Category Archives: politics

The Thing About Taxes

I will preface this by saying I am not well-researched in the areas of politics, national financing, or whatever actually goes into this mess, in the United States or elsewhere.

But I think it might be worth mentioning my thoughts on a few things, based on personal experiences, and some things I’ve heard that just… don’t make a lot of sense.

Taxes aren’t inherently bad.

The word “tax” in itself has come to have largely negative connotations–if you’re being “taxed” by something, you’re being weighed down or put upon. We have classic examples of people, like the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood stories, who abuse taxes.

In a truly ironic state of affairs, my dad is adamantly against any kind of raise in taxes, but he also works for the state of Minnesota, and part of our taxes are what pay his own wages.

But if taxes are being abused, for things like… oh, say, a giant wall, or a football stadium… then, yeah, I wholeheartedly understand the aversion.

I don’t think anyone is ever entirely sure what taxes are used for, but there’s obviously some mismanagement going on somewhere, and that’s the bad thing. Taxes themselves? They have some truly positive possibilities.

Let’s just, for the sake of imagination, pretend that a perfect world is possible. What should taxes, in a perfect world (and my opinion) be used for?

  • Protecting/conserving the environment
  • Researching and developing important new innovations in energy, transportation, and health (cure for cancer, anyone?)
  • Providing/maintaining a basic standard of health and well-being for everyone
  • Paying first responders, health professionals, and peace-keepers
  • Educating people well
  • Preserving culture by investing in arts, museums, libraries, archives, and community centers
  • Community improvements, like road construction, parks & rec, etc.
  • Providing some kind of safety net and/or rehabilitation programs for those who are  out of work and/or homeless. (This would include retirement, and being out of work due to an injury, veteran benefits, and other things of that nature, in addition to being in a bad situation for other reasons.)

Some people are really put out by the thought of providing for others. Which… I get, to some extent. At the moment, it’s hard to fathom providing for myself, let alone anyone else in the country–but that’s because a lot of things in “the system” are broken. They’re not being used the way they should.

If I had the peace of mind that came with guaranteed good health, the basic ability to learn the things I need to know without being in debt for the foreseeable future, and the reassurance that life as we know it wasn’t on its way to being toasted out of the Earth like a bad virus, I would happily give away a third or more of my income for the rest of my life.

In a perfect world, what would your taxes be used for?

What would you be willing to provide, to make your own life and the lives of others easier?

#StopGunViolence

Do you know what one of the most leading cause of premature death in the U.S is? Well, gun violence is one of the most leading cause of premature death in the U.S. Guns kill at least more than 38,000 people and cause nearly 85,000 injuries each year. There is this organization called APHA is a longtime supporter of violence prevention policies, especially with gun-related violence and APHA acknowledges an inclusive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis is necessary for good causes.

The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensure our families and communities are safe. We must focus more on the emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research. Conducting research will be a good first step in figuring out what is wrong in the present and how to prevent future ferocities. There would need to be ongoing work needed to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands and to allow access to mental health services to the ones who need it most. Mental health is a personal issue but it should be a private issue and it should be shared with the public.

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To represent and support the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C., animator Alex Clark used a bit of humor to explain gun violence prevention and hopefully, it will lighten up the mood of this post, enjoy!:

 

Number of Deaths in 2018
Map of Number of Deaths by Gun Violence in 2018 in the U.S.
In my opinion, guns should not be allowed anywhere in the U.S. because these kinds of weapons can be easily obtained and some people that have the right to carry or not commit suspicious or heinous acts.
To end this on a good not, guns should just go. Period.  #StopGunViolence
SENATE:

What is a National Emergency and President Donald Trump advocates “Bringing out the military”

President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was “bringing out the military” to cease people of Hispanic origin from crossing the southern border into the U.S. He wants to declare a state of national emergency and in my opinion, I do not agree with this. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of national emergency is a “state of emergency resulting from a danger or threat of danger to a nation from foreign or domestic sources and usually declared to be in existence by a governmental authority.” He makes it seem like we are in immediate danger for allowing more people in this country that would not just like to better their own lives but as well as their families lives and I find this to be quite disturbing. This is disturbing due to the fact that he wants a ban for some countries but allows people from other countries to travel freely to and from the U.S. or give them a pass, so to speak.

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Trump had earlier this week repeatedly said he had put the military on notice for such an action, but his comment Thursday seemed to have a backlash. Does he not know that his comments and phrases have public repercussions?  I mean, its fine to voice your own opinions but everyone should have to say in the matter of whether this would be the right thing to do for not just the American people but also for others from different countries.

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A man holds a mask of Donald Trump during the Mexicans meet outside the United States Embassy to plan a welcoming and gather donations for the migrant caravan coming from Honduras on Oct. 23, 2018.

The president had stated a promise in a morning tweet that he made mentions of comments made by Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, on “Fox and Friends.” Judd, a recurrent guest on Fox News Channel, is the union representative for about 16,000 border patrol agents.

“Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council is right when he says on @foxandfriends that the Democrat inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the Border,” Trump tweeted.

Trump included, “MUST BE CHANDED, but I am bringing out the military for this National Emergency. They will be stopped!” he added, appearing to misspell “changed.” I feel like if you are going to state something that you feel strongly about such as illegal border crossing, please Trump make sure to proofread real quick or have someone in your office do it for you. I mean, Condoleezza Rice did the same for Bush when he was in office.

A small group of Honduran migrants trying to reach the U.S. border walk along train tracks in Trancas Viejas, Veracruz state, on Oct. 24, 2018.
 A small group of Honduran migrants trying to cross the U.S. border walk along train tracks in Trancas Viejas, Veracruz state, on Oct. 24, 2018

Trump has tweeted often in recent days about illegal immigration and the migrant caravan traveling north through Mexico. In which, I think that there is nothing wrong with this, because whose elder relatives from another country was not shuttled here, either by boat, plane or bus to travel together to reach this already great country?

He had said on Wednesday night at a rally in Wisconsin that the U.S. would have a “very secure border” and that the “military are ready” to help in securing it. I have no idea if he will actually put the things he commented on into action but if he does we as a people of the United States definitely let him get that far and should not completely blame him.

To add on to his claim, on Monday, Trump had tweeted, without evidence, that, “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” in the caravan and that he had “alerted Border Patrol and Military that” it was a national emergency.

Trump later admitted he had “no proof,” to support the claim:(

 

Sources:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/25/donald-trump-migrant-caravan-military-troops-mexico-border/1762704002/

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/10/18/trump-close-mexico-border-912278

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pentagon-send-active-duty-troops-border-logistical-support/story?id=58741906

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/trump-says-he-s-bringing-out-military-secure-u-s-n924271

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-18/trump-vows-military-will-close-mexican-border-to-stop-migrants

Good MOURNING

I’ve always thought the saying, “Good Morning”, to be quite funny and also, punny. When I wake up early, the first thing I do is mourn my past self that was blissfully sleeping just minutes ago. Also, my favorite response to “Good Morning” is always the sarcastic, “Is it?”

I have many interests, but a few of the most important are reading, writing, basketball, camping, traveling and even video games. I am pretty political, especially lately; and I try to be bipartisan, but my viewpoints tend to stray to the left. I also really enjoy watching movies, reading movie reviews and screenplays. I love to watch behind the scenes stuff and my biggest goal in life is to write a movie/ direct a film/documentary and using my communications and writing major to bring social change through film.

Anyways, Good morning and good mourning; however you feel about it. It’s nice to meet you all and I hope we have some fun this semester.

Signing off,

Katie

 

Chasing Trump’s Gaffes, Not His True Failures

The Internet has exploded overnight — President Trump, at 12:06am, shared a completely non-sensical tweet.

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The tweet was deleted, but not before it was screenshotted and widely shared. Immediately, he was roasted left and right by people making fun of this embarrassing tweet, and the fact that he frequently tweets completely out-of-the-blue thoughts at all hours of the night. The unfortunate gaffe received a lot of media coverage, such as this article at The Guardian. It’s a deep dive into the incident and the broad response from the public it collectively laughed and mocked the President.
The article, written by veteran reporter Elle Hunt, is actually quite well-written. It’s a humorous look at the incident, with a negative tone to it. This isn’t from Hunt’s own words, but rather the huge tide of negative conversation on Twitter.
The issue I have with this coverage — and the Internet as a collective being — is that it’s stupid, pointless things like this that get people fired up and get them active in conversation. In some ways, it makes sense. Watching Trump make a fool of himself is easy to bash, as it doesn’t require a lot of critical thinking. When a politician makes a mistake, it’s totally fair game for the public to go on the offensive. That’s just the way the Internet works.
Yet, there is so much more happening with this administration that’s incredibly important, but not getting people fired up on social media. I have no problem with Elle Hunt’s article on its own, but in the context of the larger political issues, the stupid tweet seems hardly worth mentioning. Like a lot of writers these days, she’s biased toward covering stories that will get a lot of attention and engagement on social media. I’m not saying that she, or anyone else in the media isn’t covering the right stories about Trump and his people, but little side things like this are just a distraction. They take eyeballs away from stories that might determine the fate of our entire world.

We Need to Talk About the Eviction Crisis

Why is This a Crisis?

Evictions are a nearly unreported threat to Americans, but an increasing population are experiencing them. It’s long been the standard that people should spend no more than 30% of a person’s income on housing. But a recent Harvard study found just over 21 million households spend more than 30% on housing. 11 million people were reported to be spending more than half their income on housing.

When families spend more on housing, they are forced to spend less on other items. Spending more than 30% on housing makes paying for basic needs like electricity, groceries, and clothing like buying a luxury item. Children and seniors are impacted more from this reality as they are the most vulnerable.

It makes other items we tend to take for granted, like internet access or cars, practically impossible to possess. While that may sound like less of a “need,” consider applying for a job. In this age it’s nearly impossible to apply for a job without the internet. It’s equally as hard to go to multiple interviews without a car.

Matthew Desmond wrote a book called “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” In the video linked here, he talks about the how big of an effect evictions have on American families.

Of that 1/4th that receives housing funding  that Desmond mentions in the video, they have to endure long waits to actually receive that help. The remaining 3/4ths will likely continue on dangerous eviction cycle, which could last for the rest of their lives.

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A Milwaukee eviction of Ara Sprakman

What Can be Done Right Now?

A problem as big as the eviction crisis can’t be bundled up in one solution. That said, there are many promising efforts. Desmond mentioned that people are at a disadvantage in eviction court, as they either don’t show or can’t afford a lawyer. New York City passed legislation to afford legal assistance to tenants. The move resulted in an 18% drop in evictions within a two-year span. The legislation has recently been picked up by Rep. Keith Ellison as a house bill (H.R. 1146), but not much has come of it the current congressional session.

In Desmond’s book, he championed the expansion for Section 8 voucher program. While I fully support that, there are serious issues. The biggest issue is that landlords can legally reject Section 8 voucher funding. This is a form of discrimination, plain and simple, but there still is hope. The Minneapolis city council passed legislation that prohibits landlords from rejecting Section 8 funding. This legislation need to be expanded on the state or federal level. City laws are a short-term fix as they can be overruled by the state law or  withholding federal funds.

How to Take Action

First, there are many groups that have been doing great work in this effort. On Just Shelter, there are links to both local and national resources supporting the cause. Consider volunteering with a group to either assist families or spread the message in your community.

The biggest work that can be done is through our government. Long lasting and sustainable efforts will have to be done through policy. Find your local council-members and mayor and call them. Once you’ve done that, consider calling your congressional representatives, both in the U.S. House and Senate. Remember to stay calm and respectful. Chances are you going to speak to a college intern. They already have enough on their plate. That said, make sure you stress how important affordable housing is to you.

Lastly, we need to do what we can to convince the greater public that housing is a basic human right. People have the right to have a consistent place to sleep, eat, and live. Children and seniors have the right to a place that offers security from harmful elements. Housing doesn’t need to be lavish, but it does need to be there.

Hey Democrats…get your shit together.

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Pick a day. Could be today. A week from today. Hell, even a few weeks from now. At some point, it’s best that we stop caring about the effects of the damn 2016 primary. I don’t care about Bernie Sanders’ revolution. I don’t care about defending the Clinton legacy. Party members are dragging the people into these factions of “Bernie Bros” vs. “Establishment Democrats.” With as much crazy stories that comes each day from Trump’s presidency, my interest in liberal in-fighting wanes.

My tipping point was a recent story in The Root about the recent lovefest that was the DNC unity tour. The story is a good read; that’s not what pissed me off per se. It’s more so reading how the tour became noticeably awkward and left Democrats more confused than before. This quote from the article gives a good reflection on the shit hitting the fan.

Sanders came out stomping hard for Heath Mello, a Democratic mayoral candidate for Omaha, Neb., despite the candidate’s pro-life stances. Then the DNC chair called Sanders out for his stance, then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called out Perez and then Sanders told them all that you have to make ideological compromises to win. This coming from the same Bernie Sanders who screams, You shall not pass” to any Democrat who isn’t progressive enough for his tastes—despite not being a Democrat.”

Awesome.

In my opinion, rehashing the primary is a political crutch for party members. It seems like we’re in a time where people are eager to define themselves and what path they’re against. In the end, it’s not only about identity politics, women’s rights, or speaking to white working class. It’s a combination of all those things and more. I’ll be more at ease when more Democrats are brave enough to speak about progressive positions that move the country forward. I don’t need constant railing against the elites or a regurgitation about “putting hope on the ballot.”

Democrats have some serious questions to answers to America’s problems. It’s been four months into Trump’s presidency and I still don’t know how the party plans to tackle criminal justice reform, the eviction epidemic, and work automation. These are some serious issues that seem to touch various wings within the Democratic party. Don’t you think it’d be reasonable to, I don’t know, talk more about them? Maybe I’m being whimsical.

And hey, if you happen to be a Democrat in power and read this, here’s another thing on my wish list. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO UNDERSTAND! It seems like every good idea gets put through some machine that make it sound twenty times more complicated when it gets talked about. I get it, this shit is hard, and I certainly don’t have the answers. Yet Republicans have mastered this art (see: death tax & religious freedom) for some dubious things. It’d be nice if Democrats could have a reasonable counterbalance to that. Say what you want about Bernie Sanders, but he was heading in the right direction in making policy relatable. It seems reasonable to start there.

I don’t want to rant more than I have already. All I want is the party to advance past 2016 and state it’s case. People don’t care about internal party politics. They care about actual plans to improve their lives.

Ted Cruz’s Lie About Democrats

Sometimes I’ll read the news and find something so insane and stupid, that I shut my eyes and gather my sanity for a moment. Ted Cruz inspired such a moment for me this morning in this Washington Post article. He claimed that Democrats are rooted deep in racism. Since it’s Black History Month, I thought the most festive thing to do was debunk his garbage claim.

Cruz takes a pretty hard stance against us Democrats by extension of his apparent stance against Dixiecrats. They were a splinter group of southern Democrats that obstructed racial progress through the 1940s to 1970. Cruz said:

“You look at the most racist — you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan. The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats.”

On the Ku Klux Klan

I’ll start with the KKK lie first. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in America, made it very clear that the KKK wasn’t or isn’t some left-wing creation. The Klan originally started as a social club of former Confederate solders. There was an association between the KKK and Democrats during the 1920’s, but those members weren’t threatening black people with lynchings and social security. They were a group with dangerous and extreme right-wing stances using modern standards.

Cruz shoddy wordplay makes it seem like the Democratic Party is the KKK’s mother or father. In reality, the Klan is more like a distant cousin who’s awkward and creepy in conversation, lives in the woods to be “off the grid,” then doesn’t get invited to any reunions. Am I happy about my party’s association with the KKK in the 1920s? Of course not, but the Democratic platform today is not even the platform of the 60’s, let alone one from the 1920s or even the during reconstruction. To say otherwise is misleading.

Cruz and Dixiecrats

Cruz’s newfound hatred for Dixiecrats is odd seeing that he praised Jesse Helms in 2013. Helms was a staunch Dixiecrat who, after failing to block the Civil Rights Act, switched to the GOP in 1972. His switch to the party of Lincoln didn’t discourage his efforts to block Martin Luther King Day as a federal holiday or use Affirmative Action as a wedge issue in his 1990 senate campaign.

 

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Jesse Helms

On Helms, Cruz said in a Heritage Foundation event:

“And you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”

I’m certain Cruz hasn’t walked this statement back to this day. Honestly I’m not too surprised about Cruz talking from both sides of his mouth on Dixiecrats. From lying about Obamacare to his back-flip on Trump, Ted Cruz says anything to advance his own agenda.

Saying Democrats are the party of racism is disgusting. Covering his lie up with hypocrisy is even worse. We need keep holding Ted Cruz accountable and expose his lies so we don’t have to hear more of him past the 2018 elections.

Corporate Profits Trump Science

With a new president in the White House, environmental policy and science are on the hot list of topics expected to see major change. Shortly after being sworn in, President Donald Trump had the climate change page on the white house website taken down. The President has repeatedly expressed his view that climate change is not a serious concern. Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t believe in climate change or evolution, and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson (former ExxonMobil CEO) doesn’t believe human activity is causing climate change.      

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) issued a groundbreaking finding that six greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane), “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This had previously been established as fact in the scientific community, but the importance of the “Endangerment Finding” was it allowed the EPA to regulate emissions from cars and power plants under the Clean Air Act. Lawsuits challenging the finding quickly followed and President Trump’s newly appointed EPA Head, Scott Pruitt, was one of the attorneys that mounted said lawsuits. Yes, you read that correctly. The man selected to lead the EPA has a history of fighting on the side of corporations and has challenged scientific findings of the agency.

To learn more about Trump’s fight against science: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/317194-the-war-against-science#bottom-story-socials

How did we get here? How do so many embrace the short-sighted belief that protecting corporate profits is, somehow, more important than the sustainability of our planet? The basis for scientific discovery is fact, facts accumulated through rigorous testing that attempts to disprove them as otherwise. Compared to his predecessor, President Trump and his new regime clearly take a very different stance on science and environmental policy. This new administration stands on the side of protecting and maximizing corporate profits. What needs to be addressed, is the administrations blatant denial of scientific facts regarding the consequences of certain destructive business practices.

This is not a call for the downfall of Corporate America, nor an attack on capitalism and free enterprise. I simply aim to facilitate a discussion about the bigger picture, social responsibility and the future we want to create. The key word here is future, our very existence is contingent upon having a planet capable of supporting human life. Neglecting to recognize facts and take measures to combat climate change jeopardizes the well-being of future generations. Scientific discovery is how we better understand the world around us, how we learn to make better decisions and improve. Science matters.

The good news is, people from all over are taking notice. More than 800,000 people involved in a private Facebook group organized a March for Science and plan to act.

Here’s a link if you want to learn more or get involved: https://www.marchforscience.com/

Kyle Winkelman

Is it getting hot in here?

NASA with all things climate change

Ever since I was very young the environment has been something I have been passionate about protecting. I remember the first time in elementary school that we were all given a Bill Nye the Science Guy tour of how the climate was changing and that there was things we could do to collectively stop it. Well I am sad to say we have collectively let Bill Nye down. Okay we were not the only ones responsible for what is taking place with the earth’s climate but we are definitely contributing to the overall condition of the earth’s ozone.

It is a scary time to be pro-environment in this country as the rhetoric has definitely fallen on the side of apathy and denial throughout the current majority legislature on this topic. Here is the thing, I am all for having an opposing opinion then myself. The argument in this case that is being opposed however is against facts. Climate change is something that can be proven it is happening all around us. When the president of the United States denies climate change it makes me question his logic (I questioned it long before that but  that is a discussion for another time.)

Trump has proven by his recent EPA appointment that environment is about the last thing he is thinking about currently on his presidential totem pole of responsibility as he appointed Scott Pruitt a man who has his hands in the fossil fuel business to spearhead the job. Let me write that again just so everybody doesn’t miss it, a man who’s primary stake of business involves fossil fuel is taking a job to at a government agency that hinges on limiting fossil fuel emission.

Seriously read this Washington Post article on Scott Pruitt and if you have any care for our environment you will have a very similar reaction to Ron Swanson down below..

Scott Pruitt-Washington Post Article

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I guess my end all in this is we have to be combative about this. There had been significant strides made in legislature especially through Obama’s tenure that many of us felt was a good foundation to build on. Trump is attempting to come in and bulldoze that foundation right out from underneath us. Talk to your legislators if this is something you are passionate about through social media avenues, or email. Sign petitions when they are available, just use your voice and try and help maintain the progress that has been achieved in the field of environmental protection. Visit the link at the top of the page Nasa for some substantial evidence on what is happening with our planet according to NASA. Too really keep yourself up at night I recommend checking out the effects tab once you have clicked on the link.

The government and its discontents