Category Archives: Campaign Finance

What is the Price of an Educated Child?

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What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

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Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Politicians Trying to Weaken the US Economy: Conspiracy Theory or Current Reality?

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Although I have written a lot about the polarization of the United States political system here, I tend to shy away from partisan politics on this blog. But there was an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper this week analyzing claims by some Democrats that Republicans are intentionally trying to sabotage an economic recovery in the United States in order to win the White House in November.

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think this article is worth reading, if only to better understand the debate and rhetoric. One of the sections of the article that I found compelling is below:

“When teachers are laid off, for example (and nearly 200,000 have lost their jobs), it means larger class sizes, other teachers being overworked and after-school classes being cancelled. So, ironically, a policy that is intended to save “our children and grandchildren” from “crushing debt” is leaving them worse-prepared for the actual economic and social challenges they will face in the future.”

It seems like a bit of an exaggeration, or at least a generalization, to say Republicans are intentionally trying to weaken the economy. But policies currently espoused by the Republican party, which include finding savings through deep cuts to social programs and refusing to discuss options for increased revenues, do seem to create further challenges for our country’s economy.

I am no economist, but I trust the large number of economists who have repeatedly said that, in an economic recession, the federal government must take leadership and increase its spending to help the country recover. As someone who has worked on public policy on the state level for many years, I have seen the spending restrictions on the state level, such as balanced budget amendments, which make doing this impossible on the state level.

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Again, I have a hard time believing that Republicans are intentionally trying to weaken the economic recovery. But it is more important now, than ever in my lifetime, for the two parties to work together to help the country move forward from the economic devastation that has led so many families to lose their homes and their livelihoods.

What do you think? If the two political parties cannot come together to find a way to solve the current financial crisis the United States, when will they ever be able to come together? What type of visionary leadership do you think is required to help get the US economy back on its feet? Do you see the answer to these problems coming from the corporate or the government sector? Or do you think it will need to be a partnership? Do you think that extreme factions of the political parties are making this situation worse? What can we, as voters, do to help bridge the gap between the parties? Are these problems as prevalent on the local and state level or do you think this is more of a federal problem?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.

26 Comments

Filed under Campaign Finance, Income inequality, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

A Bridge to Nowhere: How Can We Encourage More Bipartisanship in Congress?

The Washington Post published an article today that looks at how the polarization of our political system in the United States might be addressed. Anyone who has been paying any attention to politics in the last 10-15 years knows that we are living in a highly divided political time. It certainly feels to most people that something is very broken in our political system; and that is a shame.

I have shared here previously that I am wide-eyed idealist who believes that working within the political system can bring about social change. I believe in representative democracy and abhor citizen initiatives which, in my experience, usually turn into a battle over which side has the most money with which to buy ad space or TV time.

In my day job, I have been doing state level policy work for more than a decade. I live in a state, Colorado, which has term limits, frequent citizen initiatives which have absolutely tied the hands of the legislature when it comes to budgetary issues, and a balanced budget amendment.

I appreciate the attempt by the authors of the Article in the Washington Post to dispel the myth that making these types of changes at the federal level would fix the polarization of our political system. Many people think that these types of changes are quick fixes, but our experience in Colorado has shown otherwise.

In a nutshell, the article dispels the myth that these changes will reduce polarization in Congress:

  • A third party candidate
  • Term limits
  • A balanced budget amendment
  • Public financing of campaigns

The article lays out some common sense solutions that the authors feel could make a difference, including:

  • Realistic campaign finance reform
  • Changing redistricting rules
  • Filibuster reform
  • Requiring people to vote

While I don’t agree with all of the assertions in this article, especially the requirement that all people vote or risk being fined which I have seen fail miserably in countries like Argentina, this is a good start to a conversation that is desperately needed in this country.

The problem is that the dominant paradigm in our current political system does not promote these types of reforms or even encourage their consideration by Congress.

What do you think? Do you think that the general public could force Congress to consider these types of reforms if we demanded it loudly enough? What would that look like? Do you see ideas that you agree with or disagree with in terms of the ideas for reform presented in this article? What do you think is missing in this list? How do you think we could get more people to engage in the political process, given the uphill battle to reduce partisanship in Congress? What other thoughts would you like to share?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Campaign Finance, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Can You Spare a Dime – or a Million? Money in Political Campaigns

The New York Times wrote an editorial yesterday entitled “An Idea Worth Saving.” This editorial points out that this November’s Presidential election will be the first election in 36 years where both candidates for the Presidency will opt out of public financing for their campaigns. The more I think about some of the significant issues facing our country, the more I think that this is truly one of the defining issues of our times.

Regardless of political affiliation, the American public should demand public financing of political campaigns. Honestly, who isn’t exhausted by all of the negative campaign ads from both parties within a week after the Presidential campaigns begin?

The Citizens United Supreme Court Decision has only further complicated this issue. Now that corporations have been given carte blanche to influence political campaigns, it is easy to see why candidates are unwilling to abide by spending limits required as a condition of accepting public financing. It’s like a game of chicken, where neither candidate is willing to turn down big money, for fear that the other candidate will not do the same, which would put the publicly financed candidate at a disadvantage in terms of visibility with the electorate.

And how does all of this money in politics influence policy decisions? NPR did an excellent series on the role of money in politics earlier this year. There is no question about it – campaign donations grant access to policymakers. And it is not difficult to understand how access leads to the adoption of laws that benefit those same wealthy corporate donors.

Wouldn’t it be great if Congress took some initiative and provided leadership on this issue and began to wean itself from the corporate cash that dominates the system? This might even enable people who are not millionaires from considering a run for public office, which would certainly widen the pool of potential leaders.

And perhaps this would help minimize the polarizing rhetoric, where politicians jockey for media coverage. How much of this jockeying is about representing constituents and raising awareness of important issues facing the country and how much of this posturing is simply to garner more campaign cash?

Publicly financed campaigns, with a diverse pool of candidates from a broad range of political parties, could revitalize the political discourse in the United States. Now that would be change we could believe in!

What do you think?  Do you see a problem with the way campaigns are financed in the United States? Are you concerned about the role of money in politics? Does this inspire you to be more involved in politics? Or does it, instead, make you disengage with the process? Do you have any ideas for ways to improve this system?

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Thank you for reading!   

4 Comments

Filed under Campaign Finance, Income inequality, Policy, Role of Government