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Politics

What does PA-18 Election Mean for Trump, Republicans, and the Democratic Party?

PA 2018 Election 1Democratic candidate Conor Lamb won the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District on Tuesday, March 13. In a district and state which President Donald Trump won in the 2016 Presidential election, Lamb’s win for the Democrats may predict how both the Democratic and Republican parties navigate their campaigns in the 2018 midterm elections.

Former-Congressman Tim Murphy, a Republican, resigned from Pennsylvania’s 18th District’s seat in the House last year after reports that he encouraged a woman, with whom he had an extramarital affair, to have an abortion.

Primary elections were not held in the race. Instead, nominees were chosen by each party, itself. The Republican Party held a special convention on Nov. 11, 2017, to choose a nominee through a conferee process involving 215 local Republican activists; the Democratic Party held their nominating convention on Nov. 19, 2017; and the Libertarian Party of Allegheny County and the Libertarian Party of Washington County nominated a candidate via party caucus.

Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District is located in Western Pennsylvania, and it borders the state of West Virginia; it includes portions of Greene, Washington, Allegheny, and Westmoreland counties. The district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) score of R+11, meaning that it tends to vote more Republican.

“As a native Pennsylvanian, I think the recent special election is a good example of the political culture of the state,” said Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science. “Pennsylvania is always labeled a swing state, but prior to 2016, it had not gone to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988,” he said.

Chapman explained that the reason for this disparity in voting within the state is because of the politically-splintered geography of Pennsylvania.

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Parkland Shooting Survivors Call for Gun Control: “Never Again”

Parkland Shooting Never Again 1Surviving students from the Majority Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School sparked the “Never Again MSD” movement after the mass school shooting in Parkland, FL, on Feb. 14.

The convicted shooter, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire in the high school using an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

Cruz is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after killing 14 students and 3 staff members, and leaving multiple others injured in the shooting.

“The surviving high school students from [MSD High School] have successfully started a political movement on gun control that we haven’t seen in over 25 years,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science.

“The kids are battling against the National Rifle Association, which is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country,” Patten said.

 “They’re attempting to have legislation enacted that closes the gun show loophole, bans military-style weapons, [like the one used in the Parkland shooting], and raises the age for purchasing some weapons,” he explained

“They are planning a major demonstration for gun control in Washington D.C. on Saturday, March 24, and many Monmouth students are planning on participating in the demonstration,” Patten said.

Additionally, the University has released a statement on Monday, Feb. 28 to assure prospective students who have applied for admission that their participation in the protest in the capital would not affect their admission decisions.

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Menendez Acquitted, Facing His Next Jury

The Voters


Menedez JuryThe U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would not pursue a re-trial of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez’s corruption charges on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

After an 11-week trial last fall, which resulted in a hung jury, District Court Judge William Walls declared a mistrial on all 12 charges against Menendez.

However, federal prosecutors said that they intended to retry Menendez on political corruption charges on Friday, Jan. 20.

Menendez, one of only 12 United States Senators to be indicted, faced charges with 12 counts, including bribery and conspiracy, for allegedly accepting trips and contributions from a friend and campaign donor, Salomon Melgen, M.D, a wealthy ophthalmologist in Florida.

Prosecutors accused of Menendez accepting bribes from Melgen in exchange for intervening with federal agencies on his behalf. Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice had been facing a deadline at the end of January to either retry the case or drop the charges.

Accordingly, the Justice Department filed to dismiss its remaining charges against Sen. Bob Menendez, bringing the legal case that has hovered over the New Jersey senior senator for years to a close.

The charges against Melgen were also dropped.

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Mitt Romney Running for United States Senate

Mitt RomneyMitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, announced that he is running to represent Utah in the United States Senate, on Friday, Feb. 16.

Romney is known both within the state of Utah for his work as chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, and nationally from his 2012 presidential run, in which he won the state by nearly 50 points.

“Mitt Romney is royalty here in the state of Utah,” Utah’s Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, said in an interview with Vox.

Currently, Romney’s early poll numbers show a lead of about 40 percent points.

“It’s difficult to envision a scenario where Romney does not win the seat in Utah,” said Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science. 

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012, has endorsed him in a statement on the same day Romney announced his candidacy.

“Our [Republican] party and our country are always better off when Mitt is engaged,” Ryan said on twitter.

 “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in Washington,” Romney said in his announcement video which he released early morning last Friday.

Likewise, in a pointed quip toward the immigration policies of President Trump, Romney said that “Utah welcomes legal immigrants from around the world,” while “Washington sends immigrants a message of exclusion.”

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The Millionaire Tax: Funding New Jersey

NJ Milionaire Tax 1Senator Stephen Sweeney said that raising taxes on millionaires in New Jersey is the “absolute last thing” that he will consider, last Thursday, Feb. 8.

Although Sweeney, the New Jersey State Senate President, long advocated for raising taxes on the wealthiest New Jersey residents; he explained that the latest federal tax overhaul changed the dynamics of taxes in the state.

“It’s the absolute last thing that I’m willing to look at,” said Sweeney, the Democratic state Senator from Gloucester, to reporters in Trenton last Thursday.

“It’s too much right now. Absolutely last resort,” he asserted. However, three months ago, when now-Governor Phil Murphy won the gubernatorial election, Sweeney tweeted that the “long overdue [millionaires’] tax” would be the first bill that the NJ Senate passes in January, after Murphy’s inauguration.

“Murphy ran on the Millionaire Tax as the face of the NJ Democratic Party,” said Ken Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology.

“For the Democrat Sweeney to reverse course strikes me as a move against the wishes of the voters,” Mitchell said.

Under Sweeney’s leadership in the state Senate, the Legislature passed and put a millionaires’ tax on former Governor Chris Christie’s desk five times since Christie first took office in 2010.

However, the former Republican governor vetoed the tax hike on millionaires each time.

In his final veto of the bill in 2015, Christie said that the Legislature must be “deaf and blind” to the consequences that raising taxes in New Jersey would have on the state’s economy—the highest taxed state in the country.

Sweeney explained his recent change in position; he said that the latest federal tax reform bill passed in Congress complicated matters locally in New Jersey.

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CEOs Invest in Employees' Healthcare

CEO Invest Employee Healthcare1The CEOs of Amazon, JPMorgan, and Berkshire Hathaway proposed a healthcare plan which they believe will lower costs for their employees last Tuesday, Jan. 30.

The three said that they wish to start “an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.” Instead, they explain that they will be focusing on technological solutions in order to provide their employees with “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

“The health care system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” said Bezos.

“Hard as it might be, reducing health care’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort.”

“Being in a healthcare industry, I find many people to be uneducated well enough about their healthcare benefits,” said Polina Amburg, specialist professor in the Department of Nursing.

“Employers looking to save money don’t always offer the best healthcare plans for their employees, she explained. “The cost of services, such as co-pays and deductible, often prevent people from seeking adequate and timely medical care. There is a great need for an affordable quality healthcare services.”

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160 Voices: The Nassar Trial

160 VoicesLarry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on Wed., Jan. 24.

Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina opened her courtroom to numerous survivors, parents, and coaches who had been affected by Nassar’s counts of sexual abuse. 160 women came forward to recount their assaults by Nassar.

“The monster who took advantage of you will wither,” Aquilina said to one victim who gave her testimony at the trial, “…as you get stronger, as you overcome—because you will—he gets weaker and he will wither away.” 

Katherine Parkin, Ph.D., Vice President of the Faculty Association and a professor in the Department of History and Anthropology, explained that the charges levied against Nassar differ from most other sexual assault allegations.

“That Nassar was able, with the power of the Michigan State University and the gymnastic governing bodies, to assault these victims under the cover of being a doctor is distinct from some other sexual assault patterns that we’ve seen,” Parkin said.

“In some ways, this was a relatively easier one for the victims and for observers, because there is no expectation that the teenage girls and adult women willingly sought out abuse from a doctor,” she explained, bringing light to the fact that many other sexual assault allegations are dismissed or undermined.

“Harvey Weinstein, Jerry Sandusky, and most of the other criminals had no pretense for touching or assaulting the bodies of others, while it is necessary for a doctor to touch patients,” she explained.

Prior to his four-day sentencing, Nassar wrote a letter saying that he was unsure if he could “mentally” endure four days of listening to his victims’ statements.

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Partisan Gridlock Leads to Government Shutdown

Government ShutdownAfter Congress failed to pass an extension of appropriations funding, the government shutdown at midnight on Sat., Jan. 20.

By Fri., Jan. 19, the Extension of Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 195) was under consideration to extend funding through Feb. 16. The bill passed the House on Jan. 18, but a cloture vote in the Senate failed 50–49, with 60 votes required to end a Democratic-led filibuster shortly before the midnight expiration of the previous continuing resolution.

This ongoing resolution included a six-year authorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which had not been funded since October 2017, and it delayed several healthcare taxes from the Affordable Care Act.

However, Democrats preferred a shorter resolution lasting a few days, intending for hearings to negotiate an extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

“The recent government shutdown is a product of a strategic interaction between Democrats and Republicans,” Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science, said. “This began with Trump ending the DACA Executive Order that came under Obama, allowing Trump and the Republicans to use it as a bargaining chip,” he explained.

Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) accused Democrats of keeping “the government shuttered for American troops, American veterans, American military families.”

Soon after the shutdown began, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) proposed a bill that would ensure that the military would be paid and receive death benefits during the shutdown.

 However, McConnell objected, saying to “restore funding for the entire government before [that] becomes necessary.”

“Both parties were steadfast in their disagreements on the continuing budget resolution, thereby causing the government shutdown,” Chapman said.

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"Trump-ed Up" Trickle Down: The Latest GOP Tax Bill

Trump Trickle Down 1President Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress passed their long-anticipated tax reform bill on Dec. 20, 2017.

The bill passed the Senate 51 to 48, with no support from the Democrats and all support from Republicans present—Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) did not vote due to his undergoing cancer treatment, though he voiced his support for the bill.

The bill calls for a permanent cut to corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent, which Congressional Republicans and the President say will allow companies to hire more people and pay higher wages for their employees.

However, there is no requirement in the bill for companies to hire Americans in order to receive the lower tax rate; corporations can keep more profit from the tax deduction even if they fire workers.

Jeffrey Christakos, a specialist professor of accounting at Monmouth, says “If the goal is specifically to put Americans back to work, a better course of action may be to increase the tax effectiveness of investing in people…as opposed to lowering the tax rate, and allowing companies and their owners [to] make their own decisions.”

“Unless the law requires that businesses invest in specific areas to gain tax deductions to create the tax savings, companies will invest their investment capital into areas that provide the highest rates of returns,” Christakos explains.

Situations such as that with Walmart and its affiliate Sam’s Club demonstrate Christakos’ point; there was no requirement for companies to invest in its workers in order to receive the tax cuts. Although Walmart raised its minimum wage to $11-an-hour, it nevertheless closed 63 Sam’s Club stores which left 10,000 workers unemployed.

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Keystone Pipeline Bursts: Is New Jersey Next?

Keystone Pipeline Burst NJThe Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of crude oil in South Dakota on Nov. 16, creating the largest spill to date in the state. Despite this spill, proposals for pipelines across the U.S. continue to move through legislation, with energy companies acquiring permits for construction. 

According to TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, the crude oil spill occurred three miles southeast of Amherst, South Dakota and transport of oil was shut down minutes after the leak was recognized. TransCanada reported that it would be days before any groundwater contamination could be discovered and that no immediate threat to human or wildlife was evident.

On Nov. 27, the company announced plans to repair and restart the pipeline.

Gloria Brown Simmons, three-time recipient of NASA’s Group Achievement Award in years 1990, ‘91, and ‘96, and adjunct professor of astronomy said that “this spill is disastrous. It is no surprise that, [despite risk assessments suggesting spills no more than 50 barrels no more than once every 7 to 11 years], there is yet another spill of harmful toxins into the environment.

However, there are currently similar pipeline projects proposed for the state of New Jersey, which have raised concern among experts and environmental groups.

One such project is the Pinelands Pipeline, which will run for 22 miles through the Pinelands Preservation and potentially carry natural gas through this land.

This project was previously declined by four consecutive NJ governors, and in 2014, declined by the Pinelands Commission itself.

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Mixed Emotions Over Murphy

Mixed Emotions MurphyAs New Jersey prepares to inaugurate its new Governor-elect, Phil Murphy, many are approaching his election with uncertainty due to his stance on the legalization of marijuana.

Murphy has said that he would sign a bill to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office and it would be beneficial to the state.

“Phil Murphy definitely represents a turn away from [Governor] Christie’s policies,” Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of the political science, said. “This is not surprising for a couple reasons. First, NJ is a Democrat-leaning state that hasn’t voted for a Republican in a presidential election since 1988. This gives Murphy an advantage from the start. However, there is a diversity of ideology throughout the state level, which is why we’ve seen more alternation between [Democrats] and [Republicans] at the state executive position,” he added.

In his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, Murphy ran on a platform of changes that he hoped to bring to New Jersey, such as getting tough on gun violence and protecting women’s rights and the rights of undocumented immigrants, such as the DREAMers, as well as the rights of the LGBT community. “I’m glad that Murphy will be a governor who ensures the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBT community,” Roxy Nicoletti, a sophomore biochemistry student said.

On his campaign, Murphy had noted that after the Recession in 2000, New Jersey was one of the slowest recovering economies and, therefore, believes that having more secure jobs with rising wages would help to revitalize the state’s economy again. In addition, Murphy believes that legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana would help to bring more revenue into the state government—which many feel apprehensive about.

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Monmouth University
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Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu