Washington Post pointed out.

As well, a week after the election the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that could dismantle the Affordable Care Act. For households with annual incomes of $3 million or more, that could mean an average tax cut of $198,000, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. For 20 million others that would result in loss of health care coverage, as well as charging women more for coverage, and higher charges for 12 million seniors’ prescription drugs. ATF suspects that is another reason Trump wants to quickly confirm a new Supreme Court member.

As Stacey Abrams pointed out recently in TIME magazine, “If our vote didn’t count, the forces trying to take it away would not be so desperate, such as using  voter purges and lengthy vote lines.”

The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court has ruled that “naked ballots” there must be discarded. Those are ballots that are not submitted in their interior security envelope. There may be as many as 100,000 such ballots, The Washington Post reported.

At a White House briefing, when asked if he would peacefully leave the White House if Joe Biden wins, Trump refused to say yes. Rather, he cast doubt on mail-in voting and stated “get rid of the ballots and you have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.” The Federal Election Commission Commissioner responded: “we do not ‘get rid of’ ballots. We count them.” The only Republican to disagree with Trump’s statement was Mitt Romney, who said it was “unthinkable and unacceptable.” 

Historian Dr. Heather Cox Richardson said the comment served to distract media from the release of Biden’s presidential platform, which contrasts with the Republican’s lack of a platform for Trump’s second term.

Comparison of tax plans: Trump’s 2017 tax law primarily benefitted the rich and corporations, impoverishing federal revenues by $2 trillion, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. Challenger Biden’s plan calls for repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the rich, and investing the $4 trillion into Social Security, health care, education, infrastructure and green energy. ATF said Biden’s plan will not directly increase taxes on households with incomes under $400,000, and Trump’s tax cuts have led to efforts to find other funding via cutting Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, education, housing, transportation and other “vital” services.

The number of confirmed U.S. COVID-19 deaths has passed 200,000, The Guardian reported. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in 21 states. Data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 for children and teens rising faster than for the general public.

The New York Times released findings on Trump’s tax returns, including: debt of $300 million to debtor/s unknown; most years paying no taxes to the U.S., but paying elsewhere, such as $156,000 to the Philippines and $145,000 to India; and using daily living expenses, such as housing and hairstyling as tax deductions ($70,000 for hair). A former inspector general for the Justice Department said that if Trump loses the election, once out of office he will face numerous charges of fraud (bank, tax, mail, wire). Trump called the report fake news; CNN said he could prove it was fake by releasing his tax statements.

Blast from the past: Studies of voter fraud show alignment. In the past 20 years the conservative Heritage Foundation has found a rate of 0.00006% voter fraud for mail-in votes. The rate found by the Brennan Center for Justice was between .0003% and .0025%, meaning that an American is more likely to be “struck by lightning” than to impersonate another person at the polls. Trump’s voting integrity commission documents found “no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud.” Trump may not have read the report, since in July he proposed delaying the elections due to the possibility of vote-by-mail voter fraud. The conservative Federalist Society’s co-founder said that statement was “grounds for the president’s immediate impeachment … and his removal from office by the Senate.”

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