Saturday, March 31, 2012

President Obama’s “flexibility” comment was recently caught on a microphone during his meeting with the Russian President Dimitry Medvedev. The President’s political opponents have seized on the comment and trumpeted it as proof that President Obama plans to “sell out” the United States to the Russians. Below I have placed two links, one which is in support of the President and the other which is critical of his actions.  



America's fattest cities and the actual cost of obesity

Here is a slideshow of the ten most obese metropolitan areas in the United States.  The report also shows the annual obesity-related costs, well over $100 million in each area.  The so called "fattest" city tops out at over $400 million per year in obesity-related costs.  If you needed any more convincing after our sugar debate a few weeks ago, here are the cold-hard figures.  How's that for a negative externality?

Another Entertaining Presidential Parody

Get it Obama

60 Minutes to take up the issue of sugar

Friday, March 30, 2012

Case for Disclose Act

Case against Disclose Act

Career Advice

Yesterday I met with Human Rights First CAO (Chief Administration Officer), Pam, about career advice, choices etc. I thought I would share with you all one of the tidbits I learned that I think would be extremely helpful for those of us who are going to be seniors soon, graduating and entering the job market (especially if you have no idea what you want to do).

Pam suggested that you start printing job description of things that appeal to you, regardless of the requirements needed to apply. Once you have quite a pile of mildly interesting job descriptions, go through and highlight all the activities you are drawn too, would enjoy etc. After that, you can separate those description into piles, one with the most highlights, the other with the least. Then you can go back and read through what activities you seem to be drawn too, and then what kind of jobs those are. It also can be a good tool in knowing when/if/where you should go to grad school. Ex: if everything you highlighted required a law degree, then you might be more inclined to go that route.

You can get job descriptions from tons of different websites online (idealist, etc).

I have been trying to make a concerted effort to meet, and discuss career paths with people in my organization. I think its a great exercise for all of us, because it really demonstrates that there are lots of different paths and ways to end up where you want to be, or where you should be.

Another piece of advice that was shared with me by virtually everyone I have spoken with at HRF: do not go to grad school unless you know exactly what you want to get out of it. It will be a waste of time and money otherwise.

Just some advice gems I thought I would pass along :)

If the Mandate Falls, Put a plug on Health Care

I thought this was an interesting article regarding the importance of the mandate decision and the future of the ACA. If the mandate is found unconstitutional then I do not see any chance of the survival of the law. It would make an unaffordable program, increasingly unaffordable. This program really ignores the fact that we are in dire straits, but people need to realize that it is impossible to get money for nothing and the ACA goes a long way to block our ability to continue any of these entitlement opportunities into the future.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Following up on sugar debate

interesting panel at AEI

For your DC bucket list

Exhibit at the Phillips Collection

Santorum: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry..."

Believe me, Rick, no one needs to distort what you say--your quotes are ridiculous enough on their own. And yet, somehow a major GOP contender...?

And now we wait

"What happened to the Eighth Amendment?" he asked. "You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?"

C'mon Scalia...

Making the Electoral College irrelevant

through NPV.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New CNN Poll shows Obama up by double digits over Romney

Save the Children

Next week we will visit this interesting organization to meet with Michael Klosson'71.

Thoughts on Paul Ryan’s Tax Proposals (and miscellanea)

CBO’s analysis

“At the request of the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Congressman Paul Ryan, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has calculated the long-term budgetary impact of paths for federal revenues and spending specified by the Chairman and his staff. The calculations presented here represent CBO's assessment of how the specified paths would alter the trajectories of federal debt, revenues, spending, and economic output relative to the trajectories under two scenarios that CBO has analyzed previously. Those calculations do not represent a cost estimate for legislation or an analysis of the effects of any given policies. In particular, CBO has not considered whether the specified paths are consistent with the policy proposals or budget figures released today by Chairman Ryan as part of his proposed budget resolution.”

As pointed out by Ezra Klein, many of the assumptions underlying the paths specified by Paul Ryan and his staff are unrealistic. The story would be a lot different if CBO were told to conduct a real analysis.

Just consider taxes. He instructed CBO to assume revenues would stabilize at 19% of GDP in the long-run. But his plan includes numerous tax cuts specified in detail, to be offset by other revenue policy changes that he left unspecified. How realistic is it that he could actually achieve 19% while repealing the AMT, extending the Bush tax cuts, reducing the income tax rates to 10 and 25 percent, cutting the corporate rate to 25%, etc.?

First, those tax cuts he wants are actually very expensive…

Tax Policy Center

“The Tax Policy Center (which I co-direct) analyzed the revenue policies as proposed by Rep. Ryan. We simulated the effects of repealing the AMT and reducing ordinary income tax rates to 10 and 25 percent. These proposals would cost about $3.2 trillion over ten years, on top of the $0.3 trillion lost from repealing taxes enacted to pay for Affordable Care Act, the $1.1 trillion lost from his desired reduction in the corporate tax rate, and the $5.4 trillion lost from first extending the Bush-Obama tax cuts (which he also supports). By 2022, the tax policies he has specified would lower federal revenues to just 15.8 percent of GDP. Talk about digging yourself a hole.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interesting video by Howard University students regarding Trayvon Martin's tragic death

Divine Intervention

An open letter to the Big Guy upstairs:

Dear God,

It's been a while since I've turned to you for advice, but there's something on my mind I need some guidance on. For the better part of a month now, I've processed hundreds, maybe by this point, thousands of letters - mainly 5x5 index card-like notices - from "concerned Catholics" who object to the President's health care mandate. I have some frustrations and concerns over the outcry.

The biggest one I have is the lack of imagination on the part of these "concerned Catholics". This isn't a big issue, it's a HUGE issue. That being said, I'm disappointed that more people aren't taking the time to, in their own words, articulate what the problem is. Instead, it appears these Catholic constituents (nice alliteration, eh?) walked out of church and signed and put their addresses on these cards without thinking about what they were signing. I find this sort of group think very dangerous and contrary to the religions.

I understand the pastoral imagery of Jesus as the shepherd who tends to and leads the flock of Catholic faithful, but I think these "concerned Catholics" might want to take a step back and take more time evaluating the situation because there have been times when the church has used some, shall we say, interesting rhetoric from the pulpit.

For a religion that preaches peace and tolerance of others - including those of other faiths - it's funny how the crusades were left out of my religious education class. My personal favorite goes all the way back to Galileo in the 1600s. The church was none to pleased with him supporting a theory that went against another one of their (former) core beliefs, that the earth was the center of the universe. Indeed, all the Vatican needed to do was take a boat over to Clinton, NY, in December to realize the Earth couldn't be further from the center of the universe, though Clinton does feel like its own planet on Friday's in Bundy (imagine that: Bundy as the center of the universe!). Finally, I wont go into it at all, but let's not talk about the abuse scandal that swept through the church in the not-so-distant past. In sum, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the church doesn't always practice what it preaches, and, in some cases, can in fact be dead wrong.

But let's not ignore a very serious, and legitimate, concern among many of the faithful: the mandate violates their freedom of religion. I like the constitution. A lot. Typically, I brush off first amendment violation claims from others because they're mostly BS, but if this many people are complaining, something needs to be done. I'm very torn here, because I don't take lightly to offenses against the first amendment, but I believe that health care is a right not a privilege much in the same way I believe in You, my God.

And that is where my pinch is: I'm caught between religious morality and civic morality. I don't need an answer, like a "you should feel this way, my son", rather, I seek guidance on how to frame the discussion in my head and come to the best educated conclusion possible.


Financing the Romney Campaign

Check out this article on Romney's campaign financing.  The way Romney is financing his campaign appears to link two topics we've recently discussed in class: campaign finance and how Romney is doing well but has yet to really excite the electorate.  A direct quote from the article: "'Romney is less focused on small donors than any other candidate at this stage of the campaign in recent memory, said Michael Malbin, director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute. 'And that is parallel to a larger problem: He has not yet excited the passions of the kind of people who give small contributions or volunteer their time.'" People tend to feel more attached to a cause if they somehow contribute to it, so maybe the fact that Romney has been able to raise large amounts of money without having to turn to small donors helps explain why people have yet to feel a strong attachment to him. Or, maybe people don't feel attached to Romney, so they aren't giving him money. Either way, the candidate is missing out on support from potential Romney enthusiasts.

The Catholic vote: an accurate representation of the electorate

“Because Governor Romney is Mormon, a family man, I don’t take issue with his religion,” Mrs. Willauer said. “I don’t know how the pope would feel about that, but we’re all modified Catholics these days anyhow.”  -Cathy Willauer of Annapolis, MD (source: New York Times)

This is an interesting description of the Catholic vote, one that I would say is highly accurate.  Many Catholics nowadays consider themselves "cafeteria Catholics," picking and choosing which aspects of the faith to practice.  Because the Church has such stringent rules and hard lines regarding moral issues, it is unsurprising that Catholics do this.  No one is perfect, right?  Those strict guidelines present us with a standard to uphold, but, more importantly, instill in us the important sense of family and community that we all seek.

According to Katharine Q. Seelye, "A majority [of Catholics] have used artificial birth control and few attend weekly Mass. Most support either same-sex civil unions or marriage, and only a few would prohibit abortions altogether."  Clearly, the majority of Catholics do not align ideologically with Rick Santorum, a fellow Catholic.  This could explain his poor performance among the group, in addition to his preacher-style rhetoric that encapsulates a more evangelical style.  A recent Pew study found that only 42 percent of Catholics know that Santorum is indeed a Catholic.

So, what does this tell us?  The evidence suggests that Catholic voters are actually more secular at the polls than one might expect.  Because many Catholics no longer adhere strictly to religious doctrine, as suggested by overall support of liberal social positions, the group is acutally an accurate representation of the overall electorate.  As Seelye suggests, Catholics make up the entire political spectrum: there are conservatives who attend church daily/weekly and believe firmly in the Church's positions, while others attend less frequently/infrequently and engage in "cafeteria Catholicism."  And then there are those who fall somewhere in the middle.  Overall, the political split is pretty even;  sounds like the American electorate to me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to Obamaville

We get it, Newt, you like to argue--now shut up.

Just something I came across today--apparently Gingrich has a problem with Obama's remarks about the Trayvon case (remarks for which he's been highly praised), asserting that the President was intentionally being divisive, and that race should be irrelevant to the case. I understand that Newt is clinging (hopelessly) to the claim that he could take on Obama in a debate and win, but this just smacks of desperation.


A little birdie just told me Rick Santorum will be speaking on the steps of the Supreme Court at or around 12:15 today. I don't know that word has gotten around much about this, so the crowd might be just slightly bigger than it otherwise would be. (Which is huge.) So if anyone wants to go see the man, the myth, the legend Rick Santorum speak, try and get over there for lunch today!

Good news guys!

DC best place to get lucky.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Well Isn’t That Interesting

I have presented a link below to an interesting article I ran across in the NY Times entitled, To Stop Iran, the G.O.P. Should Back Obama. As the title of the title suggests the main argument of the article is that the GOP, as an institution, should support President Obama’s policies concerning Iran. By no means is this a call for open cooperation and a constructive dialogue.  That would be unthinkable during an election year.  Dubowitz is simply suggesting that the GOP as an institution quietly lend their support to the sanctions regime put forth by congress late last year in an effort to help the American people. This suggestion, and its lack of partisanship, is a refreshing change from the hyper partisanship which has flooded the airwaves in the last few months. I harbor no illusions that this will happen regularly let alone become the norm.  Yet it is a bright spot in this year’s rather drab political tapestry.    

Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand up?

Dragged out Republican race...

I found an interesting op-ed regarding the Republican rules for primaries and caucuses here.

Just thought it was particularly relevant considering our previous class discussion about the structure of the nomination process.

'Happy Birthday, ObamaCare!'

Obama doesn't even think its good enough to talk about..

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make Way for Ducklings

The Secret Service is one of the most professional security forces in the country, if not the planet, but even they have a soft side. Perhaps even more shocking they willing allowed a family to penetrate the White House perimeter and even aided in placing "duckings" through the fence. The truth is in the video...

CQ Roll Call Graduate School Fair

Looks like interesting opportunity.

Fat cats give to the left as well as right

New Hampshire got it right -- Preservation of same-sex marriage law

Although Republicans outnumber Democrats by three to one in the New Hampshire House of Representatives (the largest state legislature in the country), the House refused to repeal gay marriage rights 211-116.  With a wave of recent conservative legislation, many were uncertain about how this vote would play out.  But, in the end, the "Live Free or Die" state remained true to its motto, preserving the right for same-sex couples to wed.  In the end, who does it actually bother?  All people should be entitled to the same rights of marriage, regardless of a couple's sex makeup.  The government should not regulate morality in this sense -- let's leave that to religion.

NH is one of nine states that allows same-sex marriage, including the District of Columbia.  Check out the attached NYT article for more.

HC DC in the news

Disclose Act 2.0

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Best Time to Appreciate Cherry Blossom: March 20-23

I went to appreciate cherry blossom this afternoon, and would like to share with everyone the information that the peak blossom time this year is during March 20 - March 23 (till this Friday). If anyone wants to enjoy the spring sunshine and celebrate the 100th anniversary of cherry blossom since Japanese government gave them to the United States as a gift, Tidal Basin is the ultimate destination!

From Tidal Basin, you can have the best view where you can see the water reflecting sunshine, Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. It is also a good place to go with several friends because you can row a boat. The maximum number of people allowed on each boat is 4. If you cannot make it before this Friday, the good news is that the National Cherry Blossom Festival lasts until about April 2. For more information, please see the attached page.

Meeting with Brandon's peeps

Federal R&D Spending

I tend to think of federal spending as an investment - the returns may not always be monetary, and we may not agree that the expected returns are even a good thing - but to me, it is an investment nonetheless. Looking at the issue through that lens, one of the most efficient forms of federal spending (with regard to both intangible and monetary returns) is R&D grants.

I attended a briefing last week in which I learned that the Human Genome Project was made possible by a $3.8 billion dollar grant awarded over 13 years by the DOE/NIH. Since its completion in 2003, the world has seen roughly $796 billion in economic activity driven either directly or indirectly by the HGP, much of which has been in America. In 2010 alone, HGP-related economic activity generated roughly $67 billion, and supported 310,000 jobs. ( It has created or bolstered entire industries, ranging from personal genetics testing, paternity tests, forensics, biofuels, healthcare, agriculture, and many more.

Oh, and we've sequenced the human genome, which is quite a leap forward for humanity.

In terms of bang for your buck, I don't see a better form of federal spending.

Bipartisan revival of federalism?

The DNC (or as Brandon refers to it, the "Evil Empire") on the rise

The DNC is starting to step up its game after being out-fundraised by the RNC in the 2012 Election to date.  In February, the DNC raised $15.4 million, while the RNC only managed to raise $11.4 million.  The Republicans still have a nearly $6 million lead over the Democrats, but February was certainly a good sign.  Neither of the organizations are exactly models of financial efficiency, however, with the RNC and DNC carrying $10.9 million and $5.8 million in debt, respectively.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Budge Proposal Failed to Learn from History

(I'm sorry. Font size is all messed up and I was not able to make it uniform)

House Republicans unveiled a budget proposal that cuts national spending and encourages tax reduction for the wealthy today. Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) authored the proposal. The proposal aims at cutting federal spending by $5.3 trillion and will undermine mainly health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and entitlements for the poor, if approved. Ryan proposes to replace the current tax structure with a 10% rate for lower income people and a 25% for upper income people; meanwhile, he suggests that tax policy be easier to understand. With a spending cap on future retirees, Ryan expects to balance deficit by 2040. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) supports the idea of spending cap, while opponents criticizes that the proposal protects the rich at the expense of the poor (Washington Post).

This article was released at 1pm today and it already received over 5000 comments so far. I read through the comments of this proposal and found that many readers are disappointed because they think the proposal is selfish in protecting the upper class’ living standard and does not care about the poor. Other observers point out that spending on environmental disasters and world politics issues should also be taken into account. Although many people dislike this proposal, commentators have a general dissatisfaction about the slow economic recovery and questions about President Obama’s leadership.

Even though the proposal is unlikely to become law because of the Democrat controlled senate would not approve it, Ryan claims that the proposal might help set an agenda for Republican candidates in this year’s election. However, tax policy should not be a selling point of candidates and the impacts brought by tax policies always come after minor economic progress has been made.

I researched the relationship among tax rates, presidents’ approval ratings, and GDP growth from President Jimmy Carter to President Obama (1977-present). I conclude that it is not necessarily the case that the lower the tax is, the higher the GDP is, and the more popular the president is.

Major tax deductions happened during Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush Administrations. Before Reagan Administration, average tax rates ranged from 14%-70% for lower income and higher income people under President Jimmy Carter. During Reagan Administration, tax deduction happened graduation with a relative sharp deduction in tax rates in 1987 and 1988, dropping to 11%-38% in 1987 and 15%-28% in 1988. During George W. Bush Administration, tax rate for the wealthy dropped by 4%, changing from 39% to 35%. Looking at the GDP record from 1980 to 2010, however, the periods during which GDP grew rapidly or steadily were not the periods when dramatic tax cuts happened. For example, during 1982-1984, the economy started moving out of recession and has a steep GDP growth on the graph, but the tax rates within these three years stayed from 11%-50% with a 1% minor change in 1984. Also, during1991-1992, there is rapid growth in GDP under President George H. W. Bush Administration, but he continued using President Reagan’s tax rates when he assumed office even with a slight tax increase for the wealthy. Moreover, during President George W. Bush Administration, even though there is a steep increase in GDP from 2001-2004, Bush tax cut did not enter into force until 2002 and continues after 2004, but the GDP growth started slowing down after 2004. These evidences show that there is a lack of immediate relation between tax deductions and rising GDP, so tax deduction may not be an effective solution to boost the domestic product.

Furthermore, tax policy should not be a selling point of presidential candidates because history of the past three decades shows that the public is normally less sensitive about economic changes unless there is a huge improvement. During the aforementioned periods when U.S. GDP grew, then presidents’ approval ratings actually experienced decrease. During 1991-1992, 2001-2004, and 2009-2010, presidents’ approval ratings were worse then the GDP increased, with the exception of President Reagan. However, President Reagan experienced a steady increase of approval rating from 1981-1989, but his approval ratings peaked in 1985-1986, a period during which neither the highest GDP during Reagan Era occurred nor a tax deduction took place. Instead, it is a period when the economy was making steady improvement and performing stably. As a result, actual growing GDP does not lead to immediate increase in political leaders’ popularity, and people usually do not feel better about the economy until the growth is stabilized after a year or two.

The attempt of Ryan that challenges Democrats’ approach to recover the economy by introducing a budget proposal that is not expected to be approved presumes that lower tax rate will boost the economy and that better economy will increase the popularity of political leaders, but the presumption is a slippery slope that does not always follow.

All the reference data I used could be found here: