Part II of The Issues According to Obama’s Website is complete. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
Fulfilling Our Covenant with Seniors: Since seniors are the largest consumers of healthcare, Obama’s stance on this issue overlaps with that of healthcare. His goals in this area include providing cheaper prescription drugs, fixing Medicare’s prescription drug â€˜doughnut hole’, simplified Medicare drug ben efit comparisons, and stopping long-term care insurance fraud.
His goals for retirement security include strengthening Social Security, securing private pensions, eliminating income tax for seniors earning under $50k, encourage retirement savings, and preventing age discrimination. He does give details on how he plans on achieving these goals on the website. Of most interest is his plan to provide incentives to for employers who make enrollment in their 401(k) automatic. Finally, Obama would like to give to seniors include assistance for poor seniors in the form of housing, energy, and food assistance programs.
Improving Our Schools: This is an issue close to my own heart. I’m always glad to at least see a mention of this topic on the candidate’s website. The first sentence of Barack Obama’s stance gives one reason why I consider education important. â€œThroughout America’s history, education has been the vehicle for social and economic mobility, giving hope and opportunity to millions of young people.â€
First, he would renew and increase the funding for Head Start, a preschool education program to assist the poor. He’d like to improve teacher quality via economic incentives if they demonstrate success and/or take on new responsibilities. Most attempts at rewarding â€˜successful’ teachers in this manner seem to only increase the disparity between school districts. I’d like to see much more stringent hiring standards. Ideally, secondary education degrees would be graduate degrees that would require a bachelor’s degree in the field they will teach. Education degree programs focus far too much on teaching technique and far too little on the content they will be teaching. Of course, this would have to be coupled with much higher wages. Otherwise, we’d have a severe shortage of teachers. But enough about the Sid Faiwu education planâ€¦
Obama has elements that are somewhat similar to my own ideas. He’d like to reduce the burden someone with, say, a chemistry major, would have in obtaining a license to teach chemistry. Other plans he has includes reforming and funding No Child Left Behind, giving â€˜successful’ teachers more autonomy in their classroom, improving testing and accountability, funding more Advance Placement courses, and expanding summer learning opportunities. I’d be interested in what, exactly, he means by â€˜improving’ testing and accountability. If it’s simply more standardized tests, I disagree completely. It seems that he has more in mind when he writes, â€œbefore we can hold our teachers and schools accountable, we need to hold our government, parents, and our communities accountable for giving teachers the support that they need.â€ The last thing he mentions is also something I like. Obama would like to increase the availability of Federal and other college student aid.
Protecting Our Homeland: I’m glad to see that this is issue is given a much more appropriate level of attention as the 9th issue listed on Obama’s website. He starts by pointing out that we are no safer from terrorism today then we were before September 11th. This is an indictment of the Bush administration utter failure to responsibly fund homeland security. Obama lists what he thinks are most important to protecting our homeland.
- Protecting our chemical plants
- Keeping track of spent nuclear fuel
- Evacuating special needs population in emergencies
- Reuniting families after emergencies
- Keeping our drinking water safe
- Protecting the public from radioactive releases
A couple of these goals seem to have been crafted as a critique of the Bush administration’s failure during and after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I’d like to have seen more on how he plans on fixing our intelligence gathering abilities and how he’d engage other countries and encourage them to assist us in reducing terrorism worldwide.
Immigration and the Border: Obama seems very interested in a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to this issue. He states that he believes that this issue has been exploited by politicians to appeal to their political base. I am inclined to agree as I am somewhere in the middle and agree with neither side thus far.
His immigration policy includes creating secure boarders and ports of entry via additional personnel (boarder agents, customs officials, etc.), infrastructure, and technology. Also inline with the conservative stance on this issue, he’d require employers to verify the legal status of their employees to reduce the economic incentive for entering our country illegally. Unlike the sometimes xenophobic Republicans, Obama would also like to increase access to legal immigration by reducing the prohibitive application fees. I’d like to see him add increasing annual immigration caps to realistic levels.
Finally, he’d like to create a route for illegal immigrants to legalize their presents. This route would include requiring them to pay a fine for their misdemeanor (no, illegal immigration is not a felony), learn English, and not commit any crimes. Finally, these individuals would have to go to the back of the immigration line.
Protecting the Right to Vote: This is another issue I consider extremely important. Obama and I agree: there is nothing more fundamental to democracy than everyone have equal access to voting. To ensure this access, Obama would not require photo ID, prevent purges of voter registration rolls, end uneven distribution of polling equipment, and criminalize attempts to confuse voters and the time and place of polls, intimidating and/or misleading voters to suppress turnout. I’d like to see him go as far as Clinton and makle Election Day a National Holiday.
Honoring Our Veterans: At first, this seems to be another â€˜look how Bush screwed up’ issue. But after reading it completely, it became clear that he has some concrete plans to address this issue. These plans include sheltering and rehabilitating homeless veterans, continuing to feed veterans after 90 days of military hospitalization, ensuring veterans receive disability for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and improve transition services for veterans reentering society.
Cleaning Up Washington’s Culture of Corruption: Obama’s stance on this issue mostly takes the form of describing what he did as a US Senator to reduce corruption. These include working with Senator Feingold (D-WI) on a bill that would ban all gifts and meals from lobbyists, end subsidized travel for Congress on corporate jets, require full disclosure of who’s sponsoring earmarks, tighten disclosure requirements on political contributions that are â€˜bundled’ by lobbyists. He also worked with Senator Coburn (R-OK) on a bill that supported the creation of a Google-like search engine for tracking how Congress spends tax revenues. Additionally, he fought open ended, no-bid contracts FEMA issued after Hurricane Katrina.
He also introduced three pieces of legislation. One would set up an independent commission that would receive complaints of alleged ethics violations by members of Congress, staff, and lobbyists. This commission would have the authority to investigate all allegations and present their findings to the House and Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department. The second legislative initiative he introduced was the Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act. This law would require disclosure of the congressperson who introduced the earmark and that person’s justification for the earmark. Both of which would be required a full three days prior to any Senate vote on the earmark. Also, no Senators with a financial interest in the earmark would be permitted to advocate for it. And lastly, recipients of earmarks would have to disclose to an Office of Public Integrity the amount they have spent on lobbyists in addition to the names of those lobbyists. Finally, the third bill he introduced, the CLEAN UP Act would increase public access to information to governmental proceedings.
Reconciling Faith and Politics: Great, he’s going to address the encroachment of religion into politics and the slow dissolve of the separation clause of our Constitution! That’s an important issue that needs to be addressed. Separation of Church and State must be maintained for the good of both institutions. But wait! He â€œcandidly discussed his own religious conversionâ€, talked about â€œthe need for a deeper, more substantive discussion about the role of faith in American lifeâ€, and â€œlaid down … the need for religious people to translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values during public debateâ€?!? We don’t need to know your conversion story nor do we need to have a discussion about faith when it comes to government. Those things are fine when it’s not related to government. Worse yet, you want to give religious people strategies to disguise their religious agenda as â€˜universal’ values? Sorry, Obama, you’re on the wrong side of this issue.