Bernie should leave the race

For far too long in this election cycle Democrats (myself included), moderates, and sensible Republicans believed that the Republican establishment would overwhelm Donald Trump. In fact, the dichotomy between establishment and insurgent Republicans is false. It was, after all, John McCain (then a four-term United States Senator) who, by picking the eminently unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate, brought into the mainstream a particularly dangerous and deranged strand of politics. Republicans further stoked fear and anger to send to Congress far too many loud, boisterous, and politically intransigent individuals (often by defeating Republican members who had admirably served the country for long periods of time). It should be remembered that Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul are all part of this loud, boisterous, and politically intransigent group. Tellingly, the establishment is now trying to coalesce around Marco Rubio, who, in 2010, was the anti-establishment Senate candidate in Florida.

Events such as Chris Christie’s odd endorsement of Donald Trump have finally laid bare the fact that the Republican establishment is not the savior we hoped for. With the growing sense of inevitability surrounding Trump’s nomination, it is time for Americans to gear up and roundly defeat him. And that begins with Senator Bernie Sanders bowing out.

To anyone that is looking at the primary calendar and delegate math, it is abundantly clear that Sanders cannot win the nomination. For him to continue will be ruinous to the country.

Allow me to explain: Bernie Sanders’ populist and fantastical campaign is appealing not to the better angels of our nature, but to the same feelings of anger, insecurity, and fear that Donald Trump appeals to. That is not, in any way, to equate Bernie Sanders with Donald Trump. In the current election cycle, it is necessary to note that Sanders has a basic sense of human decency and an understanding of the institutions that make this nation work. And further, let me be completely clear: it is difficult to overstate how important of an issue economic inequality is, and Senator Sanders deserves abundant gratitude not only for bringing the issue to the forefront of this election, but also for fighting for economic justice over the course of his career.

But my point is that Sanders, like Trump, is playing with fire. And to the extent Sanders and Trump supporters overlap, Sanders continuing to campaign will serve only to further stoke these negative emotions.

Thomas B. Edsall cites an NBC/WSJ poll showing 6% of voters would consider voting for either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. That might seem like a small group of people, but considering that elections can be decided by small margins in a handful of states, it is hard to see what good a continued Sanders campaign does.

Sanders exiting the race of course will not erase the concerns surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Just like any campaign, hers is not perfect. But if you listen to Clinton’s speech from Saturday night in South Carolina, you will see that she is now beginning the difficult task of injecting some positivity in this unnecessarily dour and bizarre campaign. These are the themes we need carrying us into the future, not Sanders’ outlandish rhetoric, and certainly not Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric.

Tonight is Super Tuesday. I hope, first of all, that Donald Trump Drumpf loses every primary. Beyond that I hope Bernie Sanders leaves the race and endorses Hillary Clinton. If neither of these things happen, I’ll be expanding these arguments over the next few days.

Another Look at Tuition Hikes

Let’s start with the basics: the decision to increase tuition is now in the hands of the (popularly elected) California Governor and Legislature. The quicker students and other stakeholders remove pressure from the Regents and concentrate it upon the Governor and Legislature, the quicker we can make progress towards freezing tuition.

Now for background:

Last week, the Regents of the University of California approved a 5% per year increase in tuition, if the state increases funding to the University at 4% per year. If the state raises funding at 7.3% per year, tuition remains frozen. Jerry Brown, in a move that can only be described as a teenage temper tantrum, threatened to “withhold the 4 percent increase if the regents went ahead with raising tuition.”

Since then, a lot of people have said a lot of not very nice things about the Regents, and specifically about UC President Janet Napolitano. An LA Times commentator put it this way:

“Caught in the middle are the UC students who are being held hostage by Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents in their demand for significantly more state money.

“Pay the ransom, UC is telling Sacramento, or we’ll hit the kids with higher tuition.”

While the analysis is correct, we must also remember that Jerry Brown put students in a very similar situation with Prop 30 in 2012. In fact, I would argue that Prop 30 was worse than the Regents’ current gambit. Had Prop 30 failed, funding to the UC system would have gone down, yet Prop 30 passing did not increase funding to the UCs. 

The Regents are trying to get more money into the UC system. We ought to be making it clear to our elected leaders that we want this money and we want it from the state, not from students.

2014 Midterms – Races I’m watching

Midterm elections are tomorrow. Here are the races I’ll be keeping an eye on:

Measure D:

This is a soda tax measure on the ballot in Berkeley. The tax isn’t perfect, and I was initially opposed to it. However, the intensity of opposition to Measure D made me realize this wasn’t about creating the ideal soda tax, but taking a step in the right direction.

Measure S:

This is a Berkeley redistricting measure designed to create a student district for City Council elections. Even for those that share the goal of a student district, the boundaries S would impose are controversial. Many students, myself included, are not part of this so-called student district – and I live across from campus. But on a more fundamental level, I don’t think a student district would be the best way to let the student voice be heard in City Council. Indeed, having just one designated student representative would allow the other City Council members to easily mute the student voice. I’m hoping S fails and we can have a fresh debate about student representation on City Council.

CA – 07:

Congressman Ami Bera is in a tight race with former Congressman Doug Ose. While I was in DC, I told Bera he ought to run for Governor. He smirked and said something about getting him reelected. I hope he gets reelected. And runs for Governor.

CA – 17:

Congressman Mike Honda is up against Ro Khanna, who’s been district (s)hopping for some time now. A DC taxi driver once yelled at me incredulously for suggesting Honda might lose. He then went on to mention that Honda was his favorite member of Congress. He was also the only member of Congress he knew. The interaction gave me an idea of the role Congressman Honda plays in creating a positive image of the United States internationally. It is highly doubtful Khanna could do that. Further, I have yet to hear a single coherent argument for voting Honda out of office.

Side note, it seems both campaigns have released internal polls showing the race being close. Given the decisive margin by which Congressman Honda won the primary election, I’m highly skeptical about these numbers and do not expect a close race.

HI – 02:

Here’s to Congresswoman Gabbard getting an upgraded office next Congress.

Texas Governor’s Race:

It is unlikely Wendy Davis can win in Texas, but that was clear from the outset. Battleground Texas needed a candidate for short-term excitement while trying to build long-term infrastructure. While one can hope for a miracle, the bigger question is whether excitement about making Texas more competitive over the long-run will remain after the election.

Georgia:

In the early 1970s, Georgia had a Governor named Carter and a Senator named Nunn. That might be happening again.

Other Senate races:

Overall, the big question is whether Democrats can keep the Senate and most models predict Republicans have the advantage. On Thursday, the New York Times Editorial Board predicted a Republican Senate would lead to more gridlock. While I would prefer the Senate to stay blue, I am skeptical about this diagnosis. Nominations might be slowed down, but even a Democratic Senate with relaxed filibuster rules has been sluggish on nominations. Republican control of both Houses of Congress, combined with Republican Presidential aspiration in the Senate, ought to give rise to at least some compromise. The House will no longer be able to blame the Senate for blocking everything, and vice versa.

Fiscal Policy 101

Soon Congress will be back in session and will have to appropriate money for our government to continue to function and that is why this simple and straightforward primer on fiscal policy is necessary.

A few weeks ago, President Obama offered a cut in corporate taxes as a concession in order to be able to spend money on a job creation program. And in an editorial on Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, the New York Times stated, “Mr. Abe challenged conventional economic wisdom during winter by using deficit spending and easy money to jolt Japan’s inert economy back to life.” Both of these struck me as humorous. In the case of President Obama, increased spending and tax cuts are two tools with the same aim of increasing demand in the economy. And in the case of Japan, expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in times of a slow economy are anything but unconventional. In fact they are quite conventional.

But instead of looking at fiscal policy like we would in a classroom, let’s look at it in terms of jobs – jobs that every elected official claims to hold paramount. The question then is whether expansionary (increased government spending and decreased taxes) or contractionary (decreased government spending and increased taxes) fiscal policy would create more jobs.

If tomorrow Congress decided to cut government spending, what would be the direct result in terms of jobs? Government employees and contractors would either get paid less or lose their jobs.

On the other hand, if Congress decides to fund new projects, such as increased funding for infrastructure or jobs programs, what would happen to jobs? They’d go up of course. More people would be designing and building roads and bridges. More people would be teaching employable skills.

And if you would like to look at this in terms of debt and deficit, consider that as more people start working, tax revenues will increase while spending on automatic stabilizers such as unemployment benefits will decrease. The road to a balanced budget does not include pulling the rug out from under people in the middle of a slow recovery and further slowing the pace of recovery, but instead involves speeding up the recovery itself. Thus it is imperative that Congress enacts expansionary fiscal policy in order to strengthen, and not hobble, the recovery.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but…

Like the title says, I’m not explicitly going to tell you who to vote for in the presidential election, I’ll just compare the two candidates and have a little bit of fun while doing so. But before I get to that, I’d like to request you to vote in favor of California Proposition 30 (if, of course, you live in California). If it fails, tuition at UC Berkeley (and probably all of the UCs) could go up by up to 20%. Just think how happy parents and students would be if they didn’t have to pay an additional 20%.

Now, on to my favorite sport  this really historic and momentous election. (Yes, I used those words in a slightly humorous fashion. No, that does not diminish the momentous nature of this election.) The following will not be too serious nor will it be too detailed. If you are looking for either serious or detailed, you can click here or here…or read the news. The news seems to be fairly serious. Basically, if you’re voting for President Obama, this post will reinforce most of your reasons for doing so while making you laugh. If you’ll be voting for Governor Romney, perhaps this will make you rethink, if even for a second. If you’re voting for Governor Romney, and live in a swing state, we should talk :P.

Okay, that being said, I’m going to present some comparison between President Obama and Governor Romney on various issues:

Foreign Policy:

Obama: Ended the war in Iraq, plan to end the war in Afghanistan, got OBL, etc.
Romney: “horses and bayonets”, told London it wasn’t prepared for the Olympics, that trip he took overseas, Russia being our number one geopolitical foe, and I’m not sure which map led him to believe that Syria is Iran’s route to the sea. I think this picture sums up his foreign policy quite nicely.

Fiscal Policy:

Obama: You may philosophically disagree with raising taxes on the rich, but you can’t deny that raising revenue will, well, raise revenue. And even if you consider the Laffer curve, there is a stronger argument in favor of raising taxes to raise revenue, than there is for lowering taxes to raise revenue. (On that note, there is an Intelligence Squared debate on raising taxes on the rich that you might want to check out.)
Romney: Maybe it’s because I just got out of math midterm that my math skills are especially sharp today, but there’s something about cutting revenue by $5 trillion and raising spending by at least $2 trillion that just doesn’t scream balanced budget. Fine, I’ll throw in the money saved by defunding Big Bird. Oh wait…that doesn’t make a difference.

Equal pay for equal work:

Obama: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Romney: “binders full of women”. I guess this is why Staples did well…other than that, I just don’t even know what to say about this.

Healthcare:

Obama: Obamacare.
Romney: Let’s get rid of Obamacare, and say we’ll keep some of it when we actually won’t.

Oh, and it seems I failed to mention Rep. Paul Ryan’s inability to separate his religion and his public life. If the Right wants to defend the Second Amendment in ridiculous ways, it would be nice if they even paid lip service to the First.

And finally, the 47% thing.

Note: it is fully possible that you can present to me a view from Governor Romney that seems to contradict what I’ve written above. While it is possible that I made a mistake above, it is also possible that I’m quoting a Romney policy from 15 minutes before or after the one you’re mentioning. (On that note…Romnesia or Mittology?)

Anyway, if you made this far down, thanks for reading, and vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I’ll leave you with a quote from FDR:

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Whac-A-Mole, Big Bird and other Serious Things

Back when I used to watch Big Bird on Sesame Street on PBS, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Whac-A-Mole at Chuck E. Cheese. The concept of this small object popping up in random spots in an unpredictable manner was interesting. But one thing that struck me was that the game was about moles appearing in random places…not about lions, or tigers, or bears, or former governors of Massachusetts that are running for President of the United States of America appearing in random places.

Yet over the past few days, the thought of Governor Romney always triggers memories of Whac-A-Mole. It’s nearly impossible to say where on the political spectrum Romney may appear on a given day. One day he may denounce nearly half of America, on another he may denounce the way he denounced nearly half of America, and on another day, he might completely denounce his denouncement of nearly half of America. (See the not so subliminal message that Romney denounced half of America.) One day he may want to kill Obamacare dead, and on another, he may want to keep parts of it.  And fifteen minutes later his campaign might say that he doesn’t actually want to keep parts of it. One day he may characterize Democratic legislators as partners, and on another, not so much.

Romney also seems to have a problem with math. He’s the only person I’ve heard say three out of nearly 30 is half. Or that going from $1.4 trillion in deficit to $1.1 trillion in deficit is doubling the deficit. 

These were the things I was thinking as I saw what looked like Romney’s metamorphosis from a squirming caterpillar to a graceful butterfly on Wednesday evening. A graceful butterfly flying around from position to position on policies. Although, it looked more like an awkward transition to the center after having to appeal to the Tea Party during the primaries.  I was also thinking why President Obama wasn’t calling him out on stuff…as was just about everyone else. Let’s hope that gets fixed for the next debate.

After all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop in unemployment was caused by more and more fact checkers being hired to check what Romney’s saying.

In any case, the following will be a follow up to my previous post about why I’m voting for Obama, and why you should to. (Also, register to vote if you haven’t already.)

  • A Romney plan doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist to cut spending and it doesn’t exist to raise revenue. Unless anyone knows of something other than raising revenue and cutting spending to decrease deficits, the Romney (lack of) plan isn’t going to do anything. The fact that Romney would even mention cutting funding for public broadcasting, something that is one one-hundredth of one percent (or 0.0001 as a decimal) only means that he has no real way of cutting the deficit.
  • In contrast, Obama plans exist. See here as just one example.
  • In conclusion, a vote for Obama is a vote for Big Bird. A friend of mine stated cutting Big Bird is just mean. Not only is it mean, it is also meaningless. Cutting one one-hundredth of one percent is not a solution, it’s simply a pretending you have a solution when if fact you don’t.

I’m voting for Obama

When I cast my first general election ballot, I’ll be voting to reelect President Obama. Here’s why:

Health Care:

With the Affordable Care Act, President Obama achieved something that presidents as far back as Harry Truman had been trying to enact. Even the wildly popular Bill Clinton was unsuccessful in his efforts to pass universal health care. And just yesterday, Thursday, June 28th, the nation’s highest court blessed key parts of the law as constitutional. Within 18 months, the law will be fully enacted. While I will not bore you with overly complicated analysis of the law, I will present what the law means to me, and how it relates to my support for the President’s reelection. Universal health care represents, at a fundamental level, a concern for the society as a whole, and its members. With its provision to help those that cannot afford health care, the law recognizes that something like healthcare cannot be treated as some sort of a luxury object. It makes efforts to promote health among all Americans, not just those with economic means. And that is partly why I support the President for reelection. His actions display a desire to help America as a whole, and I believe that is integral to creating a more perfect union.

And further, while the Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, it represents a much better solution than that offered by the President’s opponent, Governor Romney, which at this point is to simply to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and provide no replacement. To me Governor Romney’s plan represents a regression to a more primitive situation – one in which each man is for himself, and so only those with the means to purchase healthcare can remain healthy. It benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and drives a wedge between different economic groups.

Economic Policy:

The economy was a big deal in 2008, and it is a big deal today. Yes, under President Obama we haven’t reached an all-time low in unemployment and every American isn’t a millionaire. But I believe the President’s economic policies are sounder than those of Governor Romney.

President Obama championed the auto industry bailout. Governor Romney famously proclaimed to “let Detroit go bankrupt”. Allowing the latter would have pushed us deeper into economic recession. A weak auto industry would have ripple effects throughout the entire economy. Companies that made plastics for cars would be hurt. Electronics companies that made car radios would be hurt. Marketing firms that made ads for cars would be hurt. All this would simply lead to more unemployment and less consumption, thus crippling the economy. Instead the President’s auto industry bailout did precisely what worked in the 1930s and 1940s to bring the US out of the Great Depression. And that was to inject money into the economy. More money for automakers means more money for employees which means greater consumption and a stronger economy.

On a different aspect of economic policy, tax policy also highlights an important difference between President Obama and Governor Romney. Governor Romney, and almost every single Republican member of the House of Representatives, has signed what is popularly known as the anti-tax pledge. Basically it means supporting no new taxes. Ever. And while the “no tax increase” mantra sounds nice, it isn’t practical at all as we always hear laments about America’s deficit and debt. To fix these problems, two solutions exist: cutting spending, and increasing revenue. Governor Romney would like to approach this problem by removing half of the solutions at the outset. This represents putting ideology over country. President Obama on the other hand is not operating under such constraints. Reducing spending and increasing revenue are both options. That, to me, is a much better way to solve the problem, and therefore I support the President for reelection.

Government should not be a business:

Governor Romney touts his business record as one of his primary qualifications to be President of the United States. I honestly do not think that a business record is a qualification for the nation’s highest elected office. The point of a business is to make a profit. The point of government is not the same. Government is supposed to be looking out for society and how to make it better. One such example of government making life better is that of the Interstate Highway System. Without such a system, the road trip I took with my dad last summer spanning nearly 5,000 miles would not have been possible. Further the Interstate Highway System allowed communities to develop in previously sparsely populated areas. Pearland, the city that I live in, was put on the map because of highways.

It’s highly unlikely that any private business would have decided to develop nearly 50,000 miles worth of roads connecting the nation. It is similarly unlikely that private industry would have put a man on the moon when NASA did. In both of these cases, government looked beyond simply making a profit, and instead did what was deemed in the best interest of the nation. That is not to say that private industry does not play a critical role in our society, it is simply that the motives of government and private industry are different. I believe that President Obama better understands the motives of government, and thus I support his reelection.

Social Issues:

We live in a society of people with different beliefs and backgrounds. I firmly believe that America should provide equal rights to all, regardless race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. President Obama’s support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and his support for gay marriage affirm his belief in equal rights for all Americans. This is another factor in my decision to support President Obama.

An Inspirational Figure:

While I could go into more and more reasons why I support President Obama, I’ll end with an emotional factor that is part of my decision to support the President’s reelection. He was not born into a politically well-connected or wealthy family. He built himself up from any regular American. On the other hand, Governor Romney is the son of a captain of industry, and a former governor of Michigan. Whether or not it is fair, electing Governor Romney reinforces the notion that in order to achieve a position of power, one must be hereditarily endowed. I believe that President Obama’s reelection would further solidify the fact that America is the land of opportunities, and that all you need is hard work to achieve great levels of success. As the son of immigrants, and as someone about to enter college, the idea that my success is dependent only upon me, and not on political connections, is extremely inspiring to me. Thus, beyond the policy reasons I described earlier, I feel that President Obama’s reelection better inspires a new generation of Americans to achieve the heights of success. This further strengthens my support for President Obama’s reelection.

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