Almost two weeks into the Trump Presidency, and already a lot has happened. Of the executive orders from just Trump’s first days in office, the “Muslim ban,” or as it is actually titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” seems to have been the most polarizing. Crowds of protesters have been seen in airports around the country as well as in front of the White House, national news networks are seemingly unable to cover any other topic, and multiple locally elected officials, predominantly in sanctuary cities around the country, have been vocal of their dissatisfaction with the new policy. Continue reading
I cannot think of a time where my interest in politics has ever been so lackluster or lethargic. The nature of this election cycle, with two major party candidates with views both equidistant from that of my own, only served to repel many, including myself, from the political machine. The few times that I did motivate myself to write, I did so with a harsh bent for the political right, and specifically for Donald Trump. I thought to myself; “There is no possible way that this man can win!”
If you watch television, I’m sure that you have seen the new H&R Block commercials. Many find them to be interesting, while some think that they are offensive. One of these commercials, however, takes a very aggressive stance on a political issue that many find alarming. Take a moment to watch the commercial.
Perhaps H&R Block is taking a facetious approach to military funding; “Oh, here it is!” Whether you are pro military, anti-military, or somewhere in between, chances are that you are fairly passionate about your stance. This is one of those “hot button issues.” But, perhaps we should take a moment to look beyond the typical mantra that surrounds this issue, and examine the specifics.
In 2013, the United States spent more money on defense than any other country in the world. As a matter of fact, the country outspent the next nine countries combined. Now, this could be considered a great thing. Many people take pride living in a country which is undeniably the most powerful country in the world. But, I would like to propose a question. Lets take a closer look at the top 10 countries.
Is it necessary to outspend the next largest defense budget more than 5 to 1? Could we outspend them 4:1, 3:1, or even merely double every Chinese dollar spent on defense, and still reasonably assume that we lived in the most powerful nation in the world? The difference that we are considering is a savings of a number in excess of $300 billion a year. If you are not convinced by this, consider that within these top 10 countries, only two could be reasonably considered foes. In an eight to two battle within the top 10, the United States and its allies outspend their foes 84.1% to 15.9%.
To be fair, the United States has, in fact, benefited greatly in some of its past wartime efforts. World War II generated enormous amounts of wealth. But, long gone are the times of great wartime spoils. It would be tough to determine any economic benefits that have come from any of America’s recent wars. It used to be that the victor of war could pillage and plunder, taking what was his. But, this practice has now been replaced with expensive rebuilding efforts to get the defeated nation back on its feet. Military training, costly infrastructure repair, and economic incentives, all of which add to an ever growing military budget.
If your social media is anything like mine, your feeds are filled with people complaining about “Black Friday” deals creeping into Thursday, Thanksgiving day. These people make a fairly strong point. On a holiday designed to give thanks for the things we already have, retail chains encourage us to lose our minds with consumer envy. This is quite a reversal of mindset.
No matter how you feel about the actions millions take on Black Friday, it is an important day for many retail chains and our overall economy. “Black Friday” is a very specific name for what it has come to mean. It is the Friday in which many of retail stores come “out the red,” or out of debt, and “into the black,” or into profits. While you may not be privy to someone profiting from you, this is exactly what drives our economy. We live in a consumer economy that depends on people buying and circulating their money. Almost everything in the economy is driven by buying and selling.
So, as you may or may not be making your trips into your local Wal-mart, Target, Best Buy, or whatever other store, take a moment to be thankful that you have the ability to do so. Be thankful you live in a country that gives you the freedom to do so, and that you have the extra capital to buy your new gadgets. Take a moment to be thankful for family and the people who have helped you throughout the year. Be thankful for your jobs and the food with which you have probably just gorged yourself.
But, go ahead and buy. Buy within your means, but buy nonetheless. The economy will thank you for it.
Most of all, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
It has a scary sounding name: “Nuclear Option.” Not only does it sound bad, but it has officially been detonated by senate democrats. But, what is the “nuclear option?” What does it do and what are its implications?
Traditionally, senate rules have, for almost all motions, required 60 votes to invoke “cloture.” Cloture is a fancy legislative term that simply means bringing an end to debate and moving on to the vote. Filibuster, in its simplest form is the delay or prevention of cloture. For much of Obama’s Presidency, democrats have complained, and perhaps rightfully so, that republicans have abused filibuster. The dissatisfaction with republican filibuster, as there has been plenty of cases to be dissatisfied, has led to the democrats detonation of the nuclear option.
So what is the nuclear option? It is simply a rules change. Instead of requiring 60 votes to invoke cloture, it will simply require majority. As the senate has 100 seats, the magic number is now 51 votes. This, in essence, gives the senate majority all power. Instead of forcing the majority to garner the support, through debate, of some of the minority, or opposing view, to invoke cloture, the senate majority can invoke cloture on their own.
There are many implications to this option. In the short-term, democratic nominees will have no competition from the republican minority. It will also effectively remove republican ideas and arguments from consideration, as their opinions will not need be heard in order to invoke cloture. These things are good, or bad depending on your political stance. Republicans will clearly be upset by the measure, while democrats, especially those fed up with republican filibuster, will be happy to clear the cogs of the political machine. Long-term, however, democrats will eventually face these same barriers, as it is highly unlikely that democrats will control the senate for the rest of American future.
Republicans have answered to the democrat driven nuclear option in a couple of different ways. The first of which was essentially an:
“Enjoy it now. You will regret it later.”
The second way in which republicans have answered the “nuclear option,” is the suggestion that democrats are simply trying to provide a distraction from the miserable roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
While there is no way to tell whether this is true, as it is merely speculative, the only thing we can be certain of is that republicans have, indeed, used filibuster quite frequently in the Obama era.
So what do you think? Is the “Nuclear Option” just a distraction from the ACA roll-out, or did republicans push senate democrats into a corner with their frequent and perhaps abusive use of filibuster?
Since the government shutdown, I have made multiple claims about the United States government and its tendency towards overwhelming ineptitude. In one of those claims, I made reference to the European Union’s ability to get things done, even though they have to do it in the face of unanimous consent. To pass a bill in the United States, you only need to garner the support of a simple majority to pass most bills. On rare occasion you might need to garner 2/3 and even more rarely 3/5. The European Union holds 28 member states, and if even one does not agree with a bill being debated, it isn’t passed. And yet, they are much more efficient than the United States.
This is an incredibly unique time in European history. The continent has never seen a period of peace like it has today. Upon thinking through history, it is clear that there hasn’t been a time of peace like today since even before the time of the Greeks. And yet, despite the history of conflict and disagreement, they can come together with different ideas and agendas, and still get things done in a timely manner. How is this possible?
The European Union is set up very differently than the United States. The United States values its “separation of powers.” These are the divisions between executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The European Union is almost the exact opposite. They bring all of the powers into one body, called parliament. In parliament, laws are created, enforced, and deemed “constitutional.” It is the inclusion of powers. This allows more unilateral, and more decisive actions by the governing body, as opposed to the United Sates governing body who seemingly can’t agree between any governing entity.
To be fair, however, the American system was designed to be inefficient. After the United States declared its independence from England, it feared government with such power, decisiveness, and effectiveness. They designed a system that, at least they thought, would give its people the advantage over their government. This is shown time and time again throughout the constitution. Despite its inherent flaws in governing, it worked. It was, in essence, a “Goldilocks” government- not efficient, not too inefficient, but just inefficient enough. Party politics however, as warned against by George Washington himself, has thrown off the equilibrium of efficiency needed in order to do anything we would call governing.
Ultimately, there are many differences between the United States and the European Union. The biggest of these though, is the general desire to get something done. In the face of unanimous consent, countries and representatives are willing to bend their agendas in order to work together. Each and every party is equally important, despite their population or even GDP, because they hold the power to say “no.” This power has lead to a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” system of governing that has proved to work very well. Instead of political representatives that make their living disagreeing and fighting every premise of the opposing view, they typically work together to find similarities they can capitalize on. These similarities act as a fulcrum on which they can balance opposing views.
With only two parties, Americans are forced to assimilate to one of two different ideologies, and one of these parties always has majority. This means that in every governing body, one half of the population is being represented better than the other half, and the half that is being represented better isn’t being represented as effectively as they could with more political parties. Abandoning the two party political system would presumably remove “majority” from any one political party, forcing different specialized parties, that represent a more specific group of people, to work together in order to pass any one specific bill.
The government is open again. After two weeks, the United States government actually figured out how to accomplish something. But, what does it all mean? Was anything actually accomplished? What did we learn?
Most of all, what happens next?
Many of you know, at least I would hope, that one of the building blocks of this blog is the stand against the traditional two party political system that the United States has clung on to, despite its horrific inability to govern such a diverse country effectively. This ineffectiveness was embodied in the government shutdown. As outlined in my previous post, the so called “Republican” party is simply too diverse to even agree with itself to come to the table to debate any stance. Party leaders call members of their own party “wacko birds,” while “Republicans”, which are really members of the Tea party and Libertarianism, call members of their own party soft, liberal, and satist.
The one thing that came out of this, more than anything else I have noticed, is that everyday Americans began to pay attention to and take a stance on government. It doesn’t matter which side of favor they fall on concerning the shutdown, whether pro or con, more than I can remember at any other point, people are taking a passionate stance. Some have taken the liberty to call it a “great awakening.” I hope this is true. I honestly hope that this was the fulcrum at which the scales will begin to turn. For far too long, the American population has been lax, at best, when paying attention to and holding accountable their government representatives. Most don’t even know who those people are.
I like to see people upset by our governments shortcomings. Because they are so upset by this one specific case, perhaps they will become aware of some of its others. There are many, I assure you. What I want to see the most though, is the influx of politically minded electorate that overwhelms the traditional two party political system. I believe that the republican party is on the verge of this. If the party becomes any more diverse, it will have no choice but to disband into two, or even three different parties. The political left isn’t too far from this either, with the Green Party, liberals, and even a democratically elected socialist in the U.S. Senate. (Bernie Sanders in case you were curious.)
My point is merely this. The United States is far too diverse to believe that two political parties could possibly represent 100% of the population effectively. It doesn’t matter which side of the isle you find yourself on, left or right, you will always have differing opinions, whether social, monetary, or foreign policies, than others in your party. If we can develop parties that more effectively cater to the specific views of those they supposedly represent, individuals will stand to be better represented in their government.