Saturday, May 7, 2011

Suffrage at 16

Today I've been doing a little bit of thinking about the complexities of the U.S. legal system and the challenges we face. I came up with a fairly imperfect solution to some of the challenges this country faces. I am not totally convinced this is a workable idea but I'm going to throw it out there.

The biggest problem the U.S. faces is the public's desire for government services and low taxes. Because of this other government functions are often crowded out, suffer from major budget cut back or worse continue to function and contribute to the debt. Everyone wants low taxes so there is a very specific constituency there so I'm going to focus on the demand for government services.

When looking at the federal budget it is fairly obvious that seniors benefit the most from government spending. There is social security and medicare are the two largest government programs and they almost exclusively benefit seniors. It is not surprising the seniors get these benefits as it is well-known that seniors are the most likely people to vote.

In contrast, services that younger people demand are mostly education. Unfortunately our political system does not have much demand for education funding or reform. In addition, to education funding I would also add investments in science, research, and long-term infrastructure spending as younger people are more likely so see the benefits of these years down the road. That is not to say seniors don't care about education, investments, and other long-term spending its just their demand and self-interest in those services aren't particularly high.

Now how do we get young people to vote and create more young voters? We could mandate that people under the age of 30 must vote. However, this seems like it would lack enforcement or political will to implement. Another idea would be to add more eligible voters and lower the voting age to 16.

This may sound radical but the fact is 16 is an age where we start to give young people legal responsibilities, mostly by giving them drivers licenses. Would 16 year olds make the best voters? Probably not. However, that is also the age when kids can start dropping out of school. We could give more high school aged kids a bigger say in how there schools are run since they are more directly impacted then older age groups. Voting seem to be a very basic civic duty so perhaps we should start preparing young people for adult life before they reach the status as full legal adults. Honestly, I rather have 16 voting than driving anyway as a 16 year holds several lives in their hands behind the wheel.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lord of the Flies

Speaker Boehner told President Obama to "Grow up" about the deficit. Unfortunately, he is not acting like an adult either. He called Obama's speech too partisan, but at the same time said he will not raise any taxes at all. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you need both spending cuts and tax increases to fix the budget there is no way around it.

I'm not just talking about any cuts either we MUST cut social security, medicare, medicaid, and the military. Yes, all three. Plus, you have to raise taxes. No way around it. Too bad the Democrats and Republicans represent both side of the Americans' schizophrenia know as our love for low taxes (Republicans) and our love for public services (Democrats).

In these negotiations, there are no adults in the room. Welcome to Lord of the Flies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Al Qaeda is Overblown and Playing the West

I've been slacking on the blogging recently in part because I'm a slacker and in part because I want to spend more of my time reading than expressing my opinion (I realized you just laugh right about now I did too).

Anyway, following the events in Libya I have to say one thing. Al Qaeda is overblown. The protest around the Arab world are not for a giant Islamic Caliphate they are for democracy. It might not be an ideal democracy in the western sense but it will be freer both in terms of politics and economics and less violent (democratic peace).

There are a lot of miss conceptions about al Qaeda. To clear it up al Qaeda is against the western supported monarchies and dictatorships in the Muslim world. They see these dictatorships as corrupt, neo-colonialist and secular. They want to overthrow these dictatorship and create a universal Islamic government.

So far, it looks easy to say al Qaeda has a had in the current protest yet this is not true. You can break down what is happening in throughout the Muslim world (Iran and Afghanistan are Muslim but not Arab) into three factions:

  1. Dictators/Monarchs: These are largely western supported and secular. They represent the status quo.

  2. Protestors: Pro-democracy and reform advocates also largely secular.

  3. Coalition/the West: Allied with most of the regimes facing protest (Iran and Syria are notable exceptions). Again they are secular and are caught in an awkward position between supporting stability and democracy. In the past they've chosen stability but now are leaning towards in democracy on a case-by-case basis.

Notice on thing all three of the participants have in common. They are all secular or largely neutral on religion. None of them want an Islamic Caliphate not the dictators, not the protesters, and not the coalition. All three major actors are enemies of al Qaeda.

Not to mention, contrary to popular belief, al Qaeda is not that powerful, organized, or popular. They do not have the political or economic ability to propell themselves into power. The only country were al Qaeda is possibly a threat is Yemen.

In the end, these protests are a rebuke of al Qaeda and terrorism in general. The whole idea of al Qaeda is you need religious violence in order to overthrown these dictatorships. Instead the protests found a third and more obvious way. Demand freedom through (largely) peaceful and secular protests. Al Qaeda does not the only thing going on in the Muslim world. By believing this we are giving al Qaeda more credit than it deserves. We are playing right into their hands.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Crazy Idea for D.C.

I was watching "Waiting for Superman" last night and it made me think about Washington D.C. Then I thought its unfair for D.C. to not have representation in Congress (mainly I was thinking of those license plates that say "Taxation without representation). So I thought about giving D.C. some representation but the problem is D.C. is not a state so it would not have representation in the senate still making the process unfair. Not to mention Republicans won't go for it because a D.C. congressional district would be an extra seat for the Democrats. There is also the idea that D.C. has its own place in government and shouldn't be represented.

So what to do?

I though how about eliminate all federal taxes in the District of Columbia. This could bring a lot of business to D.C. and eliminate "taxation without representation."

Obviously there are a few kinks to work out such as overcrowding D.C., reduction income not only from the federal government but states who would loose business to D.C., and that's just a few.

However, we could keep jobs in America but having our own tax-haven instead of letting companies incorporate overseas. Not to mention there is a lot of poverty, education problems, and crime in D.C. This will bring more investment into our nations capitol and make it a hub of international business.

This could also be used as a tactic by the Republics to get some compromise on D.C.'s representation.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New book of the week

This week's book is probably going to disappoint a few of you (if anyone actually reads this blog) since it is not very political, but it is so good I'm going to recommend it anyway. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is an excellent and short book about his experiences as a prisoner during The Holocaust. The great thing about this book is Viktor Frankl is a psychotherapist and a very well-known and good one. To sum it up, without giving too much away, Frankl says those who felt that they add meaning where more likely to survive The Holocaust than those that didn't. I will let him explain the rest.

Also, a blog I follow that you should read, especially if your in Denver, love architecture, or a history buff, Denver Urbanism. A great blog about architecture, city planning, and history. I used to be a historical tour guide for The Brown Palace and the capitol building so its a great read. This has a lot deal with politics so enjoy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Book of the Week Segment?

As you probably know I am a huge fan of Fareed Zarakia's show GPS. My favorite part of the show is there is a lot of critical thought and a lot less of an "infotainment" aspect to the show. My favorite segment is "Book of the Week" where Zarakia recommends a book to read based on upcoming events or interesting subjects. Personally a goal of mine is to read a lot more and watch less cable news and television in general. Plus, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

So in order to give myself some motivation, I will recommend a new book (hopefully) every week. This week's book is one I recently read called The Promise: President Obama, Year One by Jonathan Alter. This book gives a great inside view of the Obama White House. How it operates and its successes and flaws. Its a good read that will make you a little more informed about how things actually work and not how they are seen on television.

After reading this book I tend to blame Larry Summers and Ivy League group think for a lot of Obama's problems.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Honor of Christina Taylor Green

Today, a funeral was held for Christina Taylor Green. She was only nine years old when died in the Tucson shooting. I never met her, but the fact she seemed so smart and driven bothers me to no end. President Obama said something truly inspiring about her in his speech:

Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

I don't know what to say. I don't have President Obama's gift with words. She wanted to be a baseball player and loved politics. I love sports and politics since I was young so I guess I see myself in her. Though she would have been and was a far better person than I could ever be.