Union Public Policy Class

Solving the World's Problems One Bulldog at a Time

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Health Care Courts

Today in class, Luke discussed Tort and Medical malpractice reform and some different option that have been brought up to accomplish this change. One of these was the idea of “Healthcare Courts.” If i Understood correctly, these courts would act as a special court that specialized in these matters in order to have expert juries. This idea asserts that the average person does not know about medical procedures and terms and can easily be lost when trying to make an informed decision. However, I believe that if these courts were put into action that it would cause some problems on a few different levels. 

One of these would be that what good would a lawyer really be in these courts? If the jury already knows about issues in the cases and the problems do not have to be explained, then the lawyer just becomes someone who files papers. I also believe that if doctors are being judged by a jury of experts who know about this issue, they cannot be easily swayed making a lawyer almost obsolete when it comes to convincing the jury to find a favorable (or not favorable) verdict. 

Another issue that I see that is more philosophical one is that by producing a jury of experts, it eliminates the ability of other citizens to be on jury duty. While most people would not be complaining about decreasing their chance of being on a jury trial, I believe that it is one of our most basic civil duties that we have to offer as citizens. By the government limiting the citizens who can perform this duty just based on the fact that the government feels that they do not have the intelligence to do so could be seen as discriminatory. 

The Federal Reserve

My roommate asked me a question the other day about the Federal Reserve. He specifically asked about the purchasing of land by the Federal Reserve. Since then, I have been researching on the Federal Reserve System, and there are some very scary powers and practices of the Federal Reserve System. One being that the Federal Reserve buys government bonds by balancing the purchase with other purchases. This allows the Reserve to make purchases on what would be considered credit. It’s like the United States buying its own bonds by with other purchases. Also, the Federal Reserve’s power to print money allows it to manipulate the market of bond purchasing. Let’s say that the US government prints bonds that are in high demand, so the government gets a high price for them. Then the Federal Reserve buys those bonds from the original purchaser for a higher price. The Reserve can also ensure that the supply is kept in accordance with demand because it has almost unlimited buying power due to the purchasing practices as stated before and money printing. Also, many of the bonds are backed by land which means that the Federal Reserve also owns land in the United States. This is just one area that the Federal Reserve System can manipulate markets in order to further its own agenda. 

The Problem with Partisan Politics

In 2008 the electorate named candidate Barack Obama, President Barack Obama. Why did ‘we the people’ do this? Well the media pushed every story they disagreed with concerning Bush. Many left leaning directors (Michael Moore being the most memorable) featured their vitriolic critiques of the former administration. The critics gave them their ascent. Artists like the Dixie Chicks and the Black Eyed Peas allowed their opinions to outweigh their own artistry. Now both sides consider them jokes.

Churches stood too close with the Bush administration warranting them a verbal and political shellacking. The war lay heavily on people’s hearts, even the right. Many wanted to go back to the way it was before 9/11. Hoping that the change of scenery would end the age of terrorism. Into this mess a lowly senator from Illinois walked.

The left knew he was quite inexperienced, but they also needed a change of face. The Democrat party wanted to move beyond the caricature of creepy old guy Clinton. So they found an African American with a strong family. His opponent John McCain could not shake the image bestowed on him. He sunk in the polls and the economic downturn revealed his fated role as the fall guy. So “Hope and Change” moved in to the White House and the Democrat party ascended to the height of its power.

Now look where we are. Yes, the administration got Osama, a fact they will not let us forget. But they also encouraged the destabilizing of Libya by rebels, eventually leading to our ambassador being murdered by terrorists. The Middle East is now in shambles and Syria is longsuffering in civil war. Europe now feels the pressures of frightful economic failings, government overreach, and changing demographics. China is now on the economic upswing and they are push their political clout. The economy is still poor in states and the interest of our debt is crushing. What was the defining mark of the Obama administration? “The Affordable Care Act” Called by many Obamacare. You can almost hear John Cleese saying, “An now for something completely different.” The administration committed misstep after misstep.

When the BP oil spill occurred Obama put a moratorium on drilling. When the hopes of a new oil pipeline from Hardistry to Houston and Port Arthur rose to capital hill President Obama threw a wrench in the mix destroying the pipe dream. This turns Obama’s hopeful economic turn around into a crude joke. Throughout each president’s administration there comes moments when he must reconcile his own ideology with the needs of his people. These issues are presidential concerns and a debate about them is warranted. Every president has to deal with issues of borders and sovereignty, naval waters (unless they are land locked), and wartime policies. I may disagree with him on these positions but that is not the reason I critique him. I critique him on the policy that he made an issue: Obamacare. It was an issue of division and not a unified effort. The way he handled the issue only exacerbated polarization. The midterm elections proved the electorate was not pleased with his healthcare bill. Yet he resolved himself to loose his political life-blood and his super majority on the issue. To top it off healthcare is not viewed as a concern of the government in the Constitution. A president is not a glorified congressman. He is a leader. A leader must guide those under him, even those who disagree with him. He must work to win the respect of others not just his own party. Barack Obama fits better as a demagogue than a president. His record proves that. If President Obama wins this election it will be because of the division he brought not the unity.

Controversial Obama Ad

 

This advertisement sponsored by Obama for America was released today. After reading several positive and negative reactions about it, I decided to watch it for myself. It’s clear to see from conservative reactions on blogs, news sites, and social media that the target audience for this ad isn’t Republican conservative women. Comparing voting to losing your virginity isn’t exactly a comparison we learned in government class in Alabama public schools. However, looking at the ad objectively, it is a great idea. It draws people in because personally, I thought “wow, are they really talking about losing your virginity in a tv commercial?” It hooks you and makes you want to stay to the end.
This ad is possibly a response to the jump Romney has received from female voters over the last few weeks (even accounting for the ‘binders full of women’ comment). Romney had women convinced he was a true choice for a while, and then that comment made them confused as to whether he was actually on their side or not. In this ad, the Obama campaign went after secular young women who are voting for the first time, asking them if Romney was really the guy they wanted to use their “first time” for. It’s an interesting angle, that’ s for sure. Just wanted to share and see what you all thought!

Thoughts fresh out of the debate

This was my favorite of the three debates.  Both candidates offered clear cases and seemed reasonable.  This debate left me comfortable that either man could lead the United States without bringing the nation to the brink of disaster.  There were five things that stood out to me more specifically, however.

1. While I understand that both debaters were snarky and rude at different times, it bothered me to see my President insulted and bullied verbally.  Romney needs to learn his place.  I understand that there is a need to look assertive and Presidential, but I felt insulted when the President of the United States was soundly shut up by Mitt Romney.  It is more important that the dignity and decorum of the Presidency be respected than that we have good debates.  You simply do not shout down the President.  
2. The arrogance of the President was rather apparent in this debate.  There was one line that stood out to me in particular.  When the transcripts come out I may learn that I took it the wrong way, but when discussing US positions, he said that “the United States (me)” did the following.  I understand that he is simply owning his positions, but it was representative of his entire performance in the debate.  Romney would likely treat the Presidency the same way, but the President is not the nation.  
3. I was very comforted that the candidates had so much difficulty distinguishing themselves from each other.  Whenever Romney was asked what he would do differently than the President, more often than not his answer was something to the tune of “Well, I think the President made the right call, but not soon enough.”  The foreign policy of these men will not be radically different, nor should it be.  This guarantee of consistency is comforting.  
4. At the risk of contradicting my last point, there is one area where I wish there had been a disagreement.  I would have liked one of the men running for President to bring the issue of civilian casualties in drone strikes to the table.  Drone warfare is destructive and lots of people die who probably shouldn’t have.  A candidate who suggested reexamining strike tactics and priority to minimize collateral damage would encourage me.  Sadly, neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney seem to be willing to do that.
5.  Mitt Romney closed this debate with an incredible final speech (that probably left the President wishing for a chance to respond), but its refrain that “the United States is the hope of the world” is something that should bother Christians.  The United States is thankfully not the hope of the world.  The United States is a government that has been able to integrate many good ideas into governmental forms and produce innovations in good society.  The United States is the most powerful nation in history through the application of technology and the luck of historical circumstances.  The United States is certainly a great nation, but the United States is not, and never will be, the hope of the nations.  The hope of the nations is Jesus Christ, and the United States will never fulfill that role, nor will it always necessarily be on the the right side of the conflict.  Christ alone is our hope.  If the United States is the hope of the world, then we are all doomed.  

Do The Facts Matter?

In light of the debates going on I thought it would be interesting to see how much the facts really matter. While watching T.V. I came across an analysis of the fact checking process done after the debates. This program led me to the article How to Beat the Fact-Checkers. I think we can all agree with this article on the notion that sometimes having a good line is more important to a politician than the truth. This made me wonder if I really knew how much fabrication went into these debates if it would really change my vote. I think people are either in one of two categories. Category one: they get so hung up in the facts and every little detail that nothing the other party says will ever be true. For example, this article pointed out the frustrations that the fact-checkers face, and one fact-checker states that “If we say the sky is blue, we would get a ‘half-true’ because we didn’t give the full explanation that the sky is blue because of chemical reactions that occurred in the atmosphere a million years ago”. This group appears to be on a witch hunt against the other party, trying to find fault rather than clarification. On the other hand, the people in category two don’t know or care to about the facts. I would consider these to be more apathetic citizens, that don’t believe either party will really make that big of a difference in the oval office. However, I think both category one and two have preconceived notions about the other party and never will be convinced that the other side is right. So what is the problem with this? Since these debates have been more about who is better about making the other side look stupid, then maybe that means we really don’t care about the facts at all. Maybe the political debates are more like reality T.V. shows, where a lot of yelling and arguing happens. Well, at least we were all entertained.

Making Idols Out of Ideology

Sometimes the pieces the Cardinal and Cream runs in the Perspectives section (our version of an op-ed section) are …. well, to put it nicely, irrelevant, pointless and boring. But because I have to read and critique each story in the C&C, I am forced to go through the usually agonizing task of reading someone’s lame and boring opinion piece. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Katherine Burgess’s article in this last issue, which can be found here. Don’t let the headline fool you! The piece is about how, especially in the South and especially at Union, the idea of conservatism goes hand in hand with being a “good” Christian. 

Let’s be honest here – at Union, identifying with the Democratic party usually comes with a good amount of ridicule from both students AND professors. The C&C asked a professor to write a pro-Obama article that would run alongside a pro-Romney article, and the professor declined because he didn’t want to be labeled as a liberal, because he felt it would hurt his professional credibility within the Union community. Now, I understand that Union is, by definition, a conservative institution. But the term “conservative,”I think, should define only the religious position of the school, and not the political beliefs of individuals affiliated with the school.

In her article, Burgess talks about how binding conservatism with Christianity can be dangerous because we can make an idol out of our ideology. She says, “[Many Unionites] act as if those who are not members of their political party are either not followers of Christ or are, at least, lesser followers of Christ. They risk harm to Christian ministry, blind themselves to the truth that all parties and all people have failings, and perpetuate the falsehood that God has sided with a particular political party.” This is completely 100% true here at Union. When we elevate a particular candidate or party over the other because their ideology matches up with what is seemingly God’s… that’s not a good thing. 

This CNN article adds an additional side to this discussion. President Obama is one of the most outspoken presidents in history about his faith, but that’s not enough for some people. Obama’s faith isn’t that of the religious right. He speaks about the progressive Social Gospel, which focuses on biblical teachings to care for the poor, the widows, and those that can’t help themselves. This is the liberal Christianity that conservatives are fighting against today. Conservatives deny the fact that Obama is a legitimate Christian. They say we should care for the poor yes, but not to do it along the lines of communistic redistribution. Maybe Obama’s progressive liberal Christianity is wrong. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s just a different interpretation of the same commands. Could it be instead that the religious right, the conservatives, and essentially, the Unionites, disagree with Obama’s faith in practice because of the political party he’s affiliated with? If so, that’s a prime example of putting our political ideologies above our basic call to serve others. This topic really has made me think a lot about this issue since Burgess’s C&C op-ed was published, and I wanted to bring it to your all’s attention to see what you thought about tit. What do you think? Are we blinded by our party identification? Are we making idols out of our ideology? 

Federal Pressure Has Negative Affect on State Education

Our public education system has some problems.  I don’t think that’s a contented statement.  While we can all look at the situation and agree there’s a problem, but there is anything but a consensus on what solutions will fix the problem.

Recently, the Florida Department of Education set new goals for a certain percentage children to reach a grade-level skill in differing areas.  Here’s a quick write-up of the situation.

The issue with this plan is that is makes people uncomfortable because it lumps children into groups based on race or socio-economic background.  While the numbers pan out to make this setup logical, the idea that the school system will have different standards for students doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.

This gets down to a bunch of questions politicians should ask when contemplating public policy.  What is the purpose of the education system?  What does our society demand as a “bare-minimum” product of the educational system in terms of student skills?  What level of government should have the ultimate power in setting school policy?

My personal take on education is that it is naive to think the federal or even state government could have the necessary resources to create school policy that is effective.  I also have reservations that this is effective at the local level.  I also have issues with the government mandating that every citizen must pay into the school system, even though they may not participate in the system – and schools still struggle to stay within budget!

Still, there are a lot of arguments out there in favor of public education that are reasonable.  Think of this as a softball for you all to comment and fulfill some requirements: what structure do you think is a successful method of education for our children?

Global Food Crisis?

This is a topic that has come up a couple of times in class.  I stumbled across a video of a man who researched how much food countries waste throughout the market process.  Give this a quick view before going on to my post…I’ll wait…

This is a serious problem, as the video points out.  The question then is what should be done about this?  Should the government interfere?  Should people make a shift in their habits to promote responsible food usage?  Should we care so long as our country is doing fine?

I don’t know that there is one solution, so feel free to comment with your own thoughts.  But I do want to at least give a couple of my thoughts.

Should the government interfere?

Well, they already are.  In the U.S. our government subsidizes farmers on even the most basic food levels (corn, soy, wheat).  Furthermore, as the video points out (he was referencing English law, but America has comparable laws) that livestock farmers have to give their animals FDA/USDA approved feed.  My grandfather and his children are farmers.  They used to grow corn and soy beans as well as raised chickens, pigs, and cows.  They grew their own feed as well as sold the extra to granaries and sold their livestock when the time came to it.  Eventually they had to give this up because of government regulation.

Even today a simpler system could be established.  Due to production methods, farmers have become less diverse in what they raise, but why not have the corn farmer sell some of his product to the pig farmer next door?  It’s not as though the farmers live in different areas.  Today, a corn farmer sells his corn to an elevator and they sell the corn to many different buyers, including feed manufacturers.  Then the feed manufacturers make their feed and sell it to distributors who sell it to the pig farmer.  Ironically corn grown in Iowa is consumed by pigs in Ohio – and you wonder why ground beef costs nearly $3/lb.

I’m not saying the “neighborly trade” system would exhaustively cure the problem, but I certainly think it would help.  Governmental intrusion has a lot of unintended consequences.  Perhaps legislation to counter the food waste problem would be to fine companies that throw away edible food.  That could result in bad food getting sold (because a store was scared to throw it away and face a fine) and people getting sick.  Thank goodness the government will pay for our health bill, though! -_-

If I’m not starving, why should I care?

I kind of see where this argument comes from.  After all, is it a pressing concern for us that there are tons of food wasted each minute?  Nope.  The reality is we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from.  I know, it’s a cliche that is way too used, but it’s a valid point.  However I’m going to remind us all of things we all know that will hopefully make you at least consider making a personal change.

As Christians, we’ve been called to be stewards of this earth.  That means we are to make proper use of the planet and of the things God has created.  This is a duty and a responsibility, not just an honor.  That implies we actually have to do some work in this area.  A large percentage of this food waste is beyond your personal control so the temptation to say “I don’t control government regulation or supermarket policy” is pretty strong.  But you are a consumer.  You get to voice your opinion with your spending habits.

How many of us have thrown away fruit or vegetables that have gone bad?  How often do we throw away extra food after a dinner?  You then go to the store to buy more food, a portion of which you will throw away.

When you do this, you signal to the market “I will buy x amount of foods.”  You also tell the store what type of food you will buy (apples that are perfect in shape and color, for example).  Store react to that.  They set out enough food to satiate your buying pattern.  They will tell producers they demand an unnecessarily high standard for the food coming into the store.  They will also pack their shelves full because research has shown people will buy more when there is more in front of them.

Don’t forget that you do have a voice to these corporations and to the government.  Yes, you are only one person which is a drop in the bucket, but your actions can influence many more people – I’ve just reached at least eight with this post.

At the end of the day, I think this is a change that needs to happen at the grassroots level.  It’s a matter of our community, of our society.  What do we want to see done in our neighborhoods that promote responsible living?  A government can’t effectively force you to do this.  But if a sentiment spreads across a community of stewardship and appreciating the bounty of this earth, there is a chance for real change to happen.

Criminal Justice

Ok so here is the link to my youtube video of my presentation as well as the link to my powerpoint so you can follow along with me while I talk through it. Trust me you will want to follow. The video quality is bad and the audio does not match my mouth moving for some reason but it should be clear enough to get the point across. I am praying for some leniency from Dr. Baker as far as time goes because I was unable to see my time on the video and my computer at the same time because I needed my computer to follow along with the slideshow and because I have literally fought with youtube for hours and hours. I have a feeling that this is going to turn out a bit like trying to pull a bandaid off slowly because all of your comments will trickle in instead of just hitting me all at once, but none the less here are the links. Let me know if you have any issues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wHaxbsa5Oc&feature=youtu.be

http://www.scribd.com/doc/109439830/Criminal-Punishment

 

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