Friday, November 14, 2008

Policies that Obama needs to keep

An event 19 months in the making, Monday's meeting between outgoing President George W. Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama could have served as further proof that in this period of history, surprises are the new expectations. By contrast, no curve balls were thrown, and we only know what we have been told: That while their respective spouses reportedly chatted in a separate room, the sitting President and his successor "had a broad discussion" described by Press Secretary Dana Perino as "constructive, relaxed, and friendly."

While a jaded public may be tempted to rewrite that polished assessment as "ceremonious, boring, and insincere," perhaps a more productive way to pass the time would be to fill in the blanks with our own speculations. The following aspects of current Bush policy may or may not have been addressed behind those closed doors; but we can be assured that Obama will have to consider keeping, or doing away with, the following Bush initiatives:

No Child Left Behind: The primary educational act associated with the Bush administration, NCLB was attractive when the President first laid its blueprint in 2001 (bi-partisan efforts of its principal sponsors in the Senate didn't hurt either, and leaving the testing to the states didn't seem a bad idea). But seven years later, proponents of standards-based education reform - including many of the teachers mandated to issue the rigorous tests - are frustrated with its obsessive focus on scores. Is it possible to quantify learning? NCLB tried, and to the tune of an additional $1 billion in 2007 alone according to the Washington Post. Suggestion to Obama: Overhaul - or scrap and start over.

The Patriot Act: Is it unpopular? Do a Google search. Has it kept us safe? We may never fully know (therein lies the reason that classified information is known as "intelligence"). What we do know is: a.) Highly criticized warrantless wiretapping was discontinued in 2007 according to widely published reports, and b.) America has not been attacked on its own soil since the act's inception. Suggestion to Obama: Keep - and visibly demonstrate your campaign mantra of "willingness to step across the aisle" in the process.

Unrestrained spending: Even if Obama keeps his initial pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq over a 16 month timetable, thereby curbing our military spending, who can say with certainty that overall spending will be reduced? The Washington Times claims that his proposal to establish a "green energy sector" over the next ten years may come at a pricetag of $150 billion, and the healthcare plan that won him accolades with proponents of universal care after the debates may cost $50 to $65 billion by his own admission. Suggestion to Obama: Sure, your base already praises your plans, but lowering the bottom lines can only help your popularity - we promise.

Strategic humanitarian aid: If every President boasts a shining achievement that few can argue with, George W. Bush's is PEPFAR. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which devoted $15 billion to fight global poverty and AIDS from 2003-2005, is one spending effort whose results are tangible by most accounts (recent progress can be tracked on PEPFAR's efforts are primarily aimed towards Africa, with $1 billion of its budget poured into the 136 countries benefiting from the Global Fund. Suggestion: PEPFAR should continue to receive the attention of one President Obama.

Will he heed the suggestions? We have (at least) four years to see.

Our Economy

The United States has a market economy. To be more specific, it's a mixed market economy. A mixed market economy is an economic market in which decisions are based on voluntary exchange with limited government involvement. This basically means that the people decide what is to be bought or sold, but the government has certain rules and restrictions.

The people are a major factor that affect the economy. They have many different roles in the economy. People can be workers, producers, consumers, savers, and investors. People invent products and then pay to have people to make them. Other people buy the products with the money they made making the products. With the leftover money, they save it or invest in the economy. This cycle happens every day and it boost are economy's strength. This means that people depend on one another to live in a wealthy economy.

The economy is also affected by the supply and demand. Supply is the amount of a good or service that is available for purchase. The demand is the desire to buy a good or service. The relationship between the two is the driving force for the economy. When the demand increases the prices rise. The producers respond to the increase in demand by supplying more which increases prices and decreases prices. When the demand is too great for the supply, it is called scarcity. When the supply exceeds the demand there is a surplus of the good or service.

The value of the dollar is another factor involved in the strength of the economy. The value you of a dollar used to be based on the amount of gold and silver held by the federal government. But today, the value if a dollar is based on the amount of goods and services that it can purchase. That power depends on the number of dollars people have and the quantity of goods and services produced in a country each year or the gross domestic product (GDP). If the number of dollars increase rapidly without a corresponding rise in the GDP the result will be inflation. Inflation increases the price of all goods and services.

The economy is also based on the nation's interdependency. All countries depend on one another to make money. They produce and trade good with other countries. The amount of goods imported and exported in a country is a major way for a country to keep its economy healthy.

Palin..Brady Bunch?

"Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!", the cry that has gone down in television history that perfectly sums up the popular and beautiful character Marcia Brady in the 1970s show The Brady Bunch. Jan Brady is responsible for the famous line, with which she expresses her frustration at the attention her older sister receives. A similar scene may be playing out between John McCain, who may now be the "Jan" of the 2008 American Presidential election, and Sarah Palin, who easily slides into the role of Marcia.

Isn't a popular Sarah Palin good for John McCain, though? After all, she sure does help shore up his weaknesses. The problem is that she very well may be shoring up those weakness too well.

It's no secret that John McCain's strength does not lie in his oratory skill. Whereas Barack Obama capped off the 2008 Democratic Convention with the best speech of the entire four days, McCain's acceptance speech was out-shined by several others that had been made in the days prior. The true star of the Republican convention? Sarah Palin. "Palin! Palin! Palin!", one might hear McCain grumbling in the background.

Palin is a stronger public speaker than McCain, but that's not her only strength. The Republican base wasn't exactly energized about McCain's nomination. Questions remained about his true loyalties and worries about his "maverick" tendencies ran through the minds of the most conservative republicans. In fact, leading up to the announcement of his running-mate, some Republicans feared that McCain would choose a pro-choice veep! Tom Ridge was supposedly on his short list, and McCain has said some very kind words about him. However, when McCain finally announced the other half of his ticket, the world was surprised at the choice of Sarah Palin. Who was she? Isn't she a bit inexperienced? Is this a ploy to attract disgruntled die-hard Hillary fans?
What the public and the Republicans would find out over the next few days, aside from a couple of controversies, was that Palin is a die-hard conservative. No abortion rights, creationism in schools, abstinence-only education, no gay marriage rights, NRA member, doesn't believe global warming is man-made, and she supports the death penalty. With a list of positions like that, Palin has been able to do what McCain could not: she really energized the base of the Republican party. Again, echos of "Palin! Palin! Palin!" can be heard in the distance.

John McCain may in fact be thrilled with his running-mate, but it's very important for America, conservatives, and liberals to realize that Barack Obama is not running against her, nor she for President. John McCain is the person who will be stepping into the role of Commander-in-Chief if he can get elected, and it will be he who must make the speeches and decisions that only the President can make.

John McCain will not have Sarah Palin's fire and oratory skill to back him up when he faces Barack Obama in the Presidential Debates. Barack Obama will never have to address Sarah Palin if he doesn't want to, and in many ways she may be a more difficult opponent to fight than McCain himself. McCain has been in Washington for 26 years with no real history of great reform or change, he really doesn't have the credibility to sell himself as the agent of change when he's had so much time to do something already. This, of course, works in the favor of Barack Obama, who often cites McCain's voting record and time in Washington as criticisms. Sarah Palin, although far less experienced than John McCain, may be able to sell the "maverick", "reformer", or "shaker-upper" more effectively than he ever could, thus leveling the playing field against Obama. Again, though, she is not running for President of the United States. "Palin, Palin, Palin...", the chant goes on.

So what does John McCain risk by letting Sarah Palin take over the spotlight in the campaign? The problem is, most Americans will not be voting for the Vice President alone, Americans tend to look at the top of the ticket as the most important. John McCain, if he allows Palin to overshadow the fact that he is running for the highest office and she isn't, may do much more for her career as a politician than his. She is a young, fiery, talented Republican, and one might say that she is being held back by John McCain by being forced to share the spotlight. She's held back by his long, nearly uneventful service in Washington. She's held back because in every speech she gives, she has to spend more time trying to promote McCain than she can promoting herself. I don't expect Sarah Palin to overtly step on McCain's toes too much in this campaign, but I do suspect she has at least one eye firmly looking toward her own political future. I also suspect that many Republicans are far more excited about the prospect of "Palin for President, 2012" than "McCain for 2008". "Palin, Palin, Palin", indeed.