Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: What issues are you anxious about?

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jan 24, 2016 2:47 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, January 25, 2016:

"The mood of voters is one of the most important political factors in an election year.  And this year voters are anxious, frightened and angry."

That's the basis of a national conversation NPR is promoting this week that focuses on three themes: Economic uncertainty -- the shrinking middle class; Terrorism -- are we secure?; and Demographics -- a changing national identity.  

What may be contributing to this anxiety?  The share of income held by middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down from 62% in 1970; Americans are more fearful of a terrorist attack than any time since 9/11; and from 1965 to 2015, immigrants and their descendants added 72 million people to the U.S. population and are projected to add another 102 million within the next 50 years.

Several presidential candidates have played upon voters' anxieties and are doing well in the polls to the surprise of many experts and pundits.

WITF's Smart Talk program is participating in the NPR project and wants to hear your opinions.

On Monday's program, we're looking for you to tell us what issue is most important to you or that you are moxt concerned with this year.  Comments may be forwarded to NPR for use nationally.

Call 1-800-729-7532 during Monday's show, send an email to, post a message on WITF's Facebook page, or comment below.

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  • Jim Foster img 2016-01-25 08:26

    Sorry that, due to a meeting, I won't be able to listen live or participate.

    My top three issues are, in order, gerrymandering, gerrymandering and gerrymandering. One of the biggest problem we face in politics today is politicians who cannot or will not compromise, because they are worried if they do, they will be "primaried" by someone more extreme to the right or left. This is mostly caused by gerrymandering. Most of the legislative and Congressional districts are drawn so they are easy wins for easy Republicans or Democrats. Those of us with moderate views are effectively shut out of the process.

    To fix this problem, we need to take the drawing of political districts out of the political process. Some states, like California, have non-partisan commissions draw them. There is a PA legislator who is proposing something similar. The League of Women Voters and Common Cause PA are working on this. All moderates of both parties and independents should get behind these proposals.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:24

    Manuel in Carlisle emails:

    My worries are due to change of the modern workplace. In the past, when technology replaced jobs, new jobs were created that those workers could enter without significant issues or education. Now, as technology replaces jobs and that technology does not create new opportunity, we are seeing a lack of job and employment security. This when coupled with income inequality and issues of Social Security, Disability and poverty, it is time to begin examining the necessity of Guaranteed Basic Income.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:46

    Joyce emails:

    I wonder if your first caller is aware that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also used a personal server?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:47

    Brenda in Elizabethtown emails:

    What issue most matters to you in this election cycle:

    Priorities concerning what we, as a nation, spend or not spend our money on,...
    Infrastructure in the USA, specifically for those neighborhoods that have been neglected time and time again - ie. Flint, MI.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:47

    Leigh-Ann in Landisville emails:

    My anxiety is created by the candidates that are calling for sending immigrants home and halting the immigration process for specific groups.

    This sounds SO much like Nazi Germany in the 30's and 40's. That scares me. Too many of the German population just went along with the rhetoric, not seeing the bigger picture. It sounds like we are leaning toward a similar path if we embrace this rhetoric.

    Anger directed at a changing world is fruitless. Change is the only constant. Change allows us to open our minds to new and often interesting ideas, possibilities, and people! How boring a world would be if we only knew people exactly like we are!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:47

    Kristin in Carlisle emails:

    I just wanted to comment on the caller who discussed Secretary Clinton’s email investigation – there are a host of examples where male public officials are (in my opinion) violating the public’s trust in a much more substantial way – I’m thinking of political official sex scandals, sending unsolicited images of their bodies (one body part in particular) as one example. Secretary Clinton’s purported indiscretion in terms of handling her email has so far resulted in considerably less evidence to justify this strong feeling of mistrust (in my opinion) – I want to point out this difference in how we handle male and female public figures.

    I would suggest we focus on an issue like climate change. The evidence is irrefutable that man-made climate change is happening and we need to address it now. I wish this was a larger part of the conversation for both parties.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:48

    Linda in New Providence emails:

    A very troubling issue for me is the general slide into incivility evidenced in much of our current political process. This incivility, in my opinion, fuels most if not all of our other difficulties. The incivility in speech of public figures foments more incivility in the populace who becomes more and more receptive to more of the same in public figures. And incivility tends to make us less concerned about the welfare of others, increases fear and suspicion of those who are different from us, increases radicalism in both politics and religion feeding into the goals of terrorism, exacerbates a self focus that increases greed that drives wealth inequality, and tends to solidify the obstructionism in our political process that needs to attend to other critical concerns like universal health care, global climate change and all the rest. It undermines the cooperation so essential to the success of a democracy.

  • Rich img 2016-01-25 09:57

    It has been mentioned that, often, that the big snow storm, was a weekend event. BUT, big snowstorms almost always begin on weekends.

    A quick list: the prior record holder for HBG began on friday, feb 1983.

    The Superstorm of 1993 hit hbg around 11:00 PM friday

    2003 began at daybreak Sunday- before presidents day

    1996 daybreak, Sunday

    1961 late sunday evening

    1966 saturday, late in the evening( only about 13" snow, but insane winds

    1994 MLK late sunday or very early monday

    1978 very early monday

    one of the two big 1964 storms sunday (of I think farm show week

    a couple of exceptions like 2010

    but I think enough storms to be statistically significant

    • Rich img 2016-01-25 10:18

      Obviously, "the Weather bureau" has records of snowfall events. Do the have hourly records of snowfall going back a century or more. If they do, it would be interesting to go back, look at all the big (which I define as over 10 inches of snowfall) and see if a statistically significant number begin (in Eastern Pennsylvania) during the 84 hours between midnight Friday and Noon Monday. As opposed to the 84 hours between noon Monday and Midnight Friday.

      And if my analysis bears out, why does this happen? Something related to power use during the work week?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 09:59

    Meredith in Lancaster emails:

    I think our government, both state-wide and national would work a lot better if the gerrymandered districts were fixed. I remember reading, what seven or ten years ago as these districts were being re-mapped for probable wins by the republicans in power. This happened here in PA, Texas, and other parts of the country. Remember when the Democratic minority in Texas house left the state to protest re-districting? This barrier to common sense governing and possible candidates will be looked at I believe in two or three years (every ten years?). Also make voting easier for all. Change the day of voting to a weekend or make it a national holiday, computerize maybe. This intractable log jam over minor issues would be thing of the past, maybe. Thanks!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 10:02

    Stephen in Hershey:

    I am extremely worried about the growing anti-intellectualism and anti-science views that are taking over politics, especially on the right.

    Perhaps those on the right will give up their modern medicine and all the technology they use, like their cell phones among other things.

    This country is where it is today because of the advances of science over the last 100 years. Anti-science is scaring me no end. I fear for the future of our country.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 10:06

    Bunny emails:

    The main problem, I believe, is that the system has really been rigged against us- the middle. Gerrymandering has made districts ridiculously rigged and at the mercy of the fringe and BIG MONEY. Decisions by the courts have also supported BIG MONEY over individuals. Media, primarily talk radio and television, have ginned up people's frustration, but have directed against the government and minorities instead of the cash rich lobbies. This current system no longer reflects the serious needs of people (infrastructure, education, medical, security etc.); I honesty do not see how a system where the top 1 percent gets the lion share of our resources can support the needs of the other 99 percent.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2016-01-25 10:06

    Phyllis in Dover emails:

    I am very concern in this unbelievably distressing campaign season that all of the candidates are ignoring the elephant in the room – the worlds environmental issues. If we do not aggressively address the issues of over use of fossil fuels, clean water, forest preservation and over use of chemicals in the environment we are destined to see the worst economic issues world wide that we have ever faced. Do none of the candidates really understand that or are they just putting their heads in the sand. Perhaps the bigger question is why is the public not demanding environmental action!

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 10:33

    Randal comments...
    The only candidate that seems to have any connection to reality is Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately I don't believe in stealing money from the rich either.
    Being a stage 4 cancer patient and having turned my incurable situation to a clean scan using Surgery, Chemo and Cannabis oil, he is the only one that has brought that to light and would most likely get my vote.
    I have gone to the Capitol a number of times and brought my scan and showed them and gone on TV.. the corruption and lies are just hard to believe. .
    That being said, I am still undecided. I like Trumps anti political stance, but he is way too offensive to be a leader and another rich white guy..
    So we shall see.. right now, leaning towards Sanders, but, not into a Socialist either

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 10:34

    Another listener comment...
    First concern is the polarization in government, federal, state, and local, so that there is no listening to differences. No willingness to seek common ground to solve problems. No acknowledgement that any difference may have any validity. My way or the highway seems to have taken over the mindset of people in politics. This is seen daily on TV and this attitudes influences all who are watching. This unwillingness to listen and learn from others who differ is the greatest danger to us and our country.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 11:22

    Another listener comment...
    1. Vitriolic rhetoric of television commentators like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh filtering throughout the rhetoric of the general public. Why has this discourse been allowed to become so polarizing? I love Witf and NPR because of their high level of civility and intellect.
    2. Regarding the presidential campaign, I am worried by Trump's disregard for the Federal Constitution. As a constitutional scholar, I count at least 4 freedoms he threatens:
    a. Freedom of speech - each time he throws a dissenter out of his events, he disregards this. His action has a chilling effect on freedom of speech.
    b. Freedom of the press, eg his attack on Fox panelists due

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 11:23

    Karen comments...
    2 things..number one the media spends all their time talking about the crap that candidates like Trump and Cruz are saying. Meanwhile we have parts of our country being polluted by our industries while legislators will fight against Obama's Clean Water...

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 11:24

    Pat comments...
    To be honest, what I am most anxious about is the lack of civility and dignity in our discourse, which has been emulated by the voters. The vitriolic speeches and candidates, the vitriolic compaign ads have managed to strip the voters of their own ability to have a respectful conversation. When I read the comments on Facebook following a political post, I am stunned at the terrible language and hateful remarks. I think voters start to believe that it's o.k. to talk like that because the candidates are doing it!!

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 11:25

    Steve comments...
    #1. FIXING THE ELECTION PROCESS- A) Unlimited campaign monies from undisclosed sources and PACs. B) Gerrymandering which yields a more polarized House of Representatives and Senate.

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-25 11:26

    Jo comments...
    I have 2 major concerns:
    1. The vitriolic rhetoric that is permitted on television and radio, with public broadcasting being the outstanding exception. I note its beginning in the Harrisburg area with the awful Bob Durgin morning radio show. Rush Limbaugh introduced it nationally, with several others, noting his ratings, picking up the same schtick. During the Clinton presidency and now again with the Obama presidency, I have heard hatred and contempt, due, I observe, to the fact the President is not Republican. I never voted for Clinton, but he was the president, and I spoke respectfully when I criticized him. These commentators are, obviously, appealing to and arousing our worst common denominator as citizens. This disturbs me greatly.
    2. Similarly, with vitriolic language and crass behavior Trump is trampling on our US Constitution. Most people are too illiterate when it comes to our Constitution to recognize this, so I hope the press starts to make a big issue out of this issue --
    a. Freedom of speech -- he throws dissenters out of his events, talks insultingly to them or uses other tactics to have a chilling effect on this right.
    b. Freedom of assembly -- same as "a"
    c. Freedom of the press -- insults panelists who ask him tough questions during debates; prohibits reporters from Des Moines Register from attending and reporting on his Iowa events because of anti-Trump editorial in the Register; disparages editor of major New Hampshire newspaper for anti-Trump editorial; all have a chilling effect on fair and unbiased reporting by the news media, whether the media immediately perceives this or not.
    d. Freedom of religion -- would prohibit travel into the US by people of a certain religion. Although these people are not protected by our Constitution until they are actually in-country, I am offended by this and see its possible extrapolation as being very dangerous.
    e. That such a person with such a clouded understanding of the US Constitution could seek the highest office in this nation, and that he has the support of so many people as he seeks that office, demand great scrutiny. Who have we become???

  • David img 2016-01-25 12:25


    Thank you for another lively show. Obviously from the responses, many of your listeners are engaged citizens.

    Echoing what one of your callers mentioned, I would not call my concerns "anxious." Rather, concerns about challenges we face.

    I agree with your caller Robin (or Robbin?) that a part of what is going on is that we have two distinct classes in America today. Robin labeled them: Ruling Class and Working Class, and I would tend to agree. Those with wealth and power, and in many cases more education, have learned the power of owning capital. Capital exponentially increases wealth. Whether it be physical capital like property or equipment, or whether it be human capital. If you own a company and have 100 people working for you, YOU determine the wage they get, and the price you charge for your product or service. YOU benefit from the human capital of your workers.

    That there is a growing divide between the Ruling Class (aka Oligarchy) and the Working Class is a problem, especially when the Ruling Class continue to make the rules favor the Ruling Class moreso than the workers, or all citizens equally.

    Scott, I believe you may have implied or stated directly, and some of your callers or responders have also said something like, "Well, what is the answer?" And some have sounded tones of, "There is not much we CAN do...."

    My personal view is that our history proves that we HAVE done something about this in the past, and it created a society and an economy where ALL benefited from the economic growth from the 1930s through the 1960s, real wages, adjusted for inflation, rose, and productivity and GDP flourished. Everyone benefited from the economic engine and the policies that were in place at the time. The wealthy were getting more wealthy, but the workers were able to make ends meet AND save a little, too!

    So, just because the Working Class has lost ground over the past several decades, and the Middle Class continues to shrink and shrink, does NOT mean that we have to accept this path as inevitable and allow ourselves to be subjugated by the wealthy, Ruling Class.

    We have an opportunity. But, we must re-engage everyone of voting age, to: 1) register to vote; 2) become familiar with the candidates (at federal, state and local levels); 3) vote; 4) hold elected officials accountable to THE PEOPLE.

    If the tens of millions of people who have become disenfranchised and disinterested from the process of being engaged and involved citizens could be inspired that their voice and their vote DOES matter, and our elected officials were TRULY "Representatives" OF the PEOPLE, rather than the wealthy Ruling Class and Elites, and the Corporate "people," and were AS responsive to a voter that donated $0 to any politcal campaigns as they were to donors of large amounts, THEN we may be able to move our country back in the right direction.

    A few immediate suggestions:

    1) Repeal the Citizens United ruling;
    2) Begin teaching AND testing for US History and Civics in our schools again;
    3) Pass a US Constitutional Amendment eliminating the Electoral College and go to ONLY a Popular Vote for President of the United States;
    4) ENOUGH with the Voter ID laws that make it harder to vote -- Instead, make it EASIER for people to vote. Evidence of voter fraud is virtually nonexistent.

    And just one final thought: An anagram for Proletariat = Real Patriot

  • Scott LaMar img 2016-01-26 10:30

    Gary comments...
    I am concerned that the National debt is so high and growing. I expect more fiscal responsibility at the National level.

  • Richard Carroll img 2016-01-27 17:42

    My primary concern is our nation's population size and growth. Our environment, natural resources, infrastructure, and general quality of life are straining from the continuing increase in the nation's population. U.S. population size and growth is a topic which should be discussed by the U.S. president, the Congress, current candidates for these offices, and the American people. A national population policy, especially regarding optimum size, should be formed.

    In the year 2000, U.S. population was 281 million. Presently, it is over 322 million and is growing by more than 2.5 million per year. Over 60 percent of this growth is from immigration and births to immigrants. If mass immigration is allowed to continue, the Census Bureau projects our U.S. population will grow to 417 million people by 2060 – reaching over half a billion by the end of this century. Simply put, there are too many people in the U.S.

    Typically, conversation about immigration reform and the frequent advocacy of reducing restrictions on the entry of more people into the U.S. ignores the impact of U.S. population growth on the carrying capacity of our nation's natural and built environment. The increasingly familiar negative impact of continued population growth in regions and cities across the nation includes traffic congestion, loss of open space by conversion of farm land into housing developments, and stress on water supplies and social services. Unrestrained continued growth of the U.S. population will further decrease the quality of life for present and future generations.

    Therefore, there is need for a decreased volume of immigration and for non-coercive incentives to limit family size. For example, end the federal income tax deduction for dependent children. Replace it with a tax credit to households with two or fewer children.

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