April 3rd, 2014 § § permalink
On April 2, 2014, an enthusiastic group of students from the University of Michigan greeted President Barack Obama on the basketball court of the University’s Intermural Sports Building. The crowd, consisting of 1,400 University students and administration, Michigan government officials, etc., produced a roar of applause as the President climbed the podium to propose an increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Mira Friedlander, a senior and political science major at the University of Michigan, introduced the President through a personal account of her current experience and struggle working as a waitress, while collecting the minimum wage. “The current minimum wage is definitely not going to pay my student loans,” Friedlander said.
President Obama entered on a serious note; however, the speech quickly assumed a positive attitude as he called out to Michigan basketball players Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and Jordan Morgan, as well as Michigan football quarterback Devin Gardner, all of whom were in attendance.
President Obama cited several Michigan businesses in the attempt to gain support for his proposal. Specifically, he spoke of Zingerman’s Delicatessen, a well-regarded Ann Arbor eatery. He discussed Zingerman’s minimum wage crisis through his reference to Paul Saginaw, one of Zingerman’s owners. The President described Saginaw’s arrival to Washington, DC in the effort “to lobby for his workers, to lobby for better treatment for workers through a higher minimum wage.” In a continuation of references to Michigan businesses, he acknowledged Ford Motor Company and the work of Henry Ford, who doubled his workers’ wages in the effort to increase workers’ productivity and loyalty. President Obama acknowledged Ford’s effort to enhance a relationship with workers and business owners, and thereby, improve business relations. “The workers could afford to buy the cars that they were building. Fair wages [and] higher profits are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand,” the President said.
Throughout his speech, many students hung on his every word, their faces radiating the dream for equal opportunity. At one point, the President said that three in four Americans support an increase in minimum wage. Though he wholeheartedly addressed why a minimum wage increase will benefit society, he failed to address the reasons as to why one in four Americans are not in favor of the proposal. President Obama failed to report that an increase in the minimum wage may cause employers to reduce their workforce, and therefore, increase the rate of unemployment. He also failed to acknowledge that raising the minimum wage may force some businesses to close, as they will be unable to pay their workers. In addition, the President kept the argument one-sided, calling out Republicans for their opposed view of his proposal. As a result, the students produced a chorus of boos. “No, no, don’t boo,” he responded. “Organize.”
The banner displayed at the President’s speech, “Opportunity for All,” most accurately portrays President Obama’s goal of an increased minimum wage. He attributes this proposal to his image of an ideal America, enhanced by the desire to rise from poverty and the creation of a supposed larger middle class. Will an increased minimum wage eliminate poverty, as indicated by the President? Unlikely. Though his speech addressed the minimum wage issue, his underlying message was clear: “To make sure we are giving everybody a chance… that we are not just looking out for ourselves all the time, but we are also looking out for the person next to you. That’s also what America is about,” the President said. “We’ve got to get opportunity for everyone to strive for… Everybody’s got a chance.” President Obama’s appearance on April 2, 2014 marks his third visit to the University of Michigan, making him the most frequented sitting president to visit the University.
March 26th, 2014 § § permalink
The investigation into Governor Chris Christie’s role in “Bridgegate” headed by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher has come to the conclusion that the governor had absolutely no knowledge of or involvement in the scandal.
The New York Times reported that the probe was commissioned by Christie himself, noting that the firm “has close ties” to the Christie Administration. Such a close history with the administration brought up questions regarding the credibility of the inquiry, but any missed aspects or “cover-ups” will be exposed by parallel investigations being undertaken by the State Legislature and the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Paul Fishman.
The lawyer in charge of the review, Randy M. Mastro, dismissed any notions of “sugarcoating” and said the investigation has laid out a timeline of events as well as cataloged all communications leading up to the closures. The review included at least 70 interviews, including those with Christie, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, and other senior staff, and cost an estimated $1 million in legal fees that will fall upon taxpayers. The investigation did not include interviews with former staffers Bridget Anne Kelly—Governor Christie’s former deputy chief of staff—or Bill Stepien, whose emails linked the administration to the scandal and ultimately led to their departures.
The governor himself handed over his iPhone and telephone records and allowed the lawyers to search his government and private email accounts. Items analyzed in the investigation include emails on government servers of past and present employees, Port Authority records, subpoenaed documents from Port Authority appointees Wildstein and Bill Baroni, as well as interviews with “independent witnesses and associates of Mr. Christie outside the government,” according to the New York Times.
Although Christie was cleared of any first hand knowledge of the incident, the continuing investigations launched by the Legislature and U.S. Attorney’s office will also look into whether the Governor “created or condoned a culture that fostered political intimidation.”
After the final review is delivered to Christie, he has said he will make it public without any alterations.
March 21st, 2014 § § permalink
This winter has been painfully snowy–in record-breaking fashion. Prior to the winter storm on Wednesday, March 12th, Ann Arbor had seen 86.3 inches of snow during the 2013-14 season. However, with the additional four inches that Wednesday’s storm graced us with, we have now seen a total of 90.3 inches—a new record for Ann Arbor. The old snow total record had been 89.8 inches, which was set during the 2007-08 season (mlive.com).
While Ann Arbor has already broken its snow record, other cities within Michigan have not been so fortunate. However, good news—they are close, and there is still time. Detroit, for instance, has currently seen 90.7 inches of snow, putting them roughly three inches below their record of 93.6 inches set in 1880-1881. These three inches are certainly attainable, as the average snowfall in Detroit from now through April is 5.2 inches (mlive.com).
Flint only needs 1.2 more inches of snow to set their record. What’s more, they can take pride in the fact that they have had at least one inch of snow on the ground for the last 95 days. With temperatures forecasted to remain quite low for at least the next week, Flint may set an at-least-one-inch-on-the-ground record of over 105 days (mlive.com).
While these record-breaking figures are interesting and add an element of fun to our winter misery, the weather conditions have been detrimental to Ann Arbor’s road safety. Wednesday’s frigid morning temperatures, ice-covered roads, and substantial snow totals were troublesome for commuters. Luckily no injuries were reported, but slick road conditions caused a slew of road runoffs and fender benders on I-94.
If these record-setting snow totals have you feeling down, rest assured. There are now less than 20 days until spring, and polar vortex level temperatures are soon to be a distant memory. Our pipes have frozen and burst, our fingers have been frostbitten while tow trucks and snowplows have been overworked, fires have broken out, schools have been closed, and cars have crashed—so please, Mother Nature, reward us with a warm spring.
March 20th, 2014 § § permalink
What do you get when you bring together Republicans from all around the country for a weekend full of politics? You get CPAC, or the Conservative Political Action Conference. This year’s conference was held March 6-8 in National Harbor, Maryland – just outside the borders of our nation’s capital. Young conservatives and College Republicans from all over the United States, including our very own CRs from the University of Michigan, were the predominant attendees. The weekend consisted of various seminars, networking opportunities, and numerous Republican public figures giving speeches and signing copies of their latest books.
As the Republican National Convention in 2016 slowly approaches, a select few of these figures made sure to make their presence known on the CPAC stage, eagerly using this opportunity to further establish their potential bid for the White House. Among some of the prospective presidential candidates attending were New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, Texas senator Ted Cruz, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and neurosurgeon (and Michigan alumnus) Ben Carson. The energy in the room varied from speaker to speaker as each of these men spoke about his ideas of the current status and goals of the Republican Party, along with throwing a few punches at the incumbent president.
As almost anyone familiar with internal GOP politics knows, there’s an ongoing competition of ideas between the social conservatives, moderate Republicans, and libertarian Republicans. CPAC provided the perfect forum for each of these factions to pitch their vision for addressing the issues they feel are most crucial to the future.
New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie was one of the first speakers to make an appearance. Governor Christie’s controversial Bridgegate scandal did not keep the audience from giving him a standing ovation. Christie concentrated on painting himself as the rational, moderate conservative in the field of candidates. He also argued that the Republican Party needed to move beyond criticism and start offering alternative solutions to the problems at hand. “Our ideas are better than their [Democrat’s] ideas and that’s what we have to stand up for.” Christie came in fourth in the CPAC straw poll.
Meanwhile, politicians like Texas senator Ted Cruz differentiated themselves from the moderate-right by emphasizing the importance of sticking to principle and fighting for the full repeal of ObamaCare. Cruz advocated for a relentless approach in the upcoming elections and called on the base to stand together in unity: “You want to lose elections? Stand for nothing,” he said. “We put our head down, we stood for nothing and we got walloped,” raged Cruz, accusing previous presidential nominees Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney of not drawing clear-enough distinctions between themselves and the Democrats.
Kentucky senator Rand Paul made one of the final, and most attended,
appearances of the weekend event. Paul’s libertarian, limited-government conservatism was a big hit among the crowd, as he spoke in a manner that demonstrated his understanding of what it takes for Republicans to win back Washington in the fall, specifically the Senate. Although he avoided the topic of foreign policy, he made sure to address issues of personal freedom and the failures of the Obama administration. “I don’t question President Obama’s motives,” Paul added, “but history will remember his timid defense of liberty.” Not only was Rand Paul’s speech widely attended, but the senator also came in first in the CPAC straw poll, for the second consecutive year, with Cruz taking a second and neurosurgeon Ben Carson placing third.
Although the GOP may be divided in priority at the moment, one thing is clear: everyone that attended CPAC is unhappy with the status quo in Washington. In order to have a shot at winning back the presidency in 2016, the various factions within the GOP will need to find a way to come together. Each speaker at the conference hinted at this reality. The party is on the brink of an inevitable transformation, and it will be intriguing to watch.
March 20th, 2014 § § permalink
Iraq is long in the rear view mirror, a distant and increasingly fading memory. We are reminded that on May 1st 2003 President George Bush declared, “mission accomplished” in Iraq. Fast-forward 6 years, and newly appointed President Obama declares that most combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by 2011. Sure enough, the last combat troops left the sovereignty of Iraq on December 18, 2011. The dust has settled, right? We can now safely assume that the Iraq chapter has ended, right?
As you probably can guess from my intentionally leading questions, things haven’t just worked themselves out now that we aren’t looking. Iraq may have fallen out of the public eye, but the problems there haven’t become any less visible. With the rise of the Arab spring and Syrian civil war, Iraq now faces catastrophic destabilization. The result could further engulf the Middle East into a regional sectarian conflict.
To understand the situation in Iraq, it is critical to understand the better part of the last two decades of Iraqi history. Iraq is a country comprised of mostly Shiites, which is a sect of Islam. The other thirty some odd percent of the country are Sunni Muslims. These are the two main factions in the Islamic world, and they are entrenched in a global power struggle. These two sects of Islam disagree fundamentally on certain religious beliefs, thus creating an irreconcilable ethnic conflict between the two groups of people. The Middle East is ethnically mixed, and the borders of Iraq contain both groups of people under one government. In the last two decades we have seen brutal regimes come to power and subjugate certain parts of the population. Nowhere is this truer than in Iraq, which has an institutional memory of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni Baath Party that brutally persecuted the Shiites of Iraq. At the conclusion of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Saddam’s government had fallen. In its place was left a cavernous power vacuum, and an oncoming king of the hill battle between the different factions that inhabit Iraq.
After the displacement of Saddam Hussein, the country was shell-shocked and reactionary towards the new political climate. The Shiites that were violently subjugated during Saddam’s authoritarian rule were resolved in never allowing history to repeat itself. The Shiite populous already had a deep mistrust of the Sunnis; however, distrust of the Sunnis was at its height following the removal of Saddam. Sunni Muslims, on the other hand, feared retaliation and revenge by Shiite Muslims. Iraq quickly started falling into civil war, as the two major ethnic groups began attacking each other on the streets. As most on-the-ground reporters recall, there were Shiite and Sunni mosque bombings week after week perpetrated by the other. This was especially true in ethnically mixed neighborhoods, where guerrilla fighting became prevalent.
As a result of the epic instability of Iraq, the United States had a prolonged engagement in Iraq acting as the police force to prevent the country from ripping itself apart at the seams. Contrary to what conspiracy theorist might try to convey, the United States wasn’t there mining for oil. The United States military had its hands full just trying to contain the violence on the streets of cities and prevent a full-scale civil war from breaking out.
One of the greatest challenges faced in Iraq was forming a functioning government that actually represented its people. Iraq is a microcosm of the Middle East in general, in which the ruling party usually is not representative of the people they govern. As a result, the governments are more easily corrupted by power since they aren’t held accountable by the citizens. This can be seen in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, just to name a few. This makes oppression inevitable, and as a result the ethnic conflicts are perpetuated, as there is always a ready scapegoat. For the better part of the first decade in the twenty first century, the United States tried to establish a fairly represented government in Iraq. A government in which both Shiites and Sunnis get a say, in contrast to Saddam’s authoritarian rule. The task was proven to be immeasurably difficult as the deep seated ethnic differences bled into politics, culminating in an impasse between the two parties. The Iraqi government was crippled by paralysis, unable to even govern itself, which enticed greater extremist actions. Elections were subject to suicide bombings, while government buildings were hijacked and were under constant mortar fire.
After several years of effort, in late 2009, Iraq started stabilizing. The government was elected, and had Shiite majority and a sizable Sunni minority that was willing to cooperate to move the country forward. Iraq finally had a functioning government that was able to run the country by itself. The two most critical outcomes were that the two parties in Iraq were finally working together, and that the government could keep security in the country. The Iraqi forces were able to subdue the ethnic violence, and allow the country to finally move forward. So on December 18, 2011, the United States withdrew all of its combat troops from Iraq.
However, recent events in the Middle East have severely shaken up the atmosphere in the region. The Syrian civil war pits the Bassad’s Shiite government against a revolting Sunni populous. Syria is also very ethnically diverse, a population that consists of seventy four percent Sunni Muslims, twelve percent Alawite, and ten percent Christian, which is almost an exact inverse of the ethnic population in Iraq. The Alawite is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, which is in a constant ethnic struggle with the Sunni sect. The Sunni majority in Syria loudly voices their disdain of the oppression of the Alawite oligarchy. The current state of affairs in Syria is a civil war between the Sunni majority, the Alawites, and the Kurds in the north. The rhetoric on both sides is charged with calls of sectarian violence, which has lead to conflicts and shootouts in ethnically mixed neighborhoods. Thus, the rebel forces against Assad’s regime are unable to form a unified force, due to constant internal sectarian conflicts.
Syria’s Civil War has drawn in many neighboring states; however, the states immediately on Syria’s border have played the most important roles. Iraq sits just due east of Syria and shares an elongated border with the country. Iraq has finally been able to establish a stable and proportionately elected government that represents all aspects of its population. Iraq is in a fragile state, where the people are just beginning to build a cohesive nation after almost a decade of sectarian violence. The Shiites remember the terror and horror of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, and there is great distrust of the Sunnis in Iraq. As recently as last summer, there have been bombings targeting Shiite mosques by Sunni Muslims. Sectarian violence is beginning to creep back into Iraq, and has caused Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who has close ties with Iran, to deviate from his moderate policies. Jackson Diehl excellently summarizes in his article “Lines in the Sand” how the civil war in Syria and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood endangers the balance of power in Iraq. “Syria, however, has spooked Maliki…A Sunni Syria endangers what Maliki views as the central outcome of the Iraq War, which is the political preeminence of Shiites in Baghdad.”
A destabilized Iraq would have immediate ramifications for the region. The United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars and military man-hours subduing ethnic violence in Iraq over the past decade, and has now withdrawn out of the country as things begin to calm. However, if Iraq slips back into turmoil, the US will have two very unpleasant choices to confront. The United States could reengage militarily in Iraq in order to stop the country from slipping into civil war. However, this option is unlikely, as it would be political suicide for President Obama, who would flip-flop on his promise to leave the Iraq theatre. The more likely outcome is that the United States will abstain from intervening into Iraq, and will allow Prime Minister Maliki to handle the conflicts. However, Maliki’s recent policies have been to detain and imprison his Sunni political opposition, including the Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. As the current Iraq government becomes increasingly more nervous of a Sunni takeover in Syria, it becomes more tyrannical and polarized towards its own people. Iraq’s size and proximity to other nations in the Middle East ensures that if Iraq were to fall into civil war, it would enflame the Middle East in sectarian conflict. The result would be a bloody civil wars erupting across the Middle East, as the different ethnic groups begin to hash out political control of nations through violence.
March 18th, 2014 § § permalink
Courtesy of BBC (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25881563)
As the world eagerly watches from afar to see what unfolds in Ukraine, the University of Michigan’s Ukrainian Student Association is particularly concerned with the recent turn of events. Many of the 15 student members have relatives in Kyiv (Kiev), as well as other Ukrainian cities. According to the association’s president, Ivanna Murskyj, the greater Ann Arbor area has about 30-40 Ukrainian residents, with many more in metro-Detroit.
In November of 2013, then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned down a trade deal with the EU under Russia’s coercion. Three months of protests followed, as Ukrainians called for membership and democratic representation. On February 22, Yanukovych was forced to flee his office while Moscow denounced the growing protests and coup, according to Reuters.
Unlabeled “armed men” took over the Crimean Parliamentary and raised the Russian flag on February 27, with more military presence entering Crimea in the following weeks and thousands of Russian troops gathering at the Ukrainian border (Reuters). In response, the U.S. denounced Russian actions, threatening “repercussions” and sanctions while Russia claimed the invasion was in “self-defense” of persecuted Russians in the Crimea peninsula.
Most recently, Crimea passed a secession referendum by 97% of voters that favored union with Russia rather than staying with Ukraine, according to the Associated Press. In response, the US announced sanctions to freeze the assets of several Russian officials. Although as much as 60% of Crimea’s population is Russian, many have questioned Putin’s influence in the referendum vote (US News).
Even before the crisis, President Yanukovych was under much criticism and suspicion, and was often considered to be Putin’s henchman in the Ukrainian government.
“When Yanukovych was president, Putin bribed him with money and promises for the future. The impact of Putin’s effect on Yanukovych was clear, shown by the presidential position in Ukraine gaining more power and ultimately bringing the nation closer and closer to Russia. Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU deal was only a catalyst for the mass protests seen in Kyiv” Murskyj told the Review.
After a restored hope amongst Ukrainians following the ousting of Yanukovych, Russia’s invasion was a major setback.
“Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula crushed the universal relief that was felt after Yanukovych’s impeachment. I think that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was one of desperation,” Murskyj remarked.
The desires and aspirations of Ukrainians, both abroad and in the center of the crisis, is evident. It is also simple. Ukrainians want a new Ukraine, one where every citizen’s voice is heard democratically, without the infringement of their Russian neighbors.
“Ukrainians want a new Ukraine, one that is free from corrupt Russian influence,” said Murskyj. “Now, Yanukovych is gone and Putin has lost control over the leader of Ukraine. With that close and influential relationship severed, Putin is now foolishly trying to gain direct control over a portion of the country,” exemplifying Putin’s desperation to retain some power in Ukraine by entering Crimea.
It is evident to Ukrainians that Russia’s action are unjust and do not align with Ukrainian sentiments; however, in an attempt to fracture Ukraine, Putin has brought Ukrainian nationalism to fruition.
“Ukrainians know that Putin’s goal is to divide the Ukrainian people and seize as much Ukrainian land as he can. Contrarily, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has united its people now more than ever. For hundreds of years, Ukraine suffered under Russian rule and influence. The Ukrainian people have had it.”
“Together, and to the end, we are fighting for a brighter Ukrainian future, for a government that truly represents its people and for the recognition of Ukraine as an autonomous and western nation,” said Murskyj, in the effort to identify the goals of a united Ukraine.
Throughout this crisis, Ukrainian students at the University of Michigan have taken action, working “to foster interest and understanding of the Ukrainian language and culture. We organized a fundraiser for EuroMaidan humanitarian aid ($400) and organized a few protests on the Diag,” Murskyj told the Review, attempting to foster outreach and support with fellow Ukrainians beyond campus.
Ron Weiser, a UM alumnus, spoke to the Review regarding the significance Ukraine and was critical of President Obama’s actions (or lack there of). Weiser founded the Center for Emerging Democracies and is former Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, which borders Ukraine.
Last year, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko spent several days with Ambassador Weiser at the Center for Emerging Democracies at the University of Michigan. Yushchenko led the Orange Revolution and Viktor Yanukovych once served as Prime Minister under Yushchenko.
Yushchenko told Ambassador Weiser that Putin’s power grab was “something that he thought was very possible. He (Yushchenko) said that ‘Putin will do everything within his power to keep Russian influence in the Ukraine’”.
Russia’s influence over Europe is not necessarily militarily; rather, Russia is Europe’s primary source of natural gas. As Ambassador Weiser explained, Ukraine acts as the middleman for the movement of natural gas from Russia to the rest of Europe; practically all the natural gas in the region flows through Ukraine. Other economic factors include Ukraine’s agricultural significance and the Crimean peninsula’s coal production.
“The importance of Ukraine to Russia and/or to the West is that Ukraine is the bread basket,” said Weiser. “It’s where all of the farming was done during the days of the Soviet empire… and now they (Russia) don’t want to loose that. Crimea is their main source of coal as well.”
However, Russia’s interest in Ukraine is much more than merely economical.
“The main interest in Ukraine is more historical in nature. The Russians call it ‘The Ukraine’ meaning it’s part of [Russia]; it’s just another area to Russia. They’ve always considered it something that should be under their sphere of influence and control,” said Weiser.
Besides Ukraine’s economic and historical significance to Russia, Putin’s thirst for power is the driving factor for the invasion of Ukraine and Crimea. Russia is an old and extremely nationalistic country – no one knows this better than President Putin – and he knows exactly how to appeal to Russia’s nationalistic sentiments to gain support in his country.
“Putin wants to establish the old Soviet Union if he can; so this isn’t the final chapter [of the Cold War], this is another chapter of the Cold War. I believe if Putin has the opportunity… he wants to be President for life… I wouldn’t be surprised if the constitution was changed and take off the limits on presidential power and control.”
Ambassador Weiser was critical of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy regarding Russia. Both Obama’s actions and lack there of have opened the door for Putin’s bullying in eastern Europe—similar to the 2008 invasion of Georgia in which case President Bush was able to halt Russian advancement.
The administration’s “reset button” policy is what has set the precedent for Putin to invade Crimea. “We basically told the Russians, ‘don’t be concerned,’” Weiser noted.
“You take a step, if no one stops you, you take another step,” Weiser explained, which is exactly what Obama’s inaction has welcomed. “What kind of guy is going to bring any kind of concern or trepidation or fear to the Russian president? It certainly isn’t Obama.”
Weiser also recommended strong-armed, “peace through strength” tactics to bolster the Ukrainians, in case Russia were to further invade Ukraine. Aside from economic sanctions, Weiser suggests “we should be giving them military assistance so they can upgrade their armed forces and protect themselves.”
This military assistance would provide support “through training and so forth, to help them protect the rest of the country from the Russians if they decide…to take all the food-growing region back which is the real value of Ukraine.” Again, much like Bush’s actions following the Russian invasion of Georgia, which compelled Russia to withdrawal.
Aside from Bush, yet another president’s handling of the “Russian Bear” would be important for President Obama to consider and learn from: Reagan.
“When Gorbachev looked into Reagan’s eyes, he saw something and knew what he couldn’t do. When Putin looked into Obama’s eyes, he saw something and knew what he could do.” Simply put, according to Ambassador Weiser, America—not any European nation—is the last barrier to any further Russian incursions in the Ukraine, and Obama must lead the way.
March 17th, 2014 § § permalink
The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project released new statistics on March 7, 2014 exploring the desires, attitudes, and issues faced by the Millennial generation, whose members include the 18 to 33 year old age bracket. The project studies American’s behavior and attitudes through surveys and data analysis. A total of 1,821 adults were surveyed via telephone across the United States from February 14-23, 2014, including 617 adults from the Millennial generation. As indicated by Pew’s results, the Millennial generation is making its distinct mark in today’s society. Through their increased use of technology, decreased marriage rate, increased out-of-wedlock births, etc., the Pew Research Center concludes that Millennials stray from traditional values and beliefs. However, more significantly, they have redefined the image of “American,” through “social, economic, and demographic” means (pewscoialtrends.org).
Several aspects contribute to this group’s uniqueness. For instance, its members are considered to be the country’s most diverse of all other generations. This is most accurately depicted through the increasing number of Hispanic and Asian immigrants within the last 50 years. Consequently, their American-born children have now reached adulthood, and are considered “a transitional generation.” Increased racial diversity is a major aspect that characterizes the Millennial generation. According to Pew Research Center, “43% of Millennials are non-white, the highest share of any generation.” The United States’ increased racial diversity leads the Census Bureau to project that the majority of the US population will be non-white by 2043. This increased racial diversity may provide evidence as to why 18-33 year olds exhibit fundamentally different ideals and beliefs than their predecessors, generally as a result of their liberal views.
Millennials are considered the most liberal generation in comparison to society’s elder generations, but also exhibit “disaffiliation” in regard to their political beliefs. The surveys conducted by Pew Research Center indicate that 50% of Millennials are political independents. This has increased in quantity from 2004, when only 38% of Millennials identified as independents. However, though many Millennials identify as independents, they are most significantly characterized by their Democratic voting behavior, and are the only generation in which conservatives do not significantly outnumber liberals. Though both the Republican and Democratic parties have lost the support of Millennials, the proportion of Republican Millennials has decreased more significantly, from 24% in 2004 to 17% in 2014. The proportion of Democratic Millennials, on the other hand, rose from 30% (2004) to 35% in light of the 2008 election, but has recently fallen to 27%. Though the majority of Millennials identify as independents, 31% identify as liberal, 26% as conservative, and 39% as moderate. As a result, the Millennial generation often supports liberal political and social views. For instance, Millennials are often advocates of same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and marijuana legalization, and their support of these issues has increased tremendously. In 2006, only 34% of Millennials favored marijuana legalization. Now, the percentage has increased to 69%. This dramatic increase in support is a clear indication of the Millennial generation’s new, unconventional values. On the other hand, their views on issues such as abortion and gun control are not significantly different than the views of older generations.
Though the Millennial generation appears to embody more liberal views and nontraditional values, their educational success exceeds beyond their predecessors. The Pew Research Center accounts that one third of Millennials aged 26 to 33 have a four-year college degree or beyond. This characterizes the Millennial generation as the most educated generation of young adults in the history of the United States. However, education does not come without a price. In addition to being the most educated, Millennials must also face “higher student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles” as a result of the Recession from 2007-2009 (pewsocialtrends.org).
The Millennial generation is comprised of a very diverse group of individuals who are redefining tradition through their ideals and values. As a result, Millennials have assisted in the development of a new American identity. To view more information about the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project, visit http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/.
February 22nd, 2014 § § permalink
A brief article about a letter penned by the Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Michigan on the issue of diversity of thought has been shared and liked thousands of times on Facebook this morning. The article, shared by the National Liberty Federation, is one of many on the YAL letter that has gained national attention in these past months.
YAL’s letter, written by Sophomores Derek Magill and Cody Chipman, called for the Coleman administration to allow an open forum for all ideas, “not just those that the university sanctions.” The response by the Coleman Administration has been patronizing and inadequate at best. A short letter response by Provost Pollack stated that the university prides itself on it’s diverse curriculum, and that because the students at YAL were libertarian, the diverse curriculum must be working.
The article is transcribed in it’s entirety below:
“In a bold move on today’s politically correct campuses, a group of brave libertarian students at the University of Michigan recently decided to stand up and tell the school that they were, in effect, “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”
In a no-holds-barred letter to the powers that be, the students said they were “sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens, watching their administration fawn over and pander to a vocal group of radical students while they are treated like pariahs” according to The College Fix.
In the letter, they explained that while “nearly every course we have taken has been taught from a liberal perspective by a liberal professor,” there is a “general lack of opposing viewpoints students have access to.”
Since college campuses should represent a free marketplace of ideas, the students suggested that the school make opposing viewpoints available by offering economics courses “taught by competent and fair free market professors; that history courses taught from perspectives other than the postmodern be made available; that for every course on race and ethnicity, there be a course on intellectual diversity which includes liberal, conservative and libertarian cultural and political ideas.”
Moreover, they asked “that an increased budget be developed and extra-curricular programs created to help foster this intellectual diversity outside of the classroom. This would allow students from across the disciplines to engage in fair minded and open discussion with their peers about all ideologies, not just those that the university sanctions.”
The original post can be found here and on Facebook:
February 22nd, 2014 § § permalink
Are you a classical liberal student at the University of Michigan who is looking for summer educational opportunities with like minded individuals? The Institute for Humane Studies and the Foundation for Economic Education have announced their Summer 2014 seminars for undergraduate students interested in the ideas of liberty. The seminars are taught at locations around the country by top academics in fields such as economics, history, philosophy, political science, filmmaking, art, and policy. Typical seminar days include lectures throughout the day with breaks for snacks and lunch, and socials at night where students have an opportunity to network and develop closer relationships with their peers and professors.
Accepted students receive tuition, room, and board at no charge. Applications close March 31st.
From the Institute for Humane Studies:
“IHS Summer Seminars stretch your mind and explore the notions of liberty, drawn from the classical liberal intellectual tradition, while inviting you to look at the world and your future plans with the cause of freedom in mind.
During each seminar, you’ll be engaged by lectures from leading scholars drawing on history, economics, philosophy, public policy, law, and a wide variety of professional experiences.
Each seminar is designed to raise big questions, foster in-depth discussions, and create opportunities to connect with people from around the world who believe in liberty. And you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of liberty, new career possibilities, and a multidisciplinary network.
What’s more, through the IHS Summer Seminars you’ll gain valuable career and intellectual skills. Learn not to take anything for granted but rather, continue to challenge the status quo.
Finally, you’ll find it’s also a great time to make long-lasting friendships with bonds on the ideas of freedom that will last a lifetime.”
Featured Seminar: “Foundations of Liberty: The Rule of Law” June 12-15 ● Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, PA
“On the one hand, we all want our individual liberties and freedom to lead fruitful, productive lives. But being a community of individuals, we also need laws to guarantee those freedoms. But how much is enough and at what point is it too much?
Our Foundations of Liberty: The Rule of Law seminar will provide an engaging introduction to the foundations of a free society by exploring the legal, economic, and philosophical roots of libertarian thought and how it is applied to insure rights as individuals. It is ideal for students seeking to understand how the central principle of classical liberalism—individual liberty—relates to the history of the law and our current legal institutions.”
For a complete list of seminars:
From the Foundation for Economic Education:
“FEE’s mission is to inspire, educate and connect future leaders with the economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society.
For young minds interested in an introduction to free market economics and its foundations in the broader philosophy of individual liberty, FEE is the best source for inspiring content, programs and community. FEE is not an academic or political organization; instead our focus is making the economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society widely accessible, easily understood and energizing to young minds. We do this by delivering content that is substantive and thoughtful in forms most convenient to our customers, including in-person seminars and lectures, web-delivered content, printed material in book and magazine form, and networking opportunities. At FEE, young people—and educators who work with them—will find an exciting and optimistic introduction to the Austrian and classical liberal traditions in free market economics as well as opportunities to connect with other young people and free-market organizations around the world.”
Featured Seminar: “Good Intentions or Good Results? How Trade, Property, and Entrepreneurship will Help the Developing World” July 31 – August 1 ● Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
“What causes wealth and what can be done to help those without it? Billions of dollars are spent on aid programs, while millions continue to starve. These programs help people feel better about the suffering in the world, but what actually helps alleviate that suffering? What is the cause of wealth in the world? This introduction to economic thinking will help you answer these questions. This introductory seminar will not give you all of the answers to these complex problems; it will give you the tools to find the answers yourself.”
For a complete list of seminars:
Contact Derek Magill at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
February 18th, 2014 § § permalink
The Heritage Action for America organization held its first ever Conservative Policy Summit on Monday, February 10, 2014. The daylong conference brought together nine conservative politicians from all over the country to discuss a new reform agenda that will hopefully be pursued in the coming years.
Heritage Action is a newly formed policy advocacy organization that works with activists across the country in order to support conservative legislation in Congress. Protecting privacy, transforming the welfare state, and higher education were all included at the Summit, as well as the overarching theme that “America will not prosper under managed decline and other European-style policies.” Senators Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Matt Salmon all spoke.
Despite the Summit’s noteworthy Republican speakers, the Heritage Action’s influence in Congress has been rapidly diminishing. In fact, the Conservative Policy Summit was partly enacted in response to House Speaker John Boehner’s comment that the organization had “lost all credibility.” It’s hard line mission to defund President Obama’s health care reform law at all costs resulted in the disastrous government shutdown last year, and in response, many conservative congressmen have been walking away from the organization’s wishes.
Heritage Action created their power in Washington by developing “scorecards” that rate lawmakers on how they vote on key legislation. However, as of late, lawmakers say the threat of a low rating is no longer an effective scare tactic.
‘“I don’t look at them,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who received a 39 percent rating from Heritage Action. “More and more members need to understand, they represent their constituents, not outside groups.”’
“Their influence has waned since they became such a political arm. When they were a think tank, when it was Heritage Foundation, I think a lot of us read their material, listened to it, went to it for advice,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “Since they became so political, a lot of people said: ‘I don’t need that anymore.’”
This movement away from the Heritage Foundation’s political branch represents a newfound commitment to working across party lines in order to pass legislation. Though Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives, there is still a democratic Senate with whom to negotiate. ‘“The problem is that [the Heritage Action] isn’t ‘educating’ the grass roots, they’re misleading them,” a GOP leadership aide said. “For example, by telling them we can defund Obamacare with control of only one House in Congress. And when it turned out they didn’t actually have a plan to win in the Senate, let alone get President [Barack] Obama to sign anything into law, the only effect was to damage the party and disillusion committed conservatives across the country.”’
Heritage Action contradicts itself by tying Republican legislators’ hands and encouraging government inaction all in the name of preserving conservative values. However, conservative congressman have finally realized the only way for Republican ideas to make it through both houses of government will be a bipartisan compromise.