The Bet

My friend of 40 years, John Grahm, a man of the left, told me how upsetting it was that the Democrats lost the election for governor of Virginia, and, in general, did not do well at the polls this past November.  And then he uttered that unspeakable thought: “What if Trump runs and wins the election and once more becomes president in 2024.  “Aren’t you scared that this might happen,” he asked in a nervous tone.  With an air of confidence, I replied I had little concern inasmuch as a Trump Presidency is not a high likelihood.  I backed up this statement by posing a bet giving John 10 to 1 odds that Trump would not be our president in 2024:  I would pay John $1000 if Trump becomes president in 2024, but if he is not, John would have to pay me $100.  Surprised at my offer, he thought for a few moments and replied that he liked my proposition because he could hedge his bet.  That is, because he really did not want to win the bet, losing a $100 wouldn’t hurt that much. 

Before we made the bet, I wanted to make sure he understood its terms.  I made it clear that it didn’t matter whether Trump runs or not for president in 2024.  The bet simply is whether or not he will be the next president.  If he is not around to run in 2024, I automatically win the bet.  He agreed to these conditions, and we both stated our hope that he would lose the bet.

Unfortunately, for many of those that want to see Mr. Trump as a mere vestige of the past, Mr. Biden does not appear to get the message.  He is acting as if he won the election in a landslide and is attempting to follow in the footsteps of LBJ rather than the more modest and compromising Bill Clinton.  Mr. Biden apparently has forgotten that he was elected to unify the country with the hope that he could bring both Republicans and Democrats to the negotiating table.  To date, he has chosen to side with the more progressive element of his party that has been pleading to pass a huge fiscal stimulus package at a time when the country is already experiencing the highest rate of inflation (6.2 %) in the past 30 years.  Larry Summers, a registered Democrat, who was the Secretary of Treasury under President Clinton, has pointed out that too much governmental stimulus would inevitably produce further inflation.  He recently told Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour he thought the infrastructure stimulus that Biden finally got through both the Senate and the House, as a signature win for his Presidency, would not cause inflation because it would be paid for over 10 years. Moreover, most people like myself, believe this particular act is extremely important inasmuch as much of the country’s thoroughfares are in need of mending.

But the buck does not stop there.  And this is where Mr. Biden might be overstepping his promises insofar as he appears to be appeasing the extreme left that attracts much media attention but not so much the vote of the populace nor that of the Congress.  The money that Mr. Biden is seeking under the rubric of the American Rescue Plan will come on the heels of the 1.9 trillion for Covid-19 economic relief and the 1 trillion Infrastructure Bill.  This money follows all the money the Trump administration injected into the economy to alleviate the consequences of the pandemic.  What might appear a gift to those named in the American Rescue Plan may turn out to have a boomerang effect, if it further worsens the inflation we already are facing.  Inflation eats away at one’s earning power in a like manner as taxes.  And as in most negative consequences vis-à-vis financial impact, the lower classes suffer the most from it.  What the government giveth, the economy may taketh away.

But it is not inflation alone that is Biden and the Democrat’s bugaboo.  Glenn Youngkin won the gubernatorial election in Virginia a few weeks ago becoming the first Republican to win a statewide election in the state since 2009.  Biden won both the electoral and popular vote in Virginia against Trump in the Presidential election by a substantial margin of more than 10%.  Contrary to his Democratic opponent McAuliffe, Youngkin argued that parents had a right to participate and inquire about what their children learned in school.  The fear of Critical Race Theory (CRT) taking over the educational system has become a source of bitter contention.

I am personally not opposed to allowing some of the ideas CRT espouses to be brought into the educational process.  But it should be seen as only one way of looking at and approaching history without eliminating other more traditional ways of viewing history.  Moreover, what CRT exactly means and how it will be taught require thorough analysis and comprehension.  The rapidity of change can create much turmoil and dissent in any society.  Both parties need to look at this process.  Unfortunately, most important matters, such as how America came to be, are hardly being discussed in any rational and balanced manner.

The issue of public safety is also another factor weighing on the American mind.  The rate of homicides has increased in almost all of American cities.  The response by progressives to defund police completely contradicts the statistics of the rising crime rate.  Trump, of course, represented himself as being tough on crime.  Although most Democrats by now have abandoned the idea of defunding police, the Biden administration has yet to adopt a plan for how to combat crime.  Areas where poorer people reside are often the hot spots of much lawlessness with many deaths by violence having occurred in these communities.

Given the above, President Biden’s approval rating has tumbled downward to a current low of 42%.  This, of course, is not a good omen for the Democrats.  Then there is the other factor that makes my bet against John even more undecided:  Republican continued support of Mr. Trump. Because of this support, the Republican party has sunk to its lower depths in many years.  The treatment that Liz Cheney received from her Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives regarding her desire to further investigate the attack on the Capitol–January 6th by Trump’s followers—was nothing less than deplorable (excuse the use of the word, but in this context, I believe it to be appropriate).

It is not a coincidence that many brilliant political analysts that were former Republicans, such as George Will, Max Boot and Bret Stephens, have left the Republican party.  Furthermore, many prominent Republicans put together a political action committee (PAC) in 2019 with the aim of preventing the re-election of Donald Trump.  During his presidency, Mr. Trump’s shambolic gestures made in trashing the unwritten rules of American society has had a deleterious effect in and outside of the United States.  If the Republicans that represent us in Congress continue to pander to their past president, we may be ultimately finding ourselves either stuck with one party or two parties, one of which, the Republicans, is out of control.  Let us hope that neither of these very bad choices become realities in American politics.

In conclusion, a lot can happen before the next presidential election in November of 2024.  John and I disagree on a lot of issues.  But we both agree that Trump in the White House in 2024 would not augur well for our country.  Although Biden has made his share of mistakes as president, the jury is still out.  One positive sign is that our President has begun to look more closely at the bottleneck in supplies causing current demand to go unmet, a factor driving prices higher resulting in inflation.  

I can only hope that President Biden makes a greater effort in representing, not the loudest members of his party, but rather the majority of his party, and, I maintain, the majority of the country. That stance, if endorsed by Biden, in conjunction with the Republican sentiment of pulling away from Trump, will secure my bet.  Hopefully, it will go in the direction of a changing Republican party and a consolidated Democratic party.  If nothing else, the next two years indeed will be interesting.

Supreme Court

Let Women Decide What to Do with Their Bodies

Back in 1963, when I was in my first year at the University of Pennsylvania, a fellow freshman who lived in my suite in the dorms, ran into a problem that he was having difficulty resolving.  A girl he had dated, but that he had no intention of marrying, had become pregnant.  He had enough integrity not to desert her, that would have resulted in her having to deal with an out of wedlock child or an abortion on her own, that at that time, was illegal in the United States.  After much investigation, he found a place in Puerto Rico, where abortions were allowed, that he had been told was reputable.  He bought two round trip tickets to Puerto Rico, paid an exorbitant amount of money to have the abortion carried out, and returned the next day.

Before 1973, when Roe vs. Wade legalized abortion in the United States. what my friend did was probably more common than one would expect with accidental pregnancies.  My friend had the good fortune to come from a family that could afford the cost of the trip to Puerto Rico.  I recently read that 60% of people who seek abortions fall into an income level that defines them as poor.  Given these statistics, it is reasonable to believe that most people in need of abortions before 1973, probably could not afford to have them.

The Republican argument against abortion is that we are giving sanction to ending human life, and that this act is contrary to the Divine Will of God.  They believe that preserving human life, after conception, takes precedence over a woman’s right to choose whether she wishes to have the child or terminate the pregnancy.  With the good Lord on their side, these folks are blinded by their philosophic inconsistencies in which such a view lead.  For example, an underlying theme of conservative politics is to reduce the dependency that poor people have on welfare after having children they can ill afford.  But are we not creating more potential candidates for such services if we prohibit abortions?

As a clinical psychologist, I have counseled many married couples who have told me that such and such child was unplanned, but nevertheless, both inevitably agree not to terminate the pregnancy.  I have found it to be extremely rare when a married couple suddenly discover an unplanned pregnancy and decide not to have the baby.  On the other hand, many of those that choose to have an abortion are generally not married, and, more than likely, do not have the will and resources to bring a newborn into the world.

The other classic conservative position is to keep a tight rein on government spending toward social programs that are geared toward helping the poor.  Trump aside, conservatives have traditionally taken a laissez faire attitude toward the government with their motto being the best government is less government.  This gives rise to the individual spirit that is so much reflected in small businesses and entrepreneurs, in general.  But these same people, who believe in fewer governmental interventions, now back these same powers to be with the authority to tell women what is best for them and society.

There are many factors as to why the crime rate has decreased since Roe vs. Wade became law.  Some commentators have suggested that legalizing abortion, thereby reducing the birth of unwanted children, may have influenced the reduction of criminal behavior.  One way or another, we can safely say the crime rate has not likely worsened due to the termination of children that otherwise may have been born out of wedlock.

Fortunately, recently John Roberts, the current chief justice of the Supreme Court, cast a tie breaking vote in favor of retaining a woman’s right to abortion without any obstacles attached to that right.  Inasmuch as Roberts is considered a conservative regarding constitutional law, his vote, in not limiting the scope of Roe vs. Wade, came as somewhat of a surprise.  And that, I would maintain is the beauty of an independent branch of  government:  The Supreme Court, in not being beholden to any one party, has the duty of focusing on the principles outlined in each case it reviews in an unbiased manner.

Thank God for Justice Roberts!  He has reinforced a decision that can continue to help the next generation of women have access to abortion services without any unnecessary restrictions.  As I pointed out in the beginning of this essay, in the past such procedures, considered safe, only could be afforded by the wealthy.