by Carrie McCullough
Widener University Masters of Public Administration Student
Congress’ approval rating is at one its lowest points in memory. This article compares the public’s opinion of Congress to that of their opinion of Lindsay Lohan; and with good measure. The public can only see deadlock, sequester, and bickering coming from the current Congress. What would make someone be interested in a job like that? Well, if you’ve already been there and done that, it may be more appealing.
Four notable ex lawmakers, Former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (PA), Former Rep. Bob Barr (GA), Former Rep. Joe Baca (CA), and former Rep. Robert Dold (IL) have all thrown their names back into the Congressional race once again, after many years away from politics. Additionally, party leaders believe at least 5 other candidates who lost in the last election will be considering running again in the upcoming elections. These individuals have spent a significant time away from the bickering and compromise of Congress, and are willing to give it another try. And why not? 9 ex-members won back their seats last year. These are experienced lawmakers, who know the ropes of Washington, and how to make things happen. The lure of the Washington spotlight, and getting their hands dirty seems to be very appealing to them. They’ve been there, and they’ve done that. For them, a re-election loss may not be the end of the road.
In my opinion, I believe Congress could use a little experience on compromise and lawmaking. These are candidates could bring a little bit of the “remember when” back into lawmaking that both parties seem to be nostalgic for.
by Jonathan Walters
Widener University Masters of Public Administration Student
The Commonwealth of PA has a huge problem on its budgetary plate; a roughly 47-billion-dollar problem to be exact. This is the obligation from PA to its current and retired employees in the form of pension payments. And according to PA’s Budget Secretary, Charles Zogby, this unfunded liability is certain to cause a further downgrade in PA’s credit rating if it is not addressed.
Given current projections, the State Employees Retirement System and the Public School Employees Retirement System will take decades to pay off. It is also estimated that in the next few years, this debt will grow to $65 billion; which represents a cost of $13K per household. Furthermore, there is a compounding problem resulting from a downgrade which would make it more expensive for PA to purchase capital.
Governor Corbett’s administration has proposed a set of measures to help combat this instability. One such proposal was the introduction of a 401(k)-styled retirement invest for future state or public school employees. This of course would not solve the existing problem, but it would keep the state from loading up on more debt.
Even though this threat is real (Moody’s downgraded PA’s credit rating last July), some are skeptical that pension reform will be addressed during this session. Senator Rob Teplitz is quoted in the article below as saying that, “I don’t see it happening. At the end of the day, do you really believe the same body that increased its own pensions and caused this mess 12 years ago is going to vote to cut their pensions?” So not only do legislators have to deal with strong opposition from state unions, they would have to fight against their own financial self-interest.
by Jamar Phillips
After the financial fiasco on Wall Street known among many as the Crisis of Credit, people are still worried about the moral hazard of the Too Big to Fail mentality in government. Many other people on Wall Street worry about growing support to break up huge banks to prevent having to bail them out again. No matter how many bailouts banks get, are they really “vital” to our economy? When 60% of the US GDP is wrapped up in 6 financial institutions on Wall Street, why are we even thinking about leaving this anymore? BREAK’EM UP!
As long as you have so much wealth and so much of your resources in these 6 places, then whenever they screw up, WE ALL DO. There’s no way that the banking system is nothing short of a monopoly known as the financial sector. There’s no competition that occurs here. Who’s competing with you when 5% of your bank’s overall annual earnings dwarfs the size of Haiti’s entire annual economic output? When your bank fails and Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland are one minute from filing for bankruptcy, explain to me how the free market will fix that. These banks are not comprised of bad people. Don’t get it twisted. These are people that work hard and efficiently. They have no bad intentions. But what’s that saying again?
With all of government knowing this, they continue to be lobbied and I’ve learned enough in the past year to realize that politics has something to do with it. You know, if politics could rule everything, I bet Republicans would filibuster a bill to “End the World” and Democrats would argue that this isn’t fair to the dead people. Big Banks lobby so hard on their issues that its hard to tell if Senators have constituents that make less than $4 billion quarterly anymore. And then still have the gall to ask for tax breaks to create jobs. (Nobody hires people because they have extra money. They hire because the salary you pay someone should, in theory, dwarf the value of help they are to you.)
I say break these banks up. Reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act and force the banks to hold more capital to stop them from running gambling arenas. There’s no way they’ll be able to say anything. What are they going to do? Never make a loan again? Then Great! Go out of business and get replaced by 3 other banks. Sounds fine to me. Free markets work when there’s a level playing field anyways. Funny thing is, the government won’t do it. The “Re-election Priority Act” is the 1st bill that passes every Congress and President at the beginning of every term. (Not a real bill.)
By Greg Grossman
Widener University Political Science Major
The surviving brother of the Boston Marathon bombings is to be tried in Federal Court. Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the brother who attempted to shoot himself when cornered by police, is now in a federal medication detention center in central Massachusetts. He is charged with two counts of using a weapon of mass destruction. Conservatives were pushing for the younger brother to be tried in a military tribunal where harsher standards and more intense methods of interrogation could be used on the suspect. These military trials are hidden from the media and would put Tsarnaev under more stress and pressure.
Lots of activists in America are voicing their opinions stating that they support Tsarnaev’s right to a fair trial. Over 6,000 petitioners have signed a Change.org petition in support of the suspect getting his rights guaranteed to him under the Constitution. I believe that Tsarnaev should be tried in the Federal Court System and is innocent until proven guilty. Even if he is guilty, if our government cannot prove that he committed the crime, then he should be a free man and should be offered the highest condolences to him for his murdered brother. And if that should happen, our country should pressure our legislators to create laws that would enable us to better prosecute these criminal acts and ensure that the people committing them do not walk free.
Several weeks ago the Senate held a “vote-a-rama” related to amends to the federal budget. This is the third of a three part series of reactions to this event by Widener University students studying Congress this semester.
by Andrea Stickley
Widener University Political Science Major
Ladies and gentlemen, Congress has now found a way to act like a bunch of six year olds….and get paid for it! Introducing vote-a-rama, the newest invention that Congress has come up with that allows an all out debate and no compromise. It sounds like a word a six year old would come up with and sounds like how a six year old would act; and yet, it was created by our nation’s lawmakers. Something seems wrong with this picture. If Congress actually believes that they are going to accomplish something by holding this budget debate and comparing amendments, they’ve got another thing coming.
Wake up, Congress. Democrats and Republicans having different ideas is not a new discovery. The whole nation is aware of the fact that you guys can’t agree on issues. That’s not the problem. It’s the fact that Congress can’t come to a compromise. So, your solution to this is to hold a debate about the fact that you already know you have different amendments to request? Somehow this doesn’t seem like a smart idea or an effective use of time. Why not, instead of just rehashing all the things that you don’t agree on and will never agree on, you spend your time talking about things you can agree on? Wow, what a simplistic idea.
Unless, of course, there is nothing left that Congress can agree on…
Several weeks ago the Senate held a “vote-a-rama” related to amends to the federal budget. This is the second of a three part series of reactions to this event by Widener University students studying Congress this semester.
by Erica Szpynda
Widener University Economics Major
The Rolling Stones sang:
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need “
These few lyrics speak much about compromise. Congress’s job is to WORK TOGETHER, to debate and to figure out what is needed for our country. However, a series of nonbinding votes, just for the sake of voting is not what our country needs.
The Senate took part in a Vote-a-Rama. This means that each party is limited to 25 hours of debate, to propose amendments to each of the budget proposals. At least we know there will not be filibusters in an attempt to stop legislation, since debate is limited. On the other hand, this means that the Senate will spend 50 hours in session to get nothing accomplished. This can be viewed the same as going to a typical 9-5 job for OVER a week, and not being able to show your boss anything you accomplished. Wait, I am wrong, Congress can show their bosses (also known as the voters) that they did accomplish something: Blocking many “bad” budget proposals.
Instead of this cut throat competition to make everyone vote on issues that can be used against them in the next election, Congress should be working on actually passing a budget. This circus needs to stop for the sake of the nation’s credit score and the faith their bosses have in them. This is just another reason for why pests have a better approval rating than Congress. Hopefully, they can realize “You can’t always get what you want, BUT if you try… You get what you need.”