Monday, October 28, 2013

Meeting with Representative Hanna

On October 23rd, the Hamilton College D.C. students had the privilege of meeting with Representative Richard Hanna. Representative Hanna represents New York’s 22nd district, which is the congressional district for Hamilton College. Representative Hanna is currently in his second term in the House of Representatives and before running for Congress, Representative Hanna ran a successful construction company.  During the visit, Representative Hanna shared his thoughts on the recent government shutdown and the current polarized environment in Congress. He also explained the ways in which compromise between the two parties has become increasingly difficult. Representative also discussed some of his key policy issues, such as Education, with Hamilton students. Representative Hanna also answered many questions from Hamilton students. In particular, Representative Hanna explained that performing important casework for his constituents was one of the most rewarding parts of being a United States Member of Congress  

            As the semester moves forward, the D.C. students still have a multitude of activities lined up.  One of these activities includes a Hamilton Alumni Media Panel hosted by Alums George Baker and Frank Vlossak of Williams and Jensen. This panel will include a number of Hamilton Alums, such as Walt Conkrite and Matt Lachlan, who will discuss their current media careers in the D.C. Also scheduled is a tour of the Pentagon, a visit to the Brookings Institute, and a visit to the National Gallery of Art. D.C. students have also participated in a number of exciting and intense debates about current political topics. Recently, the D.C. students debated whether the Democratic Party or Republican Party were to blame from the government shutdown. Students also recently debated whether Marijuana should be legalized in the U.S. Although the debates only last approximately an hour, D.C. students are able to provide a wealth of persuasive information and evidence for each topic. Our next debate topic: Should Affirmative Action be Abolished?

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the Midst of the Shutdown, the D.C. Program Rolls On!

As the Fall 2013 Semester moves along, the D.C. program continues its immersion into the daily D.C. grind.  We are barely at the halfway point and D.C. students have had the benefit of visiting iconic sites around D.C. and hearing from dynamic speakers. Students recently had the privilege of hearing from Mike McCurry, former Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton and parent of a Hamilton Alum. Mr. McCurry discussed the current polarized Washington environment and the factors that have contributed to the current stalemate between congressional Democrats and Republicans. One factor that Mr. McCurry mentioned was the fact that congressional Representatives now spend much less time in Washington, D.C. and they simply have not developed the relationships that members of Congress developed in the past. This fact could clearly make compromise more difficult. In addition to his perspective on D.C. politics, Mr. McCurry discussed experiences from his time as Press Secretary and discussed whether Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would run for president. Overall, it was an extremely engaging and informative discussion.
D.C. students also had the privilege of hearing from Admiral James Loy. In addition to a 40-plus year career in the Coast Guard, the Admiral also served as Acting and Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of 9/11. Admiral Loy was one of the key figures responsible for consolidating the myriad of agencies that would eventually comprise the DHS. Admiral Loy discussed the importance of effective leadership in organizational performance. The Admiral also described personal experiences throughout his career, such as his role in evacuating 500,000 civilians by water on 9/11, and his role in evacuating civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Admiral Loy presented a wealth of knowledge that was directly related to the seminar course this semester: Public Policy Problems: The American Administrative State.
In addition to learning from various speakers, D.C. students are also witnessing the effects of the government shutdown. Students are seeing firsthand how the lack of political compromise affects government agencies, tourist attractions, and D.C. residents. For example, with so many D.C. workers furloughed, the morning rush hour is noticeably less populated.

Although the government is shutdown, the D.C. program rolls on!

Professor G. Johnson
Assistant Professor of Government

Fall 2013 Hamilton College Program in Washington, D.C. Director

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Washington D.C, the Capital of Hardship and Negativity

Having grown up not far from New York City and spending my first semester of college abroad in London, I felt ready to embark on a new city, especially the one where my academic interests are headquartered.  I’ve always had an interest in American history and government which made the decision of whether or not to participate in the program pretty easy.  But six weeks into my internship and life in our nation’s capital, I have found that Washington has represented hardship and negativity more than the citizens of the greatest democracy of the free world.

On October 1, I was able to directly witness the first government shutdown in 17 years.  As of today, the shutdown has continued to rattle hundreds of thousands or workers and national landmarks because the individuals we as the voting population elected to represent us have failed.  Two of the simplest and more important jobs Congress takes on each year are to pass a budget and give approval to the Treasury Department to pay the nation’s debts and bills.  Instead, political agendas and animosity toward “colleagues” have prevented Congress from doing its job.

At the outset, moderate Republicans, particularly in the House, caved to the Tea Party and held the government hostage over the Affordable Care Act.  Their attempt to delay, defund or outright appeal the law has failed.  President Obama and Senate Democrats have held firm and will not negotiate the health care law with a “gun to the head.”  Let’s not forget that the law passed by Congress, signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Now, the focus of the stalemate has seemed to shift toward the debt ceiling.  Once again, Republicans are reluctant to raise the debt ceiling so that our nation can pay its bills unless it receives concessions from President Obama and Democrats.  By holding our debts and payments hostage through October 17, the Treasury Department would not be able to guarantee certain payments, including to Social Security and veteran recipients.  Democrats have once again held firm and will not negotiate while pinned to the wall.

As a result of the government shutdown and debate over the debt ceiling, many of my favorite monuments and museums are closed.  Instead of enjoying the masterpiece that is the Lincoln memorial, I find myself scouring the District for activities not impacted by the shutdown.  My friend from home, who hasn’t been to DC in more than five years, is coming to visit next weekend.  I’m still hoping to be able to fully show this incredibly historical city to him.    

As Republicans look for concessions from Democrats in return for opening up the government and paying the nation’s bills, hardship, negativity and hostility plague our nation’s so called “capital.”  I hope that before I leave I’ll be able to witness proper lawmaking and decision in action.