Taking a chomp out of the mess that is US politics, one issue at a time...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Jason Rae: A Role Model for All Young Politicians

I though it worthwhile to note that Jason Rae has made history as a 21-year-old superdelegate in the current democratic presidential primary. (LA Today) An interview with Kris Kitto is posted on The Hill and Rae seems like a level-headed, intelligent young man.

My pleasant surprise at his nomination seems to fly in the face of my previous post, An Undemocratic Democrat Candidate? In it, I strongly argue for the hypocrisy that the idea of superdelegates espouses. Basically, the idea that ultimately the party elite should control the democrat presidential nominee. And while I understand the argument that leaving such an influential decision in the hands of ignorant, uncaring voters is risky, I have to protest at such labels. True, many young voters (such as myself) have little knowledge of the different ideologies of each candidate, mainly a result of a lack of energy and time spent on the subject.

However, Jason Rae seems to be an exception. Here is a college student who has not only spent the time to become knowledgeable in politics and our government, but he has been elected to this "elite" position within the Democratic Party. And with his election comes hope for young voters, the future leaders of our nation. I only hope that he is the first of many to set a positive example for my contemporaries. We need more interest and activism in politics from college-age voters on both sides of the aisle. In this respect I find it fitting that Jason Rae has pledged his support to Obama, a man he describes as having "a drive and enthusiasm...that I don't see in very many people." (The Hill) Together, Jason Rae and Barack Obama symbolize the change that this country needs and I expect they will both be pivotal players in shaping the future of our national government.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm Sick of Paying $3+ For A Gallon of Gas!

Strictly speaking a recession is defined by economists as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP (or negative growth). So by definition, the United States has yet to enter a recession, technically it has yet to even enter the first quarter of a recession. However, the numbers tell a different story.

The average consumer is experiencing a substantial rise in commidity prices due to inflation. And this inflation has extended beyond luxury commidities to items like gas, food, and medicine. Coupled with stagnated pay (when 85,000 people have lost jobs in 2008 alone, it would be foolish to expect a salary raise), this inflation creates a significant problem for low to middle class consumers. The practical side of this can be seen in the dramatic decrease in spending for the average American. (CNN)

And interestinly enough, this idea of inflation spurring a lack of spending can cause a cyclical pattern, entrapping our economy in borderline recession. A rise in prices in the food and oil industries cripple spending not just in those economic realms, but in luxury goods as well. Because the average American is spending more money on gas, they are spending less money on games, large cars, and traveling. This in turn continues to cripple any possible economic growth as a result of increased consumer spending. Hence the advice that Americans continue to spend even while in a recession.

The housing market is another large part of our current virtual recession. Because the economy is doing so poorly and inflation is on the rise, less families are purchasing homes. This leads to a decrease in value for houses currently on the market because there is less of a demand. And the decrease in value leads to an increase in foreclosures. Basically, home owners go into debt like this; they originally take out a loan for lets say 75% of the total price of the house. However in the current housing market, that original value has dropped by 30%, making that original loan now more than the actual value of the house. So if a person in this situation was forced to sell their home, they would owe the bank money even after the sale.  As Frankly My Dear says, this whole idea of sub-prime loans is a "fall-out" from "the burst of the housing U.S. market" in 2006.  Unfortunately, the dramatic decrease in house values that this fall-out created as perpetuated the problem two years later.

So what does our declining economy have to do with politics? Everything. This "recession" is not affecting the upper class. While their monthly bills may be tallying up to a higher dollar amount, they continue to drive Hummers and large SUVs without having to worry about the affordability of gas prices. Taking this into account, how much sense does the Republican trickle down theory have in our current situation? Tax breaks for the wealthy may spur spending in the upper crust of society, but eight years of this has obviously not led to a trickle down of wealth to the lower classes. If anything, it has only served to widen the gap between the rich and poor and we obviously need to approach this national problem from a different angle. The economy should be a major battleground in the presidential campaigns of both parties and I look forward to hearing some solutions and changes that will aid the average man of achieving the "American Dream".

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack Obama Goes To Church, Have You Heard?

Heaven forbid Barack Obama goes to church.  A church with a black Reverend no less.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his black rights activist speeches have made headline news recently.  Because his sermons are something new?   Or untrue?  Or especially decisive?  No; Rev. Wright has been publicly scrutinized because he is the spiritual leader of presidential hopeful, Barack Obama.

And on to the age-old argument of Church vs. State.

The sermons most scrutinized of Wright’s are those publicly supporting Obama and denouncing Hillary Clinton and her easy life, “Hillary Clinton was not a black boy raised in a single parent home.” (CNN)  In addition Wright has been recorded criticizing America’s actions regarding terrorism and our country’s racist history.

But Jeremiah Wright is certainly not the first American to speak out against the hypocrisy that has ruled our nation for years.  And he is definitely not the first religious leader to push his political views on a congregation.  (Four years ago, my church handed out pamphlets reminding the community how “good Catholics” are supposed to vote.)

The issue is that Barack Obama has admitted his devotion and following of Wright’s church.  He even went so far as to credit one of Wright’s sermons for the title of his novel, The Audacity of Hope. (CNN) And as a presidential hopeful, Obama’s religious affiliations are everyone’s business.  No one claims to separate every action and decision from their values and we can only assume that Obama has shaped some of those values by the words of Jeremiah Wright. 

So what does this mean for the future of our country?  If elected, is Obama going to shape public and foreign policy around the notion of black supremacy?  Denounce the founders of our nation because they were rich white men?  I doubt it.  Despite some of the more controversial beliefs of his Reverend, Barack Obama is still the levelheaded, inspirational leader he has been since the beginning of this presidential campaign.  And in his defense, he has announced his disagreement with a number of Wright’s beliefs, including Wright’s political advocacy of Obama in his sermons.

All of this being said, it now resides in the hands of the voting public as to whether Obama’s “spiritual guide” remains a news headline and an influential factor in this primary campaign.  People have to decide if they believe that Obama can differentiate between the radical religion and rational beliefs. 

I, for one, don’t know anyone who agrees full-heartedly with his or her religious leader.  I go to a Catholic church that believes abortion is murder and the Republican Party part of the religious right.  On the other hand, I am very much pro-choice and a full-fledged, liberal democrat.  And as much as I enjoy attending church, I remember to take everything my priest, and the man who baptized me, says with a grain of salt.

It is undemocratic that Reverend Jeremiah Wright touts his support of Barack Obama at religious gatherings.  By doing so he crosses the line between religious leader and political advocate and for that, he deserves the scrutiny of the people.  But Obama is not at fault.  He has maintained the wall between Church and State throughout his campaign, mentioning religion only when it comes to his values and inspiration.  Not once has Obama used religion as a reason or as a means for pulling out of Iraq, for remodeling our nation’s health care, for revamping our education system.

The backlash that Obama has suffered because of Wright is unjustified.  And this recent attack appears to be more of a strategic political move against Obama than a valid critique of his character. 

I have no doubt that an investigation into the religious leaders of past and present politicians would reveal some startling and radical beliefs.  And know that every Catholic politician has listened to countless sermons classifying abortion as murder and the use of contraception as sinful.  However that does not mean that every Catholic yearns to see Roe v. Wade overturned.  And certainly the majority of American Catholics use some form of contraception in the current day and age.

And so, ultimately the State wins.  Religion, while important to one’s belief system, cannot govern a country so racially and culturally diverse as ours.  Any politician who attempts to use religion has such will commit political suicide.  And while Barack Obama is free to attend any kind of spiritual gathering he so desires, people can be comforted in the fact that he is not an idiot.  Obama will not run our country from a pulpit. 


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Perpetuating Terrorism By Waging George Bush's "War on Terrorism"

John McCain has only two hopes in this presidential race – capitalize on our fear of terrorism or pray that the fight for the democratic nomination becomes so nasty that the American people become disheartened with the Democratic Party in general.

Due to the fact that he has little influence in the latter, we will focus on the former. And in this vein, McCain has already started baiting his opponents on the all too familiar partisan debate centered on our presence in the Middle East. In response to criticism last Thursday, Barack Obama was quoted in a CNN article:

“John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq.”

The GOP has a fine line to walk between standing by our presence in Iraq and responding to the general disapproval of the Bush administration and everything it stands for. McCain has taken the line that American safety comes first and our continued presence in Iraq is necessary to assure this safety. Democrats on the other hand have numerous proposals of exit strategies, claiming that Bush’s “war on terrorism” has already gone on too long.

Obama goes so far as to say, “There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.”

But this war did not start with George W. Bush and his generation of party supporters. We can thank the beloved Reagan Administration and George Bush Sr. for planting the seeds to this drawn out battle. Weren’t they the ones who knowledgeably armed Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980’s? Before there was a threat to homeland security we supported the Taliban, despite the terrorist attacks they continued to make on their own people.

So we sent weapons. And money. And trucks. And chemicals. All of which were used to force a peace with Iran. Oh, and annihilate their own people, the Kurds in the North. We refused to sign international treaties condemning Iraq as a terrorist country. We supported Saddam Hussein and the tyrannical government he represented, until the terrorism turned on us.

No one will deny that George Bush was put in an impossible situation after September 11, 2001. He had to watch as the twin towers fell, as the people that he was appointed to protect were killed by the thousands. And after intelligence was released pointing the origin of the attacks to the Taliban, it was inevitable that we had to attack.

But the infidel presence we created in the Middle East created an entirely new type of terrorism. Seven years later, we are no closer to making this world a safer place. Suicide bombings and attacks continue to litter news headlines on an international scale.

As for Al Qaeda in Iraq? It is undoubtedly a sign of naivete to assume that they were nonexistent before our military presence in Iraq. And just as naive to think that our presence hasn’t heightened their hatred of America and everything we represent. Obama refers to George Bush and John McCain’s creation of the Al Qaeda we know today. The Al Qaeda that continues to terrorize the world and the minds of Americans just waiting for the next attack.

We went in with force, but forgot to look for an end. We started a war to stop terrorism and instead smashed a relationship that becomes more and more irreparable each day.
The solution to our current situation is obvious – slowly yet methodically remove American troops from Middle East in such a way as to create the least turmoil, salvage any type of representative government we can and then get the hell out.

But John McCain has other plans. He believes in our continued involvement in Iraq. He says it’s necessary for our security and economy. And he will use the fact that situations have improved as of late. He will claim that the daily news reports of American troops dying have stopped. He will play to our fears and show “evidence” that terrorism is still alive and rampant.

John McCain cannot protect us by continuing this war though. Obama was right; McCain has not gotten anywhere near Osama bin Laden by blindly following George Bush into Iraq. It’s time for the American people to take control of their own safety, to elect a leader who wants to withdraw this never-ending “war on terrorism”.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Obama: Apple's Newest Gadget?

A recent article in the New York Times compares Barack Obama to a Mac and Hillary Clinton to a PC. They reference both of their websites as examples, claiming:
"Mr. Obama's site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular."
This analogy can obviously be extended past their respective campaign sites. Clinton represents the older, more reliable PC. We all know what to expect if Hillary Clinton leads our country for the next four years. Democrats will be unyielding on policy decisions and unwilling to collaborate with the other side of the aisle. They will attempt to remodel the deteriorating health care and pull out of the Middle East. The fact that Clinton's election would symbolize leaps and bounds in women's rights is the only difference between Hillary Clinton and every other past Democratic president.

On the other hand Barack Obama will the be Mac of Democratic Presidents. Like Hillary, he will be steadfast on his policy positions, attempt to end Bush's "War on Terror", and focus on issues like health care, that have been largely ignored in the past eight years. However unlike Clinton, Obama's inspiring style and ideological politics hints at an eventual blurring of party lines, past politics and on to ideologies. This trend can be seen with the recent surge of "Obamacans", Republicans who support Obama over McCain. (Stephen Mack) And to really change our country and fix the major problems that have become inherent in our democracy, republicans and democrats will be forced to work together.

All of this being said, like a Mac, Barack Obama is new, innovative, and unfamiliar. People used to the comfort Clinton politics are scared of change and unconvinced of the benefits of a younger, more inspiring leader. I only hope that like the recent surge in approval and appreciation of Mac's innovation, Americans will hop on board the new Obama politics before the end of the democratic primary.