LNP/LancasterOnline. April 9, 2023

Editorial: U.S. Sen. Fetterman’s transparency about his mental health issues will do a lot of good

Fetterman’s Senate campaign staff was not very transparent about the stroke that took him off the campaign trail for much of last summer.

His detailed medical records were not released. Voters didn’t learn about the lingering auditory processing issues caused by the stroke until September.

The former lieutenant governor has chosen a different — much more candid — approach regarding his mental health struggles.

When he checked himself into Walter Reed, his chief of staff revealed in a statement that Fetterman had “experienced depression off and on throughout his life,” but it had become “severe in recent weeks.”

And the news release about his discharge from Walter Reed noted the use of medication therapies to treat his depression. It also noted his improved mood, “brighter affect and improved motivation, self-attitude, and engagement with others” as those and other therapies began to have an effect.

We learned that Fetterman had “expressed a firm commitment to treatment over the long term.”

We also learned that hearing tests had identified Fetterman’s significant hearing loss and that he was fitted with hearing aids. This revelation was in itself a public service. Research has shown that hearing loss can increase a person’s risk of developing a mental health disorder such as depression. And men, in particular, often are unwilling to wear hearing aids.

In the statement, Fetterman expressed gratitude to his treatment team at Walter Reed. “The care they provided changed my life. … I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works. This isn’t about politics — right now there are people who are suffering with depression in red counties and blue counties. If you need help, please get help.”

This transparency may do more good than any legislation Fetterman ever will see passed in the Senate.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older — about 1 in 4 adults — suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year.

More than half of adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment, and nearly 60% of youths with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment, Mental Health America tells us. While mental health disorders are common, they are often not diagnosed; this leads to the kind of quiet despair with which Fetterman wrestled for years.

As was widely reported in articles about Fetterman, depression affects about a third of stroke survivors. Now, hopefully, more family members of stroke victims will know to watch carefully for signs of depression in their loved ones.

A previous history of depression — which Fetterman had — is a predictor of post-stroke depression, Dr. Nada El Husseini, an associate professor of neurology at Duke University, told the American Heart Association.

Research has shown that men often are reluctant to seek treatment for mental health disorders, including major depression.

According to Mental Health America, more than 6 million men in the United States suffer depression each year, but male depression often goes undiagnosed, and men often downplay their symptoms. Social norms — including the expectation that they should just “man up” — discourage men from seeking help.

Fetterman has dispelled the notion that men should shoulder their mental health burdens silently.

He’s not the first to have done so, of course. Actor Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson publicly disclosed his mental health struggles several years ago, and tweeted in April 2018 that “depression never discriminates. Took me a long time to realize it but the key is to not be afraid to open up. Especially us dudes have a tendency to keep it in. You’re not alone.”

But Fetterman’s candor, especially in an interview with CBS “Sunday Morning” anchor Jane Pauley last Sunday, has been impressive.

He revealed that in the weeks after his election to the Senate, he had “stopped leaving my bed. I had stopped eating. I was dropping weight. I had stopped engaging some of the, most things that I love in my life.” Including family time.

He recalled an “incredibly sad moment” when his 14-year-old son couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t get out of bed. He spoke emotionally of his sadness at checking himself into Walter Reed on that son’s birthday. He wasn’t harming himself, but he said he felt “indifferent” to living.

Now, after treatment, he told Pauley, he feels hopeful for “the first time. … It’s a strange feeling for me to have.”

We wish everyone experiencing mental health issues had access to the intensive inpatient treatment Fetterman, as a senator, received at Walter Reed. We hope Fetterman takes that on as a legislative goal.

In the meantime, help is available, so please seek it if you need it.

If your employer has an employee assistance program, be assured that it is against federal law for that program to disclose to your employer any information you share, unless you give your signed consent.

If your employer does not have an employee assistance program, Mental Health America of Lancaster County may be able to help. Call 717-397-7461 or email mha@mhalancaster.org for information. The Steinman Foundation has worked with that nonprofit to provide mental health services to families in Lancaster County since the pandemic. (The Steinman Foundation is a local, independent family foundation that was funded by the companies that make up Steinman Communications; those companies include LNP Media Group.)

Also, the Touchstone Foundation offers assistance toward copays or deductibles on mental health services for youth, children and parents of dependent children who live in Lancaster County and have financial need. The Steinman Foundation also provides funding for that program. Learn more at touchstonefound.org or by calling 717-397-8722.

Resources also may be available to you through the county’s mental health program; call 717-393-0421.

And please know that there is absolutely no shame in seeking mental health treatment.


This editorial mentions mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, contact the following organizations:

— National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org, 800-273-8255. (Also, 988 has launched nationally as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.)

— Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via TTY at 800-799-4889.

— Lancaster Crisis Intervention, 717-394-2631.

— If you are LGBTQ: thetrevorproject.org/get-help.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 8, 2023

Editorial: Drop death penalty: Lengthy trial, appeals of synagogue mass shooter would delay justice and traumatize survivors

The U.S. Department of Justice should respect the wishes of some of the survivors of the mass shooting at a Squirrel Hill synagogue and withdraw its request for the death penalty. A death-penalty trial for the Oct. 27, 2018, massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers would delay justice and drag congregants and their community through years of anguish.

In securing a death-penalty conviction and defending it on appeals, the government would, in effect, re-enact the worst case of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history through witness testimony, media coverage and appeals that could continue for up to 20 years.

Congregation Dor Hadash has urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to abandon the government’s quest for the death penalty and accept a plea deal for a mandatory life sentence, including an agreement with defense attorneys that the accused 50-year-old killer would waive his right to appeals. For the government to disregard the yearning of congregants to heal in peace would be callous and cruel, and violate the sacred tenets of the faith that has sustained them.

Justice has already been delayed for too long. The trial is scheduled to start with jury selection on April 24, four and a half years after the murders. Some delays were unavoidable, such as the retirement of U.S. Judge Donetta Ambrose in 2022. Now, however, the chief impediment to a timely salve of justice is the Justice Department’s unreasonable demand for the death penalty.

Death-penalty trials require more expert witnesses, investigations and evaluations. They contain automatic rights to appeal. Jury selection is more complex. These and other procedural protections apply to all defendants in capital cases. Without them, innocent people would die. Since the United States re-instated the death penalty in 1976, more than 180 death-row prisoners have been exonerated due to wrongful convictions, including 11 in Pennsylvania.

Death penalty arbitrary

The government’s call for the death penalty in the case of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is arbitrary and immoral. During the 2020 campaign, President Joe Biden pledged to end the federal death penalty, and his Justice Department has not sought it in cases similar to the murders at Tree of Life synagogue. In January, for example, federal prosecutors did not seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing 23 people in a racist attack at a Texas Walmart in 2019.

Even the most ardent supporters of a federal death penalty would agree that it needs to be applied with consistent standards. The U.S. Justice Department has none. Mr. Biden’s call for ending the federal death penalty now appears to have been nothing more than a campaign tactic to shore up support among progressive Democrats.

Capital punishment, a futile and medieval cry for vengeance, is on its way out. Given the practical, moral, economic and social problems with the death penalty, seven states have abolished it since 2009, bringing the total number of states without a death penalty to 23.

Pennsylvania has a death-penalty statute, but the state placed a moratorium on executions in 2015. In February, newly elected Gov. Josh Shapiro, a former death penalty supporter, called on state legislators to abolish the death penalty. In doing so, he cited, among other events, his conversations with the Jewish survivors of the mass shooting in Pittsburgh who opposed the death penalty.

Agonizing publicity

A high-profile trial would give the accused killer a sickening notoriety that would unleash extraordinary pain. In a March 18 editorial on the 10.27 Healing Partnership at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, sources asked the newspaper’s editorial page editor to omit the name of the accused shooter to avoid sensationalizing, promoting or validating him. (The newspaper did not name the shooter and has not done so here.) Given that level of sensitivity to any notoriety given the shooter, the government should consider the effects on the victims from the overwhelming publicity of a sensational and lengthy death-penalty trial.

For the sake of those who have suffered most, we beg the Justice Department to withdraw its call for the death penalty. Far better that it accept a plea deal for a mandatory life sentence and let the accused killer languish in an anonymous cell for the remainder of his days. If he ever grows a conscience — and he might — the enormity of his deeds will curse his every breath and confine him to a living hell, far worse than any death sentence.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 8, 2023

Editorial: Pa. Legislature should see Tennessee expulsions as cautionary tale

The Pennsylvania Legislature is no stranger to dissension.

The state isn’t Democratic or Republican, after all. It isn’t even a muddled, muted purple. It is a patchwork of red and blue by county and city. That pattern is repeated in the House and Senate chambers.

And that can lead to mulish opposition. It can mean obstinate obstruction. It can even result in explosive outbursts during legislative sessions.

That has happened more than once in Harrisburg.

In June 2019, state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Montgomery County, continued to loudly read a constituent’s letter over the objections of then-Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, who shouted his protests to then-Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. That ugly and chaotic exchange made national news.

On Jan. 5, 2021, another outburst came when Fetterman and Corman clashed over the seating of Jim Brewster when now-Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli was contesting the vote count in their close race for the 45th District.

But in Tennessee on Thursday, three Democratic House members were put up for expulsion, charged with participating in a “disorderly” demonstration with throngs of young protesters in the wake of The Covenant School shooting in Nashville. Two of them — the two youngest members of the House, both men of color — were voted out. The third — a white woman and former teacher — survived by one vote.

If there wasn’t already dissension between left and right in Tennessee, between guns, abortion and LGBTQ issues, this has pushed the idea of not just fighting political opposition but kicking them out of the conversation. The GOP lawmakers insist the move was just about rules of decorum, not debate.

Now, there are questions about whether what happened in that state House could spread to others.

Pennsylvania has removed lawmakers in the past — rarely. However, when it has happened, it has generally been because of criminal activity. We should all agree that is appropriate.

But the Keystone State should never be ashamed of having differing opinions. It should never seek to squelch the thoughts of the other side.

Our government is built on not just the representation of the people but also on the exchange, development and full-throated debate of ideas. It makes the laws better and the state better. It even makes the parties better.

We don’t want shouting matches and disrespect. We don’t want disregard of the rules. But the rules encourage everyone having a say and everyone participating in the process. The Pennsylvania Legislature — and every government body in the state — should watch what happened in Tennessee and resolve to be better.

Uniontown Herald-Standard. April 9, 2023

Editorial: Non-compete agreements should be eliminated

A couple of years ago, state Sen. Camera Bartolotta was championing a measure that would do away with noncompete agreements for individuals who work in radio or television in Pennsylvania. The Carroll Township Republican believed that career opportunities and wage growth are stifled when on-air or production personnel are tethered to one outlet or one market for a fixed period of time after a job ends.

The bill made a lot of sense. But the whole idea needs to be taken a step further — workers in all industries in all states should not be locked into noncompete agreements.

That could very well happen if a new rule being considered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes effect. The FTC announced the proposed change in January and public comment is being taken through April 19. The agency argues that doing away with unfair deals that prevent employees from moving on to greener pastures will jump-start wage growth, mobility and opportunity. It’s a solid argument, but it’s also a matter of fundamental fairness: In a free-market economy, where most employees offer their skills, time and labor to an employer, they should be able to make their services available to someone else offering better compensation or conditions.

After all, most employers have the right to hire and fire at will. Brendan Lynch, an employment attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, put it this way in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star: “The one benefit to workers for at-will employment is the freedom to leave a job and seek work anywhere else. The huge increase in noncompetes takes away even that illusion of parity: workers can be fired at any time, without cause, but new jobs in their fields are off- limits.”

Proponents of noncompete agreements say they have invested time and money in training and talent, and don’t want to see it poached. But rather than being confined to industries like software engineering or sales, where employers might have a legitimate desire to hold onto their trade secrets, noncompete agreements have been used for hairdressers, janitors, nurses, veterinarians, warehouse workers and fast-food workers. Of the 18% of U.S. workers who are subject to noncompete agreements, 30% work for less than $13 per hour. The FTC has estimated that noncompete clauses prevent 30 million American workers from putting $300 billion in their wallets.

A better course of action for employers would be to use or strengthen nondisclosure agreements, rather than put employees in a position where they could be penalized if they seek work in the same field elsewhere.

Also, according to Silas Russell, the political director of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, “The best way for an employer to keep a worker is to offer wages and benefits those workers deserve, not threaten to sue them for seeking a better opportunity.”

Wilkes Barre Citizens’ Voice. April 10, 2023

Editorial: State policy penalizes working class

Pennsylvania lawmakers regularly give away the store to wealthy interests. The theory is that it’s necessary to compete with neighboring states for development that benefits everyone through economic activity and job creation.

Perhaps the flagship example is the $6 billion Shell petrochemical refinery in Beaver County that the state government has subsidized with a record $1.7 billion in tax credits.

If that model works, though, lawmakers need to explain the finding by the government’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office that low-income Pennsylvania workers are paid less and taxed more than their counterparts in surrounding states.

That flows from state policy. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Northeast that continues to cling to the $7.25 hourly minimum wage that Congress implemented in 2009. New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage is $14 and New York’s is $15. And a New York Federal Reserve study conducted several years ago demonstrated that the higher New York wage has not adversely affected businesses in New York that border Pennsylvania.

Pandemic-induced labor shortages have put upward pressure on wages, but the higher minimums elsewhere mean that thousands of Pennsylvanians still work for much less than their counterparts with comparable jobs in surrounding states.

And the state government, which has begun a multi-year plan to reduce the corporate net income tax by more than 50%, from 9.99% to 4.9%, continues to maintain a flat personal income tax rate that penalizes low-income workers.

The flat personal income tax rate is 3.07%, which is toward the lower end of the range among the 43 states and the District of Columbia that impose such taxes. But because the Pennsylvania rate is flat, the effective tax rate for working class people in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio is lower, according to the IFO.

Democratic state Sen. Art Haywood of Montgomery County asked for the study. As he put it, “Pennsylvania punishes those earning under $30,000 with the highest taxes and lowest minimum wage.”

Lawmakers compound that injustice by failing to fairly fund public schools and badly shortchanging higher education.

When pondering economic policy, legislators need to include a bottom-up perspective before relentlessly passing incentives from the top, down.



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