Friday, December 11, 2009

Illegal Immigration

Classmate Katie Elliott writes about illegal immigration. She argues that illegal immigration is bad for the security and the economy of the United States, and that we should resolve it by enforcing our laws, deporting illegal immigrants, and fining their employers.

The basic argument is that illegal immigration should be prevented, but it relies too heavily on the assumption that illegal immigrants pose a security risk, and that it's an issue easily solved by government. Why do illegal immigrants pose a security risk? Some elaboration would be helpful here. I suppose the idea is that terrorists can migrate into the United States, but terrorists can just as well be citizens, so I wouldn't call it a particularly strong security risk. The economic standpoint may be a little more valid, although she argues that they increase costs in the medical and education systems. It's not like they don't have to pay for medical help or education -- illegal immigrants work and pay money just like citizens, and there are taxes(sales, income) that aren't really avoidable.

She argues that we should resolve illegal immigration by enforcing laws, deporting illegal immigrants, and fining their employers. The problem with illegal immigrants is that they're... well... illegal. It's not easy to catch them entering the country, it's not easy to find them within our country, and transportation outside the country isn't exactly free. Fighting illegal immigration would not be a cheap easy task. I wouldn't say that illegal immigration is good for us, but it seems to me that the costs of preventing it entirely would be worse than the problems we face.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dust Storms and the Economy

Well, here's a broad topic. The U.S. economy. We all know it's not going in the direction we want it to. Everyone has their own ideas about how to improve it. Here's what I think we should do.

First of all, we should lower taxes. Feeding the government money, and counting on it to force the economy into shape, isn't helpful. The economy thrives on opportunity, and if we really want to see it improve, we should give it as much space to grow as we possibly can. With lower taxes, the citizens will have more money, more opportunity, and the economy will improve. It's also been argued that, historically, the economic benefits of tax cuts are powerful enough that tax revenues don't decrease in the long-term.

Second, we should reduce government spending. The federal deficit is greatly increasing and I believe the national government is overextending itself. This goes beyond the economy for me as I believe the government is getting too involved in things that may be best left to the public: health care, network neutrality, and so on. Keep it simple.

Finally, we should not hinder new economic opportunities, such as oil development in Alaska. We do want to get away from oil dependency in the future, but holding oil supplies and the economy back is not the right approach. We need to develop alternatives first. For now, though, oil development in Alaska is an economic opportunity that we should take advantage of.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Abort! Abort!

Lesley Ann Abernathy, one of my classmates, writes about how abortion is a choice. Overall, she does a good job addressing perspectives from both sides of the issue and she makes a compelling argument.

She starts by talking about the difficulties of pregnancy, and the problems that a pregnant woman might face without abortion as an option. She says that the responsibility of pregnancy can be financially and mentally difficult, and that a woman who's not ready in her life for a full pregnancy needs an option to cancel it. She then goes on to talk about the potential problems that a child born might face with a parent who wasn't ready for it.

Next, she addresses some of the arguments that anti-abortionists often bring up. Some people cite religious reasons, and she says that separation of church and state should not allow laws to be passed for that reason. This isn't a particularly good argument, because while separation of church and state means that government and church are entirely separate entities, it does not mean that the morals associated with the church can't be involved in policy-making. Finally, she addresses the argument of abortion as murder, and she suggests that a child brought into the world with parents who aren't ready may be less fortunate.

Overall, it's a good post. She covers a lot of the benefits and reasoning for having abortion as a choice, and she addresses the dominant issue among people opposed to it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Network Neutrality

I tend to think that government is too involved in our daily lives, with many laws and restrictions on things that should be left alone. On the issue of network neutrality, I was immediately torn between both sides of the issue. On the one hand, I strongly value the freedom and open-endedness of the internet that we mostly enjoy today. On the other hand, it would be yet another government regulation that may be unnecessary. It's taken a lot of careful thought, but I believe this is an issue that government should stay out of; at least in our present situation.

The concept of network neutrality is about enforcing freedom on the internet. Without network neutrality, internet service providers may target and restrict bandwidth as they see fit. Generally, this has not been much of a problem, although Comcast has disrupted peer-to-peer network traffic in the past. There is potential for some more sinister restrictions, such as internet service providers requiring websites to pay them or have their bandwidth reduced to their customers, but so far this hasn't happened.

With network neutrality, internet service providers would be required to treat all network traffic as equal. Internet service providers would serve as direct ports to the internet, with no filters or targeted bandwidth restrictions for their customers. My first instinct is to support network neutrality for preserving freedom and equality on the internet, but after careful consideration, I don't believe the government should be stepping in directly on the issue. It's a fix for a problem that has yet to manifest itself in any significant way, with Comcast's policy being the only real example of something that it would have prevented. While I have a certain dislike for Comcast, they are free to provide their services in any way that they want to, just as we're free to get our services from somebody else. That freedom, the idea of a free market, will keep the industry evolving and adapting to the desires of the customers, which is why I believe that government intervention is unnecessary.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Common Sense

Real Clear Politics blog writer, Tom Bevan, writes a post about the importance of economic issues vs. health care. It's short, and there's not much substance, but he makes a good point.

He starts by quoting Charlie Cook, who says that voters see economic issues as more important than health care, and that the current administration would do well to move away from health care and back onto the economy and jobs as quickly as possible. Tom then reiterates this himself, and he criticizes Democrats for obsessing too much over health care issues, suggesting that they need to shift gears soon or they'll lose voters in the 2010 elections.

Again, it's a short post, and there's not a lot of substance to comment on, but he makes a good point. His criticism of the administration's fixation on health care is well-placed and doesn't feel unwarranted, and his analysis of the impact on future elections is stated very matter-of-factly, without attacking the party unnecessarily. His argument isn't particularly strong or deep, but it is logical and hard to refute. Whether or not you think the administration is doing well, I think we can agree that the economy deserves more attention.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oil development in Alaska

Alaska governer Sean Parnell writes in the Wall Street Journal about why we should expand oil and gas exploration on Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf. His argument is very solid, and overall I think the article accomplishes what it was meant to: gather support from the American people, and hopefully persuade the federal government to include oil expansion in Alaska as part of the administration's energy plan.

Parnell's argument is very clear, and his reasoning is logical. He argues, first, that oil and gas exploration and production will create job opportunities for Americans, lower energy costs, and provide an overall boost to our economy. He also argues that royalties from production would go to our government instead of foreign governments, which would reduce federal deficit. Both of these arguments are solid and logical, and together form the foundation of his main argument. He also argues that it would improve U.S. national security by reducing dependency on foreign oil. This argument seems weak to me because it tries to characterize an economic problem as a security problem as well. It's a loose connection, and in my opinion, it doesn't add anything to his main argument. It would be better to focus on the issue entirely from an economic standpoint.

Next, he addresses the environmental implications, and states that oil exploration would happen in a way that's considerate and protective of the environment, and he strengthens this claim by referring to oil exploration of Alaska in the past. Finally, he talks about the government's support of offshore oil development in foreign countries, and argues that if the government supports foreign oil exploration, that there's no reason not to support it within our own country. This is, in my opinion, the strongest argument that Parnell makes because it leaves little room to oppose his position without first opposing the government's stance on foreign oil.

In conclusion, I'd say that the article is well written. The tie to national security is weak, but everything else is solid and persuasive. He doesn't rely too heavily on statistics, and he uses strong, logical reasoning to drive his point. Parnell makes it clear why we should support oil development in Alaska.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Challenging Pursuit

Last week, my classmates and I had a forum discussion about the idea of an electronic direct democracy, and whether or not the U.S. Government should adopt such a system. We had people arguing from both sides of the issue; some of us criticised it as unrealistic, some argued on a technological basis, and some advocated it as the most "fair" form of government.

Back in July of 2008, Austin Bay Blog wrote about the challenge of democracy, the careful balance required, and the obligations of a democratic government. I believe, to some extent, that this relates to last week's discussion. The author talks about why our government is structured the way it is, the idealistic driving force behind it, and what makes it such a challenging pursuit.

It's a rather lengthy article but well worth the read. To me it serves as a reminder that the structure of our government, as messy as it may seem, was not considered and adopted carelessly. It's been formed and shaped by a very long history of challenges, and there's a lot of reasons that our current government is shaped the way it is.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Main Screen Turn On

Well, the front page looked rather ugly with no posts, so here's one to kick-start the Observatory.

I call it that because of my current detachment to the whole subject. I do absolutely nothing when it comes to politics so I think of myself as just an observer. Perhaps as I learn more, I'll take a more active role in discussion, or perhaps I'll be content just knowing that I can make more educated votes in the future.

I'd be happy to just continue observing as I have so far, but I recognize that it'll take some argument and participation on my part not only to make it through this course, but to truly learn something out of it.