Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obama signs fixes to health care bill, includes student loan measure

President Obama finalized the health care bill earlier today by signing into law several "fixes" of the original legislation approved by the House and the Senate. One of the provisions that was included in the revised bill makes the government the primary issuer of federal college loans. Under this new law, individual banks will no longer be able to issue federal student loans, and instead this money will now be lent directly from the government. The measure should save banks money because they will no longer have to pay fees for acting as middlemen in the college loan process, which in turn should lower interest rates and raise approval rates for students seeking loans. Obama touted this aspect as a major advantage of the measure, stating in his weekly radio address, "This reform of the federal student loan programs will save taxpayers $68 billion over the next decade." This law constitutes the largest revision of federal college aid programs in 40 years, and will take effect in 2014. This was a great measure to include in the health care bill (even though it really has nothing to do with health care). It makes good sense to eliminate banks from being the middlemen in allocating student loans, as now that the government does it the system will be more fair and standardized. It's also good that this measure could decrease interest rates, as doing so will make college more affordable to many Americans. This bill is overall a major victory for Obama, as he accomplished two of his goals in reforming health care and education. Read more at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125347342.

Poll: public divided on health care

According to a CNN poll conducted last Thursday through Sunday, 56 percent of Americans disapprove of the new health care legislation and 42 percent support it. However, only 47 percent of those polled favor Republicans' call to "repeal and replace" the bill. The discrepancy between those who disapprove of the bill and those who actually want to repeal the bill can be attributed to the fact that some are against the bill because they don't think it went far enough. This sector of the population is thus unlikely to side with Republicans in fighting against any and all government-provided health care. Said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland, "Some Americans continue to say that they disapprove of the bill because they want even more government involvement in health care than the bill created. Only a quarter are against the entire bill." The poll was conducted by telephone to 1009 adult Americans and contains a sampling error of plus or minus three percent. The results of this poll are to be expected, as the health care debate has seemed to be evenly divided amongst Americans since its onset. That a majority are against the bill proves that the bill is not perfect by any means, especially since there are people on both sides who do not want the bill - those who think the bill went too far and those who think the bill did not go far enough. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change once the public starts to see the bill in action. Read more at http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/29/cnn-poll-americans-divided-on-repealing-health-care-law/?fbid=PRi3EP0uE8f&hpt=Sbin.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Environmental Policy

Here's the link to our group's article:

Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama makes secret trip to Afghanistan, calls for increased efforts to halt corruption

President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan today in an effort to encourage the Afghan government to take greater accountability for its actions and to make a greater effort to cut down on corruption. The trip was kept secret and conducted at night for security reasons. Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Cabinet in the capital city of Kabul and gave a speech at the Bagram Air Field to about 2500 civilians and troops. In his speech, Obama stressed the U.S.'s commitment to preventing a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan as well as his desire for the country to become self-sufficient in its security. "The United States is a partner, but our intent is to make sure that the Afghans have the capacity to provide for their own security — that is core to our mission," Obama said in his speech. Another theme in his speech was that the U.S. is growing impatient with Afghanistan's lax efforts to combat corruption in the government. I think that this visit was a good decision by the White House, as it not only encourages the Afghan government to devote more time and resources to battling corruption, but it also shows U.S. citizens that Obama means business and that we aren't just sending troops to Afghanistan for the heck of it. I had gotten a little fed up with the escalation of this conflict, as nothing seemed to be happening, but this shows me that at least we have a plan and that we expect something from Afghanistan too. This has sure been a busy week for Obama, with health care and everything - good to know we have a hard working president. Read more at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125276586.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Palin endorses McCain's bid for Senate re-election

Yesterday in Tuscon, Sarah Palin made her first public appearance with John McCain since the two former running mates conceded the 2008 presidential election. Palin spoke at a rally supporting McCain's bid for re-election for one of Arizona's Senate seats. McCain will be challenged by J.D. Hayworth in the Republican primary, as McCain has recently faced criticism for being too moderate. One of the groups that has declined to support McCain for his moderate stand includes the Tea Party, a group with which Palin has recently been associated. But Palin seemed to be connecting the Tea Party movement with McCain, saying "Everybody here, supporting John McCain, we are all part of that Tea Party movement. I think he's gonna win this one." Hmm, interesting. Does McCain want to be part of the Tea Party movement? I don't think so, as it seems too extreme for him, the politician who has always claimed to be moderate and to reach across the isle. I doubt Palin's endorsement will help McCain win re-election, as anything that Palin is connected with is seen with amusement and scrutiny by much of the public. Palin seems to appeal to only a very narrow demographic, and everyone else dislikes her. Thus, I think it was a mistake for McCain to bring in Palin for the rally and I thought he would have learned his lesson after the past presidential election. Want more Sarah? Go to http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/26/palin.mccain/index.html?hpt=Sbin.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gates eases "don't ask, don't tell"

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced today that the Pentagon will begin to faze-out the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which currently prohibits homosexuals from serving openly in the military. One of the ways the Pentagon will do this is by raising the threshold for the level of information necessary to launch a "credible inquiry" into alleged homosexual behavior. This change, which will take effect in 30 days, is supported by President Obama, who has in the past expressed his disapproval of the 17 year old "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Other senior members of the military, however, feel that the alleviation of this policy may negatively affect morale and cohesiveness in the armed forces. Said Gates, "These changes reflect some of the insights we have gained over 17 years of implementing the current law, including the need for consistency, oversight, and clear standards." It's about time that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was eased, as I feel that anyone should be able to join the military, regardless of sexual orientation. While I could see it becoming a distraction at first, as some of the senior officials claim, our soldiers will get used to it soon enough. This goes along well with the civil rights chapter that we just finished, as the fazing-out of this policy marks a key step in the fight for homosexuals' rights, just as Truman's executive order to desegregate the military was a milestone in African Americans' rights. Read more at http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/25/military.gays/index.html?hpt=Sbin.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Obama signs health care bill

Well kids, it's finally happened: the health care bill has been signed into law by President Obama. After the House passed the compromise bill late Sunday evening, Obama signed the bill this morning in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. The bill must now only clear the Senate (the Senate must approve the changes that the House made to the bill after the Senate originally passed it in December) with a simple majority of 51 in a reconciliation vote, with the Democrats expected to easily garner the necessary votes. Important aspects of the bill include the fact that small business owners will receive tax breaks to help cover the cost of providing health insurance to their employees, insurance companies won't be able to drop or deny coverage to children because of pre-existing medical conditions, and insurance companies won't be able to drop people from coverage when they get sick or place yearly limits on the amount of health care people receive. Republicans have vowed to do their best to hinder the bill's approval in the Senate and the attorney generals of 13 states have already filed lawsuits against the bill. After signing the bill, Obama said "We are not a nation that scales back its aspirations. We are not a nation that falls prey to doubt or mistrust. We don't fall prey to fear. We are a nation that does what is hard, what is necessary, what is right." This is an amazing development, as it pretty much validates the first year of Obama's presidency after it seemed to be a waste. It's hard to believe that after all this time health care finally passed, and I'm not surprised that there are many opposed to it. I don't really know what to think of comprehensive health care, as I don't know the ins and outs of it, but it seems like a great idea in theory. We'll just have to see if it actually lives up to the hype when put into practice. Another good thing: barring a strange turn of events in the Senate, I probably won't have to write any more blogs about the health care debate - yes!!!!!!!!!! If you're hungry for yet more information on this issue, visit the friendly folks at your local website http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/23/health.care.main/index.html?hpt=Sbin.