In a nutshell: A sitting president secretly tried to get a foreign government — a vulnerable and desperate country — to publicly announce an investigation into his chief political rival (“Testimony raises stakes,” front page, Nov. 14). In essence, President Donald Trump was using the awesome powers that our Constitution gives presidents not to benefit the nation, but to benefit himself personally.

Our founding fathers built a government on the idea that somebody must be entrusted with power, but nobody can be trusted with power. Therefore, the reason for the establishment of separation of powers is so an individual handed such power cannot or will not abuse it without a system of checks and balances to prevent damage — such as what has been alleged here — from occurring.

As we read, listen and watch the impeachment inquiries, we believe it is time to let go of the beautiful Latin “quid pro quo” and in plain English call it what it is: extortion and bribery by the sitting U.S. president. The Constitution clearly states these actions are on par with high crimes and misdemeanors, and are impeachable.

On with the public hearings.

Truth and facts do matter.

Grandstanding and obvious misdirection are just that.

We the public will decide who will be looking the fools.

In the end, hollow, self-serving men like Trump will not win.

If he had his way, no one would care about anyone or anything besides him and his appalling goal of not America first, but Trump first. It’s on full display, and that is just not our America.

Tom and Claudia O’Neill, Burnsville

• • •

The Star Tribune is once again beating the drums of impeachment by reprinting on Thursday a New York Times article with the headline,“Testimony raises stakes,” desperately seeking to turn public opinion against our president. After recounting testimony which Judge Judy would undoubtedly call “hearsay,” the subheading reads, “Revelation about call further implicates Trump in Ukraine push.”

Thank goodness for a fair and balanced alternative. I was able to watch the “hearings” without biased commentary and subsequently understand the nature of this circus.

For me, the seminal moment was when U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, demanded of the two witnesses, “Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call [between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky]?” It was followed by a deafening silence. Then, despite Zelensky’s denial of feeling pressure, the subsequent payment of defense funds to Ukraine and lack of concrete evidence, came the lame reply. “I’m not here to do anything having to do with — to decide about impeachment,” said Ambassador William Taylor. “That is not what either of us are here to do. This is your job.”

Oh, really? Were you there to parrot a rehearsed agenda from frustrated power brokers who are still smarting from the 2016 spanking? Are those swamp-dwellers retreating and lamenting their imminent demise? We can only hope so.

Donald Pitsch, Eden Prairie

• • •

The opening remarks for the impeachment hearing clearly show that Trump has not only abused his powers but also the security of the United States. This hearing is not political in nature, but is in the defense of our republic and Constitution.

Trump must be removed from office before we lose our republic. This is the second time in U.S. history that we are so close to losing it. Benjamin Franklin himself reminded us that we have to work to defend it.

Republican congressional representatives and senators are abdicating their sworn oath to defend the Constitution. They are defending the president’s illegal activity and abuse of power rather than what they were sworn to defend.

I cannot imagine what kind of country we would have if all future presidents acted like Trump. Trump admires dictators — the more ruthless, the more he holds them in esteem. In addition, he wishes to be one and has stated this in many of his rallies, which people cheered on. Those cheering followers would rather support a dictator than this country’s proud history and goal to make a more perfect union, envisioned by the founding fathers.

Open your eyes or lose this republic. Call, text, write to your federal representative to tell them to defend the Constitution and the republic instead of Trump.

During Wednesday’s hearings, I was awed by the two witnesses to military service, service to country, defense of country and dedication to advancing freedom on our planet. These people continue to advance the belief and sacrifice that the greatest generation made.

Please listen to what they said and learn about their service to our country and what true personal sacrifice they have made for us and the world.

Sincerely, one citizen very worried for the republic.

Ronald Hegner, Independence, Minn.

• • •

If nothing else comes of the public House impeachment hearings, the hours of testimony and question-answering given by the longtime career diplomat Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor and State Department official George Kent, each having worked under both Democratic and Republican presidents, provided exposure and insight to the many representatives we have in foreign countries. They should instill in all U.S. citizens a new appreciation and trust in the dedicated men and women representing us in our embassies in foreign countries around the world.

Tedd Johnson, Minneapolis

SOCIAL SECURITY

Another way to fund its future

Thanks to the Star Tribune for publishing Tyler Cowen’s commentary, “Social Security is not going to disappear” (Opinion Exchange, Nov. 14).

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to convince people that the Social Security Trust Fund is going broke. This myth has convinced many that Social Security is doomed. It is not, and thanks to Cowen and groups like Social Security Works, we know that.

That said, Cowen misses (or avoids) the simplest way to ensure the health of the trust fund in perpetuity — and that is to raise the cap on annual earnings subject to the payroll tax. For 2019, that cap is $132,900. Annual income that you make beyond that amount in 2019 is exempt from the payroll tax.

High-income earners should be paying payroll taxes on more of their income than they do now.

When the current payroll tax system was put in place in the Reagan years, it was based on the fact that for decades prior to that time, workers’ income had followed productivity increases. Since the late ’70s, however, workers’ income has gone flat while productivity has continued to soar.

Income gains that historically had gone to workers (and thus would have enhanced payroll tax revenue) stopped going to workers and have landed mostly on the upper-income elite whose income is above the payroll tax cap. Raising the cap would capture that payroll tax revenue that has been lost due to the flattening of middle-class wages.

Terry Cannon, Castle Rock, Colo.

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