Sunday, October 21, 2012

Political cartoons have been a popular form of expressing opinions since the Revolution period.  Below is a political cartoon from this year's presidential campaign.  What is the statement of the cartoon?  What is it saying about the presidential election process?  Do you agree with the meaning of the cartoon?

Which Mitt © David Fitzsimmons,The Arizona Star,romney

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Propositions: Death Penalty and Human Trafficking

This year's propositions in California include some interesting crime and punishment issues.

Proposition 34
Proposition 34 would repeal the death penalty in California and replaces it with life in prison without parole.   It would apply retroactively to existing death penalty cases.  The essential question here is, does the death penalty work as a deterrent to crime?  Arguments in favor of Prop 34 include the fact that innocent people will no longer get accidentally killed in the death chamber and that the costs of taking a death penalty case to court are high.  Opponents of the measure argue that the punishment needs to fit the crime and that it costs $50,000 a year to keep criminals in jail.

Would you vote yes or no on Proposition 34 and why?

Link to Proposition 34

Proposition 35
Prop 35 would increase prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions from five years to 15 years to life and adds fines of up to $1.5 million.  It would also register human traffickers as sex offenders.  Supporters argue that we need stronger laws to crack down on human trafficking while opponents say it is a violation of privacy and is an example of big government and is expensive to enforce.

Would you vote yes or no on proposition 35 and why?

Link to Prop 35

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Election 2012: Props 30 and 38, School Funding

This election will include 11 propositions for California voters to decide on.  This week we will look at the two tax measures that are intended to fund public education.  As you probably know, California education has suffered over $18 billion in cut backs due to the "Great Recession" that started in 2008.  How can we recover some of those funds?  Which tax seems more far?  Which one would you vote for?

Proposition 30:

To raise funds for public education and public safety, Proposition 30 would increase income tax on top income earners for seven years by 1% on single filers making $250,000 or more; 2% on single filers making $300,000 or more and 3% on single filers making $1,000,000 or more.  Additionally, it would increase the sales tax by ¼ % for the next five years.  Proposition 30 would cost a person making $50,000 a year an extra $62.50 while a person making $100,000 a year would chip in only an extra $125 (based on average sales tax figures; neither would pay any Prop 30 income tax at that rate.)  The return on this investment would be three to four times in benefits in school and public safety services.  If Prop 30 fails, the state will initiate trigger cuts of more than $5 billion in education funding.

This initiative measure is directed at school funding as well.  However, if Prop 30 fails and Prop 38 passes, there still will be trigger cuts of $5 billion in education as outlined in Prop 30.  Here is the tax system set up under prop 38. 

If the taxable income is:The additional tax on taxable income is:
Not over $14,6420%
Over $14,642 but not over $34,6920.4% of the excess over $14,642
Over $34,692 but not over $44,721$80 plus 0.7% of the excess over $34,692
Over $44,721 but not over $55,348$150 plus 1.1% of the excess over $44,721
Over $55,348 but not over $65,376$267 plus 1.4% of the excess over $55,348
Over $65,376 but not over $136,118$408 plus 1.6% of the excess over $65,376
Over $136,118 but not over $340,294$1,540 plus 1.8% of the excess over $136,118
Over $340,294 but not over $680,589$5,215 plus 1.9% of the excess over $340,294
Over $680,589 but not over $1,361,178$11,680 plus 2.0% of the excess over $680,589
Over $1,361,178 but not over $3,402,944$25,292 plus 2.1% of the excess over $1,361,178
Over $3,402,944$68,169 plus 2.2% of the excess over $3,402,944

Friday, September 21, 2012

Immigration and Market Forces

We have read articles and seen film in class on how immigrants impact the labor market.  In the meatpacking industry, for example, immigrants are recruited by the industry to work under tough conditions for low pay all in an effort to maximize profits and keep the price of your food low.

On the other hand there are a substantial number of Americans who want the US border guarded more tightly and the stream of undocumented workers shut off.

Can we have it both ways?

Libertarians would argue that the government should play no role in the supply of immigrant workers into this country.  There is a demand for cheap labor and the workers, especially from Latin America, are willing to supply their labor. 

Would we be better off not worrying about the immigration of undocumented people into the United States?  Would we save money by cutting back on INS and other immigration  services?  Why don't we just allow the market forces to determine how many workers could enter the United States?  If there is demand for these workers, why not let them in?  When the demand tapers off, the flow of immigrants will also diminish.

Are you in favor of no immigration quotas and to let the forces of demand and supply determine how many immigrants will come in to this country?

(answer by September 30)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Libya Attacks and Foreign Policy

This week there was an attack on the US Embassy in Libya where the US Ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed along with a handful of Libyans.  The Embassy was attacked after an American made film that mocked the Islamic prophet Mohammed was released in Libya.

This event brings up the question of foreign policy into the presidential debate.  A president, as commander-in-chief, is the head of our foreign policy apparatus.  He uses the informal power of speeches and crisis manager to deal with these issues.  He also uses the formal powers of his office of appointing ambassadors, meeting with foreign dignitaries, and commanding the military to conduct foreign affairs. 

What should the president do about the attack on our embassy in Libya?
Is foreign policy an important issue to you as a voter?  Why?

(Please respond to this post by September 23.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

President Obama made his plea to the American voter this evening, laying out his vision for America and attacking Mitt Romney's policies over the last four years.

How did he "sell" himself?  What was his vision and what were his criticisms?  Did you like the speech?  Would you vote for him?

Remember, you can respond to this speech or Mitt Romney's speech last week.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

College Costs Rising

The costs for attending college are increasing.  According to the Washington Post, "tuitions and fees for four-year public colleges grew by 72 percent above inflation over the past decade, averaging $8,244 last year, according to the College Board, which represents more than 6,000 schools. Student loan debt in the U.S. has hit $914 billion; the average borrower owes more than $24,000, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York says."

Not surprisingly, this topic is an issue in this year's presidential race.  Both Romney and Obama are trying to court young voters with their policy positions on curbing college costs.  There is no doubt that Obama has an advantage over Romney with young voters:  "In 2008, voters age 18 to 24 sided with Obama over GOP candidate John McCain by a 66-32 margin. A Gallup poll taken in July and August found that same age group preferring Obama over Romney by 56 percent to 36 percent, an edge that Republicans would love to erode further."

 Here is a site that compares the candidate's position on education.

With that said, what role should the government play in regulating escalating education costs?  (Think of chapter two and the concepts of tradition, command, and market economic systems.)  Would costs be reduced if all government subsidies were removed and a more "free market" approach were instituted?  Or should Pell Grants be extended as proposed by President Obama?  Since "private" colleges like Carrington College and Heald are very expensive, would turning colleges into a more free market system increase costs more or would competition bring the costs down?  Privatizing colleges would reduce costs for the taxpayer since colelges would not get public dollars anymore.

What is your solution for the increasing college costs?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Romney Asks For Your Support

Mitt Romney made his plea to the American voter this evening, laying out his vision for America and attacking Obama's policies over the last four years.

How did he "sell" himself?  What was his vision and what were his criticisms?  Did you like the speech?  Would you vote for him?

Remember, you can respond to this speech or President Obama's speech next week.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

What's Behind the 2nd Amendment?

You may have heard about the recent tragic shooting sprees that have occurred across the country recently:  one in  NY City, another in Wisconsin, and of course the one in Aurora, Colorado this summer.  These tragic shooting events bring up discussion about how far our rights under the 2nd amendment should go.  How do we limit these senseless shootings?  Do we impose gun control regulations?  Or do we deregulate guns further, allowing people wider access to guns?

Allow me to add some quick background information: the 2nd amendment was one of the amendments added to the US Constitution in 1791.  The amendment reads:  

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The key to this phrase hinges on whether an individual has the right to own a gun or whether gun ownership was part of a larger duty to perform defense responsibilities as part of a local militia.

Guess who determines the intent and ultimate meaning of the 2nd Amendment?  The folks over at the judicial branch get to interpret the law.  The 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller ruled that the 2nd amendment protects an individual's right to own a gun outside of service in a militia for lawful purposes.

The only way to overturn the Court's ruing in "Heller" is by having a future Supreme Court overturn it or to pass a constitutional amendment, both are slim possibilities.  

Here are your discussion points:  do you agree with the Court's ruling that people have the right to own a gun outside of service in a Militia?  If the Supreme Court is going to allow Americans to posses a wide range of guns (lawfully), what public policy do we implement to limit all the mass killings that have occurred in our society and that will probably continue into the future?  Are mass killings the price we pay for having the 2nd amendment?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome Back to School Class of 2013

It is time to start your senior year.  You will be part of the 101st graduating class of Galt High School.  Since this is your last year of free pubic education, it is time to reflect on where you have been and where you are headed.  Take a moment to describe some of the proudest moments of your (academic) life so far or lay out some of the goals you have for your senior year.  What lasting memories do you want to create for the upcoming school year?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Have You Seen the Price of Gas?

Gas station

Read this article and explain why gas prices are so high. What should the government do? A conservative would want the government to do little and to let the "market" set the price of gas. A liberal would want to use the power of government to regulate on the oil industry and/or to help make the price of gas more affordable though government action such as a price ceiling.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

The US Supreme Court is currently considering a case about whether juveniles who are convicted of murder should be eligilbe for parole. Currently, most states do not allow those who were minors when convicted of murder any opportunity for parole. In recent years the Supreme Court has already abolished the death penalty for minors (2005) and ruled out death sentences without parole except in cases of homicide (2010).

The state of California is also considering a bill that would make it possible for juveniles convicted of murder to have access to parole.

All of this is coming from this case. Elizabeth Lozano was sentenced to life in prison while a minor for a gang-related murder. She is now working with fellow inmates who are teenagers, trying to counsel them to shape up their lives. Her work in prison is raising awareness about why she can never be released from prison.

The linked article gives reasons why the current policy is wrong-headed: "The attorneys for the 14-year-olds point to forensic evidence that a teenager's brain is not fully developed and that youths consequently take too many risks. The research comes from Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Adolescents, because of their immaturity, should not be deemed as culpable as adults," Steinberg said. "But they also are not innocent children whose crimes should be excused."

Where do you stand on the issue of juvenile crimes? Should these minors be given a second chance after serving a certain amount of time on good behavior? Is this a form of "cruel and unusual punishment" as banned in the 8th amendment? Or are they still too much of a menace to society?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Carry and Concel

It is currently illegal to carry a concealed weapon in California except for some rural areas. Therefore, some areas are allowing open carry laws for its citizens. Gun owning advocates are hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon rule in favor of a broader law to allow concealed weapons.

The second amendment reads as follows: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Would the right to carry a concealed weapon fall into this amendment? Would a law allowing for concealed weapons make society safer or more dangerous?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Birth Control Debate

There has been some controversy recently over President Obama's decision to require health plans to provide free birth control for its customers. Specifically Catholic hospitals feel that it violates their freedom of religion to preach against the use of birth control. While you are free to comment on that issue, I would like to make this issue hit closer to home. Would you support tax payer funded birth control handed out at your school? The arguments are the same: would such a policy limit STDs' and pregnancy or does it advocate sexual activity?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Prop 8 Unconstitutional

A federal appeals court ruled today that California's voter approved proposition 8 (passed in 2008 by voters) that outlawed gay marriage is unconstitutional. The judges claimed that "The people may not employ the initiative power to single out a disfavored group for unequal treatment and strip them, without a legitimate justification, of a right as important as the right to marry."

Do you agree?

This brings up the classic question for any democracy: How should a democracy balance the will of the majority against the rights of the minority? Should an open society prevent same-sex couples from being married? This also brings up the question of role marriage should play in society. Is the sole purpose of marriage to procreate?

The Supreme Court now has the option of hearing this case. We will soon learn whether the US Supreme Court sees a reason to take this case.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Political Compass

Since we will be creating political ads this week based on what party you have been assigned to, it might make sense for you to take another political ideology test in order to better understand what the political parties stand for.

Political Compass has a good "test" here. Please post what your status is after taking the test and whether you think the test is valid.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No More GPS Tracking

The US Supreme Court ruled that the police need to acquire a warrant before they can use GPS to track your activities. Here is a brief background of the case:

"A GPS device installed by police on Washington, D.C., nightclub owner Antoine Jones' Jeep and tracked for four weeks helped link him to a suburban house used to stash money and drugs. He was sentenced to life in prison before an appeals court overturned his conviction."

Remember, that your right to privacy is not protected when you drive around in public. Anyone can follow anyone else on public roads. Why can't the police simply be able to attach a GPS device on your vehicle to make it easier to follow you?

Members of the SUpreme COurt thought otherwise: "Justice Antonin Scalia said the government's installation of the device, and its use of the GPS to monitor the vehicle's movements, constituted a search, meaning a warrant was required. "Officers encroached on a protected area," Scalia wrote.

Relying on a centuries-old legal principle, he concluded that the police action without a warrant was a trespass and therefore an illegal search."

Do you welcome this ruling by the Supreme Court? Was this an issue of privacy or does this ruling handcuff police (no pun intended) from doing their jobs?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King

On January 16 we celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday (which is actually January 15). King was devoted to a movement for racial equality at a time when he faced fierce resistance, especially in the South. Later in his life, King also addressed income inequality as well. King's movement was successful in the sense that African-Americans now face less de jure (formal) discrimination in the law. Blacks can vote without being subjected to a poll tax, schools are integrated, hiring laws are more fair and African-Americans have access to all the public places that whites do. However, plenty of de facto (in fact) discrimination still exists. The bottom line, is that race has played a big role in the history and government of the United States. How do you assess race relations in the US in 2012? Are we on the right track? Are we making progress towards a color-blind society? Or do we still have lots of work to do to stamp out discrimination and racism? What role should the government play in addressing this issue?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Presidential Image

Ideally, American voters would base their decision on an impartial analysis of a candidate's positions on the issues. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. A candidate's "image" plays just a big role as policy issues. Let's see if that is the case for you. Please respond to the following issues of "image" for the candidates:
  • Two of the candidates are Mormon. Should one's religious affiliation make a difference in one's voting?
  • One candidate is 75 years old. Should excessive age make a difference in one's voting decision?
  • In 2008, race was a big issue. Should a candidate's race matter? What about gender?
I know that in theory, things such as age, race and religion should not play much of a difference. Why do Americans make such a big deal about these topics?