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Political History

As everyone is getting ready for the Fourth of July weekend, there will be plenty of politicians touting what the founding fathers sacrificed to create the great country we live in today. But if you hear them comparing today’s challenges during the time of the revolution, you might as well believe George Washington chopped down a cherry tree.

Of course it didn’t take long for certain Republican candidates to try and sound smart about their “knowledge” of American history. Today, Michelle Bachmann was on Good Morning America, where she was asked about her dither on Fox News (where Chris Wallace called her a flake) her response only gave more ammunition to those who are calling her, and I’m putting this in the nicest possible way, slow.

“Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery…”

Now, ever since the movie Amistad came out I have always liked John Quincy Adams. Yes, he was a powerful voice that worked to free the slaves, but no, he wasn’t a founding father. What got me though is; don’t Republican’s like to give Abraham Lincoln credit for ending slavery? During every Republican National Convention they show a video before their nominee for President comes out to give a speech. This video always starts with a picture of Lincoln with his famous top hat, then the voiceover reminds everyone he was a Republican who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I don’t know if Bachmann knows this bit of history or not, but if I were working on her campaign I would worry about her not knowing standard talking points which could lead to more gaffes.

While sometimes it is hard to tell the two apart, the biggest blooper was by Sarah Palin when she described Paul Revere as a traitor. But I don’t consider this as much of a gaffe as it is a lack of common sense.

Usually around this time candidates/politicians like to emphasize the importance of the founding fathers and criticize their opponents because “they’re not doing what the founding fathers would have.” But as we look back in history, let’s remember what it was like during America’s birth.

There was no real army, only a bunch of young men who were considered renegades by the British. In order to beat the most powerful army in the world they had to develop ways that would catch them off guard. New York City was abandoned by General Washington because there was no way to save it from the massive British Army that had invaded. The British were also known to torture captured soldiers, of face punishment if they showed any mercy.

David McCullough has described American’s birth as its darkest time. There was so much uncertainty as to the future, but the new countries leaders worked hard to gain support from other nations to make sure the soldiers could be supplied and paid.

But I guess you can’t put all the blame on Bachmann or Palin for getting some of America’s history wrong. Even the famous portrait of the founding fathers signing the Constitution, prominently placed in capitol dome, never took place. And the story of George Washington and the cherry tree was made up by a family friend.

I watched a repeat of 60 Minutes on Sunday where they told the story of children going to sleep hungry because their parents lost their job, eventually the house, and couldn’t afford to give them food. You would never believe this story was taking place in America, and I’m sure it’s not what the founding fathers had in mind while they were risking their lives.

But when politicians rile up their base by inflating arguments, or walking out of rooms in a tantrum and refusing to negotiate, it demeans what the members of the Continental Congress built. Whether they thought the federal or state governments were the primary areas of influence, the point was for all sides to come together and debate what is best for all Americans, not just their constituencies. But if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the country’s debt will be enormous and will only burden families further.

So as we all celebrate the holiday, let’s remember how our countries leaders came together to defeat the most powerful army the world has ever seen, and hope today’s leaders can only agree to disagree.

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Child Exploitation in Kenya

In Kenya, half of the people living in the country are below the poverty line. Climate conditions have restricted farming and families are suffering the economic consequences. In order to help raise needed money, young children offer sexual services to men living in and visiting Kenya, with studies showing one of every ten children in Kenya were involved in sex work before they reach puberty.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation grosses $32 billion per year, and according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), two million children around the world are believed to be exploited either by prostitution or pornography. Kenya is located in the horn of Africa where they are still feeling the effects of El Nina, which caused severe droughts. With such water deficits, farmers are not able to grow food for the 10 million Kenyans who can’t afford to buy it. Desperate, children are forced to perform sexual acts for money to Kenyan men and tourists. Most children perform five times a week, and this behavior greatly increases their chances for contracting HIV/AIDS, which is already widespread in the area, because most of the time they are practicing unsafe sex.

The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF), has been a recipient of the Gates Award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and since 1957 has worked with children in need of medical attention. With clinics set up around the country, Project Manager Rosemary Kamanu, in an interview conducted by email writes, “we meet children that have gone through cases of abuse” and that they are “living on the streets, are sodomised either as rape and in some cases they are paid by older persons.”

The majority of young people having to conduct these acts are young girls, estimated to be 30 to 45 percent, starting when they are twelve years old. They live together in slums outside the city and then go out to clubs at night where they are usually paid 20 ksh, equal to 22 US cents.
Tourism is a major part of Kenya’s economy, bringing in one billion dollars a year. But most Kenyans do not benefit from the industry. Many tourists come to Kenya to visit the beaches, which are known to be some of the most beautiful in the world; this is also where some tourists find these young children. While Kenyan men make up 38 percent of the abusers, studies show Italians (18 percent) Germans (14 percent) and the Swiss (12 percent), are all taking part.

One of the ways to reduce the number of children from having to perform these acts is to provide families with the tools they need to take care of themselves. UNICEF, a long with the Kenyan government, implemented a cash transfer program in 2004 where families are given money in order to improve their quality of life. So far, the program has reached over one hundred thousand families in Kenya, and aims to reach close to thirty thousand by the end of July. When the program first started in December of 2004, a select group of people were chosen based on their socioeconomic needs. Many families had fathers who were sick, unemployed, and members had HIV/AIDS.

The money they were given was used for food, school uniforms, and cooking oil. In the discussions that took place with the families, they agreed to make school and health a priority for their children. Other family members benefited as well. Half of the families who first received funds had members who were HIV positive or developed AIDS, and the money was used to buy them anti retroviral treatment. However, they all said that the money given to them was not enough to cover everything.

While the results of the cash transfer program are promising, there are still problems monitoring the progress of the endowed families, and dividing up the limited monies. On Friday, Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki is going to sign the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization’s Golden Book. By doing so, he is hoping more tourists will come to the country, spend money, and help grow the economy. But enforcing the laws that do protect children are weak, and hopefully Mr. Kibaki will be encouraged to protect some of his country’s most vulnerable citizens.

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Blue Dogs Singing The Blues

In my desperate attempts to find news not about Anthony Weiner, I went to POLITICO’s website and found an article about Blue Dog Democrats, or I should say, the lack of Blue Dog Democrats in Congress. The Blue Dog Caucus was started in 1995 and was always a thorn on the side of liberal Democrats of the west coast and north east. Whenever it came to taxes, health care, and especially the farm bill, these moderates always seemed to have the upper hand.

Coming from the Dakota’s, Tennessee, Kentucky, and “Pennsyltucky,” these Congressmen and women would always use the same argument; our “rural” constituents don’t want more spending, so I can’t vote for this unless I can tell them how they will benefit from it. Or they would lay the guilt on the Democrats in safe seats and rant about how in order to keep the majority the liberals need to put together more moderate policy proposals. Well guess what, the Democrats did pass moderate legislation that benefited every single state in the union, and they still lost.

According to the article “The Blue Dog decline has been sharp, to put it mildly. Following the 2008 elections, the coalition counted 54 House members. When the dust settled from the 2010 midterms, just 25 remained.” Of course if they were real Republican’s it would be a lot easier for them to win reelection. They do come from more conservative districts, but I find it hard to believe Blue Dogs lost because of the policies that were passed between 2008 and 2010.

The hardest votes Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to get were for the bailout, stimulus, and health care, and had to work hard to convince the Blue Dogs. They were worried about keeping their job, and since the media and Republican’s hit the panic button whenever they get a chance, they have to go with the flow. The communications staff of House and Senate members (usually between 2-5 people) don’t have the time or tools to work on all the stories the media is covering. Most congressional offices have a policy of sticking to a limited amount of stories that make the member look good. But Blue Dogs can’t say the Democrat’s didn’t try to help them.

One of the biggest bills (and one that gets the least attention) was the Farm Bill in 2008, which is set to expire in 2012. It always carries huge subsidies for America’s least productive industry (1.2 percent of GDP) but there is never, ever, a debate of whether it should be passed. As far as the people who benefit from it are concerned, the more people who can benefit from it the better, and you can forget all that deficit stuff. The subsides in this law are with billions. I will also be writing a letter to Anheuser Busch. Since the law extended the tariffs for ethanol allowing local breweries to charge less to bars, I want to know why I still have to pay triple the price for a Budweiser.

Both Democrat’s and Republican’s need a wide variety of candidates in order to keep the gavel. The difference is while Democrat’s make a big deal out of their differences, Republican’s pretend there aren’t any. When the Democrats took back the House in 2006, there were stories coming out of Blue Dogs telling their leadership they were the reason they control the House. But the leadership should have reminded them about all the money they so the Blue Dogs could have their seat.

There will be Blue Dogs coming back in the next year, and yes it will help the Democrats get control of Congress, but that doesn’t mean the Democratic leadership should bow down to their every wish. If they wind up losing their seat it’s because their constituents didn’t see what their representative did for them. But if you look at what the GOP has accomplished this year (cut to Eric Cantor trying to fix his whip), and considering the seriousness of the issues coming up (cut to John Boehner crying), Democrats should stop singing the blues and replace it with rock and roll.

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>The World’s City is Becoming the Widest Net

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Have you ever been stuck in the rain, in a rush, wet, miserable, and not sure what the quickest way to get to your destination is? Well, there’s an app for that! For the past few years Mayor Michael Bloomberg has joined Twitter, hired the city’s first Chief Digital Officer, and has made a push for New York City to become a major player in the online development community.
A conglomerate of businesses in the city called NYC Seed, has worked with the New York’s Economic Development Corporation to attract developers to the city. In a competition called SeedStart 2011, entrepreneurs competed to live in New York for a summer, plus a prize of $20,000 to work on their proposed project. Owen Davis, Managing Director of NYC Seed, told me they received hundreds of applications. When I asked him if New York could compete with the major companies in Silicon Valley, he said that it is a “silly” comparison and “New York has many substantial industries in it already ”giving it an edge to attract start ups to work within the fashion, media, and advertizing industries. According to Davis, many developers are already doing so:  “There’s a lot of startups coming to New York and it’s increasing so you have a good supporting system that is being built and will continue to be built.”
Many popular online features have already been created in the city such as Tweetdeck which was recently bought by Twitter for $50 million. A lot of these start ups are located in the flatiron district where you can find large, open, spaces for $26 dollars per square foot. Tech companies are attracted to these types of offices because much of the work they do is collaborative and these areas make everyone in the office more accessible.

Under the title Government 2.0, a number of corporations and other entities have been trying to figure out ways office holders and public agencies can release information so it can be used to benefit the people they represent. Mayor Bloomberg has worked within this realm and initiated the BigApps competition. Over 350 data sets were released by city agencies for programmers to create smartphone applications. The prize was a dinner with the Mayor and $40 thousand dollars. The best part of the competition is that is has already solved the rainy day problem. In its second year, the top prize went to a iphone app called Roadify, which tells people the latest subway, bus, and driving conditions in real time.
There are other applications the city has put out, one of which is called Don’t Eat At. Using information from the city’s Department of Health’s grading system, you can check into a restaurant via Foursquare (also created in New York) and get an instant text message telling you whether the chef washes his hands before cooking.  The MTA has also created an application where people can see where there are delays on the subway and bus routes, and in the future will tell people the exact time when a subway or bus will arrive.
As social media is slowly becoming a part of our everyday lives, it is important for office holders to enter this realm as a way to interact with their constituents and govern in a way where they are accessible.  New York is already home to the largest amount of Twitter accounts with million of people, making it only natural for the City’s mayor to get in on the game. “I think social media overall, especially Twitter, gives politicians a new and exciting way to connect to constituents in ways they weren’t able to do even a few years ago.  And it has really changed the dynamic of how politicians are able to respond to the citizens.” Richard Robbins, the Marketing Director for Media Innovation at AT&T explained. But there is no filter for the internet, and being caught in a gaff online can be much worse than being committing one caught on TV. To conquer this problem, Robbins said politicians should think about social media as “a campaign event or a cocktail party where it’s an opportunity to go and meet with people. And the idea whether they’re running for office or in office, interacting with constituents, helping constituents bring their concerns, responding to them is all politics.”
Since creating his account, Bloomberg has held online town halls using the #askmike hashtag. While there were some serious questions about housing, crime, and other city matters, the Mayor was also asked to explain how magnets work. As an engineer he knew the answer, but probably did not know the question was actually referring to a song by the hip hop group Insane Clown Posse. Making yourself more accessible to constituents is of course important, but obviously some can pull it off better than others. As Microsoft’s Director of Innovative Social Engagement, Dr. Mark Drapeau emailed me “if the goal is to make government and its billionaire mayor seem more human and down-to-earth through Twitter, than Insane Clown Posse could be an appropriate discussion topic, even if the mayor doesn’t completely appreciate who they are. Some of his citizens do, and he’s doing his best to relate.”
When I told him about the BigApp competition Drapeau said “App contest are not strictly necessary, and many of them end up on the proverbial shelf not getting much use. But they also motivate the developer community into public service, show citizens and govies the art of the possible, and occasionally deliver a hit.” It can also be a good way to promote the start ups and build the community that will further drive New York’s economic engine into the future.
Robbins explained to me that all these efforts help grow the industry “there’s more capitol at the early stage, the city is behind supporting entrepreneurs, there’s very good investors who are experienced who are trying to deploy capitol. And all those things matter in terms of building a ecosystem, it’s not one beast that does it.”
But flip phones are going the way of the dinosaur and young people are some of the most computer literate people in the country. Having grown up with this technology, using new devices is more natural to them than their parents. But looking further, Facebook is not going to be all fun anymore.  Not only do politicians need to go where their constituents are, but governments will have to upgrade their services to keep up with the increasing demand as this new technology becomes more prominent.

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>I Haven’t Heard The Fat Lady

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As the 2010 election gets closer and closer, it seems like everyone is trying to figure what the results will be and who’s going to win where. The story lines are great too. The Tea Party is two steps away from taking over the Republican Party (they’re already old and have party in their name), Robert Gibbs’ media flaps, Momma Bear Sarah Palin, and President Obama’s approval ratings. And with all that, the election is still up in the air.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Democrats that the party without an agenda seems to have better winning odds. Finding holes or problems with policy ideas are easy. No policy is perfect and in today’s twenty-four hour media, blogs (except for this one), and Twitter, it’s easy to get as much bad information as much as there is good. But then you have to ask yourself, how many people realize the amount of money that will be saved by the new health care law ($143 billion), that the government actually made money from the TARP program ($201 billion), and we don’t even know how many more jobs would have been lost if not for the auto bailout which all recently reported strong earnings. Governing is hard, and even though the Democrats did a good job communicating during the campaign, it’s hard to juggle the two acts at once.

There are economists who fear deflation, and the unemployment rate is still staggeringly high (9.5%), but there are no actual facts that can be used to blame President Obama or the Democrats to say they have made it worse.

The Democrats should be touting their victories while they campaign, and Obama is finally doing so. The latest Third Way poll shows that the American people don’t want to go back to the policies of the past. Even with all the craziness out there, I still believe that (especially since we are in such troubled times) people pay attention. The American people want answers, and the Democrats have legitimate evidence to show their policies have been working. So let the Republicans have no agenda, let them try and say things are worse from when they were in charge, and while doing so, ask what they would have done differently.

The only way the Republicans can actually claim victory is if they take over one of the Houses in Congress. But according to Real Clear Politics, both are still very much in play. I haven’t heard the fat lady sing yet, and neither should you.

 

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>Filling In The Bubble

>As summer is just around the corner, it’s getting warmer outside, flowers are blooming, and productivity goes down the drain. This is also the time when school’s are about to be let out, and standardized test scores across the country will soon be released.

There has been a lot of news coming out of the world of education. Recently, a panel of superintendents from around the country came together to create national standards for America’s schools. Even though the panel neglected science and history, the subjects that they did take on will help schools know where there students need to be and implement reforms that will get their students up to par. Also, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave out the first round of the Race to the Top money, but with mixed results. Only two states received any money, while many others who had changed their policies in order to compete, received nothing. Now those states are saying they will not participate in the second round because they don’t see the point.

The fundamental problem I see here is how we are determining which schools need to improve, and which ones should be looked at as good examples. The No Child Left Behind law required states to report their schools progress in order to keep receiving federal money. The law let states determine how they would assess their schools, and most of them decided to use standardized tests. Why not? It helped the state get money, and if the students were passing the test it was obvious they were learning, right?

If only it were that simple. We now know that states would purposely make the tests easier so students would do well, thus qualifying the state to get more money. That is why Secretary Duncan recently came out to change this system. These new changes will require states to not just submit test scores, but other factors as well, which hold individual teachers and students accountable. President Obama took a lot of heat for saying he supported the closing failing schools, but what other choice is there? With only being able to look at test data, there is no way to determine why a school is failing.

Standardized tests are a good way to get data on students, but this is only a macro snapshot of a problem that needs a micro solution. Usually, the main factor of students doing well on standardized tests are their families socio-economic situation. While more affluent families can afford tutors, or their parents have a college degree and can spend extra time with their children, students of lower income do not have these advantages. Plus, there is no correlation between a teacher and how well his or her students did on a standardized test.

New policies need to be implemented to make sure this problem ceases to exist. One solution is to have new teachers go through a training program before they actually start teaching. States have hired many new teachers in the last year, but many of these individuals (while they may know the material they will be teaching) have never lead a classroom before. Instead of having teachers learn on the job, they should go through a paid program to develop the necessary skills to teach. This will ensure that there is a steady stream of teachers going into the classroom who from day one can effectively teach students what they need to learn. There is an organization called Urban Residency Teachers United where they pay individuals to do a residency program so they can gain experience in the classroom. This model is based on what doctors are required to do before they are allowed to practice medicine.

Also, because we are in the 21st Century, there are now many websites where teachers can write about problems or questions they have, and get feedback from others who are teaching. This should be encouraged. Like everything else, teaching is a skill, and some are better at it then others. Secretary Duncan should help promote programs that allow teachers to use these sites, and go to forums where they can learn new skills and methods to teach their students.

Standardized tests are only good for students who want to practice memorizing facts and fill in a bubble. Secretary Duncan is right when he says we only have one chance to teach the next generation, which is why we need to make sure we are doing it the right way.

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>Certain About Green

>As of today, Real Clear Politics shows that 41% of the American people are supportive of the Democrats health care bill, while 48% are opposed. This isn’t enough for either side to claim the American people are on their side or against the others. When I look at this, it tells me they are undecided even after the issue has been debated for over a year. Seeing how the debate has taken place, it makes sense. Health care is one of the most complicated issues any policy maker can deal with, and frankly, the Democrats or the press has done a good job explaining it, and the Republicans are saying anything to make sure it dosen’t get passed.

Now, once the Democrats bill pass their health care bill this week, they will undoubtedly claim a huge victory. Earlier this week Nancy Pelosi said it would be a fundamental change if the bill is passed. But the truth is the effects of the bill won’t be seen for most Americans until a few years down the road, and will be a non-factor in the coming elections because the law won’t have any immediate effect. What people will be voting on is how Democrats have been running the country.

Democrats will have to answer questions on the stimulus, bailout, and if they have any ideas on how to get the economy moving faster.

What can have a faster effect on the economy, and people’s well being, is a comprehensive energy bill that focuses on green technology and becoming less reliant on importing oil. There won’t be a lot of time before politicians are fully focusing on their elections, but the great thing about energy bills is that their easy.

While Arizona can put money into developing solar technology, New York can do the same for nuclear. Different types of power are better for different parts of the country, and the states can use their own natural resources to determine which type of energy source is best for them.

Any real energy plan will require a variety of new technologies to be developed. As long as the bill creates grants to incentivize states to develop those technologies, even Republicans would be hard pressed not to vote for it.

While an effective way to speed the development of green technology would be helped by cap and trade, it won’t be necessary if the demand for these technologies is already high. Even Al Gore admitted recently that we have more time to combat global warming then we first thought. People in Greenpeace shouldn’t complain if cap and trade isn’t in the energy bill signed into law if new power sources that don’t emit any CO2 are being used and developed.

People like green technology because they know it will create jobs. When President Obama visited OPOWER, people were more excited to learn about the company then why the president went their in the first place.

By passing a comprehensive energy bill, Democrats can claim (with the combination of the stimulus and bailout) that they have a handle on things, and the country is being steered in the right direction with them at the helm.

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>Haiti

>At Muhlenberg (my alma mater), there is a Sociology professor named Christopher Kovatz-Bernat who has studied the country of Haiti throughout his professional career. His class on the country is extremely popular with students, and most of my peers came away thinking that Dr. Bernat was a little crazy to keep going to such a volatile state.

I did not take Dr. Bernat’s class on Haiti, but when I did a presentation on the country, he was more than willing to sit down with me to go over details. By now, you have all heard Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemesphere, and when you learn about the recent political history of the country, it’s not hard to understand why.
In December of 1990, Jean Bertrand Aristide won 67% of the vote in a Presidential election for the country of Haiti. President Aristide was looked at as a symbolic figure who would be able to bring economic stability and development to the country. However, in September of 1991, a coup was staged to overthrow Aristide. The act was led by the economic elite of the country, a long with elements of Haiti’s army.

From 1991-1994 an interim government was formed. It was not until the United Nations passed Resolution 940 where members were supposed to use all necessary force to oust the interim government. The United States took the lead in this initiative, and in mid-September of 1994 U.S. troops prepared to enter Haiti. In June of 1995 local and parliamentary elections took place with a pro-Aristide contingent winning. President Aristide then took the Presidential office back in September of 1995. After that though, there were many problems with the legitimacy of future elections. In 1996 Rene Preval won the Presidential election with 51.15% of the vote that was looked at by many of the international community to be illegitimate.

Without full legitimacy, it has been hard for the international community to come together to work with the country, and harder for the President Preval to bring the country together in order to help it. And remember, this was all before the earthquake.

People were already living in unsanitary conditions. There was barely any running water, and the only way to get any was through a public filtration system. There was also no sanitation department to pick up the trash so people left it on the streets and walked around it.

There had also been law enforcement issues making the country a dangerous place to live. After the international community went into Haiti, the military was disbanded, but its members still kept their weapons. This left thousands of guns on the streets with no counter force to help keep the peace. This is a picture of Haiti’s former military personel on the streets of Port au-Prince:

In 2008, the Caribbean was hit by three storms, Haiti getting the worst of it. This is how the country looked after that:


This country needed help way before the major earthquake that destroyed the little people had in the country. If any good can come out of this, its that there might be a sustained effort to build stability and economic growth to a place that has needed it for a long time.

The American Red Cross has had members going to Haiti for a long time now. They and other organizations will be conducting much of the heavy lifting that is now necessary more then ever. That link will lead you straight to a place where you can donate what you can. Large amount of funds will be necessary to carry the effort out now, and into the future.

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>Show Me The Money!!

>I’m usually really excited to wake up Sunday, read the paper, watch Meet The Press, and absorb all the new information that’s going to come out. There are times though when my political Sunday is kinda a let down. Kinda like the last week of the NFL season. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this is going to be one of those weeks.

I know exactly what’s going to be said tomorrow. Jobs. Everything and anything about jobs, or rather, lack there of. In December 85,000 jobs were lost and the unemployment rate stayed at 10%. There’s no way around it, it’s very bad out there. Businesses are forced to cut back, and families are being forced to make extremely tough decisions such as between buying health insurance or food. Now the President and Congress are talking about passing a jobs bill which they hope (hope!), will create more opportunities for companies to hire.

Most economists are saying things are going to get worse before they get better. But of course a recent piece pulitzer prize winning economist (Paul Krugman) said: “The next employment report could show the economy adding jobs for the first time in two years.” So what do they know? And as for Republicans, all they can do is say the Democrats $275 billion stimulus package isn’t working. But when I looked to find out what that money was doing, it turns out its just sitting there.

According to Recovery.gov, as of October 30th 2009, only $19 billion of the stimulus packaged has been spent, but over $158 billion has been rewarded. Only 13% of the money has been given to the states. Wyoming has been awarded over $476 million, but has only received a little over $60 million. California (the state with the most fiscal trouble right now) was awarded over $18 billion, but has only received a little over $8 billion.

So for all you fiscal hawks out there, stop complaining. While the money has been allocated it hasn’t gone anywhere yet. Why? Who knows. I’m sure if you ask any member of Congress (well, maybe not McCain) they will be more then happy to get some of that money for their constituents.

My advice: spend the money! Banks aren’t lending, and as we learned from the Great Depression, the government needs to be the one that creates the demand to spur economic growth. There are arguments out there that another stimulus needs to be passed. But let’s wait and see what this one is actually able to accomplish. Considering our infrastructure needs a lot of work, I’m willing to bet there are plenty of roads, bridges, and highways that can use some sprucing up.

Since health care took up so much of Congress’ time this year, people are frustrated they cannot see any tangible results from the stimulus or anything else. Democrats had a mandate to do something and while they can legitimately claim they got things done, none of it has taken effect yet. There have been tours here and there touting where the stimulus money has been spent (including minority leader John Boehner’s district), but more needs to be done. With all the families struggling out there they need to hear it’s going to get better.

From the money that had been spent, Democrats can legitimately claim it created jobs. So show me the money!

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>9/12/2001

>I’m so glad this decade is over. When you look back at it, there’s nothing great to remember. First, there was the “election” of George W. Bush which absolutely polarized the country. Everyone hated each other, during the 2000 election, it seemed like there was just some nerd who claimed he invented the internet, and then another guy you may have wanted to have a beer with. It wasn’t really a question of who you liked more, it was really about who you hated less. The majority of the people weren’t all that passionate about one candidate or the other, and no matter who won, Gore or W, neither would have had any true mandate to get any of their policy objectives accomplished. Then came September 11th 2001.

As in past crises, American’s ran straight to the flag, and W’s popularity soared. The election was left behind, it didn’t matter anymore. Recently, and to my great enjoyment, there have been many people who have been making fun of Glenn Beck. One skit that has had many people laughing was his coalition for 9/10, where Beck wants everyone to feel the way they did before that awful day in September. But what I remember most about that time is actually the day after. Having grown up in New York City, I have always had to explain to people who are not accustomed to a big city that I knew everyone on my block. NYC is made up of small communities, and on 9/12, they were extremely important to getting things back on track. Schools were canceled and people were outside. My family and I went to Central Park where we saw a ton of people out with their dogs talking, exercising, reading, and yes the park is always crowded on nice days (which this was) but this time there was a bigger reason for it.

You had to be with someone. You couldn’t be alone because the only way to get through what happened the day before was to be together. Karl Rove’s strategy of there being two ideologues in American politics might be true, but where he and the Bush administration fell short wasn’t the two wars, or the spending, it was leadership. We’ll never know if Al Gore would have been a better President, but President Bush lost a great opportunity to bring people together. No one likes politics (trust me, I know) but the reason President Obama won this year wasn’t because the majority of the people were absolutely in love with him. It was because of what he represented. While George W. Bush let September 11th define his Presidency, he should have defined September 11th. I’m 23 now, and when Barak Obama ran for President, he wanted to bring America together. That’s why he won. Change was not just a slogan. It was a word that represented the ideals of why people came together on 9/12. Even during this financial crisis and what has been dubbed the great recession, everyone (Republicans and Democrats) looked to their government to do something.

I’m glad this decade is over because it means there is a chance Americans can feel exuberant again. And maybe this time even humble. Personally, I’m confident the economy will turn around next year, and hopefully there will be many people (including me) who can find a job. But as we go forward, it’s important we do not forget how we felt on 9/12/2001, because that is the true America. Hopefully even Glenn Beck can remember that.

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