Obama’s Gun Control Proposals

Obama has unveiled his gun policy proposals despite a lot of opposition from those on the right of the political spectrum. The proposals were released on Wednesday after receiving urgent cries for changes to the constitution and laws surrounding gun control. Obama announced that “we have an obligation to try” to reduce violence and called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and wider background checks on gun buyers.The National Rifle Association (NRA), a very powerful US gun lobby group, declared their rejection of Obama’s proposals,  saying that “attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation”.

The president urged Congress:

– to reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons, such as those used in several recent mass shootings

– limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds

– introduce background checks on all gun sales; currently private sales and some sales at gun shows, constituting about 40% of the national total, are exempt

– pass a ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets

– introduce harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals

– finally approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

However, it is clear that the propositions would encounter stiff opposition in Congress with “politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty”. The US has one of the highest rates of civilian gun ownership in the world. The second amendment of the US constitution states, with qualifications, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. Yet Obama, it has been argued, appears to be taking the law into his own hands by implementing strict gun controls. Although the meaning of the clause is still debated, many gun-rights advocates read it absolutely and oppose any curbs on access to weapons.

What are your views on Obama’s gun control policy?

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Obama’s 5 Biggest Challenges

The Economy 

The last few years have proved to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Although unemployment has fallen, it has been minimal with latest figures showing it stands at 7.9%. Economic growth remains just as bad at 2% meaning that people are not spending and jobs are not available. The economy of the USA is very fragile and would not take much for the economy to crash again into another recession. Issues that could cause this include the debt crisis in Europe which has severely impacted the free flow of global trade. Other issues include gridlock in Congress and the fiscal cliff. Although there has been slight recent improvements in the economy, there is still a long way to go.

The Fiscal Cliff And The Budget Deficit 

The Fiscal Cliff was a series of tax increases and spending cuts that would effect virtually every American and could potential cripple the already weak economy. The idea was that the Democrats and Republicans would act to prevent cuts to defence and social programmes dear to either side, as well as the expiration of a temporary payroll tax cut and the low tax rates dating back to the George W Bush presidency. The proposals are so drastic that they could throw the economy into a deep recession.

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Iran

With the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, America is keen to prevent Iran from getting hold of nuclear weapons even though they have stated that their nuclear programme is peaceful. At present, US and Iran are in a sort of Cold War with tensions building between the two nations. Another factor Mr Obama must consider is the threat of an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure – and an Iranian promise to retaliate.

The Cost of Medicare 

There are two main burdens that are causing medicare to run out of money at an ever growing rate: the ever-growing cost of an inefficient healthcare system and the imminent retirement of the baby-boom generation, more and more of whom are becoming eligible for benefits. It is predicted that the programme will run out of money by 2024 even though many feel the programmes is unnecessary.

Working With Congress

There is a lot of parliamentary gridlock within Congress due to it being bitterly divided since the 2010 mid-term elections. As a result, the Democrats have struggled to pass any legislation which is mildly controversial, except renaming a post office. The willingness of the Republicans to compromise is slim and getting legislation passed in Obama’s second term will be a struggle.
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Gun Crime

President Barack Obama has stated that he is “determined” to tackle the issue of gun crime and prevent any further violence across America, according to the vice-president Joe Biden. By using his executive orders Obama could amend gun policy which proposes a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. This, for many Americans, is highly controversial as he is seen to be taking the constitution into his own hands with little negotiation or consultation.

The calls for greater gun control cam about after the horrific shootings in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Aurora where a number of people died and had been injured. However, despite these shooting, gun control is a very polarising (dividing) issue in America and in Congress, with many believing it would be absurd to change the constitution and the gun lobby even declaring “more guns, less crime”. Yet Biden has told the nation that Obama will force changes and take action independently on the issue if need be, and will be the first thing on the agenda after inauguration day later this month – does this seem democratic to you?

One of the largest outcries, if amendments must be made, is for there to be follow-up checks for people with handgun licences, to make sure they are still qualified to own their weapon, and longer sentences for gun crimes. Furthermore, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, called on policy-makers to examine the US mental health system and broaden access to drug treatment, as well as to examine the impact of violent video games.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) continue to stick to their hard-line belief that guns are good and benefit society. In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the NRA advocated for armed guards at every US school whilst also making it a plausible idea that teachers were armed too.

Should there be amendments to the laws on guns and gun usage?

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Should The UK Hold EU Referendum? Obama Is Worried…

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been facing considerable pressure to hold a referendum on the UK’s position in Europe. He has stated the Conservatives would offer “real change” and “real choice” on this issue. Cameron told the nation that he wants to remain part of Europe but there is a strong need to redefine their relationship – especially with recent moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency (the Euro).

However, the Obama administration has expressed a lot of concern about the potential impacts of holding this referendum and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This stance was supported by a senior official in the US Senate Department, Philip Gordon, who declared that a “strong British voice within the EU” is in the interest of the American people. He went on to say that he “welcomes an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.” with fear that a referendum would turn the UK “inwards”

There is strong concern that internal debate and referendums within the EU will create a disunited union. A disunited union could ultimately create a political mess, both for the UK and the USA. This is David Cameron’s view on the subject (watch if you want to know the debate in more depth!):

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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The Importance Of Women In Politics

The role of women in politics has only been accepted very recently with women getting the vote in the 1920s in both America and the UK. However, some countries only gave women the vote far more recently, such as in the United Arab Emirates where they got the vote in 2006. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are still not allowed to have the vote and will not do so until 2015. So, as a world where the demographics make a roughly even split between males and females, there is quite an obvious and important role that women play in politics today.

In the 2012 presidential election there was considerable debate over women and how they would vote – of course, most of their views were in favour of equal rights, which corresponded with the Democrat Party. Unfortunately for the Republican party women are not so interested in their conservative agenda. This can be seen by the result of the presidential election where 55% of Women voted for Obama and 44% of women voted for Romney (1% other parties). This is partly due to gaffes made within the Republican Party, such as Todd Akin who made a remark about ‘legitimate rape’, however it is equally due to Obama – through the ‘coat-tails effect’ – where lower ranking women candidates gain popularity through a high ranking person within the party.

We-Can-Do-It

The result of the ‘coat-tails effect’ has seen the destruction of the glass-ceiling enabling women a greater role in Congress. Therefore, women’s rights and women in general are better represented further increasing the importance of pleasing this section of voters and aggregating their demands.

The 2012 election produced 20 senators who are women, which is the most ever in history. One of these women is Elizabeth Warren, who is the Senator of Massachussettes, replaced Scott Brown who came into office shortly after Ted Kennedy’s death in the state. There are also a record amount of congresswomen, beating the previous record of 73 women.

In previous times, women have been disregarded in politics claiming that they are not citizens. However, now, they are the future of politics and it seems only inevitable that we will see more women reaching increasingly powerful spots in politics; and it is likely that in the near future the world’s most powerful office – the president – will be a women.

What are your views on women in politics?

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Hispanics In America

As Joe Biden (the Vice President) put it earlier this week they are ‘the centre of [the USA’s] future’. He said this in the lime-light of the White House’s push for major reforms of the US immigration system

Hispanics currently make up 10% of America’s population which means that they have significant influence in elections. Furthermore, the number of Hispanics in Congress reached a record 36 meaning that they are section of society which simply can no longer be ignored.

The Hispanic population overwhelmingly support the Democrat with President Barack Obama winning 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote in November, compared to only 27 per cent for Mitt Romney. The vice president said the stark election results meant politicians now understood the “awesome potential” of the Hispanic community and realised that it “must be courted”. However, the Hispanics have also infiltrated the Republican party with well known senators, such as Marco Rubio (Florida), being one. Rubio embraces immigration reform highlighting that the Republicans growing call to address and connect with the Hispanic community.

hispanics

If the Hispanics are able to be dominated by the Democrats this could prove very costly at both the mid-term election in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016. This issue is most prominent in Texas where a lot of the Hispanic population are moving in to from Mexico. If their population continues to rise here the Democrats could begin a takeover of the southern states not seen since the 1980s.

How important do you think the Hispanic population is?

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A Digestible Week – Week 1

Sunday 6th January 2013 is the first week of ‘A Digestible Week’. This is a weekly video of the new and politics of the past week in an easy-to-understand and digestible format! Please watch the video below:

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SuperPACs In America

A Super Political Action Committee is an organisation which raise unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. In January 2010, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v FEC, and in July 2010 Speechnow.org v FEC, both served to lift many spending and contribution limits – these decisions enabled the amount of SuperPACs to increase rapidly!

SuperPACs, however, must publicly disclose their finances and they cannot coordinate with candidate or parties, BUT they are free to advocate directly for or against a candidate. The impact of SuperPACs is hard to judge, and with it being such a short term since the 2012 US Presidential Election figures are yet to be officially confirmed. However, this is their impact in from the 2010 mid-terms:

1) In September 2010 SuperPAC spending exceeded $8million

2) There was just over one SuperPAC a day registering with the FEC every single day

3) ‘American Crossroads’, a SuperPAC in support of the Republican Party and supported by Karl Rove (former adviser to George W. Bush), contributed more than half of the total spending

4) Republican SuperPACs outspent Democrat SuperPACs by more than 3 to 1

Color-Super-Pacs

There is a big argument on whether SuperPACs are good for politics or not. Do SuperPACs contribute to an elitist political system? Were they the reason why the Republican party gained so many seats in the 2010 mid-term election? There are no definite answers because voters vote for many different reasons, however, we would be more than happy to hear your opinion on their impact. Does campaign finance need further reform?

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How Democratic are Pressure Groups?

Democracy is all about enabling the people to participate in the political process. But to what extent do pressure groups truly represent the peoples’ opinions and how democratic are they?

On the one hand, pressure groups do represent groups and disperse power in a pluralist fashion. Pressure groups are designed to represent the many views of society, especially those in the minority, to give power to their voice and provide a greater opportunity to influence policy and the decision-making process. Dispersing power in a pluralist fashion prevents any form of dictatorship and enables discussion and consultation to occur before any final decision is made. For example, the British Medical Association consulted often with parliamentary committees before any decision was made. Similarly, health groups consulted with congressmen before the final decision of ‘Obamacare’. Pressure groups also educate and inform as well as providing useful advice. If there is an issue that needs addressing or there is confusion over a particular issue pressure groups can teach the people about what is happening enabling them to form an opinion – this is highly democratic. For example, Action for Smoking Health provided a significant amount of information on the effects of smoking on your health before helping to pass the ban on smoking in public places. In America, anti-drug groups have protested against the legalisation of marijuana commenting on the negative effects it has on the body. Groups are a key control mechanism against over-mighty government. As a result, it prevents an elective dictatorship. They can scrutinise government and the government are held accountable, meaning they must explain and justify their actions and the policies they create. Finally, it boosts participation, which has unfortunately dwindled in many countries throughout the world. Pressure groups are vital outlet for public grievance and a ‘tension release’. Politicians can then aggregate the demands of society and change the demands into a plan of action for society

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However, pressure groups are not wholly democratic. To a certain extent, they are undermining the elective officials. When elections happen within a state or constituency you are giving someone mandated power to make decisions on your behalf. So, by getting involved with pressure groups you are taken that role away and effectively ‘corrupting’ the system. Furthermore, it may become a ‘politics of self interest’ which threatens order of society. People will become emotional, lacking the rationality of those in government, creating social decay and tensions. Outsider pressure groups, such as Greenpeace and Fathers4Justice start using protests and direct action to get their views heard – Fathers4Justice climbed onto many famous monuments to gain media attention and to ‘force’ politicians to discuss their issues. This surely cannot be democratic. Finally, they lack elective legitimacy. Leaders of pressure groups are unaccountable and have not been directly elected to represent the people’s views which means that ‘dictatorship in pressure groups’ is plausible. Rich and greedy pressure groups can dictate the political process without sufficient consultation with other pressure groups and their own members. For example, in the USA, it is quite common for a Republican pressure group to outspend a Democratic pressure group on conservative policy within a state.

What are your view on pressure groups and would you say they are democratic or not?

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America Through The Years

This is a quick summary on how the two major parties of America, the Democrats and the Republicans, have transformed since they were established in the 18th century. To understand this, you must understand what traditions and ideologies are. A tradition is a long established custom or belief and ideology is a system of ideas and ideals of how people think, for example a conservative ideology.

In the 18th century the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were established which would form the basis of the Democrats and the Republicans. The Federalists believed in centralised government and are what is known today as the Republicans. The Anti-Federalists (otherwise known as the ‘Democratic-Republicans) believed in decentralised government and are what is known today as the Democrats. In 1828, Andrew Jackson (who was the president from 1829-37) renamed the ‘Democratic Republicans’ the Democrat Party and began to establish a liberal ideology which believed in protecting the interest of the poor.

By the 1860s, Slavery was a big issue on the agenda. Southern Democrats, in contrast to today, preached the economic virtues of slavery whilst Lincoln’s Republican Party, in the North, opposed it, and as a result won the civil war (1861-1865). This created an era of Republican domination in America.

republicans-vs-democrats

However, in the 1930s, there was an economic depression which sent the Republicans into political wilderness – exactly what the Republicans did in the 1860s. The Democrat ‘New Deal Coalition’ helped to establish a coalition of support between minorities, poor, unionists, blue-collar workers, less educated, and liberally minded people causing support for the party to soar. This created a reversal in the beliefs of the parties on the role of the federal government. The Democrats now wanted a centralised government, whilst the Republicans wanted a decentralised government.

Democrat support continued into the 1960s where they promoted civil rights through affirmative action. Affirmative action is programmes that entails giving those members of a previously disadvantaged minority group a head start in such areas as higher education and employment. The term is often regarded as being synonymous with ‘positive discrimination’. Affirmative action is now required by law for all federal government agencies and for those organisations in receipt of federal funds.

More recently though, trends in party dominance are not so clear. With each one or two terms leading to a president from a different party. This is most likely the result of increased partisanship. Partisanship is an adversarial political system in which parties compete for power and hold sharply different ideologies. In this system politicians from one party wholeheartedly supports their party policies and are often reluctant to acknowledge the accuracy of their political opponents. This could be seen in the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was signed into law by Obama in 2010. With ALL Republicans voting against it and virtually all Democrats voting for it – the result was 219:212.

What is your ideological position and why?

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