Category Archives: Opinion

No Compromise

Thanks to the Republicans, the federal government has been gridlocked for the last six years. The GOP almost shut the government down in 2015 by refusing to compromise with the White House on a budget deal. The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, refused to even set a date for the Senate to discuss President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, saying it was up to the next president to nominate someone. As Election Day neared and a Clinton victory seemed likely, Republicans said they’d be willing to block a Supreme Court nomination for the next four years. The Democrats looked on, smugly declaring that the Republicans were never willing to compromise and had sacrificed good government on the altar of partisan loyalty.

But now that Trump is about to take the White House, the Democrats and those who caucus with them on Capitol Hill have changed their tune. Recently, Senator Elizabeth Warren stated, “We do not compromise, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” Democrats praised her for her absolutism. A day later, Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that there would be “no compromise” with the new president. Democrats lauded him as a hero, one of the last bulwarks for social justice in America.

A ‘no compromise’ stance might work in a nation that is entirely homogeneous, but America is not that nation. If our government is going to work, there must be compromise on budgetary disputes, on nominations, and, yes, on social issues. The Democrats were happy to blame the Republicans for gridlock during Obama’s terms, yet now they are just as happy to support Sanders and Warren for preparing to do the exact same thing. Somehow, all thought of bipartisan bills or compromise in any area has disappeared. Better, the Democrats seem to think, to make the government not function at all than to give up even an inch.

As a Democrat, I can admit that there are issues on which I would not want to see compromise. However, the Democrats are dismissing any possibility of compromise before the president-elect even takes office, simply because they think cooperation with Republicans is impossible. In fact, the two parties also agree on many issues: criminal justice reform and encouraging economic growth, for instance. While there is some disagreement on how to achieve these goals, there is still plenty of room for compromise from the Democrats and the Republicans. Both sides seem to have forgotten this, though, and in 2016, a bipartisan bill intended to reduce the number of sexual assaults in the military—a cause both parties supported—almost didn’t pass, just because Democrats and Republicans were loathe to work with each other.

This is not to suggest that Democratic members of Congress ought to roll over and allow the Republicans to do whatever they want, nor is it to say that Republicans should have catered to President Obama’s every whim. However, vowing to never compromise—no matter which party does it—should never be rewarded. Our government is built on compromise. If Democrats want to defend their constituents over the next four years, it will be through seeking common ground with Republicans, not by fostering an us-versus-them atmosphere that ends all meaningful conversations before they start.

Instead of trying to lay the groundwork for future bipartisan cooperation, Democrats spent the last six years complaining about how Republican Congress refused to govern and blocked President Obama at every turn. Now, with a Republican about to enter the White House, those very same people are the ones yelling the loudest about how they will never compromise.

Not all the Democrats have adopted this strategy. When Donald Trump won the national election, Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, set to work on building a political relationship with the president-elect. Schumer is seeking common ground with the new administration instead of deciding immediately that the Republicans and president-elect share no goals with the Democrats. Schumer’s decision to compromise and open communication between the two parties will likely yield better results than vowing—as Senator Warren and Sanders did—to block every bill Republicans try to pass. And yet, Schumer is in the minority. Most of the Democratic Party has flooded towards Sanders and Warren, agreeing that it is better to stop the government from working for anyone than to compromise on any issue.

The American people need to stop rewarding politicians for refusing to budge on any of their beliefs and start rewarding them for actually doing their job: namely, passing bills. We elect Congress to govern, not shut down the government by refusing to compromise. A Congress that can’t agree on a budget is as useful as a Supreme Court with no justices.

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Image: Flickr

Trump’s Protectionist Economy

Trump’s nomination had little to do with social issues. Yes, Donald Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the country. Yes, Trump claimed a ruling on his for-profit scam university was biased because the deciding judge was Mexican. And yes, Trump probably still thinks that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But none of that is why Trump won the Midwest. President-elect Trump won the Midwest because of his protectionist economic and trade policy. For the part of America that has been left behind by globalization and the economic recovery, Donald Trump’s policies offered hope.

Post-election exit polling supports this contention. According to CNN exit surveys, in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, the economy was the most important issue to a majority of voters. And though Hillary Clinton did hold a narrow margin lead over Trump among these voters, her lead evaporated when trade came up. 48 percent of Ohioans and half of Wisconsinites felt that trade hampered U.S. jobs, and of these voters, two-thirds broke for Trump. Additionally, 54 percent of Wisconsinites, 52 percent of Ohioans, and 52 percent of Iowans agreed that Trump would handle the economy better than his opponent.

Exit polls are not the best way to predict who will win an election because their samples are not always random. But they still can help us understand how different demographics voted—and why they did.

Employment numbers in the Midwest are abysmal when compared to the rest of the US. According to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, Wisconsin did not reach pre-recession employment levels until September 2015. But measured from before the Great Recession, the state’s growing working age population resulted in a job deficit of 102,060 by September 2015, which means that there were 102,060 fewer jobs available than Wisconsinites could find. In Ohio, the same holds true. Only 62.3 percent of Ohio adults are still in the labor market, and the state has not only seen a decrease in the number of jobs available but also in inflation-adjusted wages.

It is also important to look at the industries that represent Middle America. Alabama, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Louisiana, Oregon, and Indiana are the 10 states that in 2012 relied the most on manufacturing for state GDP. According to the Federal Reserve Economic Data database, this is the quarterly percent change in manufacturing output in the United States since Q2 2012:

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The Fed collects this data every three months. To get the simple percent change in manufacturing output, we subtract the current quarter’s output from the previous quarter’s output and then divide that new quantity by the previous quarter’s output. The small changes seen here illustrates a stagnant sector; since 2015, the net change in manufacturing output is almost exactly zero. By contrast, manufacturing output increased around 2% during the economic expansions in the 1990s and 2000s. This decline in manufacturing is the main reason that nine of the ten states that most depend upon manufacturing voted for Trump, as he promised to put in place tariffs and other economic policies that would protect American manufacturing and save blue-collar jobs.

But Trump’s policies will not help manufacturing. Abandoning free trade agreements that have allowed the United States to remain an economic superpower will damage our GDP by raising the price of goods. The more expensive the product, the less of the good that is bought. Coupled with the deadweight loss that would ensue with a protectionist policy, the total amount spent on consumption as well as market efficiency would decrease. Consumption has made up at least 75 percent of U.S. GDP since 1960, and a decrease in GDP leads to recession. Just as our country climbs out of its last recession, Donald Trump’s protectionism will lead us back into one.

What Donald Trump sold Middle America was false hope. The manufacturing jobs that he promised to bring back can only be saved at a devastating cost, and that is a hard truth nobody wants to hear. Because of this false economic hope that Trump promised—and will fail to fulfill—Trump won the Midwest and the election. And because Trump won, we are now stuck with a man supporting protectionist policies that certainly will not make America great.

Pomona College May Have Violated 501(c)(3) Tax Status to Fund Anti-Trump Protesters

By funding the transportation of students to and from anti-Trump rallies in the Los Angeles area with tuition dollars, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnership may have violated IRS regulations prohibiting tax-exempt educational institutions from engaging in partisan political activity.

On Wednesday, November 9, the day after Republican Donald J. Trump became president-elect of the United States, anti-Trump protests sprung up throughout the country. Some of these protests were against the hate and violence activists have associated with Trump and his followers towards Jewish, immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities, among others. Some protests were against Trump himself.

For one protest, which took place on Wednesday evening outside of Los Angeles City Hall, Pomona College’s Draper Center for Community Partnership organized buses to take students to the protest and offered to reimburse other students who attended for their travel costs.

As the Independent reported this morning, the Draper Center has also funded “anti-hate” rallies with anti-Trump undertones. But since these protests deal explicitly with issues rather than candidates, the Draper Center is likely within its legal rights to support them, even if some may object to an organization that espouses community partnership involving itself in political issues.

Wednesday’s protest at the L.A. City Hall, however, was explicitly anti-Trump. On Facebook, its organizers wrote that “[i]t is imperative that all people unite to resist this vile racist and sexist demagogue…. Only the people can put a stop to this. Let’s unite Los Angeles from day one to say, ‘Down with Trump!’”

Representatives of the Draper Center knew of and appeared to support the partisan objectives of the protest. In a post shared in several private Facebook groups for Pomona College students, the student coordinator of the Draper Center solicited attendees for the protest. “The Draper Center is organizing a bus that will take students to downtown LA TONIGHT to stand against Trump,” she wrote, linking to a sign-up form entitled “Bus Ride to Rally Against Trump in LA.”

The Draper Center is not a student-run organization. Rather, like KSPC, the campus radio station, it is an organization staffed and funded by Pomona College. The College pays the salaries of the Draper Center’s staff, and Maria Tucker, the director of the Draper Center, also serves as an associate dean of students on campus. The Draper Center also receives funding each year from the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), which in turn draws over 98 percent of its income from mandatory student fees.

As an educational institution, Pomona College is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. This designation permits alumni to donate to the College tax-free and exempts the College from federal income taxes. However, this special status comes with certain conditions, including a prohibition on partisan political activity.

According to the IRS, “all 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Although Donald Trump’s official candidacy for the 2016 general election ended on November 8th, he began accepting donations for his 2020 primary campaign on the 9th, the same day Pomona College’s Draper Center began organizing and reimbursing transportation to anti-Trump rallies. According to federal guidelines, this makes Mr. Trump a political candidate. The Draper Center’s actions also come in the context of an ongoing effort to persuade members of the Electoral College—the body of electors that officially selects the next president on December 19th—to vote for Clinton.

Funding opposition to a political candidate, as the Draper Center did, would appear to violate the IRS’ prohibition of partisan political activity by 501(c)(3) educational institutions. And in light of a recent campus-wide email blast from a high-level campus administrator promoting an anti-Trump march on campus, the Draper Center’s conduct is even more difficult to explain.

The Independent has reached out to the Draper Center for comment and plans to update this story accordingly

After the Election: Trump, Clinton, and the Death of Dialogue

No matter which candidate wins tonight’s presidential election, the American people have already lost. This isn’t because both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump are poor choices; as I have written before, I think Secretary Clinton would make an excellent president. Rather, the American people are losing because we’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other

It is easier than ever today to entomb oneself in an echo chamber. Schools today are more homogeneous than ever, social media allows for the selective consumption of news, and political gerrymandering has created an environment in which likeminded individuals are lumped together in the same congressional district. In our society, there are now far fewer places in which dialogue between differently minded groups can occur and our dysfunctional schools, bottom-line-focused media, and politically drawn legislative districts exacerbate this trend. Trump supporters and Clinton supporters no longer have access to fora in which they can communicate with each other; instead Trump supporters instinctively distrust all things Clinton and Clinton supporters condescend to all things Trump, including his supporters. Have you recently had a respectful conversation with someone who supports a candidate other than your own? American politics has always been rancorous, but this death of dialogue has created a new level of polarization.

Polarization has also gridlocked our legislature—the most recently completed 113th Congress was the second-least productive in history, second only to the 112th Congress. And as our legislative branch has been crippled, the presidency has been endowed with unprecedented levels of power. The president can now effectively unilaterally declare war thanks to the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), can effectively enact treaties with a simple majority vote in the Senate rather than having to cobble together a supermajority thanks to the rise and acceptance of so-called congressional-executive agreements, and can wantonly choose which laws to enforce due to lax applications of the Constitution’s Take Care Clause.

This inflation of presidential powers has only served to further exacerbate the polarization in the country. Suddenly, a President Trump could by himself decide to send troops into Syria thanks to the AUMF or withdraw from NAFTA without congressional approval since it’s a congressional-executive agreement and not a treaty. A President Clinton could decide to cease all deportation immediately now that the Constitution’s Take Care Clause is no longer enforced. With so much power endowed to one individual, voters can no longer risk listening to and electing someone who doesn’t share their party line.

So how can this polarization be overcome? The only way forward is to repair basic American institutions so that they promote dialogue between those of differing views. First, colleges should try to enroll politically diverse student bodies and actively promote civic discussion among them, not focus all of their attention onto the proliferation of safe spaces. As a liberal college student myself, I was drawn to write for this publication because of the diversity of political and social views that are professed in its articles and the dialogue it fosters on campus, despite the fact that said dialogue can get rather heated at times. The drawing of electoral districts should be delegated to independent committees. Social media should change their algorithms so that users aren’t just fed articles with which they already agree. And people should reflect on the tone of this election and think about how they could have made it just a little less nasty through proactive engagement. Once this occurs, polarization will return to previous levels, the legislature will once again become vibrant and again become a check on the executive office, which will in turn serve to further decrease polarization as presidential elections become less important and thus less nasty. We didn’t accomplish this in time for this election cycle, but hopefully the sheer vitriol of this race will serve as a wakeup call before the next one.

The Clinton Emails You Haven’t Heard About

Hillary Clinton’s emails have been a thorough topic of debate, but the information that has been made readily public is only a small part of the scandal. Many people simply assume that the only topics of interest in her emails are Benghazi and corporate interests, but the emails contain far more secrets that were hidden until Julian Assange released troves of previously submerged documents with massive implications.

First off, Morocco contributed 12 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation and her campaign. Huma Abedin in 2014 disclosed, “The King has personally committed approx $12 million both for the endowment and to support the meeting. It will break a lot of china to back out now when we had so many opportunities to do it in the past few months.” This quotation taken directly from the emails draws a clear connection between the two, but Politico later reported that while $1 million can be directly traced, the Clinton Foundation has refused to release reports on the other $11 million given for largely unknown reasons. While it is true that she was not Secretary of State at the time, and that there is no direct wording within the documents that would imply she received these donations for political favors, it does raise the question as to why Morocco would generously give such a substantial sum out of the kindness of their hearts.

Initially, governmental funding of the Clintons may not sound like much, but the problem lies in emails that were sent at the beginning of 2014, where she maps out certain ISIS endowments. Specifically, the email reads, “The Governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.” Two days ago, Reuters confirmed that Clinton’s charity had received $1 million dollars from the government of Qatar while she was Secretary of State in exchange for a meeting with former president Bill Clinton and John Podesta. In essence, the same government that is currently funding ISIS and has been accused of countless human rights abuses has significant ties to the Clintons, starting when she was still in a major seat of power. Saudi Arabia specifically has donated between $10-25 million dollars under the proxy foundation “Friends of Saudi Arabia” since 1997. The only problem with honing these numbers down to a more specific amount is that finding the information from either the Clinton Foundation or private reports are difficult at best. The end result to take away from this is that Qatar and Saudi Arabia, two governments that directly support ISIS financially and logistically, have supplied millions to the Clintons and their foundation both during president Bill Clinton’s administration and during Hilary’s time as secretary of state. ISIS and the Clinton Foundation are being bankrolled by the same governments.

During Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state, not only were questionable donations made, but she approved surprising arms sales between the Unites States and Saudi Arabia. Julian Assange stated, “Under Hillary Clinton, and Clinton emails reveal a significant discussion about it, the largest ever arms deal in the world was made with Saudi Arabia. More than $80 billion dollars.” Along with the $80 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, the total dollar amount of US arms sales internationally doubled during her time as secretary of state.

Besides the financial support of these Middle Eastern governments, some speculation on the word “logistics” used in Clinton’s emails could imply that guns sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States could have been in turn given to ISIS by Saudi Arabia. While there is admittedly no proof of this, it is curious how a state with as small of a military as Saudi Arabia could make use of $80 billion dollars of US arms on their own. While Hillary Clinton may have only been a part of all these backroom dealings that the American public has been largely kept in the dark on, it must be noted that she has played an instrumental role in the massive sales of munitions between the United States and certain Middle Eastern governments.

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Image: Flickr