Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Aftermath of Citizens United

Chances are you have seen a campaign ad during this Republican primary season. If you have not, there is no doubting that you have turned on the news and heard much about the amount of money flowing into the campaign, much of it going to fuel the negative attack ads; but this is the world we now live in due to the 2010 Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. This decision set the precedent that corporations can be classified as people, and therefore are subject to the rights granted in the First Amendment of free speech. This ruling made many implications, and is certainly a head scratcher. As political comedian Stephen Colbert points out with reference to Mitt Romney’s time at Bain capital, if corporations are people, they can technically be murdered, making Romney a serial killer. However, the most serious implication allows corporations and unions to make unlimited campaign donations from their general treasury, just as citizens can do. However, under campaign finance rule the maximum donation any one entity can give is a mere $2,500. The way around this technicality is known as the super-PAC (political action committee). Under the super-PAC limitless amounts of money can be spent in the name of a candidate, as long as the candidate has no affiliation with the PAC. This of course is humorous to many of us who study politics; imagining a political action committee that has no correspondence or cooperation with the candidate is almost like imagining a president running for re-election sending bills to the Congress without a re-election agenda. Colbert, mocking this system in an attempt to illustrate how ridiculous this is, re-named his super PAC the “Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC” after announcing he had set up an exploratory committee to look into the possibility of a Presidential Bid, and handing over his super PAC to fellow political comedian Jon Stewart. Amusing as this is, it provides a useful ploy to candidate: millions of dollars can be spent on negative attack ads while the candidate technically keeps their hands clean. The end result of all this is elections being hijacked by money. In the 2010 election season–the first following Citizens United–campaign spending is up as much as 400% from the previous intermediate elections in 2006. Read the rest of this entry

The Reality of the Battle over Contraception

This week the news has been hijacked by the debate over President Obama mandating religious institutions to provide contraception coverage in their healthcare plans. The debate has become increasingly irritating because there are so many more noteworthy things of report this week. The economy is continuing to grow, the United States and Afghanistan have reportedly began talks with the Taliban which could end the war, a new online privacy bill was introduced in the senate, Iran apparently sent war ships to Syria to help their military, and the list can go on. However on top of all of this, the only news we have heard all week is the back and forth battle over mandating contraception coverage. The discussion should have ended last week when President Obama compromised on his politically sensitive mandate, but the intensity has only ramped up. The compromise would have allowed religiously affiliated institutions to be exempt from paying for the contraception, shifting the burden to the insurance companies, where the Obamacare law mandates insurance companies provide contraception anyway; after the debate continued all week long, and polls which showed President Obama was in the politically popular side of the argument, the President has apparently decided there will be no compromise. Religious institutions will not have a choice, and they will provide contraception to women despite their religious objections. Even a comment made as a joke by an aid to Rick Santorum about women practicing abstinence has become a political firestorm. Read the rest of this entry

Rejuvenating the Economy by Refinancing Mortgages

Politicians and economic experts know that perhaps the most necessary part of fixing our economy is stabilizing the housing market. Home ownership creates jobs, and with millions sliding into foreclosure, the pattern also follows that losing homes will result in losing jobs. Currently the United States home owners are nearly a collective 3/4 of a trillion dollars underwater. This means that American mortgages now cost home owners of total of $700 billion more than homes are worth; for many, owing more on your home than what you could sell it for is reason enough to default and let their home slide into foreclosure. For others, losing a job in the recession meant losing a home. Still others bought a home they could not afford, and when the market collapsed they found themselves unable to pay their loan on a home that is now only worth half of what it was bought for. Something has to be done to stabilize the market, and resurrect the economy: President Obama believes he has that answer. Earlier today President Obama, in conjunction with 49 state attorneys general (Oklahoma did not sign on) and the justice department announced a settlement of $26 billion with five of the biggest banking lenders in the nation. Read the rest of this entry

Reforming American Public Education

In the middle of all the political tantrums and petulant partisan battles in Washington, one issue has been mutually agreed upon by all sides; improving our education system. President Obama, in last year’s State of the Union address illustrated perfectly the need for a better education system:

“Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education.  And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school.  The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations.  America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree.  And so the question is whether all of us –- as citizens, and as parents –- are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed…When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance.  But too many schools don’t meet this test.” Read the rest of this entry
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