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Elections & Voting

Given the exaggerated focus on the presidency this time of year, what's another way to affect positive change?
 

This question was asked of a few groups across the political spectrum, whose responses have been posted below alongside an excerpt of an essay written amid the women's suffrage movement. There are countless more arguments to be made. Sound off in the comments section of each response. Vote for your favorite in the poll. If you're up to the challenge, send a response of your own that's 300 words or less to Austin Baird – the best reader responses will be posted, regardless of when they are submitted. And most important, remember to check back Friday to see who wrote your

Politicians can't be trusted, so change the Constitution

"Politicians cannot be trusted, so we need an institutional check to force Washington to live within its means: a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

CONTINUE READING

Most problems are outside the president's control

"Despite charismatic speeches promising change for our country, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney can single-handedly fix America’s problems. Every President faces forces beyond their control."

CONTINUE READING

If you see a problem locally, and can fix it, what are you waiting for?

"Political theatrics staged by campaigns and perpetuated by media, talking points crafted by skilled writers relying on perceptions of pollsters, the money, the power, so much more – all coalesce to hide a fact that should be obvious: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are only human, and they lack the power to affect change as completely as they promise, let alone to fix the problems they won’t even talk about.

CONTINUE READING

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America”

Everything Questioned returning soon with post-election topic, more contributors

Updated: After a brief hiatus around the election, Everything Questioned will return soon with a new monthly topic and an array of contributors to add to those established during the blog's test run. Have an idea of someone who would like to contribute? Any thoughts for a good question or topic to be discussed here? Contact Austin Baird by email or by phone: 919-829-4696.

Politicians can't be trusted, so amend the Constitution

Q: Given the exaggerated focus on the presidency this time of year, what is an example of another way to affect positive change?

A: Amend the Constitution to balance the budget

A big reason our nation has not only survived but also prospered (largely) for more than two centuries is that our Constitution limits government power, allowing individual freedom to flourish. The separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, and subsequent amendments prevent Washington — and the states — from trampling individual rights.

Even so, there are few limits on how deeply Washington can dip into our wallets or how recklessly it can borrow money. That’s how federal politicians have run up $16 trillion in official public debt. 

Politicians cannot be trusted, so we need an institutional check to force Washington to live within its means: a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Every state but Vermont has a constitutional requirement to balance its budget. The federal government should, too. Balancing the federal budget would limit the scope of government programs to the ones we can afford.

In 1995, by a margin of 300-132, the House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to submit a balanced budget every year unless 60 percent of both houses authorized deficit spending for that fiscal year. The following year the Senate fell one vote short of sending the amendment to the states for ratification.

The 60 percent safety valve in that amendment would not have ended deficit spending. It would have made it more difficult, however, for Washington to add new debt — and required politicians to be accountable for new deficits by forcing a roll-call vote on each year’s budget.

So far, 32 state legislatures (including our own General Assembly) have petitioned Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of enacting a balanced budget amendment. Thirty-four are needed to force Washington’s hand. Perhaps profligate spending from the two most recent administrations will bring two more states on board and give the people a new defense against reckless indebtedness.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/everythingquestioned/if-you-see-a-problem-locally-and-can-fix-it-what-are-you-waiting-for#storylink=cpy

If you see a problem locally, and can fix it, what are you waiting for?

Q: Given the exaggerated focus on the presidency this time of year, what is an example of another way to affect positive change?

A: If you see a problem locally, and can fix it, what are you waiting for?

If the problems underpinning war, poverty and the economy were simple enough to be solved by one person or a handful of well-meaning people, they would already be things of the past.

Political theatrics staged by campaigns and perpetuated by media, talking points crafted by skilled writers relying on perceptions of pollsters, the money, the power, so much more – all coalesce to hide a fact that should be obvious: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are only human, and they lack the power to affect change as completely as they promise, let alone to fix the problems they won’t even talk about.

The world will change around them, and if the change is good, they'll take credit for it; if it's bad, the other party can take full blame. But in reality, the problems mentioned are cyclical and driven almost entirely by human nature.

It's natural to focus on distant, outward problems instead of ones that are uncomfortably close to home, but taking an unnerving look at the latter is the most effective way for meaningful change to take hold. A few examples:

  • The Economy: Thoughts of what caused the most recent economic calamities and the candidate most likely to help turn the tide can be useful, but thoughts of how the problems can be fixed locally are far more productive. Those able to support local businesses that deserve the support should do so; those without jobs or with jobs they hate should build their skill sets while idling so they can progress.
     
  • Poverty: If ending poverty is a top priority, choose a local homeless shelter or charity and do what you can to help. Maybe that's a donation of money, maybe it's giving volunteering time, maybe it's something else, but do something instead of wasting time talking about problems as if someone else will necessarily come along to fix them.
     
  • Income Inequality: The best form of welfare is giving someone a job and the skills needed to get a better job. The few fortunate enough to employ not only themselves but others should obviously keep that sentiment in mind when making hires and writing paychecks, but even people who aren't in that echelon can help by mentoring and training people who need it.

The bottom line is that if a person sees a problem they can fix in their own community, doing so instead of waiting for someone else to come along leaves everyone better off.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/EQ#storylink=cpy

Most problems are outside the president's control

Q: Given the exaggerated focus on the presidency this time of year, what is an example of another way to affect positive change?

A: Most problems are outside the president's control

Despite charismatic speeches promising change for our country, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney can single-handedly fix America’s problems. Every President faces forces beyond their control.

During the recent debate, a question was asked about gas prices.  The price you face at the pump is influenced by multiple factors beyond the president’s control. Even with the help of Congress, our “pain at the pump” will not be alleviated by Obama or Romney.

In the same debate the candidates were asked about what they would do to enforce pay equity.  While policies are in place to insure women receive equal pay for equal work, the issue needs to be taken beyond the scope of politics—the “magic powers” some wish to place on the Office of the President are not the answer.

A shift in attitude, roles, and responsibility are required to eliminate the problem of gender inequality, and specifically pay inequality.

A certain presidential candidate’s answer to the pay equity question was to allow women to leave work in enough time to cook dinner for their families.  That is the exact wrong answer.

The most important thing we can do to fix gender inequality and insure pay equity is to recognize the important contributions women make to our society on a daily basis. Sharing responsibility and decision making in every arena of life, and putting women in roles that challenge tradition will put an end to the outdated idea that women should only deal with matters of children and the home.

That means pushing young women to choose careers that are outside the traditional, especially into careers with higher salaries.  That also means electing women at all levels, and electing men who recognize that women must be part of our leadership, not as tokens, but as equals.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/everythingquestioned/more-attention-needed-to-the-federal-reserve#storylink=cpy

What issues have been ignored during this election cycle?


What is an issue that has been ignored during the election cycle that deserves more attention?



This question (full version here) was asked of a few groups across the political spectrum, whose responses have been posted below alongside an excerpt of an essay written amid the women's suffrage movement. There are countless more arguments to be made. Sound off in the comments section of each response. Vote for your favorite in the poll. If you're up to the challenge, send a response of your own that's 300 words or less to Austin Baird – the best reader responses will be posted, regardless of when they are submitted.

Criminal justice reform has to be at the top of the list

"Due to our get tough' stance on non-violent drug crimes, we are getting soft on serious crimes like murder, robbery and assault."

CONTINUE READING

More attention needed to banking policies of the Federal Reserve

"Where the next bubble will occur and when it will burst is impossible to predict. But it will occur, and it will burst. It is the invisible elephant in the room of this election."

CONTINUE READING

A return to states' right is needed sooner rather than later

"A key underlying issue is the balance of power between the states and the federal government. For decades, power has shifted toward Washington. With the federal government $16 trillion in the red, however, Uncle Sam can no longer afford that role. Inevitably, more power will revert to the states."

CONTINUE READING

This week's participants include the John Locke Foundation, Civitas Institute and the Libertarian Party of North Carolina.

What's an issue has been ignored during the election cycle?
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More attention needed to the Federal Reserve

Q: What is an issue that deserves more attention than it has received from candidates during the election cycle?

A: The Federal Reserve

The most important issue to be left out of this election campaign is the role the Federal Reserve has played and is playing in determining the economy’s direction. In 2006 George W. Bush appointed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman. It is primarily in this sense that Bush’s decisions caused the problems that President Obama inherited. But here’s the rub, and probably the reason that the Fed’s policies are nowhere to be found in this presidential race: Obama reappointed Bernanke in 2009.

Americans voted for change and got more of the same instead. The Fed chairman and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, for whom Bernanke served as a Fed board member, have become the bipartisan wrecking crew of the U.S. economy. 

During the Greenspan/Bernanke regime of the early 2000s the Fed held interest rates to around 1 percent, as new money flowed through the banking system. This money flowed into the real estate industry, primarily because of political pressure on banks to abandon traditional lending practices. These investments were not backed by real savings but were being fueled by credit created out of thin air. The policies of the Greenspan/Bernanke Fed caused a real estate bubble that burst, taking large portions of the banking and financial industries with it.

In 2008, to “fight the recession,” Bernanke, following his mentor, started the process over again and adopted the Greenspan philosophy that there is nothing wrong with the economy that massive infusions of cash won’t cure. He continues that policy today, promising to print $40 billion of new money a month, distorting investment markets and preventing a sound recovery.

Where the next bubble will occur and when it will burst is impossible to predict. But it will occur, and it will burst. It is the invisible elephant in the room of this election.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/EQ#storylink=cpy

A return to states' rights is needed

Q: What is an issue that deserves more attention than it has received from candidates during the election cycle?

A: States' Role a Key Question

A key underlying issue is the balance of power between the states and the federal government. For decades, power has shifted toward Washington. With the federal government $16 trillion in the red, however, Uncle Sam can no longer afford that role. Inevitably, more power will revert to the states.

This could be a good thing. Because states can’t print money, they have had to be more careful in how they spend it. It's a natural move for them to take more responsibility, just as a bankruptcy trustee might take over a business.

Look at health issues, for example. The Republicans have suggested that Medicaid become a program of block grants to the states. Lacking the power to print money, state governments will have to be more judicious and creative in how they handle health care. They also know their own residents' needs best. As laboratories of democracy, they'll be able to experiment with new ideas. Finally, healthy competition between them will foster improvements.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act would give more power to the federal government. In this and many other areas, that's the core debate: Should we double down on giving more power to the central government? Or should we give the states more leeway to find solutions, as intended by the Constitution?

The Founders created a government in which freedom was preserved because every level of government was balanced against another. The states were meant to be a check on Washington. Giving states more of the power they were meant to have will help safeguard our freedom.

So what happens if in coming years more power returns to the states? That would put more responsibility on North Carolina. Are we ready for it? That's the next good question.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/everythingquestioned/home#storylink=cpy

Why isn't anyone talking about criminal justice reform?

Q: What is an issue that deserves more attention than it has received from candidates during the election cycle?

A: Criminal justice reform

With any policy, we must ask “Is our current strategy producing the results we want?” When that answer is no, we have to change course. Unfortunately, in politics, this practice is almost completely ignored.

One topic which is always “off the table” in political discussions is the criminal justice system. Despite its undeniable failures, we continue down the same path, unwavering in our blind support for the status quo.

As a nation, we spent $68 billion in 2010 on our prison system; $1.3 billion of that in North Carolina. In 2009, NC had over 41,000 people in prison and is expected to be almost 10,000 inmates above max capacity by 2016. Further, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), half of prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison in three years.

Due to our “get tough” stance on non-violent drug crimes, we are getting soft on serious crimes like murder, robbery and assault. According to the BJS only 37% of violent offenders served their full sentence. The justice system is also inherently biased: more than 60% of people in prison now are racial and ethnic minorities. Most of these failures can be traced to the War on Drugs, a $1.5 trillion dollar failed policy which has had zero impact on drug addiction but has dramatically increased violence through prohibition.

In NC, there are 156 people on death row but 140 death row prisoners nationwide have been exonerated of their crimes and released. Without a doubt, innocent people have been executed.

These are all serious issues being ignored so that politicians can look “tough on crime.” We must end the War on Drugs, the death penalty and focus our justice system on rehabilitation.

This is a response to a question about whether there is a moral obligation to vote, asked by Everything Questioned. Check back Friday to see who wrote this response, find more views at EQ's homepage, and share your thoughts through comments or by submitting a 300-word response to Austin Baird.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/everythingquestioned/home#storylink=cpy

What issues have been ignored during the campaign?

The following is the full question asked of groups across the political spectrum as part of the monthly topic of Elections & Voting at Everything Questioned:

Even with an election cycle that has left North Carolinians inundated by political ads and with more details about the presidential candidates than almost anyone would like, there have been plenty of issues lost in the background. Regardless of who is elected president, what is an issue that needs to become a priority after the election that has not been at the forefront during the campaign but will have a direct impact on N.C.?

Read a few takes on the blog's main page, sound off through comments, or send a 300-word response of your own to Austin Baird if you can do better.

Elections & Voting: Is there a moral obligation to vote?

Is it necessary to vote in order to be a "good" citizen in a democracy?

This question was asked of a few groups across the political spectrum, whose responses were originally posted on Oct. 8, 2012, and can be found by following the links below. There are countless more arguments to be made. Sound off in the comments section. Vote for your favorite in the poll. If you're up to the challenge, send a response of your own that's 300 words or less to Austin Baird – the best reader responses will be posted. Check the main page of Everything Questioned for more on Elections & Voting in North Carolina.

Democracy imposes laws on people who don't consent, so why vote at all?

"The poor, stupid, free American citizen! Free to starve, free to tramp the highways of this great country, he enjoys universal suffrage, and, by that right, he has forged chains about his limbs."

By Emma Goldman

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You might have an obligation not to vote

"The practical reality is that one vote will not determine the result of an election of significant scale—nor will a decision to abstain—and you have other things to do with your time. Besides, even if it could determine the result, many candidates are so similarly deplorable they do not merit attention anyway. Why not use your time in a way that you can enjoy and that doesn’t pit you against your peers?"

By Fergus Hodgson of John Locke Foundation

CONTINUE READING

Voting isn't everything in a democracy, but it's worth the time

"We take the right to vote for granted today, but some of us lived in Southern counties where not a single black citizen could vote – less than 50 years ago. The bizarre efforts by elitist and partisan interests to undermine the votes of others even today should give us pause."

By Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina

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You're not obligated to vote, but you should this year

"Some cynics like to loudly proclaim that one vote doesn’t amount to much. Yet some of these cynics quietly charter buses to take their supporters to the polls. You may think your vote doesn’t count, but plenty of people on the other side of the issues think their votes count for plenty."

By Jim Tynen of Civitas Institute

CONTINUE READING

Is it necessary to vote to be a 'good' citizen?
  
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about this blog

Everything Questioned is an N&O blog that takes on a political topic each month to start a conversation between people who disagree with one another and to turn attention to issues lost in the fray created by the day-to-day news cycle and partisan politics.

Groups and individuals across the political spectrum are asked a weekly question, and their responses are posted side-by-side. Readers cannot immediately see the author of each response for a simple reason: It’s too easy to only read news and ideas that support pre-existing beliefs, and everyone benefits from at least understanding the reasoning behind other points of view. Read, comment, and write a unique response of your own if you’re up to the challenge.

Austin Baird manages EQ and can be reached at 919-829-4696, by email, and on Twitter. Designs are by Dena Honea, whose work can be found here.

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