Monday, December 26, 2011

A Cure for Cancer?

As we end 2011 with a bipartisan agreement to have a temporarily two-month extension of unemployment insurance and payroll tax cuts, we must understand the need to continue these benefits through all of 2012.

Specifically, this two-month package preserves a $1,000 payroll tax cut for the middle class, and extends unemployment benefits for the long-term laid off. As President Obama described it, “This is for 160 million people who are going to see their taxes go up if Congress doesn’t act. This is for 5 million individuals who are out there looking for a job and can't find a job right now in a tough economy who could end up not being able to pay their bills or keep their house if Congress doesn’t act.”

House Republicans, many of whom have said previously that they did not want an extension at all, recently changed course and said they would accept a one-year deal or nothing at all. Although this has been the goal of President Obama and Democrats all along, the Republican leadership tried to tie the extension to other very partisan legislative measures—thus making it harder to pass.

Bipartisanship requires a willing partner. But with a Republican party that has previously rejected all efforts by Obama to spur economic growth, a party that has said their single most important goal is to defeat Obama in 2012, and a party that has risked two government shut-downs, this two month extension was the only viable way to prevent a tax hike for the middle class at the end of this year.

Proof of the difficulty Obama has had to pass such job-creating measures is the opposition faced during the first stimulus package, the bailout of the American auto-industry, Wall-Street reform, Health-Insurance reform, Student-Loan reform, and the American Jobs Act. Each of these measures have proven to help the economy, provide needed tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families, and create American jobs.

In the past, however, Republicans have argued that we should not invest in immediate job-creating infrastructure projects, let the American auto-industry to go bankrupt, continue deregulating Wall Street, allow the health insurance industry to continue raising premiums while reducing care, provide fewer incentives for students to attend college, and issue tax cuts for the rich instead of tax cuts for the middle-class.

Democrats are not arguing for free healthcare, but affordable healthcare; they don’t want free handouts, but job opportunities; they don’t want to punish the rich, but ensure they pay their fair share. It’s not about social welfare or doing something humane. This is purely economic, and is about creating an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. In fact, the main reason why all the successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors, scientists, etc. are at the level of success that they have achieved is because at some point, someone invested in them: in their education, in their community, in their well-being.

Republicans say they want government out of their personal lives, unless it comes to issues regarding gay marriage or abortion. Although this seems hypocritical, it does bring up an important point: in a society that has become more culturally, politically, and economically interdependent, we are all connected. As such, every aspect of our economy is connected—healthcare, unemployment, education, public sector and private sector.

This sense of collective identity was expressed in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Emperor of all Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Through this biography of cancer, Mukherjee highlights the significance of people from different fields working together to better understand and treat cancer.

Borrowing and extending from the work of a botanist and an animal physiologist in the late 1830s, Rudolf Virchow was able to develop a “cellular theory” of human biology to better understand diseases, like cancer, in terms of cell growth. In the early 1900s, Paul Ehrlich used chemical dyes from the flourishing German clothing industry to selectively stain tissues for histological examination, helping him develop an idea to target disease-causing organisms and create a template for chemotherapy. In the 1940s, scientists discovered that the mustard gas used as a chemical warfare agent during WW2 could also serve as an effective treatment for cancer. After the war, Sidney Farber (the father of modern chemotherapy) used his experience as a pathologist to work with Mary Lasker in applying modern political lobbying efforts to build public support for cancer research.

It was through the understanding of this shared responsibility that millions of Americans, including me, have benefited from advancements in cancer treatment.

Therefore, by continuing to work together, realizing how interdependent we are of one another, and understanding the obligations we have toward each other, not only can we continue growing this economy, but we can eventually find a cure for cancer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

USA TODAY Article On Me

I was interviewed by USA Today for their upcoming Children's Health Magazine. It should be out on newsstands on December 6th. Here is the article. Hope it can be inspirational and helpful. Enjoy!

Cover Page


PAGE ONE of my segment:


PAGE TWO of my segment:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We The People

Last week, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 9 percent. Although this number is still very high, independent economists argue that if government spending cuts are put into effect too quickly, they could be a severe drag on economic growth and could potentially derail our fragile recovery.

A major reason the unemployment is still high is because businesses are not hiring. People want jobs and are looking. But American businesses have argued that without an increase in demand for their products, there's no incentive for them to create more jobs.

This is where we need government. Not to “socialize” every aspect of our society, but simply to help increase consumer demand and provide added assistance to the private sector. As a business major, I understand the need to cut costs and increase revenue. After all, profit is the bottom line. But in order to earn the most profits, you have to make the right investments.

By not investing in the American people—through payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and social welfare programs like Healthcare—or providing tax incentives for small businesses, or spending on infrastructure and clean energy, we are not promoting long-term growth and stability. Just as a business would not layoff all its employees and sell all its cash-generating assets—even if it meant greater short-term profits—we cannot allow gutting programs that help the American working class.

Yes, as conservatives say, we need to emphasize personal responsibility. But when you have a system that favors the rich through corporate tax loopholes and “too big to fail” companies that hold the economy hostage, government is needed.

The problem is not that the rich are getting richer. Democrats are not arguing for equality of outcomes. The problem is, instead, that the rest of America is getting poorer. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office found that, “over the past three decades, the distribution of income in the United States has become increasingly dispersed -- in particular, the share of income accruing to high-income households has increased, whereas the share accruing to other households has declined."

It seems as though the “pursuit of happiness” written about in our Declaration of Independence has been more difficult to attain. The idea that everyone should have an equality of opportunity has weakened. But as our Constitution emphasizes, government’s job is not to control people’s lives, but help people control their own lives:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Saturday, November 5, 2011

4 More Years!



Three years ago today, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.

This is why I supported him back then, and why I will continue to support him for another 4 more years!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-MwyErsB6Oo

With over one million Americans donors and a never before seen grassroots campaign not funded by corporate lobbyists, find out how YOU can help change this nation. Email me at ajain@ofamd.org

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Next Election or the Next Generation?

In the past three years, the Obama administration has had huge foreign policy achievements through the START treaty with Russia, bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, officially ending the Iraq War, refocusing of our efforts in Afghanistan, and most recently by helping to end the Gaddafi regime in Libya.

Specifically, the main difference between our Libya operation and the Iraq War was that by leading the NATO operation, we were able to organize the international community, get the UN mandate for the operation, and get Arab countries involved. Because of Obama’s leadership, we not only sent a message to dictators around the world, but we did so without having a single U.S. troop on the ground, ZERO U.S. casualties, and a minimum cost to the American taxpayers.

Despite these foreign policy achievements, however, our domestic policy has recently been stalled.

Although Obama has urged Congress to pass the much needed American Jobs Act, the Republican leadership has voted unanimously to block debate on the bill. When asked why, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that saving the jobs of teachers and fire fighters, or extending payroll tax cuts for middle-class families, is just another unnecessary government “bailout”.

But these are hardworking Americans who have felt victim to the failed economic policies of the GOP leadership. They are not bad actors who acted irresponsibly. Further, McConnell argued that, “we're not going to get this economy going again by growing the government. It's the private sector that's ultimately going to drive this recovery.” His actions, however, have proven otherwise.

By rejecting the American Jobs Act, the Republican Party has also rejected tax cuts for small business owners (who are the biggest job creators) and investments in infrastructure which, according to business leaders in the private sector—like Warren Buffett and companies like GE and Comcast—are crucial to rebuilding this economy.

To bypass the gridlock in this do-nothing Congress, President Obama –whose first stimulus created more net private sector jobs than the previous administration—issued 2 new executive orders last week. The first is to help homeowners refinance their mortgages, and the second is to help college graduates pay back their student loans.

Although these executive orders are helping Americans who are in need of assistance, there is only so much President Obama can do without Congress.

And as Obama said in an interview with Jay Leno last week, we need Republicans to stop “putting party ahead of country or putting the next election ahead of the next generation." We need Congress to act soon.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Constructive Partisanship

Following the 1998 mid-term elections, House Speaker Newt Gingrich resigned and was replaced by a more moderate Republican Dennis Hastert. What Hastert lacked in Gingrich’s highly partisan leadership style, he made up for in an attempt to reach across the political aisle.

Instead of advocating simply for policies that were conservative in nature, he made an effort to find compromise with his liberal opponents. Although I may not agree with the specific pieces of legislation he pressed for, I do commend Hastert's strive for bipartisanship. In turn, he actually helped strengthen the Republican Party, becoming the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history.

Fast forward to present day, and we have a Republican Party that has stood in steadfast opposition to any policy President Obama has proposed. Whether it was with Obama’s first stimulus package that prevented another Great Depression; or the Auto-Industry bailout that saved the American auto industry; or Wall Street reform that prevented “too big to fail” companies which can hold the economy hostage; or Health-Insurance reform that ensured every American equal opportunity when it comes to healthcare; it seems as though the Republican party has valued party politics greater than policy productivity.

And although President Obama has made a valiant effort to find compromise (even angering some in his base), bipartisanship from the right has faltered. Most recently, this is true with the American Jobs Act, which will expand the payroll tax cuts for middle-class families, extend jobless benefits for millions of Americans, provide new tax cuts for small-businesses, and create long-term jobs by investing in infrastructure and clean energy.

Despite the fact that this bill is FULLY paid for by ending the Iraq War (Obama announced today that the last American troops in Iraq will return home by the end of December); allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent to expire; and asking every American to pay their fair share; Republicans have made little effort to find compromise.

Instead, many on the right have asked that we continue allowing the middle-class to give up much needed benefits than ask the nation’s wealthiest to pay a tax rate that is equivalent to that of an average American worker. They have asked to decrease financial regulations and repeal health care reform. But how do these actions help our economy?

How does asking more from a middle-class that has seen their collective wealth decrease in the last few decades, and nothing from the top 2 percent that has seen the reverse affect, provide equal opportunity to our citizens? How does removing regulations on the financial industry that can prevent another recession help us in the long-term? How does reducing investments on infrastructure, which according to the country’s largest job creators can increase immediate job creation and long-term stability, rebound our economy? How does taking away health care from millions help Americans find jobs and increase consumer demand?

According to business leaders like Warren Buffett, companies like GE and Comcast, and millions of working-class Americans, the answer is that these tactics never help.

Maybe today’s Republican leadership can learn a few lessons from their former Speaker Hastert:

"Solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness. They can be found in an environment in which we trust one another's word; where we generate heat and passion, but where we recognize that each member is equally important to our overall mission of improving the life of the American people."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

We Need Demand

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, businesses will only begin hiring when there is a demand for their products. Or as simple economics tells us: demand must meet supply.

The best way to create demand is by providing tax breaks for the middle-class. It is by keeping benefits, like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits that millions of Americans are dependent on. It is by educating our citizens to ensure they are able to compete with the rest of the world. The American Jobs Act does this. Further, Obama’s jobs act will provide tax cuts for small businesses and provide immediate employment through infrastructure projects.

This past week, President Obama met with his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, made up of almost entirely big businesses that are known by the Republican Party as the “Job Creators.” The Council—including the CEOs and Chairmen of GE, Xerox, American Express, Southwest Airlines, Proctor and Gamble, Boeing, Intel, Citigroup, and Comcast—specifically mentioned the need to spend on infrastructure to create jobs in the short run and provide long-term stability. Once again, the American Jobs Act does this.

For those who argue that we need less government involvement, it was the Bush administration’s lack of government regulation and oversight that caused us the economic crisis we are currently in. Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only a small percentage of employers have reported regulation as a reason for laying off workers. Instead, the data shows that the main issues were tied to insufficient demand.

We need the American Jobs Act.

Earlier this week, however, Senate Republicans—while offering no plan of their own—unanimously filibustered, and thus killed, the bill. With over 14 million people out of work, low wages, rising poverty, and insufficient demand, the American Jobs Act was not even allowed to be debated on.

It seems as though the fate of our economy now rests on the seriousness of the Republican leadership.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Largest Tax Cuts Under Obama

The Labor Department just released a report showing that the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs last month, more than expected, with the private sector adding 137,000. Although the unemployment rate is stuck at 9.1 percent and growth is still slow, the economy has still added private sector jobs for 19 straight months, for a total of 2.6 million jobs.

This is in very large part due to President Obama’s first stimulus package (the American Recovery Act) which passed in February of 2009 (see chart below).

Under the Recovery Act, Obama passed the largest tax cuts in history—larger than the tax cuts of Reagan, JFK, and George W. Bush (Wall Street Journal). The previous record, held by President Bush’s 2001 $174 billion and 2004 $231 billion tax cuts, was surpassed by Obama’s $282 billion tax cuts.

The difference: The Bush tax cuts were targeted at the wealthiest Americans. The Obama tax cuts were targeted at the middle-class and small businesses.

After the success of the first stimulus, we need another stimulus to continue growing this economy and putting more Americans back to work. This is exactly why Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act:
1. To put more money in the pockets of working and middle-class families
2. To keep teachers in the classrooms
3. To provide immediate employment by improving our infrastructure
4. To make it easier for small businesses to hire workers

Small businesses–which employ more than 50 percent of all private sector employees, pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll, and generate 64 percent of net new jobs in America—will not increase hiring unless demand picks up. Obama’s new jobs bill will help increase business and consumer confidence, increasing demand and, ultimately, increase business hiring.

Most importantly, the Jobs Act will NOT add a dime to our deficit –by saving trillions of dollars in ending the Iraq War and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

“Some see this as class warfare. I see it as a simple choice: Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers? Because we can’t afford to do both. Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs? Right now, we can’t afford to do both,” (President Obama).

Republicans, on the other hand, have argued that asking the wealthiest two percent to pay the same tax rate as a middle-class American will hurt our fragile economy.

But how does asking a middle-class family to give up much needed services (like unemployment benefits, aid for student loans, Social Security, or Medicare) as part of a shared sacrifice, while asking nothing from the rich, any better?

The answer: it’s not.

Watch the nation’s second richest man—Warren Buffett—explain this concept: http://money.cnn.com/video/news/2011/09/30/n_buffett_class_warfare.cnnmoney/

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Mornings

How do you spend your Saturday mornings? For me, I usually sleep in and watch episodes of Tom and Jerry. But on occasion, I will get up early and do something meaningful with my life.

Today was one of those mornings. Today, I spoke on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation at the Lake Forest Mall's Macy for their Thanks for Sharing campaign.

Although I only recently began volunteering for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Wish Ambassador and Wish Granter, I have had a deep connection with its charitable work.

When I was younger, I didn’t know too much about the foundation. I was 13 years old and was in the middle of the 8th grade. Like most boys, I thought I was the invincible! I teased my younger sister, gave my parents a hard time, and ran around the house with my underwear on my head pretending to be superman. Who doesn’t? But that all changed when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Cancer.

That’s something you never want to hear. But I realized that I wasn’t the only one that my cancer had hurt. My family went through the same pain that I did, spent the same countless hours in the hospital, and heard the same bad news from the doctor.

My sister and I in Hawaii, one month after I finished chemotherapy

After four months of extensive chemotherapy, I finally heard about Make-A-Wish, and they gave me a trip of a lifetime. It was early morning, and the foundation sent a limo to pick my family and me up. It was the first time I ever rode one. In fact, I didn’t really understand what to do, so I actually rode in the passenger’s seat in front. For those of you who don’t know, you never ride a limo that like.

We then boarded a train to New York City, where we were greeted by a Wish staff member, who gave us a tour of the city and tickets to the Broadway show: Julius Caesar.

After the show, they took us back stage, where we met the cast and crew. Then something happened that made my heart drop. I got a tap on my shoulder and when I turned around, it was none other than the man I had wished to meet: Denzel Washington! Needless to say I was awe-struck. He took us to his dressing room, where he spoke with us for about 15 minutes. And for those 15 minutes, cancer was just another word in the dictionary. It was a thing of the past that we had forgotten. All we were able to focus on was that very moment, and how my dream was coming true. Nothing else mattered. No pain, no treatment, nothing.

Whether you’re another cancer survivor, had a relative with cancer, or know someone with cancer, we are all affected by this horrible disease. Now, imagine if we can provide the amount of joy that I had to all children suffering from these types of life-threatening medical conditions. If we can do that, then there is nothing that these kids cannot overcome.

That is why I volunteer for Make-A-Wish. In addition to speaking at events such as the one today, I also perform charity magic shows for the Foundation, as well as for the American Cancer Society, the Children's Hospital, and the NIH Children's Inn.

The point: if you are passionate about something, go out and do something about it.

For me, it is politics, social welfare, and cancer awareness. Every single day, I make sure to act on what I believe is the best way to improve these three areas. But regardless of your own passions, I urge you to act on them and make a difference.

As Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

GOP Support for Obama?

At first glance of the Republican presidential debate on Thursday, it seems as though they supported President Obama:

Perry—“Americans want a leader who has a proven record of job creation.”
Guess what? When Obama took office, we were losing over 700,000 jobs a month. Without Obama's stimulus package, the Labor Department estimated we would have lost more than 11 million jobs.

Then came healthcare reform, with 32 million new patients added to the insurance pool and a saving of over $230 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Furthermore, Obama passed Wall Street reform, holding executives accountable, ending "too big to fail" bailouts, and enacting the strongest consumer protections in history.

All these measures have helped. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, just released a report finding that Obama’s Recovery Act created around 2.5 million jobs, and shaved a full percentage point off of the unemployment rate.

Hunstman –“We need to fix the underlying structural problems in this economy.”
Since the beginning of the Reagan years, the share of total income captured by the top 2 percent of earners has rapidly increased while the share taken by the rest of the country has fallen. A recent U.S. Census Bureau study finds that America’s poverty rate is now the worst since 1993, with over 46 million Americans living below the poverty line (a family of four earning less than $22,000). Further, adjusted for inflation, the middle-income family only earned 11% more in 2010 than they did in 1980, while the richest 5% in America saw their incomes surge 42%.

Simply put: the rich have been getting richer at the expense of the poor and the middle-class. Which is why Obama has proposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire and imposing the Buffett Rule.

Under President Clinton, the marginal tax rate was at 39%, yet we still created more than 23 million net new jobs with about 90% in the private sector in less than eight years! However, under President Bush (with a lower marginal tax rate of 35%), our economy had a net growth of only 3 million new jobs and ZERO in the private sector (not to mention we went from a $200 billion surplusto an incredible $1 trillion deficit).

The Buffett Rule asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share. Typically, the wealthiest Americans derive a lot of income from investments, which are often classified as “carried interest” and later taxed at a lower rate (around 15%) than ordinary income such as wages (around 36%). As a result, they can end up owing a lower percentage of their income in federal taxes than someone who makes far less money. The concept of the Buffett Rule is to prevent this corporate loophole.

Romney—“The people who have been most hurt are the middle-income families.”
President Obama agrees and has acted on it. His American Jobs Act will create jobs fixing roads and bridges, give tax credits to small businesses that hire new workers, extend the line of credit to these businesses, and put more money in the wallets of the average worker.

Caine –“It’s out of control.”
You bet it is! Even though Governor Perry’s home state of Texas ranks 6th in terms of people living in poverty—one in five--has one of the lowest rates of spending on its citizens per capita, and the highest share of those lacking health insurance; or that during his tenure as Governor, Romney’s state ranked 47th in the country on job creation; they are quick to blame Obama for the economic downturn.

But when it came down to extending healthcare for millions of Americans, extending unemployment benefits, extending payroll tax cuts, or providing tax incentives for small businesses, Republicans screamed for lower taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent.

When it came to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ratifying a new Start Treaty, ending the Iraq War, stimulating the economy to prevent a collapse of the US Auto Industry, or investing in long-term job growth projects like infrastructure and clean energy, Republicans screamed for repealing Obamacare.

And now when it comes to passing the American Jobs bill to reduce our deficit, create jobs, and provide relief to our middle-class and small businesses, Republicans have said nothing.

But, if Republicans want a "leader who has a proven record of job creation", who understands how to "fix the underlying structural problems in this economy", who has helped "the people who have been most hurt", and does not get us "out of control", I guess they found their answer in Obama.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pay Your Fair Share

The health of our economy depends on what we do right now. Today, President Obama laid out his plan to pay for the American Jobs Act and reduce the deficit by $4 trillion.

AMERICAN JOBS ACT

Short Run –Tax cuts for working and middle class families; tax cuts for small businesses to help them hire and grow; and aid to state governments to prevent the layoffs of thousands of teachers and other public workers.

Long Run –Investments in long-term economic growth areas (education, clean energy, and infrastructure).

DEFICIT REDUCTION

Letting the Bush tax cuts expire – Under President Clinton, the marginal tax rate was at 39%, yet we still created more than 23 million net new jobs with about 90% in the private sector in less than eight years! However, under President Bush (with a lower marginal tax rate of 35%), our economy had a net growth of only 3 million new jobs and ZERO in the private sector (not to mention we went from a $200 billion surplus to an incredible $1 trillion deficit).

The Buffett Rule –Asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share.

Although Republicans claim this will hurt businesses, one of the most successful businessmen, Warren Buffett, disagrees. As he discussed in a New York Times op-ed, we need to “get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Typically, the wealthiest Americans derive a lot of income from investments, which are often classified as “carried interest” and later taxed at a lower rate (around 15%) than ordinary income such as wages (around 36%). As a result, they can end up owing a lower percentage of their income in federal taxes than someone who makes far less money. The concept of the Buffett Rule is to prevent this corporate loophole.

THE CHOICE

With a recent U.S. Census Bureau study indicating that America's poverty rate is now the worst since 1993, with over 46 million Americans living below the poverty line (a family of four earning less than $22,000), the choice becomes evident. As President Obama understands:

"Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can’t afford to do both.

Either we gut education and medical research, or we’ve got to reform the tax code so that the most profitable corporations have to give up tax loopholes that other companies don’t get. We can’t afford to do both."

Monday, September 12, 2011

The American Jobs Act

Yesterday, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the nation honored those who risked their lives and helped America rise from the rubbles – the firefighters, police officers, and other rescue workers.

But to increase America’s competitiveness in a global marketplace, withstand the pressures from a European financial crisis, decrease unemployment, and help restore the financial stability of our nation, we must assist the others who also serve their communities – the teachers, small-business owners, and the middle-class.

That’s who the American Jobs Act would help:

1. It provides tax cuts for small businesses
Small businesses have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years . This tax cut will lower these businesses’ costs and provides incentives to increase wages and hire more unemployed workers.

2. It helps out-of-work Americans by extending unemployment benefits

3. It provides tax cuts for the middle-class
By reducing payroll taxes, Obama’s new jobs act would put more money in the pockets of working Americans.

4. It aids states to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other government employees

5. It invests in infrastructure to create immediate employment

Read the White House factsheet:

By providing BOTH tax cuts and spending increases, Obama’s plan will boost our economy.

According to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's rating agency and former adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, the plan will add to economic growth, add nearly 2 million jobs and reduce the unemployment rate. Further, he mentioned that, "There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation. Everything in here is the kind of proposal that's been supported by both Democrats and Republicans.”

So far, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has shown willingness to compromise. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Man-Made Problems: Man-Made Solutions


Last night, the top Republican presidential candidates competed in their 4th in a series of debates. In my opinion, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—stole the show.

Rick Perry:
Not only does his state have one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the nation, but it also has one of the highest poverty rates and more people working for the minimum wage than other states.

In regards to Social Security, he made the claim that, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter and that “it is a monstrous lie, it is a Ponzi scheme.” But as the Social Security Administration points out, Social Security is a major source of income for the elderly, with nine out of ten Americans age 65 and older receiving benefits. This year alone, nearly 55 million Americans are said to receive benefits.

Mitt Romney:
During his tenure as Governor, his state ranked 47th in the country in job creation, according to the Labor Department.

And although his universal healthcare plan in Massachusetts has made the state’s rate of uninsured one of the lowest in the country, it has also failed to rein in costs, resulting in rising health insurance premiums.

But while it did serve as a template for President Obama’s healthcare plan (imposing an individual mandate, subsidies for low-income persons, requirement for employers, etc), RomneyCare is noticeably different in its financing.

As a nationwide plan implemented by the federal government, Obama’s healthcare law was able to reduce healthcare costs in the long-run by reducing wasteful spending in Medicare, closing the prescription drug payment donut hole for seniors, imposing taxes on high-cost healthcare plans, and regulating the entire healthcare industry to remove wasteful spending. The Massachusetts plan does not do any of these things.

Despite the ability of Obama’s healthcare plan to out-finance his state’s own plan, Romney continues to push for its repeal. He also continues to denounce the positive effects of the Recovery Act.

Obama’s New Jobs Plan
Which brings us to President Obama’s speech tonight.

Although Obama’s first stimulus package has prevented another Great Depression (as I discussed in my last blog post “Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t”), its funds have waned and we need a second stimulus to further the progress we have made.

Thus, by providing tax cuts for working and middle-class families; giving tax incentives to small businesses that add new workers; aiding state and local governments to hire more teachers and refurbish schools; and investing in infrastructure to create immediate jobs, the American Jobs Act is investing in our greatest asset: the working American middle-class. And by closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to finally pay their fair share, the Jobs Act is fully paid for.

As Obama mentioned, both Democrats and Republicans agree that, “it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world…[But] there has always been another thread running throughout our history - a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

President Kennedy once said, "Our problems are man-made - therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't



This Thursday President Obama will be addressing the nation on the specifics of his plan to further stimulate job growth and aid our struggling economy.

Although we have made tremendous progress, we need to make sure that we continue growing the economy and do not revert back to failed policies. With unemployment still high and slow job growth, we need to ensure that more burden is not placed on the working class.

For those that continue to claim that we need to continue decreasing taxes for the wealthiest two percent in order to stimulate growth, I argue the opposite.

Under President Clinton, the marginal tax rate was at 39%, yet we still created more than 23 million net new jobs with about 90% in the private sector in less than eight years! However, under President Bush (with a lower marginal tax rate of 35%), our economy had a net growth of only 3 million new jobs and ZERO in the private sector (not to mention we went from a $200 billion surplus to an incredible $1 trillion deficit).

Put simply, the wealthiest two percent have had these tax cuts for nearly a decade now and the level of job growth is still weak.

Although there are many other factors that have also contributed to our weakened economy, when the choice comes down to providing tax breaks to the richest or the middle-class, I would rather give more money to those that are likelier to spend it than save it: the middle-class.

Last year, Obama lowered the payroll tax for millions of middle-class Americans. These tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year, effectively raising taxes on the working class. However, many in the Republican leadership are already promising to let them expire.

In December, the same group threatened to raise taxes on all families unless President Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Then last month Republicans in Congress (and each of their presidential candidates) continually threatened to force a default on our obligations, resulting in the first US Credit downgrade in our history.

Further, Republicans have repeatedly denounced the positive effects of Obama’s stimulus package passed within the first month of his administration. But as Jay-Z points out, “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Here are some numbers:

When Obama took office, we were losing over 700,000 jobs a month. Without an immediate government stimulus, the Labor Department estimates we would have lost more than 11 million jobs.

Then came healthcare reform, with 32 million new patients added to the insurance pool and a saving of over $230 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Furthermore, we passed Wall Street reform (holding executives accountable, ending "too big to fail" bailouts, and enacting the strongest consumer protections in history) and ended the Iraq War (saving billions of dollars).

All these measures have helped. The Congressional Budget Office, for example, just released a report finding that Obama’s Recovery Act created around 2.5 million jobs, and shaved a full percentage point off of the unemployment rate.

Yes we still have many problems, but Obama’s efforts have kept a bad situation from getting worse.

Democrats and Republicans both want to cut spending. But we should not focus on providing more tax breaks for the rich at the expense of cutting spending on education, infrastructure, or extensions to the payroll tax.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. President

As President Obama celebrates his 50th birthday today, our nation celebrates the many successes of his administration.

1. The Stimulus Package
After the Bush Administration took President Clinton's $200 billion surplus and turned it into a $1 trillion deficit, our economy at the end of 2008 was losing over 700,000 jobs a month.

To prevent another Great Depression, President Obama's first action in office was to relieve the economy and focus on job creation. Therefore, his stiumulus package included:

-investments in Infrastructure (long term job growth; immediate employment)
-the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (tax cuts and lending approval for businesses)
-the Emergency Jobs Bill (gave states relief to keep 150K teachers and government employees on payroll)
-the Emergency Homeowner Loan (helped millions avoid foreclosure)
-the US Auto-Industry Bailout (saving an entire industry and saving American jobs from being outsourced)
-extending Unemployment benefits (providing relief for those who were forced out of work due to the corporate greed on Wall Street)
-Credit Card Reform (protecting Americans from unfair and misleading credit card practices)
-Student Loan Reform (making college more affordable for students and families)

2. Wall Street Reform
By holding Wall Street accountable and ending "too big to fail" bailouts, this reform enacts the strongest consumer protections in history.

3. The new START Treaty
By setting aside important national interests to achieve shared international ones, Obama was able to find a compromise with Russia and other nations to reduce the world supply of nuclear weapons and increase our global security.

4. Supreme Court Justices
Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor (the First Latina justice)

5. Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Moving one step toward "Liberty and Justice for All".

6. Capturing Osama bin Laden

7. Ending combat operations in Iraq
Bringing our brave men and women home from a war that began on false pretenses.

8. the Affordable Care Act
Provides uninsured Americans with coverage, under-insured Americans with fairer insurance practices, and insured Americans with better care, all while strengthening the American medical industry and reducing health-care costs.

9. the Debt Ceiling Compromise
By putting aside partisan bickering, Obama showed true leadership by bringing together both sides of the aisle to find a common solution to our nation's debt ceiling crisis and preventing an economic collapse.

Due to his persistance and perserverance, Obama recently signed a debt-ceiling compromise that did not place a greater burden on Americans while continuing to give relief to the wealthiest.

This was all in the first 3 years of his presidency. Happy Birthday Mr. President and a job well done!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Spirit of America


"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

As my family and I visited the Statue of Liberty this weekend, Emma Lazarus’s words inscribed at the base of the Statue continue to have great importance today.

My parents, both immigrants from India, came to this country to make a better life for themselves. They understood the great plethora of opportunities available only in America and appreciated the American mantra that when you work hard and honestly, the average citizen can accomplish anything.

With the recent debate over the debt ceiling, our leaders in Congress should remember the United States of over a century ago—where we greeted millions of immigrants who traveled thousands of miles for a dream called Freedom; where we provided solace for those that wanted to work hard; and where “people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day,” could make a better life for themselves,” (President Obama).

Today, however, Lady Liberty’s torch seems to have dimmed. Although the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward includes "serious spending cuts", it fails to invest in long-term job growth factors such as infrastructure, education, research, and development and energy. Furthermore, it places a greater burden on the middle class while asking nothing from corporate jet owners, oil and gas companies, and the wealthiest two percent.

The best way to avoid this situation is by increasing the debt ceiling to give America the ability to pay bills that Congress has already accrued. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised by August 2, America will default on its debts for the first time in history.

This means that we will not have enough money to pay all our bills – that includes providing over 55 million seniors with their monthly Social Security checks and paying Medicare costs for over 30 million Americans, of which 8 million are children.

Additionally, for the first time in history, America’s Triple A credit rating would be downgraded. If this happens, investors around the world would be less willing to finance our economy, causing rates for mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit cards to skyrocket.

And although Obama has taken heat from the Democrats for “giving in too much” to the Republicans, GOP leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are refusing to budge on their willingness to compromise because it “ruins the Republican brand”. In other words, those on the right care more about politics than helping the nation get out of a mess that was created by the previous Republican administration in the first place.

What about compromise? According to House Majority Leaders Eric Cantor, the mere fact that his party is even considering raising the debt ceiling is proof enough of their willingness to strike a deal with Obama. But agreeing to discuss the possibility of doing something that every President since the 1950s has argued for; and something that President Reagan did 18 times and George W. Bush did seven times does not sound very compromising to me.

As Obama explained his a recent town hall, what Republicans need to understand is that if you only cut spending without raising any revenues, “it means more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country. And it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more,”.

On August 2, we need our leaders to act in the spirit of an America that Emma Lazarus envisioned and millions of immigrants traveled thousands of miles for.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Republican Debate

Yesterday, several candidates battling for the Republican presidential nomination competed in the first of many debates in this election cycle. Here’s the breakdown:

Michele Bachmann:
When asked about the debate, she said that, “I wasn't thinking about performance. I was really just thinking about President Obama and what we can do to make sure that he is a one-term president, because frankly, he hasn't done a great job serving the interests of the American people.”

I agree--she wasn’t thinking about performance. While criticizing Obama for extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who are out of work (instead of passing tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans); or ending the Iraq War and bringing out troops home; ending the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; or passing comprehensive health-insurance reform that focused on making Americans healthier; she did not mention that she supported the proposal from the Republican Study Committee to cut Medicare benefits for millions of senior citizens. She also stated that she wants to repeal “ObamaCare”, even though the Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the Affordable Care Act would “probably increase federal budget deficits over the 2012–2019 period by a total of roughly $145 billion…and through 2021 brings the projected increase in deficits to something in the vicinity of $230 billion,” (Congressional Budget Office, 1/6/2011).

Herman Cain:
Apparently ALL Muslim-Americans are terrorists. More specifically, he thinks, “a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country," and that he'd refuse to appoint a Muslim to his cabinet. That’s exactly what we need!

Ron Paul:
According to him, Social Security is unconstitutional; the Federal Reserve is useless; and military spending is a waste.

Rick Santorum:
The former Senator from Pennsylvania supports privatizing Social Security. But as a major source of income for most of the elderly, we cannot afford to take a risk with the nearly 55 million Americans who receive monthly Social Security checks.

He also opposed Obama’s auto-industry bailout, which has now proved to have saved millions of American jobs as GM and Chrysler have repaid their debts and have turned out profits.

Newt Gingrich:
Almost all of his campaign staff quit last week and he only recently paid off his $500,000 bill to a jewelry company. Further, prior to the debate, he claimed he was against the Republican Medicare plan that would impose “radical change.” (Great!) But he later reversed himself and said that he “made a mistake” and that the plan was actually a good idea.

He also said that Obama’s extension of unemployment benefits was “fundamentally wrong to give people money for 99 weeks to do nothing.” Apparently giving added assistance to those who were forced out of work (and looking for new jobs) due to the corporate greed on Wall Street and Republican insistence on outsourcing jobs to “lower costs” is a bad thing. Clearly, it makes more sense to give that money to the top-earners.

Tim Pawlenty:
During his tenure as Minnesota governor, taxes decreased for the wealthiest 10 percent and increased for 90 percent of middle and lower-income families. And although he aggressively opposed the Recovery Act, “nearly one-third of Tim Pawlenty’s budget fix would rely on $387 million in federal stimulus money.” (Minnesota Star Tribune, 2/16/2010)

Also, he recently had tied Obama's health care law to Romney's health care law in Massachusetts, using the word "Obamneycare," but, he refused to say so again at the debate. Talk about aggressive leadership.

Mitt Romney:
Last, but certainly not least, is the great Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Of all the GOP candidates eyeing for the presidency, Mr. Romney would probably win my vote. After all, during his tenure as governor, he successfully passed a law requiring every citizen in his state to buy health insurance (no, this isn’t the “ObamaCare” bill everyone keeps referring to). By passing universal healthcare in Massachusetts, he had accomplished a longtime Democratic goal (even before Obama could!).And he’s not too bad on the eyes, either.

During the debate, he called for American troops to return from Afghanistan as soon as possible, declaring that “Our troops shouldn’t go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation.” And even though he has consistently supported the Bush Administration's Iraq decisions back in 2008, I couldn’t agree more with his recent flip-flop.

But no GOP candidate is without their flaws. During the debate, he questioned, “why isn't the president leading? He isn't leading on balancing our budget, and he's not leading on jobs. He's failed the American people both in job creation and in the scale of government, and that's why he's not going to be reelected."

Here’s 2 reasons why Obama has failed--

-When elected, he immediately passed a $700 billion stimulus which invested in every major sector of economy. Specifically, this focused on improving our infrastructure, thus providing immediate employment to a struggling workforce; the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, providing tax cuts and lending approval for small businesses; the Emergency Jobs Bill, giving states relief to keep over 150,000 teachers and police officers employed; and the Emergency Homeowner Loan Bill that helped millions avoid foreclosure.

-The unemployment rate (at 9.1%) is a full percentage point lower than what it was just a few months ago (November showed a nearly 10% unemployment rate). And although this rate increased from the 8.8% in March, reports show that the reason for the increase was that discouraged workers who had previously stopped looking for jobs had actually returned to the labor force. A recent report by the Labor Department showed that the number of people who had been out of work for more than 6 months fell by 280,000 and that small businesses had added over 800,000 jobs this year (14 consecutive months of private growth)

On the other hand, as governor of Massachusetts, Romney had one of the worst job-creation records in the country, ranked 47th out of 50 states in job creation –gaining only 1 percent in payroll jobs during his term, compared to the 5.3 percent national average. (Factcheck.org, 1/11/2008).

Although these candidates can’t run on their own records, they are certainly uniting in their efforts to bash President Obama’s successes and move our country backwards. 2012 here we come!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Justice Has Been Served

This picture was taken by White House photographer Pete Souza on May 1, 2011, while President Barack Obama and senior staff oversaw the mission against Osama bin Laden
Think back to where you were on 9/11/2001. I was in the 7th grade, walking to my math class, when I heard rumors of a bomb going off in the capital. When I got to class, my teacher turned on the television only to inform us that the situation was far worse than we could ever expect.

For the years since 9/11, I was slightly relieved to hear that the terrorist behind those attacks had been on the run, living in small and isolated caves awaiting his fatal destiny. However, we soon learned that he has, instead, been living openly in an expensive and luxurious mansion just miles away from an elite Pakistani military academy and the country’s capital city. The mass murderer who was responsible for the largest and most devastating attack on U.S. soil was living in relative comfort.

But just as I will never forget that gloomy morning, I will always remember that glorious night on 5/1/2011—the evening that President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden was dead.

Although I do not believe in celebrating anyone’s demise, a good friend of mine (Robert Parrish) reminded me that we Americans are celebrating not the death of a human being, but rather the elimination of the face of terrorism that put Americans on edge for the past 10 years and that started one (arguably two) wars which have yielded few victories.

For those still uncomfortable with the death of bin Laden, I ask you to think of the thousands of innocent men, women, and children who were taken from us that sad morning. I ask you to think of our brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day so that we can enjoy freedoms that other nations can only dream of. The death of this terrorist provides the American people with some sense of cloture and provides us with “liberty and justice for all.”

The news of bin Laden’s death brought back that sense of unity and pride that we, as a nation, have not felt since the aftermath of the attacks. It has certainly been a refreshing, yet bittersweet, reflection of the spirit of America. For a brief moment, we gave strength to those famous words on the back of the dollar bill: E pluribus unum—“Out of many, one.”

But now I hear some Republicans, the same ones who have been scorning the president as weak and ineffectual in foreign policy, arguing that the capture of bin Laden is a result of continuing the policies established by President George W. Bush. I disagree.

I am a strong believer in giving credit where it is due. And both presidents do deserve credit. The kind of covert operation that ensued Sunday night is a result of cumulated information that we started gathering after invading Afghanistan under President Bush’s leadership. However, the war in Iraq shifted much of the needed resources from Afghanistan and lost focus on the real target.

When President Obama took office, however, he insisted that we end the Iraq War and refocus on Afghanistan and Pakistan to hunt down the man who had become an international symbol of terrorism and American weakness. As a result, Obama was able to accomplish a great victory and a “Mission Accomplished” in two years that Bush could not do in eight. And as far as I am concerned, if the economy is completely under Obama’s control, so is everything else—including this mission.

So for those that questioned President Obama’s leadership, or have any doubts about his ability to be tough or decisive, Sunday night should have proven you wrong.

However, as I mentioned before, the real credit goes to all of our brave military members. This should NOT be a time of partisan politics and bickering. Instead, we should pay respect to the thousands who have been negatively affected by bin Laden’s torturous tenure. Justice has been served, and that should be the end of it.

As Obama mentioned in his announcement, bin Laden’s death reminded everyone of the pride shared by Americans in "what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics…It is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges we still face.”

Even Steven Colbert understands: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/383525/may-03-2011/obama-takes-credit-for-bin-laden-s-assassination

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Michael Appleton for The New York Times
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Today, I am proud of President George W. Bush.
Today, I am proud of President Obama.
Today, I am proud of our amazing men and women of the armed forces!
Today, I am so proud to be an American!

On September 11, 2001, four U.S. planes were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. The attack killed nearly 3,000 brave men, women, and children in a matter of hours. Soon after, President Bush launched a full scale war against Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. Although we have had many successes, the war in Afghanistan has cost us an additional 2,000 of our bravest service men and women.

By the leadership of President Bush; the perseverance of President Obama; and the incredible work of our military forces, we can now declare that Osama bin Laden is dead!

Although Al-Qaeda is still at large and will stop at nothing to deteriorate the foundations of democracy and the values we hold so dearly, it is a great victory and re-assures our military, our citizens, and the world that we can and will prevail.

Tonight should not be a night of partisan politics. It should be a night of celebration, relief, and reflection. With more than 5,000 American lives lost as a direct result of the devastating attacks on 9/11, justice has been served!

As President Obama said in his speech tonight:

“Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.

And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror--Justice has been done.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Heart Surgery



On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.

Some provisions have already taken effect. Most notably, I am now able to stay under my parents’ insurance policy until I am 26 years old. However, it is not until 2014 that insurance companies will be entirely prohibited from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing condition.

I was reminded of this current discriminatory policy still in place after I underwent minor heart surgery last Friday. Although I eat very healthy and stay very active, my annual visit to my primary care physician revealed I was born with something called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association , “WPW” is a heart condition in which there is an extra electrical pathway in the heart, resulting in episodes of rapid heart rate and, ultimately, can lead to cardiac arrest. Where a normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, it was not uncommon for mine to escalate to 250 beats per minute or greater.

On Friday, I underwent a surgical procedure known as a catheter ablation, which involves inserting a tube (catheter) into an artery through a small cut near the groin up to the heart area. When the tip reaches the heart, the small area that is causing the fast heart rate is destroyed using a special type of energy called radiofrequency. Although there were a few complications, I did not need open heart surgery which is a true blessing!

Soon after my surgery, however, we received a “friendly” call from our health insurance provider stating that I now have a pre-existing condition (here we go again). This means that, aside from our inability to change insurance companies, we cannot even change insurance plans WITHIN the same company. Luckily, we did not mention that I am also a cancer survivor; otherwise they would have dropped our coverage soon after dropping our call!

With the 2012 presidential election unfolding, Republican leaders are reigniting the debate over healthcare reform, threatening to undo whatever progress we have made thus far. But if there is one thing that I have learned through my experience with cancer and my heart condition, it is this:

We can debate politics. We can debate immigration, energy, the economy, and even war. But what we cannot, and should not, debate over is people’s lives.

My family and I have suffered enough! Yet, instead of focusing on my recovery, we are only able to focus (and worry) about the exorbitant, and continually rising, costs of healthcare because I, once again, have another pre-existing condition.

Although we are fortunate enough to be able to pay our medical bills, how long will this last? What will happen if doctors find yet another thing wrong with me? And what of the millions in this country who are not as lucky, financially or medically, as I am? What will become of them?

So here’s to hoping that the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed and is allowed to run its full course.

But until then, we better hope no one gets sick.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Got Leadership?

The Republican leadership is holding the government hostage. With control over the House, it is the Speaker and his party’s responsibility to propose and implement a budget that will keep the government functioning, while keeping our economy on track. Yet with the recent talks of a government shutdown, leadership in Congress has proven weak.

The current spending bill expires at the end of tomorrow. According to the Labor Department, if the government shuts down, the IRS will stop processing paper tax returns; the Small Business Administration will stop making loans; federal home loan guarantees will be put on hold; and over 800,000 government employees will be put on furlough. That means almost a million Americans won’t get a paycheck!

Some of the government's biggest jobs, like defense and medical research, would also take a hit. The Department of Defense says that U.S. troops would be paid through April 8, but after that, paychecks to members of the military, including those in war zones, would stop. The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients, and put clinical trials on hold. The Environmental Protection Agency would stop reviewing environmental impact statements, which will slow crucial energy related projects. E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security program that helps businesses determine the eligibility of employees, would be suspended, which could lead to hiring delays.

These are real impacts that will affect real people. We cannot afford a government shutdown.

Leaders on the right are blaming President Obama and the Democrats for not taking action sooner and, instead, focusing their efforts on “wasteful spending practices.” But when Democrats agreed to cut $33 billion from current spending levels, Republicans wanted more.

Yes we need to keep our budget in control, but at what cost? Even in these touch budget times, we must not take actions that will hurt our economy and halt whatever progress we have made.

"Don't believe that somehow the argument is about whether we should cut spending or not," Obama said. “Instead, the question is what to cut. We must target waste and unneeded programs while continuing to spend on innovation, education and rebuilding America's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.”

According to Republicans, focusing on clean energy issues, including wind and solar power, electric cars and energy efficient buildings; or educating our children by investing in education and innovation is “wasteful”. Yet these are essential factors that keep America prospering.

Last week, a report by the U.S. Labor Department says the economy is on the right track:

“Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 230,000 in March, marking 13 consecutive months of private employment growth. Private sector employers added 1.8 million jobs over that period, including more than half a million jobs in the last three months. The unemployment rate fell for the fourth straight month to 8.8 percent. The full percentage point drop in the unemployment rate over the past four months is the largest such decline since 1984.” This proves, most importantly, that the continued decrease in the unemployment rate is due to an increase in employment, rather than people leaving the labor force.

President Obama and his administration, whether through saving the U.S. auto-industry; holding Wall Street firms accountable for their actions; creating more college graduates with student loan reform; extending unemployment benefits for millions who lost their jobs with no fault of their own; ensuring tax cuts for 98% of working families; providing various incentives for small businesses who hire domestically; increasing investments in cleaner and more sustainable energy; or strengthening our infrastructure, is showing true leadership.

However, it is essential that we continue adding on to the progress we have made, thus far. This means that we should stop focusing on the political jargon used by many in Congress, and start focusing more on concrete actions.

Republicans now have control of the House. But where is the leadership?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Relay for Life: 2011



My name is Ashwani Jain, and this is my fourth year in a row attending and speaking here at Relay. If you do the math, that makes me a senior, and by contractual obligation, I have to say, “Go Terps!”

I’ve been through a lot in my life; hopefully more than most people have had to or ever will. When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed and treated for cancer. I went to the best doctors in the world and got the best treatment available. A lot of that is thanks to the wonderful work the American Cancer Society does to fund and conduct research that helps us better understand, prevent, and cure cancer.

Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it. Cancer sucked. We all know what cancer is, and what it does. And chances are that we all probably know someone who has dealt with it. But unless you actually have lived with it, there’s just no way to truly grasp how life-changing it is. Not only did my cancer affect me, but it affected my entire family. I still remember seeing my parents cry for the first time. I felt like I was on an episode of Oprah, but no one got a car or a free trip to Australia.

Of course, I was one of the lucky ones. Every year, millions are not able to win their fight against cancer. Tonight, we take this take to honor their memories, and celebrate their lives.

But even though I’ve been cancer free for 8 years, I still have several side effects from the treatment, many of which are incurable. All these prevent me from doing certain things that most 21 year olds should be able to do. Sometimes that makes me feel bad. I begin to ask, why did this have to happen to me? Even years after my treatment, my body is still feeling the pain. But why? I eat very healthy, stay very active, treat others with respect, listen to my parents, and I still can’t live a normal life.

Then I realize that we don’t always have control over the hand that we’re dealt. But what we do have control over is how we play those cards. So I keep a very positive mindset. Instead of comparing myself to others, and seeing what I don’t have, I look at what I do have. The mere fact that I am standing here today in front of all you is a true blessing. The fact that I have air in my lungs and am healthy is enough reason to be happy. Things could have been much worse. But they’re not.

You don’t need to have lived through what I have to understand this appreciation for life. As my good friend Albert Einstein, or Al as I called him, once said, there are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; or you can live as if everything is a miracle. This is why events like Relay are so important. Because they help people realize the beauty of life. If it wasn’t for the amount of money and awareness the American Cancer Society raises for cancer research, I would not be alive today.

So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your effort in making sure millions, like myself, are able to celebrate a birthday every single year. You guys are my heroes.

So, please, the next time you hop up out of bed, turn your swag on, look in the mirror and say wassup, do 3 things. 1) give thanks for waking up, because there are millions who may not be given that luxury; 2) show appreciation for the people in your life, as many are left to deal with their problems alone; 3) laugh, because without it, we forget why life is fun. Now as I leave, I want to quote something from one of the most profound, intellectual, and influential people of our time. Master Shi-fo from Kung fo Panda said, "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift.”

Thanks!

Monday, March 28, 2011

An International Response

Less than one hour ago, President Obama updated the American people of the current situation in Libya. One key piece of information to take away from his message is that our response to the crisis in Libya comes as part of an international effort to prevent the prospect of “violence on horrific proportions” and ensure that Moammar Gadhafi is held accountable for his brutal actions.

Since the start of this conflict, as was the similar case for the recent Egyptian uprising, Obama has repeatedly emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Libyan people to take charge of their government. Unlike Egypt, however, the Libyans are being brutally and violently suppressed in their quest for democracy.

By joining an international coalition, alongside nations like the UK, France, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. is simply helping to enforce the United Nation’s Security Council’s resolution to free the Libyan people.

As Obama said in his speech tonight, “American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs; and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.” This is the kind of leadership we have shown in Libya.

However, we must not equate this situation with our response in Iraq. Instead, Obama is committed to having the U.S. play a limited, but supporting, role in Libya. We are fulfilling our responsibility to our allies, acting WITH the international community, and taking advantage of the fact that we can prevent mass genocide and help a nation’s oppressed people WIHTOUT deploying ground troops.

Soon, with NATO taking command of the operation, the U.S. would have fulfilled our pledge to assist the Libyan people while still serving America’s best interest. As the president emphasized:

“America has an important strategic interest in preventing Gadhafi from overrunning those who oppose him. A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya's borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful — yet fragile — transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power. [Also] The writ of the UN Security Council would have been shown to be little more than empty words, crippling its future credibility to uphold global peace and security.”

Inaction would have greater costs for the U.S. and the world community by putting a heavy, and most likely deadly, toll on the men, women, and children of Libya.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A United Response

On Saturday, following the U.N Security Council’s authorization of open-ended military action by member nations, including a no-fly zone, President Obama called on U.S. military strikes in Libya that “will be limited in their nature, duration, and scope in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. After that we'll take more of a supporting role."

By acting as part of a global coalition and ensuring that no U.S. ground troops would be deployed, Obama has recognized the danger faced by the people of Libya and the importance of an international response to the crisis.

Many Republicans argue that Obama should have been more forceful in his actions and has waited too long in his response. However, we must realize that this is not only a U.S. problem, but also a global issue.

In fact, this is why the United Nations was created in the first place: for peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. By providing a platform for dialogue, it is the U.N.’s prerogative to work with the 192 member nations across the globe to resolve the Libyan conflict.

We should not, as President Bush did during the Iraq War, bypass a coordinated response by the international community and place the U.S. in a tougher position. With limited support from our allies and an inability to properly fund a full scale war, the mistakes in Iraq should not be repeated in Libya.

As President Obama has said, we must not deprive the Libyan people of full ownership of their struggle for freedom. Instead, I believe we must work with our global allies to create a stronger, more unified, and more sustainable response that puts the Libyan citizens first.

“Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced,” Obama said. “That is the cause of this coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Role in the Middle East

Thank you all for your ideas and comments regarding the topic of discussion for this week.

With the recent wave of “people’s revolutions” in the Middle East, I feel it is important to discuss America’s role in promoting its democratic ideals while ensuring a self-sustaining and longer lasting government in the region that is “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Let’s begin with Egypt. According to the U. S. Department of State, Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world. With the region’s largest publishing and broadcasting center, Egypt has long been the cultural and informational hub of the Middle East. It has also served as a strong military and strategic partner of the United States, playing a key role during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis (Egypt had the third-largest coalition force, after the U.S. and U.K). Given this, our role during the Egyptian revolution needed to be one of careful deliberation.

With mass demonstrations against the 30-year rule of their President, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian people demanded greater freedoms and a more democratic government. To ensure that we did more good than harm, President Obama and his administration allowed these people to free themselves and build a greater pride in their country that was not inspired by hate to the Western world.

In the past, our efforts to engage with foreign nations to spread democracy have rarely turned out well. Instead of creating lasting peace, we have only fueled anti-American sentiments and deterred citizens from achieving a sustainable form of government. Specifically, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it quickly became all about us and American imperialism, and much less about getting rid of Saddam and instituting a stable democratic government.

This time, by preventing a full scare war in the region and supporting a peaceful transition toward a democracy led by the Egyptian people, the U. S. has strengthened its relationship toward a key ally and allowed its people to pursue a longer lasting form of happiness.

Our response has been similar in response to the recent uprisings in Libya. Instead of using force, Obama has called on the help of international leaders to work together on building a stronger, more unified defense against Moammar Gadhafi’s repressive regime to help the Libyan people.

"In a volatile situation like this one, it is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice, and that has been our focus," Obama said.

While condemning all violence in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and other North African and Middle Eastern nations where protests have erupted in recent weeks, the Obama administration has taken the correct measures to ensure a true and self-sustaining democracy prevails in the region.

As the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stressed, "we are not dictating outcomes, and we are not telling the people of any country who their leaders should be or should not be."

I think this should be a key element to any foreign policy the U.S. ensues, and one that has been severely underrated in the past administration.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What Should I Write About?

My blog has officially reached over 2000 hits!

In appreciation of your support, my next blog post (3/11/11) will be based solely on your political topics of interest.

Please post any ideas you have here. Thanks!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Spread Democracy in Egypt

Yesterday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak became the second long-standing Middle Eastern ruler to be pushed from office by popular protest (the other was Tunisian President’s resignation last year). However, unlike the civil movement in Tunisia, the uprising in Egypt was fueled by peaceful demonstrations that, “gave lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence,” Obama said. “It was the moral force of nonviolence—not terrorism, not killing—that bent the arc of justice.”

Whether democracy will be fully instituted in Egypt’s new found sense of freedom is yet unknown, yet it brings the question: Was President Bush right all along in his quest to spread democracy in the Arab world? I disagree.

Democracy still remains a key component of U.S. foreign policy, especially when it comes to the Middle Eastern region. However, unlike Bush, Obama believes the invocation of democracy should not come through undemocratic means of violence.

When we try to impose democracy, we tarnish it. During the Bush administration, Bush forcefully tried to impose American democratic ideals on the rest of the world (ie. the Iraq War). This has not served our nation well, and has only spurred greater opposition to the United States in that area of the world. Instead of trying to coerce these nations to accept democracy (like Bush), we should purse a more diplomatic, strategic, and multilateral approach (like Obama).

Whether Egypt moves toward genuine democracy or lapses back toward authoritarianism; and whether democratic ideals will eventually spread to the surrounding nations (Iran, Jordan, etc) depends on how we act in this crucial period.

When Obama took office, he decided to dial back some of the rhetoric and rebuild the United States' credibility on human rights. It was in this context that he went to Cairo on June 4, 2009, and delivered what was billed as an effort at outreach to the Muslim world:

"I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; government that is transparent…these are not just American ideas; they are human rights.”

Compare this with Bush’s forceful rhetoric in Iraq: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

Today, we have seen the success of this approach.

By making a true case for democracy, giving the Egyptian people—not the American government—power, the U.S. may now have a greater chance to truly instill democratic ideals in the Middle East.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tolls Ahead

Yesterday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate has dropped to 9 percent (down from December’s 9.4 percent and November’s 9.8 percent), the biggest two-month decline since 1958. Although this still means that millions of Americans do not yet have jobs, it does prove that our country is making progress and recovering from the worst economic recession in decades.

Many cynics are quick to point out that the growth in private sector jobs in January (over 50,000 new jobs) was not as many as we hoped for. However, they fail to take into account that the number of jobs added in both November and December was more than expected, and that we have had 11 consecutive months of private sector job growth.

President Obama has done an excellent job to build on this momentum, passing tax cuts for millions of middle-class families; proving tax incentives for small businesses; ensuring fiscal responsibility and accountability for Wall Street companies; investing in education programs that will help us compete with the rest of the world; and most recently launching “Startup America,” a national initiative to support high-growth entrepreneurship, with more than $400 million in private commitments.

While Obama and the Democrats are making progress, however, it seems that many on the right are trying to move backwards. Instead of focusing on creating and sustaining long-term job growth, many Republicans are trying to undo many of the successes we’ve had over the last two years.

In particular, they have vowed to use their new majorities in Congress to overturn the Affordable Care Act (the new healthcare law), of which many of the provisions have just recently been taken into affect. Specifically, people can no longer be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition; young adults can now stay on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26; and seniors who used to pay thousands out of pocket to cover the “donut hole” are now paying less.

Ironically, these same Republicans that want to deny millions of Americans healthcare are quick to accept their own healthcare benefits that are generously provided to them by the new law. Apparently, it’s fair to subsidize the healthcare costs of those that are well off than those that are jobless and already have difficulty paying their bills.

If we are to truly improve our current financial state, we need to ensure that our citizens have all the available means necessary to get their lives back on track. This includes healthcare.

As was said during the midterm election, drivers, “push D to go forward, and R to go backward.” The U.S. has gotten itself out of the ditch and is moving forward. But now, it needs to avoid the tolls.