Welcome back everyone!
In honor of the fact that you would all rather still be on break, I figured that your first assignment post-midterm could be watching some tv. Specifically, you will be watching the prime time network news. Exciting, no?
Here’s the deal: Even in the age of the internet, television news still drives the narrative among average Americans. As a result, there is a benefit for us to know what is being discussed in the news in order to see how that impacts our national conversation. Are the programs covering the big issues of the day? Do you notice any strange/out of place stories, or things that are missing that seem to be important enough to discuss?
With that in mind, here is your assignment: You are to watch two half-hour news programs from the same network television statement (that means CBS, NBC, ABC, or FOX 5, no cable news). One of these half hour slots should be the local news (usually on at 6pm, so set your DVRs if you aren’t home by then), and the other should be the national news (usually on after the local broadcast at 6:30). The national news is the one with the big name associated with it.
As you watch each show, I would like for you to keep track of what stories are covered, in what order, and how long they spend on each story. It should look like this:
Once you get this list from each broadcast, write a short, one paragraph summary of your findings. Did they cover everything that they should have? Remember that the local news will be concerned with the New York/New Jersey area, while the national news is broadcast to everyone in America. Were the stories appropriate for the intended audiences?
Write it all up, and submit it by Friday, January 22. Your final product should include the accounts of both shows, and the summary for each. Make sure you clearly state what network and what night you watched.
on Sunday night, President Obama addressed the nation r guarding the attack carried out in San Bernardino, California. In his speech, he outlined his understanding of radical terrorist organizations like ISIS, and how he believes we should react to such groups. By arguing that groups like ISIS are inherently weak and that their attacks aren't anything we as Americans don't do to ourselves on a regular basis, he drew a sharp contrast with the GOP candidates vying for his job, who suggest that ISIS is growing more powerful and that they are an existential threat to our republic.
Peter Beinart at The Atlantic wrote an interesting article contrSting these two viewpoints. Read that article, then respond to the questions below. Please keep in mind the guidelines for courteous discussion as you compose your responses.
Questions to consider:
a. Do you agree or disagree with the president's view of ISIS as described by Beinart?
b. What should be our plan for dealing with ISIS or other extremist groups? Use arguments from the article to support your answer.
Back in August, NPR had an interesting story on gambling over the presidential election. Listen to the story, then think about the following questions.
a. Should betting on presidential races be legal? What about downticket races (not the president, but Senate, House, state, and local races)? Why or why not?
b. If betting were made legal, what might change about our political process? What might change about the races themselves?
Once you've performed in the debate, fill out the survey below to help me grade your classmates. If the form doesn't work, click the link to take it instead.
The effect of PAC campaign contributions on congressional votes has become a perennial issue in American politics. Critics of PACs are convinced that they distort the democratic process and corrupt our political system in favor of those who can raise the most money. Many politicians freely admit—once they are out of office—that it is a myth to think that the PACs don’t want something in return. They may only want to be remembered on one or two crucial votes or with an occasional intervention with government agencies, but multiply this by the thousands of special interests that are organized today and the worst fears of the hyperpluralists could be realized—a government that constantly yields to every special interest.
Common Cause (www.commoncause.org) has as one of its primary missions exposing what it sees as the evils of the PAC system. It argues that the influence of corporate PACs on Capitol Hill has led to “corporate welfare” and costs taxpayers billions of dollars. For example, Common Cause has attributed the failure of Congress to further regulate tobacco and cigarette advertising to the millions o PAC contributions from tobacco companies. Similarly, they have argued that PAC contributions from the biggest mortgage brokers kept Congress from scrutinizing questionable lending practices that played such a crucial role in bringing on the recession of 2008–2009. More recently, they have accused Verizon Communications of using PAC contributions to influence key members of Congress who are involved in regulating the Internet. Although these contributions were disclosed, they argue that their influence is exercised behind the scenes at committee meetings on technical matters that are hard for journalists to scrutinize.
However, others argue that connection is not causation. They believe that most members of Congress are not affected by PAC contributions, which come largely from groups they already agree with anyway. For instance, labor PACs will not waste their money trying to influence members of Congress who have consistently opposed raising the minimum wage. Defenders of the PAC system also point out that the PAC system further increases participation in the political process. As opposed to individual donations, PACs—which represent groups of people—allow better representation of occupational groups. The PAC system allows people with common professional interests, such as farmers, lawyers, dentists, and college professors, to express their support of candidates jointly through political contributions. Similarly, corporation PACs can represent the interests o stockholders and employees.
If James Madison was right in thinking that the key to controlling the power of interest groups is to expand their sphere of participation, then PACs certainly do this, according to their defenders. Beyond this, the money for today’s expensive media campaigns has to come from somewhere. Those who wish to maintain the PAC system typically argue that the alternative of the government providing campaign funds is impractical given that only about 7 percent of taxpayers participate in the $3 voluntary income tax check-off system for financing federal campaigns.
Questions to consider:
We know that SuperPACs are a totally different and crazy part of this process, but this post is all about regular old PACs, which still have an effect on the process. If you finish answering the question below an want to comment on SuperPACs, feel free to do so.
a. Would you consider eliminating PACs? Would you prefer just to leave things as they are? Or, as a middle course, would you favor reducing the amount of money ($5,000 in the primary and another $5,000 in the general election) that PACs can donate directly to candidates?
Many reformers are concerned that the incumbency advantage legislators enjoy creates, in effect, lifetime tenure, which serves as a roadblock to change and encourages ethics abuses. In recent years, the public has accorded Congress the lowest approval ratings ever.
To increase turnover among legislators, reformers have proposed term limits that generally restrict representatives to 6 or 12 consecutive years in office.
The movement to limit the terms of legislators spread rapidly across the country. Within a few years, 23 states enacted term limitations for members of their state legislatures. In 1994, House Republicans made term limits for Congress part of their Contract for America.
Yet changing the terms of members of Congress is difficult to do; many members of Congress have fought term limits fiercely.
Opponents of term limits object to the loss of experienced legislators who know the issues and the legislative process. They also argue that the American people should be able to vote for whomever they please, including the incumbent. In addition, they argue that there is plenty of new blood in the legislature: at the beginning of the 114th Congress (in 2015), most members of the House and Senate had served fewer than 10 years in Congress. Moreover, changes in the party makeup of the House appear to reflect changes in voters' preferences on public policy. Congress seems to be responsive to public opinion.
Proponents of term limits suffered two setbacks in 1995 when Congress failed to pass a constitutional amendment on term limits (it also failed in 1997) and when the Supreme Court, in U.S. Term Limits, inc. et al. v. Thornton et al., decided that state-imposed term limits on members of Congress were unconstitutional.
Here is the dilemma: many Americans support a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress. At the same time, most voters are comfortable with their own representatives and senators and appear content to reelect them again and again.
Questions to consider:
a. What do you think? Should we pass a constitutional amendment creating term limits on members of Congress? If so, what should those limits be?
Answer the question above in the comments, then complete the assignment below.
1. Read this article.
2. Respond to the following with a 500 word answer:
2a. The author of this piece is unabashedly opposed to term limits. Using the information from the article and your own research on the subject, refute the argument presented in the article. In other words, argue in favor of term limits, regardless of your personal stance.
When it comes to politics, and especially debates, the truth can sometimes be hard to come by. Brooke Gladstone of the public radio show On the Media recorded a segment after the last Republican primary debate that discussed the difficulty of finding facts coming out of our leaders' mouths, and a potential solution to that issue.
Listen to the segment using the player below, then consider her points and answer the prompt.
Questions to consider:
a. Should debate moderators call out candidates who misrepresent the truth on stage? What are the potential benefits/pitfalls of that approach?
b. What is another way to hold politicians accountable for lying? Why would your solution work?
Because most colleges and universities are public institutions created by state and local governments, federalism has direct consequences for the students who attend them. State and local governments provide most of the funding for colleges and universities, but almost everyone agrees that this funding is inadequate. In response to this problem, the national government has stepped in to support postsecondary education programs.
One could argue that the federal government makes it possible for many students to attend college at all because it is the primary source of financial aid. The federal government provides about $160 billion in financial assistance (including grants, loans, and work-study assistance) to more than 50 million college students each year. Nearly two-thirds of all full-time undergraduates receive some form of financial aid from the federal government.
The federal government also provides several billion dollars of direct grants to colleges and universities across the nation. Billions more in federal funds support research and training in certain areas, especially science and engineering--which receive about $32 billion a year. The libraries, laboratories, and the buildings in most colleges and universities have benefited from federal government grants.
Each year the federal government provides about 10% of the revenue for public universities and 15% for private, not-for-profit colleges and universities. Few colleges and universities could withstand a 10 or 15 percent cut and the loss of most of the financial assistance for their students.
Read the article at the link below, then respond to the following questions.
Loans now, headaches later
Questions to consider:
a. Considering the budget deficits that the federal government is facing, should the states pick up more of the cost of its colleges and universities? Can the government mandate lower tuition without providing funding to the schools that need to now lower their rates?
b. Should college be more affordable for all students? If so, how should states raise the money to keep all of the programs that make the college unique while keeping costs down?
In Federalist #43, James Madison argues that the Constitution's amendment process is well thought out and good for the country:
It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty, which might perpetuate its discovered faults. It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.
In the 1960s, many young people began to notice that while those 18 and older could be sent to fight in Vietnam, they couldn't vote until they were 21 years old.
In 1970, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1970, which lowered the voting age in both federal and state elections. The Supreme Court, however, determined that this was unconstitutional. The federal government could only set the voting age in national elections. The states could not be forced to change their own voting age.
In response, Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) proposed a constitutional amendment to lower the national voting age to 18 years. The 26th Amendment sailed through Congress, and was quickly ratified by three-quarters of the states.
There are now some proposals to lower the voting age even further.
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