History Repeated: The 2012 Election


            The 2012 Presidential Election took place over a year ago; yet, we can still feel the effects of that Tuesday in November. President Barack Obama won re-election, the Senate gained a couple more Democrats, and the House continued to remain strongly Republican. Therefore, nothing really changed. As we look deeper into the election, however, the details display a great deal of change. The demographics of this immigrant nation continue to shift, ballot initiatives across the States show evolving views on social issues, and the reaction to a changing nation will affect the future. In order to explain the complexities of the 2012 election, we need to first break down the election results.

            In recent years, polling data has become very important and popular in elections. President Obama won a close election, despite winning re-election with 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206. President Obama only won 51% of the popular vote, (around 62 million votes), to Mitt Romney’s 48% (around 59 million).[1] Breaking down the data reveals the reasons why the election turned out the way it did. The gender analysis of the election shows that President Obama won nearly 55% of the female vote, while only proved successful to about 45% of the male vote. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, managed the reverse, with about 52% of the male vote and around 44% of the female vote. Among age groups, President Obama proved best with the younger population, receiving nearly 60% of the vote of people aged eighteen to twenty-nine. In comparison, Governor Romney did best with the older population, receiving nearly 56% of the vote of people over sixty-five. Reading the data by race and ethnicity also explains the outcome of the election. The only group that largely voted for Mitt Romney were whites, with nearly 59% of the vote. Every other ethnic group mainly voted for President Obama, with him winning 70% of the Hispanic vote, 73% of the Asian vote, and nearly 93% of the African-American vote. Voting behavior broke down very heavily on party lines; 92% of Democrats voted to re-elect the President, while 93% of Republicans voted for Mitt Romney. The former Governor actually did better with Independents, winning the battle with 50% to 45%.[2] It is simple to show the data, but much harder to analyze it to explain why the election turned out the way it did.

            America is in a transition in its history; a new wave of immigration and a changing culture in the youth has started to seriously influence elections. In the 2012 election, one in ten voters were Hispanic, the youth vote increased, and the African-American turnout rate may have exceeded that of whites for the first time.[3] The policies of the two major parties will have to reflect these changes. The party that is most successful in reacting to the demographic changes will win more elections in the years to come, unless people actually start voting for a third-party. Policies regarding immigration reform, the decision of the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, and social issues, such as same-sex marriage, will affect the outcome of many elections in the future. Policies are important, not the way a politician happens to frame a certain policy when they make a speech. Republicans are going to have to learn this, since they continue to resist immigration reform, enact policies that prevent certain groups to vote, and resist cultural changes in American society. Poll numbers and demographics are not the only things that displayed this fact; the ballot initiatives on Election Day 2012 showed the direction people want this country to go.

            States had a host of ballot initiatives around the country for people to vote for in November 2012. Some of these show where the people would like the country to move forward, while others show how people would like the country to move backwards. The results of these ballot initiatives depended greatly on the state and whom that state tends to vote for. In the Republican leaning states, such as Alabama, Montana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, the people had Republican designed ballot initiatives to vote on. Alabama, Montana, and Missouri voted to reject President Obama’s health care law; Montana also voted to deny state services to undocumented immigrants; Oklahoma voted to ban Affirmative Action; Arkansas voted not to allow the use of medical marijuana; Montana also voted to mandate that parents have to know if their daughter has an abortion if she is under the age of sixteen.[4] For a party with a platform of little government, those state governments sure intervened in people’s lives. While those ballot initiatives were against issues, other states sought to expand equality and liberty.

California had a very interesting ballot initiative, which put to the voters to raise the sales tax a quarter of one cent and to raise the income tax on those making more than 250,000 dollars in order to pay for education; it passed. The states of Maine, Maryland, and Washington voted to legalize same-sex marriage, while Minnesota voted not to ban same-sex marriage. Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, while Massachusetts voted to legalize medical marijuana.[5] One section of this country wants to move forward and allow people to have more rights, while the other is desperately trying to stop the flow of history. Republicans will find that denying people the right to vote, marry, and enter this country will affect them when people go to vote. In the 2012 election, the “electorate was the most diverse ever,” which makes some of the problems of the U.S. elections even more immediate.[6]

            Regardless of what the Supreme Court believes, discrimination and racism are very prevalent in today’s society. The Voting Rights Act has a provision directed at the states that have had a history of discriminatory voting laws for this very reason. When states such as Texas and the other former Confederate States enact laws about voting, the laws go straight to the courts. Preceding the 2012 election, many states tried to pass controversial Voter I.D. laws. A Federal court in Washington blocked the law in Texas, stating, “That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.”[7] The concept of having a photo I.D. to vote is not the problem if it is bipartisan and happens over time, but states like Texas rammed these measures through right before the November election in order make an impact. The House majority leader of the Pennsylvania legislature, Mike Turzai, said that the “Voter ID” law, “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”[8] His statement gives the indication of why so many Republican states decided all of a sudden to enact Voter I.D. laws. They design the laws to restrict certain people from voting, mainly poor and minorities, who usually vote Democrat. In a survey done at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of law, they found that seven percent of the people surveyed do not have ready access to citizenship documents, which amounts to about thirteen million people. The people most affected consist of the elderly, the poor, minorities, and college students.[9] With the increasing minority vote trending towards Democrats, Republicans are trying to limit the right to vote, rather than changing their policies to include more diversity. Even if these laws did not directly affect the outcome of the election, they still are a scary reminder of America’s history of racism.

            The reaction of many to President Obama’s re-election showed the realities of racism and the misinformation broadcast by some of the news media. I try to write my blog posts with tons of information and credible sources, but this paragraph will have to be the exception to that rule. On election night, I was on Facebook, (which does not count as a reliable source), because I wanted to report the results and give my two cents. I found a range of reactions to the results from the excited, to the normal, and to the crazy. Some of the crazy consisted of people very concerned about their future just because of one election, while others complained about Black Panther conspiracy theories and President Obama. Fortunately, I have mostly normal friends, but some people out there really frighten me with their reactions. Following Election Day, people in twenty states filed petitions to secede from the country.[10] I thought we figured that this was not a good idea 150 years ago. Of course, then there are people like Ted Nugent who tweeted, “Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav a president to destroy America.”[11] No one with a brain should listen to racists like Nugent, who now have the internet to spread their venomous tirades. Even students in college, who are supposed to be getting an education and learning the history of the Civil Rights Movement, caused a riot at Ole Miss following the election results.[12] Some people in this country still have not grasped the notion that an African-American is the President of the United States.

            In conclusion, the 2012 election highlighted a changing nation and the problems that exist when people do not accept the change. The raw poll data shows how President Barack Obama won his re-election. The rising numbers of Hispanics, African-Americans, and young people voting made it impossible for Mitt Romney to win. The gender gap is also very real as more women realize the policies of the Republican Party. The only way for this country to improve is for the two major parties to change and adapt their policies. They care more about winning elections and making money than the impact their policies have on everyday people. Both parties continue to ignore concerns about gun violence, incarceration rates, the income gap, and education. All of these concerns affect minorities more so than they affect other people. Voters may have, for one election, voted for the Democratic Party; however, “The United States routinely posts the lowest voter turnout rate of any true democracy in the world.”[13] An active populace in the democratic process is the only way to move forward and pave the way for equality and maintaining voter’s rights.

     [1] 2012 Election Central, Politico, http://www.politico.com/2012-election/map/#/President/2012/, last updated 11/29/2012.

     [3] Nonprofit vote, America Goes to the Polls 2012: A Report on Voter turnout in the 2012 election, Prepared by George Pillsbury and Julian Johannesen, 5.

     [4] 2012 Key Ballot Measures, Politico, http://www.politico.com/2012-election/map/#/Measures/2012/, last updated 11/29/2012.

     [6] Nonprofit vote, 16.

     [7] Vogue, Ariane de, Federal Court Blocks Controversial Texas Voter ID Law, ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/federal-court-blocks-controversial-texas-voter-id-law/, August 30, 2012.

     [8] Cernetich, Kelly, Turzai: Voter ID Law Means Romney Can Win PA, Politics PA, http://www.politicspa.com/turzai-voter-id-law-means-romney-can-win-pa/37153/, June 25, 2012.

     [9] Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of law, Citizens Without Proof: A Survey of American’s Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification, Nov. 2006.

     [10] Nearly Half of the US Threatens to Secede, RT, http://rt.com/usa/us-secede-petition-government-540/, November 12, 2012.

     [11] Sieczkowski, Cavan, Ted Nugent on Obama Election: ‘Pimps, Whores, &Welfare Brats’ Voted For ‘Spiritual Suicide,’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/08/ted-nugent-on-obama-election-twitter-rant-economic-spiritual-suicide_n_2094490.html, November 8, 2012.

     [12] Ole Miss Racist Riots After Obama Re-Elected, David Pakman Show, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nKkzQgwAbM, November 9, 2012.

     [13] Nonprofit vote, 24.

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. It took hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people to descend on the Nation’s capital to receive basic human rights from Congress. Following the march, Congress passed the Civil Right’s Act of 1964. It took another bold decision to march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in order for the Voting Right’s Act of 1965 to pass. The Civil Rights Movement should hold a great honor and achievement in American society, but it is rarely discussed. Today, the so-called History Channel is not airing a single program dedicated to this great achievement. Many schools do not teach the Civil Rights Movement the right way. They make up myths about how tired Rosa Parks was when she sat in the front of the bus, when in reality she was a leader and a member of the NAACP. We rarely hear about the millions of young black people who stood up to segregation and participated in the Sit-ins, marches, and protests. People were beat up, hosed down by water cannons, and even killed for standing up to demand their rights. The nonviolent movement gave black people equal rights under the law, voting rights, and ended segregation. Dr. King’s dream, however, has not been fully realized. We may have our first African-American President, but many issues still remain. Issues such as stop and frisk, the incarceration rate for minorities, education, gun violence, and many other problems primarily in the inner cities where minorities are facing segregation again. The Supreme Court recent gutted the Voting Rights Act and the killing of Trayvon Martin are just two examples of how racism still exists in America. Many problems may still exist that Congress will do nothing about unless we make them act. Nonviolent direct action is the only way to bring about solutions as the Civil Rights Movement proved. There may be bumps in the road and more issues may arise, but We Shall Overcome!


Coming Soon!

Hello to anyone who reads my blog,

I know it has been a little while since I last posted an article on my blog. Since I last put a lot of serious thought into a new post, I have graduated college, had to find a paying job, and have been busy doing many other things. However, I hope to get back to working on my blog. Hopefully, I can find a way to make more people know and comment about the articles I write. Regardless of how many people actually read this, I am still going to write. I am planning on writing an article regarding the 2012 elections, though it may turn into a few blog posts because of all the topics I could possibly choose to write about. Obviously, in this week’s headlines, is the Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage; I hope to get to the topic sooner or later.

Well, I plan on writing a blog post soon about the 2012 elections; I hope you’ll enjoy and learn something from it.

Until then,

red-equal-symbol marriage equality

Essay on Presidential Power

9/11 changed the landscape of American foreign policy, including a sharp rise in Presidential authority in areas of foreign policy and war. The power struggle between Congress and the Executive Branch is not new, however, but it seems to have reached to new levels in recent years. The debate over who has more authority in foreign policy issues has existed since the framing of the Constitution. I doubt the framers, however, could have imagined a world in which the President has almost unrivaled power in the realm of foreign policy. Ever since the United States became a world power following World War Two, the Executive Branch has increased in power and authority.

Does the Executive Branch need more authority and flexibility when foreign policy is concerned though? When the United States is at war, we may need quick and decisive decisions that only the Executive Branch can give. When the military found Osama Bin Laden, President Obama did not wait to consult Congress. He and his advisors simply sent in the Seals and killed him. This is a good example of why so many believe the President needs more authority in times of war. Wars need a fast response when a situation arises and the country does not need Congress to endlessly debate about what to do; therefore, they have given the President more leeway in war powers over time.

Congress did briefly give war powers back to themselves in the War Powers Act of 1973 during the crisis over the Vietnam War and Watergate. People such as former Senator John G. Tower, however, contest that “this act jeopardizes the President’s ability to respond quickly, forcefully, and if necessary in secret, to protect American interests abroad.”[1] I understand that secrecy may be needed in some circumstances, like in killing Bin Laden, but this country believes itself to be a Democracy. Secrecy and almost unlimited power in one branch of government is not democratic. While in some instances, the military and the President need to act in a decisive manner; this does not mean that war powers should basically rest in one person. Another reason why the President has so much more power in foreign policy making today is because it is easy.

In times of war, everyone seems to rally behind the President and the government in order to face the enemy. People have a tendency to stop criticizing and start following blindly into the abyss. Professor John T. Rourke says that “too many people” lump “together” to “support the war. Opposition to the war seemed to some to be synonymous with not supporting the troops in the field or even with a lack of loyalty.”[2] Dissent is discouraged and protesters are described as “loony” and un-American. Flags wave everywhere, people feel a sense of patriotic pride and fever, and it appears that everyone is behind the President. These kinds of feelings can be dangerous though, because dissent and protest is vital to this country and democracy in general. The government cannot go around and arrest, unlawfully detain, and raid people’s homes because they said something contrary to the President’s wishes.

Congress gets in the act as well and has a history of surrendering their Constitutional power to declare war to the President. In Vietnam with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Congress gave the President a blank check “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” History repeated itself following 9/11 when Congress passed a joint resolution stating; “That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against these nations, organizations, or persons he determines” had something to do with the terrorist attacks. The words “to use all necessary and appropriate force” is ambiguous and who is to determine what is necessary and appropriate? Congress says that the President determines what is necessary and appropriate in times of war. This is starting to sound like the President has the power to declare war with Congress simply giving him the authority to “use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate.”[3]

Congress has ceded their war powers to the President themselves and only controls the funding of the war. As Professor Rourke says, “There” is “almost no chance that Congress would cut off support for U.S. troops in the field. Congress lacks the political will” to reassert their authority.[4] As Dr. Loedel has said in my Foreign Policy class, it almost seems like Congress has no spine sometimes. Congress has also contributed to much of the overreach following 9/11. Congress, not the President, passed the Patriot Act and other pieces of legislation that undermine American citizens’ civil liberties. What about the War Powers Act of 1973? Every President since then has just about ignored it and Congress is not pressing the issue. This state of affairs between the President and Congress is accepted now mainly because “Presidential foreign policy initiatives” are “generally accepted and reinforced by bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.”[5] There exists a bipartisan consensus where foreign policy is concerned and as long as the President is looking out for the interests of the members of Congress and the elite, it will stay that way.

A United States with a very strong Executive assumes that the President has the interests of all Americans in mind; this is not the case. With the entire country and Congress rallying behind the President, people seem to believe that he represents all Americans. Try telling that to any Arab-American or any Muslim throughout the world following 9/11. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama have used Congress’s blank check to undertake a number of controversial programs. Presidential power has exerted itself in creating the Guantanamo Bay detention center, authorizing the use of warrantless wiretapping, killing American citizens, and more. It has gone too far. All of this was accomplished without public debate and even some without the consult of Congress. We all were scared and afraid after the horrors of 9/11, but the Executive Branch now has too much power, which they are also not afraid to use.

During the current Presidential election campaigns, Republicans continue to assert that President Obama is weak when it comes to foreign policy. The talk about President Obama not doing enough in the War on Terrorism is starting to make me sick; he is doing the same as President Bush did and even more. President Obama never consulted Congress about using drones or killing American citizens “he determined” were terrorists. None of this was ever up for public debate and no politician ever answers tough questions about Presidential power, especially in an election season.

It was amazing when I watched the State of the Union Address because the only policy that both sides seemed to applaud was the possibility of war with Iran. Is Congress ready to hand the President another blank check before he decides when to march off to war? This debate is not just a theoretical or Constitutional debate, but also one with real world consequences. The President may need flexibility as Commander-in-Chief to operate a war, but Congress needs to reassert itself and gain back its right to declare war. The founding fathers declared war on Britain because they hated the idea of being ruled by a monarch, now our President appears to be acting in ways a monarch did.

     [1] John G. Tower, “Congress vs the President,” Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American Foreign Policy, by John T. Rourke (Guilford, CT: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000) 164.

     [2] John T. Rourke, “Deciding on War: A Democratic Dilemma,” Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in American Foreign Policy, by John T. Rourke (Guilford, CT: Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000) 148-149.

     [3] Authorization on the Use of Military Force Against Iraq – Resolution of October of 2002

     [4] John T. Rourke, 152.

     [5] John G. Tower, 157.

America’s Fragile Health Care System

Even though I am very busy in College and other things, I feel compelled to write something about a very current issue. Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case on President Obama’s Health Care Law. It is deciding if the individual mandate is Constitutional or not. Their decision, either way, will greatly affect not only American politics, but also health care across this country. Too often, people will tune in to the news channels and hear various opinions on this issue and analysis by so-called “experts.” Yet, I feel that many do not have a complete understanding of the law itself and what it does and does not do. Obviously, the media will not make money if they thoroughly explain the health care law and money is all they care about. So, I will try as best I can in explaining President Obama’s Health Care Law in this blog entry. I am not an expert, but any citizen can research and read to figure things out.

First of all, I think I need to dispel certain myths and inaccurate portrayals of this act. People negatively use the term “Obamacare” to make it sound like it is all the President’s fault. Let’s not forget who makes the laws in this country; Congress spent a year debating health care reform and came up with the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law. Even with Democratic majorities in both Houses, it took Congress a long time to compromise and come up with a deal. In Addition, the health insurance industry, prescription drug industry, and others who would benefit from the current system, lobbied the hell out of Congress and watered down the bill. Any mention that the Health Care reform was rushed through is just ridiculous. People like Sarah Palin came up with another myth about the law, which is the lie about death panels. The truth of the matter is that this is a political fabrication by the opponents of the reform. The Health Care Law never mentions anything about a government panel deciding when senior citizens should die. Critics of the law also state that it will harm senior citizens, which is also a lie.[1] Today’s political atmosphere and rhetoric feed the demonization of the reform. The problem about today’s politics is that one side thinks that this law is perfect, while the other side believes it is outright criminal. Both of these sides may be in the minority, but they are also the most vocal and are the ones who appear on the “news.” These fabrications of the reform have led many to believe that they are true because “if you repeat it enough, people start to believe it.”[2]

I believe most people, including myself, fall in the middle of this debate and our voices are getting drowned out. The Health Care Law is not amazing, nor is it terrible. There are some good parts in it and some things that are not so great. Now, let’s find out exactly what is in the Health Care Law in the first place. Just like the Justices of the Supreme Court, I am not going to read all 2,000 + pages of the law. (Even though they should, it’s kind of their job.) That being said, I’d like to summarize what I’ve found.

Primarily, the Affordable Care Act helps me personally because I am now insured under my parent’s health care until I am 26. Now, I have time to get a job with health care coverage. In this job environment, it is going to be tough to find any job after I graduate in May, let alone one with health care. Another great benefit from this law is that no one can be denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. If the person had a health issue before they applied for health care coverage, the insurance company cannot deny them coverage based on that pre-existing condition. This comes into effect for everyone starting in 2014. For those people with Medicare or start a new health care plan, they will be able to receive preventative health screenings for free. Screenings such as mammograms, flu and pneumonia shots, some vaccinations, screenings for cancer, amongst others will be of no charge to the patient. Beginning in 2014, more people will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. Dollar limits on health care plans will be phased out; annual limits on plans will be eliminated.[3] This law helps many who are denied coverage and those who have never had health care.

Now, the controversial part – the individual mandate. This is what the government website says of this mandate:

In 2014, most Americans will be required to purchase health coverage that covers essential health benefits. Those who have trouble paying for insurance may receive financial help to offset the cost. Those who choose not to purchase health insurance will be required to pay a fee. Depending on how much you make, the fee will range from $695 to $2,085. Some people with low-incomes (those who would have to pay more than 8 percent of their monthly income to buy health insurance) will not be required to purchase health insurance.”

In other words, this law makes it so that everyone has the ability to purchase health care. If the person is too poor to buy health insurance, then either they will not be required to purchase it or they may receive financial help to offset the cost. The stipulation that people have come strongly against is if someone chooses not to buy health insurance and they have to pay a fee based on their income. If you’re not one of the people too poor to buy insurance, it is hard to comprehend why you wouldn’t buy health insurance; however, some do say that this mandate violates our liberty and freedom to choose; this critique does have some truth behind it. Who is to say the government won’t force us to pay a fee for another program?

To fully get a picture of what this individual mandate means, it is good to look at another country’s health care system. Canada’s health care system is a mix of private and socialized health care. (The U.S. system is not even close to socialism, anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand socialism.) Even though many in America criticize Canada’s system, it boasts “one of the highest life expectancies (about 80 years) and lowest infant mortality rates of industrialized countries, which many attribute to Canada’s health care system.”[4] How does Canada pay for its system? It is done through taxation both from personal and corporate income taxes; unlike in the U.S., Canadians gladly pay more in taxes in order to have quality health care for all. Canada’s system is more equal and provides health care for everyone, while America’s private system is very unequal and millions are without health care coverage.4 The Health Council of Canada issued a report about how Canadians feel about the health care system in 2007. It states that overall, Canadians like the universal health care system the country has. They do worry about the timely manner of the system and ask for private companies as an addition to the public system, but not as a replacement; no system is perfect. They found that 85% of Canadians view eliminating their current health care system as a negative. The report says, “Support for the Canadian health care system, it seems, is as strong as ever.”[5]

All of these new features of the Affordable Care Act have come into effect or are going to in a couple of years. This begs the question, what will happen if the Supreme Court overturns part of the law or the whole thing? The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching consequences either way they decide the case. All of the help to senior citizens, people with pre-existing conditions, and millions of others will be affected by their decision.[6] Will the Supreme Court allow politics to influence their judgment or will they actually read and look at the law? The biggest question is, does this country want to help others by allowing them to have quality health care coverage, or not?

[1] This is from the Alliance for Retired Americans organization about the myths of the law relating to senior citizens: http://www.retiredamericans.org/system/storage/24/39/0/1321/FactSheet-Myths_and_Facts_of_Affordable_Care_Act-FINAL.pdf Here is a Washington Post article discussing the myths of the Health Care law: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/5-myths-about-the-health-care-law/2012/03/19/gIQAHJ6JWS_story.html

[2] It is believed that some variation of this quote comes from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister. If anyone knows how to manufacture a lie and have people believe it, it’s him.

[3] I found all of this information from the Government’s site on the health care law: http://www.healthcareandyou.org/what-is/ There is an entire govt. site for information regarding the Affordable Care Act: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/index.html

[4] The Canadian Government explains their health care system pretty well and has a website dedicated to it: http://www.canadian-healthcare.org/

Making Cuts to Higher Education and its Consequences

Just recently, Governor Corbett announced even more cuts in his budget for this year. Of course, the biggest cuts were, once again, directed at education. While primary education did receive cuts, the system of higher education got the biggest of all. The state system of higher education, which includes fourteen schools, received a 20% cut to its funding.[1] Colleges such as Lincoln University were spared from the cutting block, while Temple, the University of Pittsburgh, and Penn State each received a 30% cut. These cuts take place while the Governor increases the budget for State prisons by almost 2%, drug and alcohol programs went up 2.5%, and corporate taxes from last year decreased by 18%. In the slide presentation of the budget on the website I noted earlier, it states that the corrections, parole, and prison expenditures take up a larger percentage of the budget than money spent towards higher education. This means that the state of Pennsylvania is spending more of its budget keeping the prisons going than it is on the education of college students. Governor Corbett states that these cuts will balance the budget, create jobs, and streamline PA’s economy. While he said that education reform is necessary and colleges need to become better with handling their money with rising tuition costs, what are the impacts of these new cuts to higher education?[2]

If Governor Corbett believes that these cuts will make colleges pay attention to the rising tuition costs, he’s sadly mistaken. The people who run colleges view it as a business and they want to make money. Making more cuts to higher education will only increase tuition and fees that students pay. The main reason people actually go to these state schools is the relatively low cost; rising costs will make it harder for low-income people to afford to go to college. Maybe that is the reason why Governor Corbett and other states are pursuing cuts to education; they want the people who normally do not vote for them to gain an education. Politicians, regardless of party affiliation, want the population to remain stupid; they don’t want people to actually know what they’re doing and to vote for them because there doesn’t seem to be any other option. College age people are already among the least likely to vote and politicians should no longer continue to ignore and step on this group of people.

Colleges will react to these cuts by raising tuition and fees and by cutting programs and majors. The first majors that will be cut are women’s studies, cultural studies, and the arts. Because these majors don’t contribute to the economy, right? Yet West Chester University is in the process of building a huge recreational center. Instead of helping with the computer science program or the math program, which is on academic probation at the moment, they go ahead and build a needless recreational center.

I wonder if politicians and the heads at the universities understand that most students already have some kind of job in order to stay in college. Elliot Griffin, VP of External Affairs for Temple Student Government, said, “It means students will be forgoing internships and working full-time jobs” in order to stay in college.[3] Students are going to pay more for tuition, get more student loans, and spend more time in a job, while spending less time on work for their classes. Don’t you think this will have an impact on how well students do in their classes? I am fortunate that I don’t need a job to pay for college and I spend a significant time working on things for my classes, or groups I am involved with, and now that I am a senior, trying to find a job after I graduate. I don’t know how I’d manage to do all I do around the campus and outside of it if I had to work full-time in a job. So many students end up having mountains of debt following graduation because “many young graduates are left holding a diploma but not a job after pouring time and money into a college education. As a result, more graduates are defaulting on their student loan payments each year.”[4]

Cutting more to higher education is not the reform the system needs, especially in a time where so many are struggling in this economy. Education reform is badly needed because students and their parents have worked very hard in order to get into college. They shouldn’t be facing so many obstacles to gain a degree. This country needs college educated people to move us in the right direction; cuts like the ones Governor Corbett proposed, however, prevents more people from entering universities and gaining that critical degree. It also adds more hardship to already stressed out college students. Many issues and problems confront education; putting forth more cuts will only exasperate the situation.

One War Ends, Another Begins

Many families received wonderful news this past Christmas and New Years as the Iraq War officially ended and the soldiers came home. Many joyous celebrations ensued at the end of this past year. While no huge party in Times Square celebrated the end of a war, it does not mean that every family did not feel relieved and wondrous when their loved ones came home. The war in Iraq claimed 4,487 American lives with 32,226 wounded in action; it is still not over, despite the last American troops coming home.[1] For the warriors returning home, however, struggles still lie ahead.

Lt. Matt Gallagher wrote in his account of his experiences in Iraq, Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, “I pinpointed the one thing from my time in the army that I treasured the most. The answer was easy: Iraq. Then I pinpointed the one thing from my time in the army that I despised the most. The answer was just as easy: Iraq.”[2] For many veterans, the transition from a life spent at war to a peaceful life at home can seem very hard. As Lt. Gallagher said, they enjoy their time in Iraq because of the deep friendships they create with the people they fight with; however, they also hate fearing for their lives every day. Making the transition to a normal, average life from the chaotic mess in Iraq can prove difficult for many returning soldiers. Soldiers who end up having several deployments keep going over there for a reason. One reason why many feel the need to redeploy is the huge difference in responsibility between over there and at home. They go from caring for men and women in a combat zone and possibly a spouse and children to working 9-5 and doing chores around their homes. Mowing the lawn has a slightly less level of importance than making sure everyone around you makes it home safe. Another reason some have a hard time transitioning to normal life is because war acts like a drug. Soldiers experience many feelings while at war, including bursts of adrenaline that one only finds in combat. War can appear addicting and when away from it, a person can feel lost and craving for more. It is very important to understand the many feelings and psychological issues that come from a life in the military and at war.

Veterans have even more hard times today because of having two current wars and the economic recession. The unemployment numbers of veterans are much higher than non-veterans, especially with the veterans of the current wars. In December of 2011, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan War vets was 13.1%, while the unemployment rate for non-veterans was 8.1%.[3] Even more serious concerns exist today, such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and an alarming rise in the suicide rate among veterans. PTSD, however, is not the only cause for the rise in suicide rates as the Minnesota State Legislature found out. “Since 2007, 24 Minnesota National Guard members have taken their own life.” They “noted the incidents occurred among members who had never deployed” as well as those that did. Staff Sergeant Gregg Roberts spoke emotionally, “When you are gone for nearly two years, you spend so much time thinking of home, and when you get home, it is not what you remembered it to be. It is the second war that nobody talks about.”[4] While many problems still exist, this does not mean we cannot do anything to help.

What can we do? The number of veterans going to college has increased in recent years and it is imperative that colleges welcome them with open arms. At West Chester University of PA, they now have a Student Veterans Center on campus and a project called Soldiers to Scholars to listen to the experiences of veterans from the different conflicts in America’s recent history. Getting an understanding of what these veterans went through can go a long way in determining how to help them. These brave men and women have experienced the realities of war and they have become more isolated from society. While many have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, their numbers pale in comparison to how many struggled through the jungles in Vietnam. It is easy to ignore the plights of people who you do not even know or understand; we must never forget to listen and get active in helping these heroes.