Thursday, June 25, 2015

An Open Letter to President Barak Obama on the TPP

Dear Mr. President,

I was there the day you won the election in 2008. My classmates and I gathered around the television in our dormitory common room to watch the votes come in. And while I can't speak for everyone, I sat with baited breath as I hoped and prayed for a victory that would result in a better America.

When your victory was announced, my college campus erupted. Students poured out of their dormitories and onto the grounds cheering, waving flags, and yelling your name over and over again. The air vibrated with the excitement. I stood on my dormitory steps and soaked it all in. The hundreds who walked across campus that night were certain things were finally going to change.

I was there when the age restriction on my parents insurance rose. I had graduated college. I didn't know where I was going to get a job or if I wanted to peruse gradschool. I didn't know if I'd continue living with my parents or try to make it on my own. And somewhere in there I would probably need my own car, and I'd have to find a way to pay for it. I had so many questions with little answers and among those was how I was going to get health coverage. And then, suddenly, blessedly, my parents insurance was required to carry me until I was 26. That was a good day. A wonderful day. And I can't tell you how often I've thanked you for that. In fact, I will say it again now. Thank you so very much.

I was there when insurance companies could no longer turn away pre-existing conditions.

I was there when you pulled troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

I was there when the affordable care act passed.

All of these things I have applauded you on. And I thank you for seeing the needs of the American people in these situations.

Over the years, when my friends criticized you for not following through on some of your campaign promises, I defended you. I know it can not be an easy job as President. You don't hold all the power, and trying to get Republicans and Democrats and lobbyists to work together and agree with one another is near impossible. You can't do it all. And it has to be crazy stressful. I do not envy your position.

I have believed ever since 2008 that you have done the best you can to do whatever good you can for this country, and I have been grateful for your service.

But this business with the TPP throws everything into doubt.

I've heard some really distressing things:

  • Lobbyists from large corporations and big banks have been involved in the creation of the trade agreement, but not the American people.
  • Corporations can sue for things that hurt their profits, such as environment and labor laws. If successful, payment to corporations would come in the form of tax payer dollars.
  • Our already inadequate copyright system becomes more restrictive. The medical industry can hold more patents, delaying the creation of cheaper alternatives and hurting those who need healthcare.

I fail to see how any of this helps the American people and only serves to hurt them and benefit multi-million dollar corporations. The reported increase in exports and imports could be a good thing for everyone, but not at the cost of the American people.

I'm honestly baffled by your stance. You've said you truly believe in this trade agreement and the benefits it will have for America. You've said this bill is nothing like NAFTA. I'd like to believe you as I find it unthinkable you'd back something that seems so incredibly harmful. But critics report the TPP is NAFTA on steroids.

So, who am I to believe? The responsible thing to do would be to dive into research and make my own informed decision. But I can't do that because the bill is classified, and the only information the American citizens have was brought to us through WikiLeaks.

And that in and of itself poses a severe problem.

The TPP is a trade bill that was created and has been voted on without the knowledge of the American people as to its contents. Is it not true that members of Congress are supposed to represent the American people? How can they even begin to represent us on a bill that we haven't been given access to? How can they have the citizens of the United States at heart when we, the citizens, have been given no voice in this matter?

Mr. President, I ask you, is this how democracy is supposed to work?

It's been said many in congress haven't read the TPP themselves. They are not allowed to, and they must vote on the bill blindly.

Mr. President, how does this hold up the rights of our Constitution?

Have you read the trade agreement yourself? I've heard the bill is around 1,000 pages. And, I mean, who has time to read all of that? Least of all the Presidents of the United States who I imagine has the most insane schedule ever? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you have read it in its entirety. In any case, there's a clear disconnect between what you believe this agreement to be and how people have responded to the parts of the agreement that have become available.

Some have suggested that you're being bribed by corporations. Some say you have given up after years of struggling against Republicans, and you have become susceptible to their demands. Some say you may have been lied to by your advisers.

I don't know the full story, Mr. President. None of the American people do. We have been denied any involvement in this process.

But I do know one thing. When I look back on the night my college campus exploded in triumph at your election, I don't want to remember a president who sold out the American people.

Please, don't be that president.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Bernie Sanders is Running on the Democratic Ticket

Image from Huffington Post
I've seen criticism of Bernie Sanders on social media and right-wing news sites for his decision to run on the Democratic ticket instead of Independent. I'm here to tell you that decision is neither hypocritical nor problematic. In fact, it's plain good strategy.

For starters, Bernie Sanders has long spoken out against our two-party system, both because of the corruption found there and because of how our third-party intolerance restricts our choices for president. Some people have found it hypocritical of Sanders to run on the Democratic ticket after declaring himself Independent for so long.

It's important to note that Sanders has not switched parties. He is still Independent. He is simply running on the Democratic ticket. It may be surprising to know the Democratic nominee for president doesn't have to be a Democrat so long as their "record of public service, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States" (see previous link).

Also important to note is that there are laws in some states that can prevent an Independent from being listed on the primary ballot, specifically New York and New Hampshire. Since Sanders hasn't changed his party status there is no guarantee he'll be able to get around these laws, but running on the Democratic ticket improves his chances. (And it sounds like New York won't be a problem.)

Sanders has also said that he's not interested in splitting the Democratic vote. If he ran as Independent, he'd mostly draw votes from Democrats, splitting the Democratic vote between him and Hillary, giving a chance for the Republican party to take the White House. Why would he risk that?

Image from Daily KOS

Critics of Sanders call him hypocritical for aligning with a party he claims to disagree with. They say if he really wanted to lead a political revolution, he'd run as Independent and spur American citizens against both Democratic and Republican parties. Others, who see his campaign as hopeless, criticize Sanders for not setting his political revolution on more "realistic" sights where his calls for change could still flourish, such as running for governor.

Suffice to say, Sanders is drawing massive crowds with his speeches against inequality and big money corruption in America. And polls indicate much of America agrees with his views. It's looking more and more likely he's posing a problem for Hillary. If (when!) Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, he'll have one (and possibly his most serious) opponent down before the General Election (as opposed to having to face two opponents if he'd ran solely as Independent).

I don't expect right-wing media to stop bashing Sanders (it's kind of their job), and I imagine some citizens who ally themselves as Republican won't open their eyes either (although, have you seen the Republicans for Bernie Facebook group?). But I do believe there are people who simply don't understand the facts and well-formed strategy involved in Sanders running on the Democratic ticket.

As Sanders has said, he's in this to win and he should not be underestimated.

Monday, June 22, 2015

5 Reasons I'm Excited about Bernie Sanders (and You Should be too)

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
My facebook profile has exploded in political posts lately, most of them about Bernie Sanders who is running on the Democratic ticket for president (but is Independent himself). What excites me so much about Bernie Sanders is not his views on how to improve this country (though I find very little to disagree with) but that the more I research him the more I find Bernie Sanders is not a politician. He's an everyday American citizen fighting for the rest us everyday American citizens. What do I mean by that? Take a look for yourself:

  • He refuses to be part of the problem. Bernie Sanders has never run and refuses to run negative adds against his competitors or even say anything against them when taking questions. He doesn't like the "soap opera" our political system has become. He says he'd much rather see candidates debate the real issues of this country than spending millions of dollars on ugly advertising. 
  • He practices what he preaches, even when it puts him at a disadvantage. Bernie Sanders is against the use of big money in our political system. Currently, billionaires can practically buy their favorite presidential candidate, making it near impossible for anyone to run without billionaire funding. But Sanders refuses to take money from super PACs (billionaire funding) during his presidential campaign. Most of his donations come from everyday citizens, donating an average of $40. The rest of his funding comes from organizations that share Sanders' beliefs, such as unions and environmental organizations.
  • He's accessible and wants us involved in the political process. When he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he invited citizens to call him day or night on any issue. He's been on the Thom Hartmann show every week since 2006 (at least as far back as I was able to find) taking calls from everyday people and answering their questions about the week's political developments. In the Senate, he let a Rolling Stone Reporter shadow him for a month because "People need to know how this place works." This May, he did a "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit. He still appears on the Thom Harmann show, and his efforts to encourage participation from the American people won't change once he's president. He knows no president can change this country alone, and it's about time the American people felt empowered to make that change happen.
  • Bernie Sanders has been fighting for basic human rights all his life. He was arrested in college for fighting against segregation. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. on Washington and was there for his "I Have a Dream" speech. Bernie Sanders has voted and spoken out for Women's rights to contraceptives, abortions, and equal pay. He's in favor of a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and has stood with Obama's decision to delay deportation. He has worked to improve benefits and healthcare for veterans. He's for gay marriage. Bernie Sanders fights for the people.
  • He knows what he believes in, and he stands by those beliefs even when it seems like no one has been listening over the past 30 years. His voting record is solid. You can watch a speech he gave in 1989 compared with a speech he gave last week and find little difference between the two. Bernie Sanders is a rock.
Of how many politicians of the modern day can you list the same values? How many candidates for president have shown such quality of character? How often have the words "honesty" and "integrity" been used when speaking of a political candidate? How could we not want this man as president? And in a political system that has grown so corrupt and chaotic, how can we afford not to have him?