Off the Cuff By Chris A. Porter firstname.lastname@example.org WNI Web Developer and PVtrib.com webmaster shares his perspective on technology, local and national politics, and life in the Quad-city area.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Spotlight on '08 Presidential Candidates - Part 3: Barack Obama
NOTE: This is Part 3 of a multi-part series of blogs spotlighting the candidates for President of the United States that I will be posting throughout the year up to the elections.
Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill) is currently a frontrunner candidate for the Democratic party in the current '08 Presidential election bid. He served eight years in the Illinois state Senate in until he was elected to the U.S. Senate via landslide victory in 2004.
Obama is the fifth African American in U.S. history to serve in the Senate. Born in Hawaii from a mix of American/African descent, Barack Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and has experience working as a state legislator, civil rights lawyer, community organizer and guest lecturer on the university circuit.
Obama's campaign platform spotlights some of the following issues:
Civil Rights. Obama's multi-point plan to combat problems he addresses in our current civil rights policies includes ending litmus testing currently used to fill positions in the Civil Rights Division of the Dept. of Justice, working to overturn a Supreme Court ruling curtailing minorities and women from challenging pay discrimination, strengthen hate crime legislation, advocating higher election standards and harsher penalties to avoid voter fraud and misinformation, working with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to abolish racial profiling, reducing crime and relaxing sentences for non-violent, first-time drug offenders.
The Economy and Fiscal Responsibility. He wants to cut taxes for working families to offset the payroll tax and streamline the filing process for the middle class. He urges reforming trade policies like N.A.F.T.A. to open up new foreign markets and strengthen America's economy. He also supports retraining programs for employees working in sectors prone to dislocation, innovation for the creation of new jobs, investing in "greener" U.S. manufacturing facilities utilizing renewable energy, protecting unionized workers and the freedom to join labor unions without harassment, raising the federal minimum wage and protecting consumers and homeowners from predatory lenders and mortgages by mandating transparency through disclosure and establishing a comprehensive consumer Bill of Rights.
Obama's plan offers working families more relief for medical emergencies by expanding on the Family and Medical Leave Act, tax credits, quality afterschool programs, encouraging paid leave, the availability of small, short-term loans from reputable lending institutions, reforming bankrupcy laws for families facing medical crisis, capping interest rates and establishing protections to reduce caregiver discrimination in the workplace.
As President, he advocates net neutrality, protecting it from unfair and monopolistic pricing practices, and wishes to make the availability of next-generation broadband wireless a reality for every community in the country. He also supports reducing tax cuts for the wealthy, ending tax haven abuse, and closing loopholes for special corporate interests currently being utilized by oil companies. In government, Obama wants to reduce wasteful spending, become more fiscally accountable, and reinstate a "pay-as-you-go" budget program requiring spending commitments be paid for with either new revenue or cuts from other programs.
Education. Obama encourages recruitment and retention of quality teachers through newly formed scholarships, incentives and pay increases. He also wishes to increase the quality of education by reforming No Child Left Behind, putting a higher priority on teaching math and the sciences, expanding learning opportunities for low income families through outreach and summer school programs, more comprehensive afterschool programs, and interventions for preventing dropouts. As President, he also plans to make higher education more easily accessible to all Americans through tax credits and eliminating the application process for financial aid.
Energy and Environment. He wants to introduce a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and invest $150 billion into R&D for clean energy and conversion of our current manufacturing centers to renewable energy. He will work with the biggest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to improve efficiency 50% by 2030 through the establishment of new renewable energy requirements, grants to early adopters, setting new goals for efficiency and investing in "smart" utility grids for energy production. Obama is proactive in his concerns regarding the environmental threats of global warming, and wants to reassess the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, combat deforestation, support next-generation biofuels, restore grasslands and encourage new farming practices that capture carbon from the atmosphere with incentives.
Ethics. Obama favors more accountability and transparency in government by making its regulatory business and communications public information. As president, he plans to make broadband fireside chats and the release of Presidential records more frequent, spotlight earmarks and pork spending, make information regarding special interest tax breaks available, end abuse of no-bid contracts, allow for more extensive public review of congressional bills and create a public database disclosing financial records for lobbyists and contractors. He also supports campaign finance reform, and the montoring of ethics rules and lobbying information by independant sources.
Family. He strongly believes in the importance of responsible fatherhood, and supports single fathers who maintain their parental responsiblilities with tax credits and advocates harsh penalties on those who do not. By bridging partnerships with federal government and employers, Obama wants to help low-income workers obtain middle class employment through customized training and identifying job opportunities with the help of community-based organizations. He also wants to relax current limits on tax credits for low-income families and combat mortgage fraud for homeowners.
Iraq and our Foreign Policy. Obama has been a consistant and vocal opponent to the War in Iraq. As president, he plans to deploy all combat brigades from Iraq within a 16 month timeframe. He will keep some troops stationed in the region to protect our embassy and diplomats, but would deploy more in circumstances of terrorist organizations like Al Qeada attempting to set up bases in Iraq. He will strongly recommend reconciliation from current Iraqi leaders once deployment of U.S. troops begins, and promote an aggressive Diplomatic effort to neighboring countries to help stabilize the region. He will confront Iraq's current deplorable humanitarian crisis by creating an international braintrust to address the conditions, and provide at least $2 billion in aid to services for refugees in neighboring countries.
He supports overhauling our diplomatic process and overall presence, opening up lines of communication to various world leaders in order to address issues like global poverty, creating new partnerships, and strengthening NATO alliances. He vows to make the Palestinian-Isreali conflict a top diplomatic priority. Barack Obama envisions a nuclear weapons-free world, and advocates stengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, enforcing detection and removal of weapons smuggling and securing loose nuclear materials to prevent them from falling into the hands of violent terrorist entities. He wants to expand our military by adding 65,000 new troops to the Army, 27,000 Marines, and ensuring they all have the sufficent training and the equipment they need. He also posits restoring the readiness of our National Guard units by ensuring they have adequate training and resources to tackle foreign and domestic emergencies.
As President, Obama will urge Congressional bipartisanship to overcome obstacles in executive-legislative relations, government transparency and intelligence-gathering. Through public broadband fireside chats, he hopes to engage citizens to be proactive in helping shape foreign policy, putting an end to the government "secrecy" he currently feels infests our culture.
Health Care. Obama's health care plan would offer simple, easy, affordable health care coverage to all Americans with guaranteed eligibility even with pre-existing illness and medical conditions. The plan would offer Americans subsidies, affordable premiums, co-pays, deductibles and comprehensive benefits. Obama plans to do this by requiring employers to contribute a percentage of payroll towards the plan and presenting more choices in insurance and drug companies by stimulating more competition in these marketplaces. He will prevent established drug companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases, therefore lowering costs. The plan will make coverage for children mandatory, and he will expand programs like Medicaid and SCHIP to ensure health care for disabled and elderly citizens can be utilized to their fullest extent.
For citizens that wish to purchase coverage privately, Obama will create a National Health Insurance Exchange that will act as an entity for reform and a watchdog group for the private insurance market.
Homeland Security. His plan heavily underscores the importance in keeping close tabs on our nuclear reactors so that Americans are safe from harmful spent radioactive materials leaking into our natural resources. Senator Obama has introduced legislation to establish guidelines for tracking, controlling, and accounting for spent fuel as well as federal regulations requiring heightened security in our nation's chemical plants. He has also passed legislation requiring manadatory evacuation planning in the event of a national emergency, and set up a centralized database for displaced individuals to be reunited with family members. He vows to upgrade the monitoring and security of our nation's drinking water systems, and introduced legislation to provide $37.5 million over 5 years to make this possible.
Immigration. Senator Obama plans to secure the integrity of our borders and ports by adding more personnel, technology and infrastructure to our immigration system. He believes this system is a "dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy". He advocates fixing it, and thinks increasing the number of legal immigrants will keep families together and help to fill job vacancies. He believes that harsher penalties being levied upon businesses hiring illegal immigrants will remove the incentive for undocumented immigrants to enter our country. Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. Ultimately, he believes we need to do more to help sustain economic growth in Mexico to stem the rash of illegal immigration.
Obama's Congressional voting record - Partial list. More here.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Drilling Amendment
Congressional Pay Raise Amendment (2005)
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay Amendment
Iraq Progress Reports Amendment
Special Committee on Contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq
Removal of ANWR Provision from HR 2863
Reporting Matters in Iraq Amendment
Energy Act of 2007
Barring Immigrants with Certain Criminal Histories
Alternative Energy Subsidies
Off the Cuff - My Take:
There's a lot to like about Obama's issues - he supports government transparency, fiscal responsibility, job support and health care for all Americans. However, on the health care issue, I don't know how I feel about making it mandatory for companies to contribute a percentage of their payroll to do this, though. This is especially true when certain businesses offer decent private health care to employees already. Would they suffer even bigger mandatory contributions because of this?
I definitely support pulling the troops out, but then again, I never supported going to war in the first place. I REALLY like his stances on reforming worldwide diplomacy, technology and the preservation of net neutrality. I feel our world perception is dismal right now, and we need fresh perspectives. He is a fresh face in this race, has a likable demeanor, speaks eloquently and definitely seems geared to promote change.
Like Clinton, Obama's immigration and homeland security stances come off as generic and don't seem as well thought out as the rest of his issues. I guess I can in part chalk that up East Coast perspectives not fully realizing the seriousness of the situation for us southern states. These are hot button issues for me that I hope he addresses in more detail later on down the road. The other thing Im wary of is Obama's pledge to increase our military - without instilling a draft, how exactly does he plan to do this? The details seem a bit murky to me.
Would I vote for him?
Undecided. I like him, but it's too early to tell. I may vote for him in the primaries, but I don't put too much stock into primaries. There's a chance I might not even vote my party's ticket this year (Im registered Democrat)!
I will say this, however - he's my current favorite for the Dems. If he keeps pulling the support numbers he has been recently, he's got a great chance of making it to the White House.
FOLLOWUP EDIT 1:Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination in June, becoming the 2008 Democratic candidate for President of the United States.
FOLLOWUP EDIT 2:Barack Obama garnered the majority electoral votes on election day (11-4-08) subsequently becoming America's President-elect.
Posted: Friday, February 15, 2008
Article comment by:
Voted NO on declaring English as the official language of the US government. (Jun 2007)
Voted NO on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers. (Jul 2005)
Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
Sorry, can't vote for a guy who wouldn't put his hand over his heart during the national anthem. Especially if he wants to LEAD this country.