America’s Offshore Dilemma


Though boasting a significantly smaller population than countries such as China or India, the United States consumes more oil per year than any other country. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, the United States consumes roughly 7 billion barrels of oil annually, roughly 25% of all oil produced in the world. As such, our nation’s energy policy has been, and continues to be, almost entirely focused on oil production and importation. Continue reading

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Arms Race No More


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History is meant as a learning tool for the future so people do not make the same mistakes of the past. The Cold War arms race between the United States and Russia for a majority of the mid to late 20th Century is a prime example for the United States to learn that over spending on military expenditures does very little benefits to American life as a whole. However, 20+ years after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Americas spike in military spending is back and as reckless as ever. President Obama has started cuts that are necessary to decrease the wastefulness, but they are not nearly enough.

I hope to show that over spending on certain departments including weaponry and research and development does not have the positive safety effects that many outsiders perceive it does. A more efficient spending culture will not only be equally as successful, but it will aid the other sectors of the economy through more funding that is usually directed towards the military. The United States has held the position as the World’s military power for some time now and they have no thoughts of giving that up. By cutting down their defense spending, they are not putting America at risk for attack, they are merely helping build the other aspects of American life that are struggling to progress at the same rate as other powerful countries in the world.

Campaign Finance Reform: A Necessary Change


Executive Summary

Campaign finance reform is the effort to change the power and effect that money has on United States politics, particularly elections. The current sanctions and regulations placed on groups or individuals who donate money to certain parties or candidates are not thorough enough. Campaign finance law is often thought about as loopholes rather than laws. Candidates and supporters find different loopholes in order to pour money into different sectors to influence politicians.  Although it is difficult to stop people from donating money where they please because of their first amendment rights, there needs to be a governmental change in order to overcome this misrepresentation of the American people. More power needs to be given to the Federal Election Committee and the right people need to be selected to run the FEC. Campaigns need to be run mostly by publicly funded money so that the American people are actually represented in Congress.

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Childhood Obesity in America


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Childhood obesity has become a national epidemic in the United States, but only recently has the issue gotten significant attention. The rate of obese and overweight children in the United States has doubled in the last 20 years and will continue to increase if changes aren’t made to children’s lifestyles.  Continue reading

What are we feeding our kids?


ljnewlfnwsfAs childhood obesity becomes a bigger problem in the United States, there is the question of what we are feeding children in schools. In order to prevent bad habits and teach a healthy lifestyle, I believe schools should offer healthier food in their cafeterias. When I was growing up, elementary through high school, I noticed that school lunches are quite unhealthy. A lot of the time, they offer foods such as pizza and fries, instead of foods that have nutritional value. I would like to see more vegetables and fruits and less fatty/sugary foods. I think that if kids learn to eat healthier when they are young, they will most likely keep the same good habits as they get older which will decrease the risk of the many diseases associated with obesity.

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Organic Food: Good for You, Good for Nature, Good for Business?


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The US government should create a new law that requires all food to be produced organically. Food integrity is lacking in the US and we often have no idea what we are consuming. The majority of the food we consume has artificial ingredients and or traces of pesticides. Although science and technology have greatly increased the efficiency and pace of food production, the industrialized, mass production of food has caused the integrity of the food industry to suffer. It will most likely take years for this law to come into full effect but it would be worth the wait. The organic food movement has taken off in the past several decades but its growth could be greatly enhanced with more support from business, government and society. Organic food sales doubled globally from 2002-2008 and future growth estimates range from 10-15% annually. Continue reading

Love is Love


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The issue of legalizing gay marriage is one that is evolving into a growing social movement in the United States today. In recent years, numerous states have legalized gay marriage and it is likely that more and more states will follow in the near future. I chose to comment on the song Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert. First of all, this song has a very powerful social message. Continue reading

Lacking Leadership


“It’s the greatest environmental disaster with no end in sight! Eleven workers dead. Millions of gallons of oil gushing for months to come. Jobs vanishing. Creatures dying. A pristine environment destroyed for generations. A mega-corporation that has lied and continues to lie, and a government that refuses to protect the people.” – activist group ‘Seize BP’ (June 5, 2010)

Deemed by president Obama as an ‘environmental 9/11,’ the immediate economic, political, and cultural effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill have been devastating. The full, lasting effects on the gulf’s environment, however, are less calculable and will likely remain so for many years to come. On the other hand, what was made very clear was general unpreparedness of not just BP, but also, more importantly, of the federal government. Given the unparalleled magnitude of the spill and the wide range of affected parties, it is clear that the Obama administration failed in its duty to properly respond to the accident in the most effective manner. As the primary executive of the United States, the president has the responsibility, as outlined in the Oil Pollution Act and National Response Framework, to assert himself  in disaster situations such as the one presented by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Though providing cleanup assistance, the administration deferred the majority of the response efforts to private parties when it should have taken a more active and forceful role from the start. Clearly failing to understand the true complexity of the issue, the Obama administration’s most significant response efforts came late in the process with its most noteworthy one, a drilling moratorium, coming more than a month after the explosion. Ultimately, taking a consequentialist perspective, Obama’s decision to enforce a six-month offshore drilling moratorium can arguably be considered unethical as its associated economic and opportunity costs outweigh the benefits achieved, especially considering the US financial and economic situation at the time.     Continue reading

Making our world a Better Place?


In choosing a video to watch, I thought that it would be wise to pick one that related to my Paper 2 topic on US Oil/Energy policy. To do so I searched for a video on Oil and came across a series entitled ‘The End of Oil?’ where I chose to watch a video about electric cars. The talk was led by a very interesting man Shai Agassi who is an Israeli entrepreneur who founded the company Better Place which provides battery-charging and switching devices for electric cars. Agassi’s story is quite cool as he was originally in line to become CEO of the highly regarded software company SAP. However, at the urging of the Israeli prime minister, Agassi turned his focus to fighting to curb carbon emissions. Continue reading

The State of US Energy Policy


Although I had originally not intended about writing my paper on BP, my class presentation this past week has made me very interested in learning more about the energy industry. In particular, I wish to change the topic of my paper to one that focuses more on a larger policy question about whether we should continue to participate/ encourage risky and environmentally dangerous activities such as deep water drilling. In writing on this topic, I will aim to answer the following questions:

  • Do the benefits of offshore drilling outweigh the costs?
  • Does the United States properly oversee the oil industry? What changes need to be made?

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Tax on Medical Devices


By taking this quiz I truly realized how little I know about the PPACA. Although I did score a 4/10, to be fair I would have to call all of my answers guesses. I find it quite amazing how little I know about one of the top, if not the single most common subject mentioned in the news. Now, I do take some responsibility for this, but I do not think it lies solely with me. We have talked all semester about the best way to present information for your audience, and it is clear that the government did not do an extensive job presenting this piece of legislation. Perhaps when something so relevant comes into law the government (like the PPACA) should go to extra lengths to ensure that the public is well informed to its purpose, or supposed purpose.

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Refusal to Stop the Time Bomb


A protester depicts the frustration of the American people towards government officials

I must preface this post by saying that I lean toward a conservative political ideology, but after digging deeper into the viewpoints of liberals regarding the government shutdown and debt crisis, I understand their point of view.  Republicans were essentially holding the nation’s economy hostage in leaving the government unopened and threatening not to raise the debt ceiling if Obamacare is not repealed.  I agree that targeting the Affordable Care Act, the legacy of President Obama’s term, was a poor move because even if Republicans could muscle their way into getting enough votes to edit the legislation through Congress, the President would veto it.

That being said, Democrats are just as much to blame as Republicans.  They refused to negotiate on any terms unless the government was first opened and the debt ceiling was raised long-term. Harry Reid essentially was telling Republicans to concede to all of the Democrats’ terms and then negotiations will begin. This caused strict partisanship and lengthened the government shutdown, as Republicans could not find any common ground with Democrats.  Continue reading

Is The Government Shutdown Going Too Far?


I really enjoyed taking the quiz to see where I fall on the political spectrum. I wasn’t surprised when I got a moderate rating because I have always believed myself to be economically conservative and socially liberal. I strongly believe in same sex marriage and I am pro-choice, but as my quiz results stated, I’m strongly pro-business. I attribute my slight lean towards the right to the fact that I grew up in a strongly conservative household, but as I got older, I started to change some of my views and think for myself. I feel as though my views are still changing and will probably continue to change as a result of getting older and more informed about political happenings in the America.

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Keep Your Friends Close, and Your Enemies Closer


Americans want a cohesive government, but all we get is childish bickering.

Americans want a cohesive government, but all we get is childish bickering.

After taking the test, I found that I am a post-modernistic thinker.

Here, is my test.

This basically means that I am generally supportive of government, but really in the hope that we will reform our view of regulation and sustainability as a tool for a prosperous future. I was very interested to see my score on the political view test, and it really does seem to be accurate. Throughout the 16 day shutdown, I felt more so that the government was being childish than anything. Although the Republican party knew that it wouldn’t succeed in not raising the debt ceiling, they pushed for a long time, costing us approximately 26 billion dollars to our economy according to Standard & Poors. I strongly opposed the shutdown, and felt that we really just needed to make a decision and go with it. After 16 days, we have gone with the decision to raise the debt ceiling for now, but who is to say that we won’t be having these same grueling arguments in February when the debt question will be up again. Continue reading

Who Decides What Services are “Essential?”


The quiz was a great way to start off this political discussion. I believe many young people today are not as fixed and rigid on their political stance as earlier generations. This may be a generalization, but from my experience and talking with my peers, it seems today people may identify with one party, but are more open minded and willing to stray a bit away from their party’s ideals. This is the visible problem with government. The two parties are becoming more polarized and unwilling to wander from its ideals. Upon taking the quiz I identified as a Libertarian, which did not surprise me. I am more conservative on fiscal issues, and liberal on social issues.

I found a very thought provoking article on The Nation. The title of Kramer and Comerford’s article caught my attention: ” That Time When DC Stopped Funding Domestic Violence Shelters While Both Congressional Gyms Stayed Open.” The main argument is who can and should decide what services are “essential” during a shutdown?US+1+October+2013

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The Disaster of the Government Shutdown?


22-930x350_000008I enjoyed taking that quiz to “decipher” my political standing. But, when taking the quiz I did find that some of questions were worded with bias (they were worded in such a way that it was much easier to choose one answer over the other). For example, statement 6:

Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient Government often does a better job than people give it credit for

The first option is way more radical of a response, where as the second option simply says that people do not give the government enough credit. I think that this question made it way too easy to be in support of the government. Yet, I did choose the response that the government is inefficient.

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Moral Hazard


I think that the concept of “too big to fail” still exists today, as the financial services industry is still an oligopoly with few banks controlling the fate of the economy.  If, for example, a company like Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, or Bank of America were to go under at some point, the economy would fall apart.  Though it has tried to address the concern that banks could dismantle the financial system by regulating proprietary trading, capital requirements and others, the government has not addressed the problem of “moral hazard,” where investment banks take bigger risks because they are dealing with other people’s money and not their own.  The way to reform the banking system is to shift the risk to those that make the decisions to take the risk in the first place.  Continue reading

The Ultimate Fiscal Consolidation


The notion of “Too Big to Fail” not only still exists today, but it is even more relevant to our current financial system in the United States than ever before. As shown in the film, the ‘great recession’ of 2008-2009 ultimately marked the first time that people really started to question the size and power of some of our largest financial institutions. Up until this point, US Banks, for the most part, were perceived as highly respected and admired institutions that were a symbol of America’s economic strength. Rather than limiting the size of these banks, popular opinion of the 1980s and 1990s was that it would be in our best interest to let them grow as much as possible so that they could effectively compete with giants of the industry abroad in Europe and Japan. Ultimately, it was this popular belief, coupled with pressure from Wall Street’s most powerful figures, which prompted arguably the most notable piece of financial legislation of my life time: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. Under this law, the concept of ‘Universal Banks’ reemerged in the US for the first time since the 1930s as investment banks could once again participate in commercial banking activities and vice versa. Ultimately, it was this change, commonly referred to as the fall of Glass-Steagall , that set the stage for the emergence of institutions that are in fact ‘Too Big to Fail’.

As shown in the movie, major financial institutions played a pivotal role in the financial crisis, some for good reasons and others for very bad reasons. Clearly, it was the irresponsible and overzealous actions of numerous institutions that directly contributed to the crisis. Yet at the same time, it was the cooperation of the whole industry that ultimately helped to save it from a complete collapse. That being said, one of the most significant outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis was a wide scale consolidation of Wall Street. Prior to 2008, there were dozens of banks that were seen as significant financial institutions in terms of size and market share. However the crisis completely changed the layout of the industry as the strongest banks seized control of the market. As noted in the film, 10 banks now control 77% of all US bank assets and, even more staggering, the six largest banks control 67% percent of total assets (http://consciouslifenews.com/big-fail-bigger-before/1165613/). Although there has been a slight resurgence over the past couple of years, the number of mid-size and boutique banks dropped substantially as they did not have the financial might to withstand the crisis and so were forced to declare bankruptcy or be acquired by megabanks such as J.P. Morgan or Bank of America.

Seeing these staggering market share figures, it is hard to argue that the notion of “Too Big to Fail” no longer exists. All of these banks that were deemed critical to the US economy in 2008 are now bigger and therefore even more critical than ever. Ultimately, without these banks, the US economy would likely cease to be relevant and if that doesn’t mean that they are ‘Too Big to Fail’ then I don’t know what does.

To conclude this post, I would like to point out that most believe that the solution to this problem would be to simply reduce the size of the banks. While this is probably a smart idea, I strongly believe that the size of the banks was not the cause of the crisis and that all of the support to reinstate Glass-Steagall is not warranted. The main reason that our banks are still considered some of the strongest in the world is because they are not limited to choosing between being an Investment Bank or a Commercial Bank. Where was J.P. Morgan 20 years ago? While it was certainly a strong bank, it was not considered one of the 10 most powerful in the world. And now, along with the likes of Goldman Sachs and other US banks, it is arguably the most respected institutions in the world. Once again, the problem with our financial system was not that banks were getting big, but it was their ability to take on too much leverage due to the lack of strong regulatory agents in the US. I have attached an insightful article below by one of our own professors, William Gruver, which speaks more about this issue.

http://www.directorship.com/smart-reform/

Daisy on Foxconn


I found that Mike Daisy’s recount of the conditions of the Foxconn plant to be very graphic and disturbing.  However, I do not think that this is the fault of Apple, but rather Foxconn and the totalitarian regime of China.  The reason that the majority of U.S. products are manufactured in China is because the cost is so much cheaper than in the United States.  Unfortunately, this cheap labor breeds awful working conditions.  The Chinese government does not enforce labor standards, allowing for underage workers, harsh conditions, extended hours, and low wages.  Foxconn operates on the basis of many Chinese companies that people are expendable and like parts of a machine.

Apple, on the other hand, has done nothing wrong.  It periodically checks the plants for stable working conditions and—at least on the surface—investigates any labor issues that occur.  Daisy even recounted that Foxconn knew when the plants were being audited and would adjust their standards accordingly.  But the real point—though a controversial one—is that Apple needs the low cost labor of Foxconn to exist in the first place.  If Foxconn increased wages and benefits to the levels that Americans enjoy, Apple would cease to exist, as the average wage in China is $2.00 compared to the average wage in the U.S. of $34.75 (this would be an additional $25 billion per year in costs and Apple makes roughly $14 billion) 1.

While the conditions in China are terrible, we cannot blame Apple for producing its products there to stay in business (focusing on the design of their products that consumers love so much).  It is the role of the Chinese government to enact and enforce laws that help the people gain better working conditions, as companies like Foxconn are designed to minimize costs at all costs.  However, as we have seen before from the communist China (i.e. sending a 14-year old to the Olympics in 2000), the government only views its citizens as tools to serve the state.

 

1 – http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/01/25/the-real-reason-the-u-s-doesnt-make-iphones-we-wouldnt-want-to/