Tag Archives: campaign finance

The Youth Vote: What Will Youth Voters Do in November?

There was an article in the Denver Post this week called “Young Voices, New Votes.”

This is a guest commentary written by a young person who has been working as a canvasser registering voters for the presidential campaign.
The article includes a criticism of the efforts by some politicians to restrict voter registrations.

My husband’s family was visiting for the past several weeks from Argentina. We had a conversation about these new restrictions on voter registration and my husband’s mother asked the perfect question, in my opinion.

She said, “For a country that holds democracy as its ideal, why would anyone want to restrict who can vote?” She was not taking sides in the ideological debate and her question was innocently inquiring.

This does seem like the correct question to me. Regardless of your political persuasion, shouldn’t every citizen have the right to vote?

This article also brings up an interesting issue about the youth vote in the upcoming election. The turnout among young voters in the last election was practically the determining factor in the outcome of the election. I have been wondering what the youth vote will do in November.

This article ties these two issues together well, pointing out the impact of voter restrictions on youth.

What do you think? Do you see a relationship between the voter restriction laws proliferating around the country and the youth vote? Do you think the youth vote will turn out in November or stay home? What do you think about laws that make it harder for people to vote? Do you have any ideas to encourage more turn-out in elections?

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

53 Comments

Filed under Colorado, Culture, Policy, Politcs, Social Media, Stereotypes, Technology, Youth Leadership

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

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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!

11 Comments

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

Human-Created or Not, Why Not Try to Stop the Warming?

The New York Times op-ed by James Hansen, who is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies should give anyone pause about the future of our planet.

It never fails to amaze me when I hear people question whether human activity is impacting global warming. There is no question among scientists that the planet is warming – the scientific evidence is conclusive on this. And even if, for the sake of argument, human activity is not causing global warming, why would we not want to take action to slow the warming trend?

It seems that attention to this issue has lessened in recent years and I am not sure why. In the meantime, we have seen a devastating proliferation of hurricanes and tornadoes and heat waves and wildfires. I am no scientist, but I put a lot of faith in the knowledge and understanding of experts.

Given the persistent outcry from the scientific community about the perils of inaction, why don’t more policymakers stand up and take action on this issue? Is it because the corporations who are funding political campaigns are afraid that caring for the environment will negatively impact their bottom line?

It reminds me of the smoke-free movement in some ways. Bars, restaurants and casinos consistently proclaimed that they would have to close their doors if a state passed a smoke-free law. We all know that that is not what actually happened once laws were enacted.

The science was clear regarding the harms of tobacco, much like the science is clear about climate change. But the arguments for smoke-free laws were related to harming to people’s health; stopping climate change is just about protecting mother earth.

Perhaps environmentalists could link their arguments more to the impacts of climate change on people’s health. I know that some groups have made this connection, but it seems to get drowned out by the ongoing debate about the science and whether or not global warming is actually occurring.

Sometimes it seems that the environmental messages are too varied, maybe because the implications of inaction are so broad. If there was a way to focus the message on the impact climate change will have on people, the arguments might get more traction with the public.

I am just thinking out loud here and know that there are a lot of people with much more knowledge about the politics and science of this issue than me. I would love to hear your thoughts!

What do you think? And thank you for reading!

7 Comments

Filed under Environment, Health, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Uncategorized

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

Pineapples, The Limits of Privatization and Corporate Influence in Education

Gail Collins wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times earlier this week entitled “A Very Pricey Pineapple.”  This article highlights the increased influence of big business in the US education system since the No Child Left Behind Act passed Congress.

The article raises concerns about whether the companies who profit from education are more interested in improving kids’ educational attainment, or whether their main interest lies in improving their bottom line.

This story is directly related the post I wrote earlier this week about the new book by Professor Michael Sandel, entitled “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.” That book appears to argue that certain fundamental things should not be subject to market whims and to the eternal quest to increase corporate earnings.

Access to health care comes immediately to mind. I realize this is a highly contentious issue currently being debated in a wide variety of venues, from the corner coffee shop to the Supreme Court. Of course, the morality of the market determining what type of health care a person can access is not what the Supreme Court is debating; they are simply deciding whether people can be required to purchase health insurance and whether the federal government has the authority to enact the law. Even if these provisions of the law are upheld, the market will still dictate which insurance a person will purchase.

For all of the opposition in some camps about “Obamacare,” in many ways, the Affordable Care Act was one of the greatest corporate subsidies ever passed by Congress. This is a stark example of the tendency of policymakers in the United States to cater to the marketplace, regardless of the issue. Campaign financing plays a major role in this, as it does in most policy decisions. When the largest campaign donations consistently come from large corporations, policy decisions are inevitably impacted. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision will likely only make this worse.

Education is another area where corporate influence should be minimized. In a time when educators feel constrained by the need to “teach to a test,” it is disturbing to learn that the tests that have become so ubiquitous in our schools deliver a hefty corporate profit and may or may not be delivering actual value to the students and educators. The influence of the corporate lobbyists in crafting the No Child Left Behind law is striking as well.

What do you think? This raises the persistent question regarding the appropriate role of government in our society. Is there really anything wrong with a corporation making a profit on educational testing if the outcomes lead to better educated students? Are there safeguards that could be put in place to ensure that the interests of students are placed above the interests of corporate shareholders?  Are teachers finding that they must cater their classes to these tests? Do they find that this inhibits their ability to cater to an individual child’s needs? Are you concerned about the move to privatize government services and programs or do you believe that this will improve services and programs?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts. And thank you for reading!

5 Comments

Filed under Education, Policy, Privatization, Role of Government