Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Reflective Look Back

During a recent news conference, President Obama said, "I think it's fair to say that this has been the most productive post-election period we've had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years that we've had in generations."

As we wrap up 2010, it is important to take a reflective look back and see the progress that we have made thus far.

When Obama took office back in 2008, the economy was in a freefall. We were suffering from a trillion dollar deficit, losing over 700,000 jobs a month, and a more than 10% unemployment rate. Without any government action, the U.S. Labor Department predicts we would have lost more than 11 million jobs. Instead, the stimulus package was passed, focusing on long term job creation, preventing another Great Depression, and lowering the unemployment rate to 9.5%.

According to Bloomberg News, the S&P 500 Index has gained almost 39 percent since Congress convened in January 2009, the biggest increase for a two-year congressional session since 1997. With a 10.4% market rise during Obama's first 100 days in office, compared with Reagan’s 4% gain during his first 100 days, and George W. Bush’s 2.3% loss for the equivalent period, we are showing solid signs of economic improvement.

Thanks to comprehensive healthcare reform, 32 million Americans are now insured, and millions more, like me, will no longer be denied or rationed care due to a pre-existing condition; Medicare funds will last longer than expected; students can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until the age of 26; and taxpayers, patients, businesses, and hospitals pay less in insurance fees.

The Obama administration has also succeeded in passing:
the Financial Regulation bill (instituting greater financial regulation that has put
Main Street, not Wall Street, back in charge);
the Small Business Lending bill (providing small businesses with tax cuts and lending
assistance, creating American jobs and spurring domestic investment);
the Credit Card Reform bill (making credit card companies become more transparent and
less aggressive);
the Student Loan Reform bill (improving the Pell Grant system, making it easier to pay
off student loans);
the Homeowner Loan Program (helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures and giving
tax credits for home buyers, increasing investment in new homes);
the Emergency Jobs bill (preventing states from laying off over 300,000 teachers and
public workers);
• and the Auto-Industry Bailout (saving the entire U.S. auto industry).

Not to mention, he also ended the Iraq War; made larger investments in cleaner energy programs; nominated two females to the Supreme Court, one of which is the first Latina justice; increased transparency in our government (this is the first time the White House guests list is online); and inspired our youth to engage more frequently in community service programs.

All this progress was achieved before the Democrats lost control of the House and narrowed their margins in the Senate. Even so, this has proven to be the most productive lame-duck Congress in decades.

In just a few weeks after the midterm election, Obama has succeeded in ratifying the START treaty, reducing the payroll tax for 150 million Americans, providing tax cuts for 100 million middle-class families, extending unemployment benefits to over 2 million jobless, working with BOTH parties, and overturning Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

However, while Obama has made significant strides to reach across the political aisle, many on the right have simply proven themselves a party of “No”. With 2010 behind us, and a new Congress taking over in just a few short weeks, I hope we can continue making progress and working together on behalf of the American people.

For more information on the progress we have made, please checkout this article from Bloomberg News:

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Arc of Justice

After preventing another Great Depression, creating millions of domestic jobs, overhauling the nation’s healthcare system, requiring greater financial responsibility of Wall Street, improving foreign relations, saving the U.S. auto industry, increasing transparency in the government, and ending the Iraq War, it seems our president is keen on keeping his campaign promises.

Obama has long advocated for repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the discriminatory policy prohibiting gay people from openly serving in our nation’s military. In an effort to uphold the American values of freedom and equality, the Senate voted yesterday to repeal the law.

Not only does ending DADT make us a better nation, but according to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “no longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result."

Although a few Republicans joined the Senate Democrats, this measure was passed largely on partisan lines. But as Democrat Senator Ron Wyden put it, “I don't care who you love. If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn't have to hide who you are."

It was the right thing to do, and proves that Obama and the Democrats are serious about getting our nation back on the right track.

“Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice...." (Senator Obama, 2008).

With the DREAM act failing to overcome a Republican filibuster, I am curious to see which way the GOP is bending the arc of justice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Era of Compromise

Call it bipartisanship at its best.

On Monday, President Obama negotiated a deal with the Republican leadership to temporarily extend ALL the Bush tax cuts (those for the middle class and the top 2 percent), along with unemployment benefits that have expired. While this deal is not perfect, I believe it was the right course of action.

Although Obama is still against an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent, as it would be detrimental to our staggering economy and cost us an additional $700 billion in lost revenue, he has avoided a larger threat and won an extension of unemployment benefits; a temporary reduction in payroll taxes for 155 million workers; tax cuts for the 100 million middle-class families; and 100% expensing for businesses next year, generating more than $50 billion in additional investment in the U.S. (U.S. Treasury Department). All these measures will provide benefits to millions of Americans and help spur domestic job creation.

For weeks, the debate has been at a standstill with both sides of the political isle unwilling to give in. The federal unemployment benefits expired last month, leaving two million jobless without any support; and the Bush-era tax cuts for every American were set to expire January 1st. If no action was taken and the middle class tax cuts were allowed to expire, 98 percent of Americans would see a $3,000 tax increase and the economy could have shed more than one million jobs (U.S. Labor Department and the Tax Policy Center).

While the deal may not be suitable to everyone, especially those within Obama’s own party, this is the true essence of “compromise”. With their new majorities in Congress, Republicans were holding the extension of unemployment benefits hostage to a deal on extending the upper-bracket tax cuts. The options were limited.

A compromise does not make our president look weak. Instead, it shows that he is truly putting politics aside and doing what he was elected to do: lead. He is not the President of the Democrats, but the President of the United States.

The hope is that Obama’s ability to reach across the political isle may prove helpful to Democrats in the next legislative session. However, Republican senators made clear they are unlikely to budge in their opposition to other national priorities. Yesterday, Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation that sought to provide medical care for 9/11 workers; and today they voted along party lines to prevent the passage of legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell”.

With the DREAM act and START treaty soon to approach the Senate floor, I hope the GOP leadership is taking a few tips from our president and will stop the political bickering. Will 2011 bring about a new era of compromise? Let’s wait and see.

For another look at the President's compromise, watch this video from the White House:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A One-Term President?

With the midterm election behind us and the lame duck of Congress in session, it is important that the newly elected Republican majority in House take the time to stand up for the American people and help us continue moving this country forward. Although I strongly believe Democrats have done more to help this staggering economy and improve the quality of life for Americans, I welcome the Republicans help and hope they are willing to work together in the name of progress.

So far, however, it has been somewhat confusing. On one hand, the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, recently endorsed President Obama’s moratorium of pork-barrel projects (known as "earmarks"). As a long time defender of using these special funding requests, McConnell has sought nearly $1 billion worth of earmarks, primarily benefiting his home state of Kentucky. Although he “does not apologize” for his actions, his reversal will help eliminate such wasteful spending.

On the other hand, the Republican leadership decided to postpone a bipartisan congressional meeting with the president at the White House due to scheduling conflicts. John Boehner told the White House that “the crush of business setting up the new Congress while juggling a lame duck session of the old one was too much”. If the new speaker of the House cannot manage a simple meeting with the President of the United States, how can we expect him to lead Congress? According to current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, “I can never remember an instance where President Bush asked the Democratic leadership to meet with him and we did not accommodate our schedule to that request.” This is not only a sign of disrespect, but also does not reveal a future of healthy cooperation and bipartisanship.

Obama wanted to hold the bipartisan meeting to discuss national issues following the midterm elections, including such economic issues as the possible extension of Bush tax cuts set to expire January 1. As I mentioned in my blog post, America in the Driver’s Seat, the Republican argument that these tax cuts would encourage small businesses, stimulate the economy, and create jobs are misleading and haven proven wrong since their enactment in 2001. Even BILLIONAIRE investor Warren Buffett agreed that “we should raise taxes on the very rich, and I think maybe we should cut taxes for the middle class." If one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs sees the benefits of letting the Bush tax cuts expire, I think it’s something to make note of.

Although the Republicans say they want to work with the Democrats, it is hard to imagine any talks of bipartisanship when the day after their victory, McConnell says, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” This proves that the Republicans are simply a party of NO, failing to put aside politics for the success of the American people.

They are against repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the discriminatory policy preventing any American who wants to defend our country to do so; against extending unemployment benefits to millions of jobless Americans; against supporting the DREAM Act, which would award citizenship to illegal immigrants who have gone to college or served in the military; and against ratifying the new START treaty, a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement between the U.S. and Russia signed earlier this year. If ratified, the treaty will reduce Russia’s nuclear arsenal to the lowest level since the Cold War.

But, I guess when politics is put before policies, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Continuing the Message of Hope and Change

Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama is currently on his 10-day Asia tour aimed at spurring domestic job creation through increased trade and American exports. With the tenth consecutive month of American private-sector growth, this tour continues Obama’s efforts to create jobs and improve the American economy.

As an Indian-American, I take great pride in the fact that Obama hosted his first state dinner with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Now, with India as his first stop in Asia, our two worlds seemed to have come full circle.

This is especially true when Obama said, “I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as president of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared and inspired with America and the world.” It truly gives me an inspiring and patriotic feeling.

As the largest democracy in the world with one of the fastest growing economies, Asia’s nuclear-armed giant has proven itself a global power. With the U.S. economy as his top priority, Obama announced a host of new trade deals with India, supporting tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and creating a deeper and stronger partnership between the two nations.

Furthermore, in an address to India’s Parliament, President Obama endorsed India for a permanent seat on the United Nation’s Security Council. Although this has sparked some criticism from China and Pakistan, I believe it is well deserving and a smart move.

By strengthening U.S.-India efforts to fight and prevent terrorism, a permanent seat on the Security Council will also help America control the spread of nuclear weapons in the world and check the influence of an increasingly assertive China.

Although the U.S. image across the world had worsened during the past administration, President Obama’s message of hope and change are strengthening old relationships and creating new ones, helping to reverse this process.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Responsible Reflection

This past Tuesday, after months of campaigning for the Democratic Party and working with Organizing for America (OFA) volunteers across the state of Maryland, I found myself in a bittersweet moment. We handily won the Governor’s race, as well as many other state and local races I was involved in. However, as the polls came in from around the country, I came to understand the harsh reality of politics: nothing is certain.

The Republicans had major victories on Tuesday, and for that, I must give credit where credit is due. However, to say that the election is a direct referendum on President Obama’s policies or that Democrats had lost focus on economic recovery is misdirected. In fact, each measure proposed and passed by the Democrats actually sought to help the economy.

For this reason, it is hard to believe that the American voters voted against: 1) adequate health insurance, where their insurance companies can no longer drop their coverage due to a pre-existing condition; 2) student loan reform, where getting and paying off college loans is easier and more affordable; 3) stricter credit card regulations, where credit card companies are prevented from raising interest rates on existing balances and without notifying you; 4)Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which provides tax cuts and lending assistance for small businesses; 5)the Emergency Jobs bill, which prevent states of laying off teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers; 6) Emergency Homeowner Loan Program that help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures; 7) the stimulus package, which prevented another Great Depression and helped save the U.S. auto-industry; or 8) ending the Iraq War and bringing our brave troops home.

Instead, the major problem Democrats encountered was that of communication. Despite the fact that the economic problems we face began under a previous administration, or that when any one party controls everything—the House, the Senate, and the White House—that party will almost always lose seats in midterm elections, we needed to better explain our successes to the American people. We needed to show the voters that our major concern was, and always has been, economic growth. From health-insurance reform to ending the Iraq War, each policy taken by the Democrats aimed at stimulating the economy and creating jobs.

But as the President has made clear: "Each time progress has come slowly and even painfully, but progress has always come -- because we’ve worked at it and because we’ve believed in it, and most of all, because we remembered that our first allegiance as citizens is not to party or region or faction, but to country -- because while we may be proud Democrats or proud Republicans, we are prouder to be Americans."

Let's keep moving America forward.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Pledge to America

This past Thursday, Republican leaders unveiled their legislative agenda for the next Congress, which they are calling the “Pledge to America.” Unfortunately, however, the plan contains the very same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place.

In short, the pledge calls for a reduction in government regulation, a repeal of the healthcare reform, extending large tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, ending stimulus spending, and undoing all the successes the Obama administration has accomplished.

First, why do we need government regulation? Without it, Wall Street was able to conduct business in an irresponsible manner that resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Bankers got greedy, misled the public, and contributed to the housing market bubble. Without government regulation, credit card companies were able to raise interest rates on existing balances without notifying you and entrapped students into a never ending pile of debt. Without government regulation, private banks handled federally backed student loans, costing taxpayers billions of dollars in subsidies and making it harder for students to pay back loans.

Second, without healthcare reform, whose provisions only just started to take effect, millions died due to lack of adequate insurance; students were not covered under their parents’ insurance; pre-existing conditions dominated your insurance policy; Medicare finances were being depleted; the cost of prescription drugs steadily increased; and taxpayers were forced to pay thousands extra in premiums for unnecessary and avoidable trips to the emergency room.

Third, extending tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent will do nothing to help our staggering economy. One major proof: the tax cut for the richest has been in place since 2003. But instead of investing, they have saved; instead of increasing paychecks for employees they have given out large corporate bonuses; and instead of hiring American workers, they have outsourced jobs. Throughout Bush’s 8 years in office, even with a 35% tax rate (as opposed to 39% during Clinton), there was only a total net growth of 3 million jobs, and ZERO in the private-sector. Clearly, the tax cuts did not, and will not work. Also, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the CBO, extending the tax cut will cost an additional $3 trillion over 10 years in lost revenue.

Finally, what’s wrong with stimulus spending? What’s wrong with funding public works projects, extending unemployment benefits, and increasing support for cash-strapped state governments so they won't have to lay off teachers and police officers? What’s wrong with saving the auto-industry and allowing companies like GM and Chrysler to make profits and start hiring American workers again? What’s wrong with helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures; giving small businesses tax cuts and assist in their lending? What’s wrong with going from an economy where we were losing 750,000 jobs a month to now creating more than 3 million new jobs? The answer is nothing. But the very same Republicans who denounced the Obama stimulus spending plan are quick to embrace stimulus spending when it comes in the form of tax cuts for the rich.

If this is where Republicans are planning to take us after November, I want to get off at the next exit.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Party of November

The economic recession has left Americans little cause to celebrate. However, after closer examination of the state of our union today, we start to find a glimmer of hope in our collective future.

Last week, President Obama and his administration once again proved they are doing all they can to help America create jobs through the recent passage of the Small-Business lending bill.

The bill will provide tax breaks and other incentives to the sector of our economy that provides the most new jobs, yet have been hit the hardest by the economic downturn: small businesses. Specifically, it creates a $30-billion small-business lending fund, easing access to credit, and provides $12 billion in tax breaks to encourage investment, entrepreneurship and hiring. And it will NOT add a single dime to our deficit.

Up to now, our tax code has provided billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs in other countries. However, according to White House economist Jason Furman, eliminating these tax breaks and closing the corporate loopholes will provide an estimated $300 billion in new revenue.

But once again, the leaders across the aisle are saying no. Senate Republicans have held this job creating measures hostage for the last few weeks, urging, instead, of an additional tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. In fact, without the help of 2 Republicans who broke away from the pack and helped break the GOP filibuster in the Senate, this bill would not have passed.

So what made Republican Sen. George LeMieux of Florida and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio wise up? Neither of them are seeking re-election.

At a time when small business owners are struggling to make payroll and holding off hiring, we need leaders who are not fancy to the political whims of an election but, instead, are concerned about helping the average American.

But if we can only expect leaders on the right to vote for progress in an “off-year” (when they are not concerned about getting votes), does that really account for a party truly concerned with Americans? Can we really count on the Republicans to help us through the recession after November?

It seems not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Call of Freedom?

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin
After much heated debate, the pastor of a small Florida church has finally agreed to cancel his plans to burn copies of the Koran later this week. It seems that religious freedom and religious tolerance have triumphed once again.

As many from both sides of the political spectrum have noted, not only would burning of the holy book of Islam, one the largest religions in the world, be an act of cruelty and racism, but it would have also endangered our American troops stationed in Muslim countries. The event would have proven what extremists have been saying all along, and would undermine U.S. policies in the Arab world, making it even more dangerous for Americans and our brave soldiers.

But time and time again, Americans prove their ability to unite and stand steadfast against oppressive radicalism. Americans stood up for the values that our Founding Fathers envisioned for us, and that many across the world live without. I can think of no better way to commemorate 9/11 than to honor those values of America: equality and freedom.

As this weekend marks the 9th year after we were brutally attacked on American soil, it also marks the great strength and resilience of Americans. I have never seen more unity and love for our great nation than the months following September 11, 2001. Although tragic, 9/11 taught us that when we, as a society, truly come together, we become the most powerful nation in the world. This is what America is all about.

However, in the years following, we have seemed to lose sight of that America. Whether it is the racial propaganda against our president, the discriminatory laws against our immigrants or the growing hateful sentiment of our American-Muslim community, Americans are becoming distant from our founding values. This is why I continue to support the Islamic center 12 blocks from Ground Zero.

The same hateful emotions that caused the Florida pastor to plan the burning of the Koran have also fueled the debate for the building of this center. But having this type of disrespect for any religion is inappropriate anywhere in America. It is not only highly offensive to many Muslims across the world, but it should be offensive for people who value the ideals of America.

Also, just as the Koran burning would have endangered our American troops overseas, cancelling the construction of the center would give in to radicalism and increase anti-American feelings abroad. It would show the world that America is fighting a war against the entire religion of Islam, not just the extremists. This would, without a doubt, increase the terrorists’ ability to recruit, and ultimately increase aggression and violence against our great nation.

Americans answered the call of minorities wanting the right to sit at the front of the bus; Americans answered the call of women wanting the right to vote; Americans answered the call when a pastor of a small church wanted to burn holy texts. But when will Americans answer the call of American-Muslims wanting the right to practice their religion? When will Americans stand united once more to show the world that we are still the most powerful nation in the world?

America, please pick up.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A New Glenn Beck?

On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech, Glenn Beck hosted the “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In all honestly, I was impressed.

Yesterday, Beck did not speak as an outspoken, right-winged talk show host, or as a leader of the racially charged Tea Party movement. Instead, for the first time, he spoke as a true American. He spoke on the values of American society, including faith, hope, and charity. And for once, I couldn’t agree more with what Beck was saying.

He emphasized the need to love and honor each other, and how “there is one human race. I may not agree with you politically, but we must have respect for one another. We are not here to divide, but to unite.” I agree with Glenn on all these principles. More importantly, he stuck to his word that this rally would not be political, and focused exclusively on the American heritage. Is this a change of heart?

And yes, to some extent, I agree with his location of the rally. Although many have argued that the location of the rally would be insensitive and symbolically tarnish MLK’s legacy, I did not see that yesterday. Instead, what I saw was a crowd of more than 80,000 people organizing in Washington and being engaged citizens. This is a good thing, and it offered a refreshing glimmer of hope for the state of our union. By speaking on the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, Beck actually re-enforced the King’s dream of peaceful unity and Americans coming together for a “better future. This is what King’s legacy is all about.

However, there is still much work needed to be done. Beck’s message finally seemed to resonate with me as an American, with no race-baiting or political slander. The rally, however, was not diverse. And although the rally was not about Democrats or Republicans, many at the event have been active in conservative politics and said they have attended Tea Party movement rallies. Some even wore shirts comparing President Obama to Nazis and Al-Qaeda terrorists. This is where MLK’s message has seemed to have been misunderstood.

And who can blame them. After all, although Beck may have been about “reclaiming the American dream” yesterday, his actions in the past have proved opposite. As a leader of the Tea Party, he has supported events that have included pictures of Obama with a Hitler-style mustache, racial epithets and threats to Democratic officials, and has repeatedly accused Obama of reverse racism and of having "a deep-seated hatred of white people.” How can your supporters have respectful disagreements with those they oppose if you, yourself, are practicing the opposite?

If you can forget Glenn Beck's hate speech history, then you must give credit where credit is due. But one speech is not enough. He needs to practice what he preaches and share this heartfelt message to his followers. Or he can return to his hateful ways on Monday, and the 8-28 rally will just be another day on the calendar.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Much Needed Vacation

Does President Obama deserve a vacation? I think so.

Many Republican leaders are criticizing Obama for his recent trip with his family to Martha’s Vineyard. But let us not forget that he has spent less time on vacation than his predecessor, George W. Bush, had at this point in his presidency.

According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, Obama has had only nine vacations since taking office, bringing his total days off to 48. In comparison, Bush had about 14 vacations at this point in his administration and spent at total of 115 days off. That’s more than double the amount of “off” time Obama has had.

In all fairness, no president, especially a wartime president handling the worst economic crisis in decades, ever really gets a vacation. There are always advisers and other staff members that accompany the president, along with daily briefings and other presiding issues that he must attend to.

What is important, however, is that the president puts the American people first and does the work he set out to do in his campaign for presidency. Unlike President Bush, who took many more off days than needed with little to show for it, President Obama deserves a few days off.

After all, within his first year in office, he has passed Healthcare Reform, Wall Street Reform, Credit Card Reform, and Education Reform, while also managing to prevent another Great Depression, create jobs, improve our country’s image across the world, win a Nobel Peace Prize, conduct two wars, and nominate 2 female judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, just to name a few.

If that doesn’t require a small “vacation”, I don’t really know what does. By the way, how much vacation time do you get?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Be an American, Or Not To Be

According to a poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released Thursday, nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. There was also a strong linkage between those who wrongly believe Obama is a Muslim and those who disapprove of the job he is doing as president. Not surprisingly, the sharpest rise in those who say Obama is a Muslim is among Republicans (up 14 points) since 2009.

This issue at hand is not the fact that Republicans are making false accusations about the president but, more importantly, that they are fabricating stories about someone’s faith to win political points. What does a person’s religion have anything to do with his/her performance?

When Republicans say they disapprove of Obama because he is a Muslim, they make it shameful to be an American. But to be an American is to appreciate those that you may not necessarily agree with it or even understand. To be an American is to practice religious tolerance and promote diversity. That is why Obama has made strides to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and grant gay couples the same rights as every other American. That’s why Obama supports the First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

Neither Obama nor I are Muslim. But I ask you: so what if we were Muslim? Since when is that a bad thing? Maybe we should look back at Obama’s Cairo Speech in 2009, when he said, “as long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity."

When Republicans say a mosque near Ground Zero would “defile sacred ground”, they start to make the religion of Islam a criticism of American values. Since Muslims are every bit of Americans than those that make up the Republican Party, it does not matter whether the mosque will actually be more of a community center than a religious shrine; or that it will not physically be located on Ground Zero, but more than a few miles away from it. What matters is that those who have lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks, including Muslims, have a right to build a place of worship near the site.

Republicans are also endangering Americans' national security by legitimizing the claims of Al Qaeda that wants Muslims around the world to believe the U.S. is at war with all of Islam, not just the extremists.

We, as a nation, have already witnessed the horrors and tragedies that accompany segregation and intolerance of those that are different from us. It seems, however, that the civil rights movement is in full swing again. When will Republicans learn from the past? When will Republicans start acting like Americans?

Monday, August 16, 2010

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”

This is the America that the Constitution talks about. This is the America where everyone is free to worship what they want, when they want, and how they want. This is the America that promotes freedom of language, freedom of thought, and yes, freedom of religion. This is the America I live in. Recently, however, this America has been called into question.

There has been an increasing debate as to whether or not there should an Islamic mosque built near Ground Zero in New York. Many on both sides of the political aisle have issued concerns, yet some have seemed to forgotten the true meaning of what it is to be an American.

Some have argued that the building of a mosque would be insensitive to those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks. But as President Obama mentioned, “it is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit as opposed to al Qaeda as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims…There were Muslims killed there [Ground Zero]. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help.” We must never forget this.

For those that have criticized Obama for meddling in such an issue, let me remind you that the president, regardless of his party affiliation or political views, has a duty to protect the citizens he serves and defend the Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion for everyone, including millions of American-Muslims. By preventing the construction of the mosque, we would not only be violating the Constitution, but would be equating the entire religion of Islam with violence and terrorism. This would make our nation more prone to violence and hatred at the home-front and abroad.

But would we be having this same conversation if a church or a synagogue were to be built? If the answer is no, then how can we progress as a society? How can we stand up for what we believe in and prove to the world that Americans are not prone to the same injustices we have fought against?

There is no better place for healing, reconciliation and understanding than Ground Zero. There is no better place to understand the basic principle of being an American:

United we stand, and divided we fall.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Navigating to Success

In the last two days, President Obama has made even more strides to recover this nation from its recession.

First, he signed the Emergency Jobs bill, which will provide $26 billion to help states avoid a budget crunch that would force them to lay off teachers, firefighters, police and other public workers. It would also help these states pay Medicaid payments to doctors. By providing this much needed assistance, states are better able to meet other priorities, including keeping more than 150,000 teachers, police officers and other public workers on the payroll.

Second, Obama also signed into law the Emergency Homeowner Loan Program, making $3 billion in additional funds available to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosures.

Third, he strengthened U.S. manufacturing by signing into law an act that reduces tariffs paid by American companies on certain imports needed to manufacture their products.

Irrespective of the benefits these new laws will provide, Republicans have further labeled themselves as the “Party of No” through their constant filibustering and opposition. However, what they fail to understand is that, in order to grow this economy and provide long term sustainability, we need to put aside politics and offer real solutions. We need to keep jobs, strengthen our companies, continue educating our youth, and keep people off the streets. It may also be noted that to further ensure that these new measures are fully paid for, Obama has closed tax loopholes that encourage corporations to send American jobs overseas.

If we lay off thousands of workers, outsource manufacturing jobs, and stop providing the basic necessities of shelter and education for our citizens, how can we, as a nation, compete globally? The answer is we cannot.

Thus far, the Obama administration, with the help of Democrats, has been successfully steering us into recovery. But when will Republicans help us navigate? Hopefully November will wake them up.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

America In the Driver's Seat

President Obama wants the Bush tax cuts to expire, thus ending tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. Republican leaders, however, argue that these tax cuts would encourage small businesses, stimulate the economy, and create jobs. They are wrong for several key reasons.

First, the average small business income is around $40,000, and therefore, extending the tax cuts for rich individuals making more than $250,000 isn't going to do much for small businesses. Instead, Obama has proposed the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which would offer tax incentives for these businesses (who create more than half of all new jobs in America) and save taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years. However, the constant filibustering by Republicans has made it difficult for the Senate to pass such a job creating measure. Strike #1

Second, to truly stimulate the economy, you need to provide benefits to those who are out of work and looking for a job. Long-term growth requires widely spread prosperity, not an ever increasing concentration of wealth at the top and an increasing gap between the rich and poor. That’s why Obama has extended unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. As I mentioned in my blog post “Unconstructive Criticism”, just as the Bush tax cut puts more money in the pockets of the wealthy, unemployment insurance gives more money to the unemployed (who are likelier to spend it). But again, Republicans have argued against it. Strike #2.

Third, Republicans argue that by transferring more money to the wealthiest, we would entice them to invest more in the economy. But let us not forget that the rich have had this tax cut since 2003 and, instead of investing and creating jobs, they paid large corporate bonuses, laid-off millions of workers, and outsourced manufacturing jobs. Strike #3.

By allowing these unnecessary tax cuts to expire, the tax rate for the wealthiest will go back to Clinton-era levels. During the Clinton administration, the rich paid a high individual income tax rate of 39%. However, the economy still created more than 23 million jobs (about 90% in the private sector) in less than eight years -- the most jobs ever created under a single administration. He also left office with a huge surplus.

When Bush took office, he lowered the top individual tax rate down to 35%. But, compared to the prior administration, he only created about 3 million jobs during his 8 years in office. In addition, Bush took a $230 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.4 trillion deficit. If the tax cuts are not left to expire, they will cost us an additional $3 trillion in the next 10 years through lost revenue.

Compare that to Obama administration, which has already created and/or saved more jobs in his first two years as president than Bush did in 8 years! By investing in our future, Obama has created jobs in almost every major sector of our economy, including construction, education, healthcare, clean energy, and the auto-industry.

As the Democratic leadership has put it: when you are driving a car, you push “D” to go forward, and “R” to go backward. So, where do you want to go?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Do Your Jobs

As yet more proof that his economic policies are working, President Obama recently highlighted his success with the auto industry and pressed for passage of the Small Business Jobs Act, a measure which Senate Republicans are blocking.

First and foremost, Republicans should not criticize the President for not creating jobs, as they were the folks that adamantly opposed the auto industry bailout. Today, however, that very action taken by Democrats not only saved and created a lot of jobs, but it saved an entire industry.

In the year prior to Obama’s administration, American auto companies were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs. However, instead of making political calculations and shying away from the problem, Obama decided to invest in American businesses and save them from bankruptcy. Now, for the first time since 2004, GM, Ford, and Chrysler are making profits and creating thousands of jobs in communities, such as Detroit, which desperately need them. If Obama had not stepped in and taken such measures, many analysts claim at least one million more Americans would have lost their jobs.

Not only did Obama save and create jobs on American shores, but he also maintained American competitiveness in the world. Allowing the industry to fail would have cost the government billions of dollars in lost tax revenues and millions of out-of-work employees. Our companies cannot compete on a global level if this is the situation.

For this very reason, the President has also emphasized the need to create a $30 billion government fund to help open up lending for credit-starved small businesses. It’s these small businesses which create a majority of all new jobs in America, and it’s these small businesses which need our help. Therefore, the proposed bill would give additional tax breaks and badly-needed lending assistance to America’s small business owners so they can grow and hire, and yes, create more jobs!

However, time and time again, Republicans are using parliamentary procedures to block it from even coming up for a vote in the Senate. It seems to me that they do not care about the welfare of our nation, but instead, for garnering as many political points as possible. They have done everything in their power to stop Obama at every turn because, simply put, they want him to fail. They want to show the American people that the Democratic Party is not fit to lead. They want to enter the November elections and tell the American people, “I told you so.”

But how much more pain and suffering are they willing to cause the American people before they realize you cannot win an election as a party of “NO”? You cannot gain the trust of the voters if you have failed to offer any real solutions, make false accusations of noteworthy proposals, increase hatred for your opponents, and hope for the leader of your own nation to fail. It does not create a “more perfect union”, and it certainly does not help win elections.

So, while GOP leaders wait for Obama’s next “waterloo”, the administration will continue fighting for Americans by doing the one thing Democrats are best at:
doing their jobs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Unconstructive Criticism

Conservatives and critics of President Obama have slammed the administration’s handling of almost every major issue confronting our nation. Many of these critics are prematurely making judgments, and in most cases, failing to look at the facts.

GOP leaders claim the president has “neglected” to focus on job creation. In their opinions, the most effective way to create jobs is through tax cuts for the wealthy. The Obama administration, however, has focused on stimulus and spending to create jobs. This approach proves to be a more sustainable solution.

When Obama took office in January 2009, over 700,000 Americans lost their jobs (a direct result of the previous administration’s failures; and the biggest rate of job loss since Obama took over). To provide immediate relief and jump start our economy, he passed a $787 billion stimulus package that allocated much needed spending to improve our infrastructure, which creates better long-term employment; gave tax cuts and lending approvals to small businesses, which employ half of America's working population; and has now proved to have saved or created about 3 million jobs.

In addition, Obama has extended unemployment benefits for the 9.5% unemployment rate we currently face (which is down from a 10% rate just a few months ago). Just as a tax cut puts more money in the pockets of the wealthy, unemployment insurance puts more money in an unemployed person's pocket. The difference is that the unemployed person is likelier to spend that money, which will generate more taxable economic activity than if that money is saved.

Conservatives also argue that unemployment payments are a disincentive to taking a new job, as many will become lazy and unmotivated to find a job. But let me ask you this: Could you live on less than $300 a week? If the average unemployment check in the U.S. is $293, how could any person make their mortgage payments, their car payments, and feed their family? If a majority of your unemployment insurance check is paying for the rising costs of healthcare, is it realistic to expect you will still have money left for food and rent and utilities and other necessities? The answer is you cannot.

It seems as if many on the right are either insensitive to this fact or they are simply out of touch with reality. It seems as if they are only making political calculations, and not considering the human calculations.

Third, and more recently, Obama has decided to tackle Wall Street and end an era of irresponsibility that led to the “loss of 8 million jobs and trillions of dollars of wealth. This reform is good for families; it's good for businesses; it's good for the entire economy." With more accountability and transparency for the financial sector, the measure will only help us in the future.

Unlike President Bush, who inherited a $230 billion surplus when he took office, President Obama inherited a $1.4 trillion deficit, along with 2 wars and a failing economy. Taking this into major consideration, Obama has done extraordinary to prevent another Great Depression. Although our situation is bad, it would have been much worse if the administration had not taken such actions. The only way he can do more is if he stops trying to reach over the isle to find bipartisan support and focuses strictly on his liberal base, an argument that many Democrats have been proposing.

Yes we need to hold our leaders at a higher standard, and yes opposition is always needed to improve any solution. Republicans have tried their solutions for the last 8years and could not meet the situation. GOP leaders now need to focus on constructive criticism rather than being a party that out-rightly rejects any solution Obama offers, promotes unprofessional conduct, allows racism to flourish, and advocates that our leader fails at every possible turn.

We need real debate, not political games. That is how we, as a country, can progress.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Liberty and Justice for All?

Since the early days of kindergarten, children in the United States have learned to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. However, until recently, I could not truly appreciate the meaning behind the words “with liberty and justice for all”. What made me understand these words more clearly was not my love and passion for this country, but President Obama’s decision to file a lawsuit against Arizona’s new immigration law this past Tuesday.

The new law, which would order immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally, is not only unjust, but is also unconstitutional.

I completely understand the need for stricter immigration reform. I am in full support of our American workers and those that obey the laws, and agree that people who break our laws should be punished. But at what cost?

We need to ensure that we, first and foremost, uphold our American values of equality, liberty, and justice for all. America is a nation comprised of immigrants. We pride ourselves on our multiculturalism, yet we decide to act in ways that prohibit and restrict those very ideals we preach throughout the world. The new law invites racial profiling against people of color by law enforcement, thus harming people’s civil rights and opening doors to police harassment of U.S. citizens and foreigners. If you do not think this new law would invite such hardships, ask yourself this question: How would you determine who looks like an “illegal immigrant?” Chances are you’re not thinking of a white male. Where’s the justice in this?

Not to mention that Arizona’s new law unconstitutionally interferes with federal power and authority over immigration matters. Enforcing immigration laws is a federal responsibility, not a state’s. Immigration law, policy, and enforcement priorities are affected by and have impacts on U.S. foreign policy, and are themselves the subject of diplomatic arrangements. For the same reason we do not allow states to have their own foreign policies, we should not allow states to conduct their own immigration laws.

Some opponents are making it a point to emphasize the fact that a majority of Arizona’s residents actually support the new law. However, the fact that a majority of people support it does not make it just. If the civil rights movement was based on popularity, then surely it would not have been passed, and we would be living in a very different America.

And for those that argue we should simply put the illegal immigrants on a boat and deport them, consider this-we have over 11 million undocumented and illegal workers living in the country. It is unrealistic and unfeasible to ask them all to leave. Instead, as Obama and other democrats have argued, create a legal pathway to citizenship. They will still have to pay a fine, learn English, and wait at the back of the line for those that apply for citizenship legally, but will provide us with greater prosperity. Just imagine adding over 11 million new workers who pay taxes and add to our economic well-being.

Republicans these days are sounding much like those very same people who persecuted, racially profiled, and drove out the Jewish people in Eastern Europe a little more than a century ago- “foreigners must carry identification cards with them at all times, and if not, they should all be forced to leave the country.” This is not the America I was taught about in school. This is not the America I want to leave for my children and grandchildren. This is not the America that preaches “liberty and justice for all”.

And as Obama mentioned in his speech at American University last week, we should all remember the words written by Emma Lazarus in describing our Statue of Liberty:

“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand,” she wrote,

A mighty woman with a torch…
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome…
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!”…
“Give me your tired, and your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to be free…
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Monday, June 14, 2010

Misplaced Facts

Many GOP leaders, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, are criticizing President Barack Obama’s response to the oil spill off the Gulf Coast. They are claiming he has failed to show leadership and, instead, “has spent his time blaming people and not taking responsibility to make sure the oil spill is capped.” Although there sentiments are sincere, their concerns seem misplaced.

Not only has the president’s administration deployed the biggest recovery effort for a natural disaster in the history of this country, but he has repeatedly mentioned that “the buck stops with me.” From day 1 of this oil spill, Obama has worked diligently with top scientists and engineers from across the world to find a solution. Also, to prevent a future mishap, he has continued his moratorium on offshore drilling (something that Republicans are still adamantly against) and has successfully pushed a comprehensive energy and climate bill through the House of Representatives. This bill, in turn, would promote a new economy powered by green jobs, combat climate change, and end our dependence on oil.

As evidence proves, his response to the disaster in the Gulf mirrors his efficient and adequate response to our nation’s economic downturn. Recently, Obama has urged congressional passage of legislation meant to boost federal assistance to a key segment of the economy-small businesses. Not only have these small companies generated over 60 percent of all new jobs every year over the past 15 years, but they have also suffered the most from this recession.

We must also not forget the $700 billion stimulus package (known as the Recovery Act) Obama signed within the first few months of his presidency, which has proved critical in preventing the U.S. from entering another Great Depression.

Although the recovery is slow, there has been a continuing trend of improvement. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the nation’s premiere, independent, nonpartisan scorekeeper, as of the first quarter of this year, the Recovery Act saved or created as many as 2.8 million jobs. Over the past three months, we’ve gained over 400,000 new jobs. Over that same period last year, we lost 1.7 million. Also, confidence among U.S. consumers rose in June to the highest level in more than two years, a recent Bloomberg News survey showed. This all accomplished with only a fifth of the stimulus funds having been spent.

No one expects the economy to be at the same levels as pre-recession times. What we do expect, however, is that our government is acting swiftly to undo the mistakes of the last administration and get our country back on the path to success. So far, economists across the spectrum widely agree that the Recovery Act played a key role in that reversal.

Whether it is regarding the oil spill, the healthcare bill, or the economy, many Republicans are simply getting the facts wrong, and misrepresenting the successes of this administration. But, as the old adage goes, “everyone has a right to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.”

It is clear that Obama is getting results. If GOP leaders are still confused, hopefully November will explain things clearly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obama's Katrina?

President Obama will make his second visit to the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow, stressing the urgency of the situation and addressing his administration’s concern for the massive oil spill. Many Republicans, however, are trying to link President Obama's handling of the BP oil spill to President Bush's flawed response in 2005 to Hurricane Katrina. This is a flawed view for many reasons.

First and foremost, Katrina was a storm that you track for several weeks. After swiftly coming ashore, more than 1,800 people were killed, and thousands more left without food or shelter. It is impossible to challenge President Bush’s slow response, as so many of us witnessed the catastrophe firsthand: the entire city was left to fend for itself, abandoned by the government, as people were left at the New Orleans convention center for days with no water or food. Many can remember watching television to see people stuck on their rooftops crying out for help. That is called a slow response and any comparisons to President Obama’s reaction to the BP oil spill are not only immature, but uneducated.

In the case of what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama responded hastily from day one. As the news of the crisis poured through the media, the Coast Guard and the Navy were on site immediately after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig from which the oil spill began. Obama also took it upon his duties to order a moratorium on new offshore drilling leases and dispatched cabinet secretaries and cargo planes to the region.

Even Fox News Anchor Bill O’Reilly said, on the May 5th edition of Good Morning America, that even if Obama acted quicker, “they can’t even cap it now. What else could he have done, be put in a dive suit?” Strangely enough, I agree.

Second, to say Obama’s response to the oil spill is intentionally slow due to BP’s previous donations to his presidential campaign in 2008 is irresponsible. Not only has he responded quickly, but he has made it his administration’s top priority. The government is not sitting idly while leaving BP to clean up the mess it created in the first place, but instead, has ensured that any and all actions taken by the oil company must be first approved by the federal government. So although BP is at fault and may be taking steps to clean up the mess, their efforts are all coordinated and managed by Obama and his administration.

Third, I'm almost sure that the oil companies don't consider the Obama administration a huge ally. Through his repeated calls for cleaner energy, cap-and-trade policies, and decreased reliance on oil, the president has made clear that he has not become cozy with his campaign donors. Remember when he proposed a windfall profits tax for oil companies who jack up their oil prices to charge more for gasoline? There is also proof when examining his calls for greater financial regulation, despite the fact that his campaign received large donations from Wall Street firms.

Republicans have been criticizing the president for not dealing with the spill efficiently. Yet, it has long been the GOP mantra to “drill baby drill”. Seems very hypocritical if you ask me.

To the critics, please stop trying to criticize every action taken by our president to help fix this nation from the misery and pain caused from the last eight years. Instead, try offering real solutions and put the American people first, not politics.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Partisanship At Its Best

Today, President Obama joined Senate Republicans in a closed door meeting on Capitol Hill, the latest attempt by the President to reach across the table in hopes of bipartisanship.

Although there was, and will continue to be a many differences in opinions on various issues, the fact of the matter is that a productive piece of legislation does not pass until it is well understood by both parties and significant effort has been made to make it a cooperative effort. Obama understands this, and therefore, has made attempts to seek his opponents’ advice.

However, there are many GOP leaders who continue to “stick to their guns” and focus on petty politics. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, for example, accused the president during the meeting of taking an excessively partisan approach to critical issues such as financial reform, and then having the "audacity" to come to the Senate GOP conference and use the Republicans as election year "props."

This serves as a problem for several reasons. First, Obama is a Democrat and therefore will hold liberal views on many issues, same as President Bush held many conservative views on many issues, and almost every other political leader to date. What makes the difference, however, is how that person tries to overcome that disparity in opinions to try and reach a conclusive decision. With Obama setting up such meetings, it serves as proof that he is, at the least, trying to understand the others’ point of view, instead of blindly holding his ground.

Second, what exactly does it mean to be “excessively partisan”? Would the “You lie” outburst from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, at President Obama during his speech to Congress be considered “excessively partisan”? Would the incident when Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, shouted “baby killer” at Democrat Bart Stupak in his debate on the House floor be considered “excessively partisan”? Or how about when Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, and other GOP leaders compare the President to Adolf Hitler? Or when numerous Republican Senators, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told people that they were correct to fear that the government would "pull the plug on grandma with the death panels”? By the way, how’s that working out since the passage of Obama’s healthcare bill?

Wouldn’t all those statements be considered “excessively partisan”? I guess not. I guess having a valid difference in opinion in the Republican Party either makes you a liar, a baby killer, or Hitler.

If that’s the case, I prefer to stay excessively partisan.

Friday, April 16, 2010

One Step Closer

Discrimination. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear that word? For most of you, it is probably the injustices faced by African Americans and other minorities in the United States during the pre-civil rights era.

But we are forgetting one major group of individuals that still suffer those injustices: the gay community.

Just as minorities were not allowed to attend the same schools, drink from the same water fountain, ride the same bus, or walk on the same side of the street as their white counterparts, gays have been denied access to life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.

In today’s “modern” era, there are still numerous laws and bans restricting the freedoms of the gay community: whether it be serving in the military, adopting children, getting married, providing for their families, or providing the love and support to each other that many of us take for granted, gays are constantly being discriminated against.

Specifically, hospitals often bar visitors who are not related to an incapacitated patient by blood or marriage. The problem is, however, that society has barred gays from getting married. Therefore, when a gay person is stuck in the hospital, instead of helping them recover from their sickness, society denies them the kindness and caring of a loved one at their sides.

This is where true leadership is needed. Yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order forcing most hospitals in the country to grant the same visitation rights to gay and lesbian partners that they do to married heterosexual couples. “Hospitals should not be able to deny visitation privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Obama said.

In a country that values its individual freedoms so highly, why not respect the patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them? Why not allow them to spend time with their partners, just like a married couple gets to enjoy at their stay in a hospital?

Many conservatives criticize this sentiment, claiming it “undermines the definition of marriage.” But in reality, continuing a policy of discrimination undermines the definition of freedom and equality. It undermines the definition of being an American.

After all, it's not a gay right to hold someone's hand when they die. It’s a human right.

After Obama's executive order, America is one step closer at understanding this.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nuclear Security Summit: A Fresh Start

On Monday and Tuesday, President Obama will be leading one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in Washington history in the first summit to focus exclusively on the threat posed by the world's nuclear weapons.

The goal of the meeting will be to persuade the 46 foreign leaders to care as much as he does about nuclear disarmament, a promise Obama made during his presidential campaign.

This meeting goes beyond liberal and conservative, and instead, focuses on the ability of our president to set aside important national interests to achieve shared international ones. This is the only way to truly uphold the American values of peace and prosperity for all.

Obama has already made significant strides in making sure this Nuclear Security Summit is productive and efficient through his recent strategic arms-reduction treaty with Russia last week. The treaty not only strengthens the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but also shows the United State’s ability and desire to compromise for a long term stability and security.

The president has also introduced a new policy of seeking a unified international response to Iran's nuclear ambitions, including stronger United Nations sanctions. Some Republicans criticize the policy as too weak, but they fail to recognize the importance of negotiation. It is because the U.S. has been too strict with countries such as Iran that now, we have not only deteriorated our relations with their leaders, but also have placed ourselves in a tougher position to reach any goal. You have to compromise in order to get anything positive accomplished. Obama, unlike his predecessors, understands this.

While there is still much work needed to be done to secure nuclear weapons across the globe, President Obama has done a great job of improving our relations with foreign countries, thus making it easier to find common solutions .

This is just one of several concrete steps the president is taking to make good on his pledge to truly make America and the world safer by reducing the threat of nuclear weapons, proliferation and terrorism.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Signs of Recovery

After suffering from the worst economic recession in history, the economy is showing greater signs of recovery. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its March jobs report, showing that last month, over 160,000 new jobs were created--the biggest one-month jobs gain in the past three years.

Although the unemployment rate is still at a high of 10 percent, this is a great step forward. During the first three months of 2009, on average we were losing 753,000 jobs per month. Today, we learned that in the first quarter of 2010, our economy grew by an average of 54,000 jobs per month.

No one said that fixing the economy was going to be an easy task. After all, it took the last president 8 years to ruin it in the first place.

What this slight improvement in our economy shows us is that America is finally able to dig itself out of a deep hole and is beginning to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

This is in large part due to the Recovery Act passed by Obama during the first month of his presidency. It is because of this effort that we can say that today, the economy actually created thousands of new jobs instead of loosing thousands of jobs.

Yes it is still a work in progress. But it IS progress.

What did the recovery act do? I think it’s obvious.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drilling Offshore: Solving our Energy Crisis?

Today, President Obama announced that the U.S. will approve significant oil and gas exploration off America's coasts.

"Given our energy needs, in order to sustain economic growth and produce jobs and keep our businesses competitive, we're going to need to harness traditional sources of fuel even as we ramp up production of new sources of renewable, homegrown energy," Obama said. This new focus becomes part of a new energy policy that relies more on American energy sources that are cleaner and more sustainable.

Although this plan continues America’s use of dirty fossil fuels in the short run, it is a great first step to becoming an energy-independent country and having less dependence on foreign oil in the long run. We already waste significant amounts of money paying other countries for their sources of fuel that we, up to now, have given up on American sovereignty. This has made us a weaker nation, especially financially.

This new plan, however, does not mean that Obama supports the notion that we “can simply drill our way to energy security”, as many Republicans claim. Instead, it shows real presidential leadership that lies in providing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that ends our reliance on foreign oil and puts Americans back to work.

Not only will this create thousands of new jobs for the coastal states, such as Virginia, but it would also generate millions of dollars in revenue and further reduce our reliance on foreign energy sources and help us invest in alternative sources of fuel.

While opponents, including many Democrats and environmentalists, disapprove any new offshore drilling and proponents, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, advocate opening all U.S. waters to energy exploration, Obama has found a solid middle ground to increase our domestic energy production and demands for stricter limits on greenhouse-gas emissions.

It is a compromise to ensure our energy policy improves. It is a compromise that shows support for a new bipartisan bill that, in addition to spending $84 billion on the development of better batteries and energy-and-fuel saving technologies, would have allowed for drilling for oil and natural gas on American soil.

That’s what you call bipartisan.

This solution to our energy crisis is only temporary, but a crucial development while we look up alternative sources that are less costly and more environmentally friendly.

It is still a work in progress, but it emphasizes Obama’s willingness to keep our businesses competitive and solve our energy needs. It shows a willingness to listen to the American people and promote stronger initiatives that will help make the U.S. a stronger and better country. It helps secure support for a strong climate change bill in Congress.

Improving Student Loans

Last week, President Obama signed the most comprehensive healthcare reform bill in recent history. Yesterday, he finished the job by signing the reconciliation bill into law, along with sweeping higher education funding overhaul.

The bill overhauls higher education financing, doubling funding for Pell grants, allowing students to borrow directly from the government and easing payment structures once they graduate. Most importantly, the Direct Loan program will be expanded.

Prior to the passage of this bill, financial institutions like Sallie Mae would give out loans. If students defaulted, the government would guarantee the loan and pay the company for the default. But wasteful spending by the banks has drained valuable funds away from education programs. Now, however, the loans will be coming directly from the government, so they don't have to pay companies for defaults.

By avoiding paying these “middle men”, it saves taxpayers $61 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Thirty-six billion of that would go to the popular Pell Grant program. More than $4 billion in savings would go to institutions that serve minorities and the rest, close to $20 billion, would be used for non-education purposes, offsetting health care reform expenses. In addition to investing in college aid, these provisions will also reduce the deficit by at least $10 billion over 10 years.

Also, loan repayments will be capped at 10 percent of a graduate's salary, down from the current 15 percent, starting in 2014. Additionally, borrowers who responsibly make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of repayment, reduced from 25 years in current law.

Now more than ever, Americans need affordable, quality education opportunities to help make our economy strong and competitive again. By eliminating wasteful subsidies to private bankers and switching to a system of direct lending of federal student loans, that has become reality.

As the President said in his 2010 State of the Union address: “To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants."

For those keeping track, that's 2 huge vitories in only 1 week. And they say the President hasn't accomplished anything.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What Healthcare Reform Means

Last Sunday night, we made history with the passage of real Health Care Reform.

For me, it was especially significant because I will no longer be denied health coverage due to my pre-existing condition. I will no longer be forced to pay a 100 percent increase in my health premiums due to my pre-existing condition. I will no longer be told by others that my experience with cancer at the age of 13 was my fault. They won’t be able to tell me that it’s simply okay that I suffered injustice and negative consequences from an insurance company.

Not only is this law a win for me, but it is a win for the American people. After this law goes into effect, over 95% of Americans will have health insurance coverage. That’s 32 million more people who, up to today, did not have insurance. Medicaid will be expanded to offer health insurance coverage to an additional 16 million lower-income Americans.

Now it’s a law, people will not be cheated by the insurance companies into paying premiums every year, only to be told that they are too sick to be covered for the insurance policy they paid for. Instead, insurance companies will not be able to drop your coverage.

Now that the bill is signed into law, no longer will students coming out of college with up to $100,000 of debt be forced suffer another added cost. Under the bill, young adults will be able to remain on their family insurance plans until age 26.

Now that the bill is signed into law, no longer will individuals and small businesses unable to afford insurance be treated like second class citizens. They will now have the ability to choose from a variety of competing plans with lower premiums, in the same way our members of Congress choose their plans. By reducing health care costs for employers, reform will create or save more than 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.

No longer will the American people be told that the economic condition of the country cannot be fixed. This reform bill will cut the federal budget deficit by $138 billion over the next ten years, and another $1.2 trillion in the following ten years.

No longer will healthcare be a privilege, but instead, a given right.

However, some Republicans are now trying all they can to repeal these major reforms. They want to allow insurance companies to continue dropping coverage for people when they need it the most. They want to continue forcing people to pay increased premium rates. They want insurance companies to continue to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. They want to continue the status quo.

If the last 14 months of vigorous debate have taught the American people anything, it’s that we cannot afford the status quo anymore.

It is not my fault that I had cancer. And finally, with this law, that’s finally been acknowledged.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Healthcare Reform: The Home Stretch

On the eve of the national bipartisan healthcare summit, I am proud that President Obama has not wavered in his efforts to pass real healthcare reform. He has forced both Republicans AND Democrats to come to the table, put aside partisan bickering, and offer real solutions to real problems.

The Democrats have so far shown they are ready to lead and handle the situation at hand. However, it is now up to the GOP to take the healthcare crisis seriously and prove to Americans that they are prepared to come together and support reform.

However, in a new national poll conducted by CNN, almost two-thirds of Americans think that the Republicans are not doing enough to cooperate with Obama. From their past actions and unwillingness to bring anything sufficient to the table, it seems as if they do not care what’s actually in the bill, but rather are fighting to preserve the status quo that benefits them and their corporate interests.

If Republicans really want to work in a bipartisan fashion, they should offer real amendments to the healthcare bill, instead of accusing the Democrats of creating so called “death panels”.

So when Democrats are now considering passing the legislation through reconciliation, Republicans should not be upset. After all, they have used it more than the Democrats, from Contract for America to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

One main criticism of the process is that it will show a “clear lack of consideration for the American people.” However, it would still require a majority to pass (51 votes). If a majority vote is considered unjust, then what do they think about newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown, who narrowly won his election with 51.9%?

Although it is true that a bill passed through reconciliation will have many flaws, passing a flawed bill is better than passing no bill at all.

Healthcare is not just about medicine, but more importantly about PEOPLE. If we stand on the sidelines and do nothing, PEOPLE will continue suffering. We cannot afford to wait.

Let’s get it done!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Stimulus Package?

So you think that President Obama hasn’t done enough to counter to growing unemployment rate and slow job growth? Well think back exactly 1 year ago today, and you will recall that Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Or as it is more commonly known as, the economic stimulus package(although many people seem to have forgotten about it).

The package distributes over $700 billion into the U.S. economy over the span of 10 years. It includes federal tax cuts, expansion of unemployment benefits, domestic spending on education, infrastructure, and health care.

Many critics claim the package has not done enough. However, only one third of the package has been spent so far and it has already helped many states avoid budget cuts to their education and public safety. It has also added or saved an approximate 3 million jobs and has been passed along to American taxpayers and small businesses in the form of tax reductions.

More importantly, it helped prevent another Great Depression.

For those that worry government spending is out of control and cannot be sacrificed for the stability and security of our nation, President Obama has a plan for that, as well. This Thursday, Obama will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to make recommendations on how to reduce the national debt.

However, GOP leaders have so far declined to endorse the panel, further solidifying their role as the partisan players that will do anything just for political points.

When will they get it? Hopefully they will get their acts together and act on the best interests of the American people next week during Obama televised bipartisan health care summit on Feb. 25?

Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Healthcare Reform Is Still Alive

The battle for health-care reform still rages, as national legislation stalls in Congress and a new debate over a state-by-state approach begins. Some are proposing that each state decides independently over reform and enacts various pieces of legislation accordingly.

Advocates claim that imposing a national health-care reform would ignore state-wide differences in health-care markets. However, what these critics fail to understand is that without a national system set in place, health costs will continue to rise, making it increasingly difficult for those without insurance to attain it. This is what has been happening for the last 50 years. Insurance coverage was left to the states, and today we spend more on healthcare, per capita, than any other industrialized nation in the world, leaving millions uninsured.

Also, states have recently reduced coverage for individuals to balance their budgets. The federal government has greater flexibility in managing deficits, making the case for national legislation more sensible.

Although previous efforts by the Obama administration for universal healthcare have faced many setbacks, especially with the election of Republican Senator Scott Brown, the Democrats still have a majority in both the Senate and the House. There may need to be a greater push for bipartisan efforts, but enacting real reform is STILL POSSIBLE.

We need to lower insurance costs overall by expanding the pool of insured. We must enact national legislation to ensure that anyone and everyone who needs coverage will get it, and those who already have insurance will not see their premiums rise. This is an ever growing problem in the US, and is heavily tied to our suffering economic conditions.

Only until we have real health-care reform will our economy begin to prosper again, and millions of Americans receive the proper quality of life they deserve.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The New Era of Fiscal Responsibility

Today in his radio and Internet address, President Obama announced his signing of the “pay as you go” legislation, calling for fiscal restraint in Washington. The new law places new budget rules that will offset the growing deficit by requiring Congress to balance any increased spending by equal savings elsewhere.

Similar budgeting rules were in place by law from 1990 through 2002, when they expired. Obama argued that the absence of the requirement made it “too easy for President George W. Bush and lawmakers to run up spiraling deficits in recent years.”

By focusing more on passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy and allowing special interests to dominate Washington politics, the Bush Administration showed a clear lack of fiscal responsibility. This disregard for fiscal restraint accounts for much, if not all, of the $1.3 trillion federal deficit inherited by Obama.

“Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else,” the president also says in Saturday’s address.

It seems simple enough to understand that you cannot continue to borrow money without trying to pay in back. This applies to both individuals AND the government. Yet during the Bush administration, it appears the common sense rules of budgeting and managing a set budget did not apply.

If only our leaders and representatives focused more on finding solutions to problems rather than
on partisan tactics and party politics. Thank you President Obama for taking the first step in fixing how Washington politics are run and how our leaders chose to conduct themselves.

I only hope others realize their mistakes before it is too late.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Freedom of Speech?

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a long-standing ban on corporations using their treasury funds to run presidential and congressional election advertisements. As a result, businesses are free to spend without constraint in support of a specific candidate.

Most Republican leaders claim the ruling defends the First Amendment’s free speech clause. However, by allowing special interest groups to influence candidates and their elections, corporate interests will dominate the campaign landscape and overshadow individual concerns, thus corrupting the political process.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed to all American people. It represents our ability to speak up and be heard by others, especially when it comes to our representation. Yet this ruling only silences our voices, and increases the influence of Wall Street lobbyists and foreign governments in our lives. Why should a select group of individuals, some who live outside our boarders, mandate how the country is run for the majority of us?

To counter some of the negative effects of this campaign finance ruling, Democrats have recently unveiled legislation that would limit foreign-controlled corporations from influencing American elections. The bill, introduced by Senator Schumer of New York and Rep. Van Hollen of Maryland, would also increase disclosure requirements for domestic corporations when making political ads.

Will Republicans continue to defend special interests and allow foreign leaders to dictate American politics? Or will they support a bill that truly defends the First Amendment?

I would urge the latter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Recess Appointments

On Tuesday, President Obama announced he would consider using recess appointments to get several key administration nominees to their posts if Senate Republicans deny them an up-or-down vote.

Unlike pieces of legislation, the president can invoke his constitutional right to appoint nominees during a congressional recess (the next is the Presidents Day recess the week of Feb. 15). Although many conservatives are criticizing Obama’s consideration of such a process, he is the only president in the past three decades who has not used this authority by this point in his term. Within the first year that President George W. Bush was in office, he had recess appointed several nominees. Why shouldn’t President Obama?

In a time of crisis, the partisan politics of Republicans has placed many critical jobs on hold, hindering the political process and the ability of the government to function properly. Blocking executive branch nominees does not benefit anyone. This is not the time to play games and hold key nominations for the sake of short-term political gains. Now is the time to act and get things done.

If recess appointments will achieve this goal, then I see no reason to wait any longer.