A Call on “Progressives” to Actually Talk About Progress

 

Clay Olsen |  April 16, 2014

There was a time in this country when leaders spoke of the limitless potential and aspirations of our citizens. Those grasping for a better life were given encouragement and hope. Today, we are living in a different environment. Instead of discussing opportunities to climb the ladder, there is constant attack on those on a higher rung. Instead of vibrant speeches about an American citizen’s potential that knows no bounds, there are events held across the country about raising the minimum wage. Do you see the difference? For a change, I would like to see the former of these scenarios. I would like to hear our leaders rally us into striving for a maximum wage. Let’s talk about recovery. Let’s talk about job growth. Let’s talk about people getting back to work with great opportunities. All the rhetoric today seems to be about how we are going to survive in the circumstances we are in. Well the American way is not about surviving; it is about advancing.

I am not going to spend much time discussing the economics of raising the minimum wage. You are perfectly capable of researching and understanding the matter. My goal is to point out the priorities of left-wing politicians that are clearly defined through their words and actions. We have a minimum wage. We can discuss what that rate should be, but I do not think we need a presidential bus tour across the country to do that.

Last month, President Obama spoke on the need for a minimum wage increase at Central Connecticut University. As usual he pointed out current income inequality and the need to decrease this gap. He stated that it is “a central task for all of us to build an economy that works for everybody, not just for some.” I suppose when the president refers to ‘building an economy’, he means bureaucrats in Washington D.C. manipulating the operating expenses of businesses across the nation. Actually building an economy would mean creating sustainable jobs, something this president all to often brushes off to the side while pursuing class warfare rhetoric.

Of course, President Obama received the applause he spoke for. The crowd’s reaction is not very surprising. What kind of evil person would be against raising the minimum wage? Like always, the liberal ideology is nothing more than a fairyland of impossibility whose artificial pathway is sugarcoated with unreasonable promises. Republicans are seen as the hateful enemies of progress when they point out how impractical the claims are. It becomes a difficult task to run against empty promises that will not work in reality.

So let us start putting the focus on allowing businesses to succeed by not burdening them with countless regulations. I want businesses, not bureaucrats, to fuel our country’s growth. When businesses succeed, opportunities increase, workers are in high demand, and wages increase. I do not want to place our economy’s future in the hands of the government that created healthcare.gov. I want to place our economy’s future in the hands of hard working Americans.

CLASS WARFARE Part 2: Ruling Class vs. We the People

D.C. Protest Pic

Clay Olsen |  February 6, 2014

In my last post, I discussed the senselessness of class warfare. We are being told by politicians and the media that others’ success is to be despised. They have done their best to forge conflict between the “rich” and the “poor.” Sadly, this idea dominates their speech and fuels their power. However, their incessant talk of the enmity that should exist between two people separated, not by their humanity, but by an amount of currency is ironic because of the positions that they themselves hold.

Originally, the expectation of a Senator or Congressman was to serve the country for a short period of time. Many Congressmen retained their private sector jobs while they were serving and returned to them after their term was up. It was strange for someone to serve more than two terms. Today we have career politicians. These Congressmen fight to retain power every time their term is up. Naturally, this leads us to develop a government that is foreign to the world outside the city limits of Washington D.C. Not so surprisingly, this situation does not always establish the best legislation.

Men and woman that have pursued goals to rise through the ranks of power in the national government and have spent countless years in D.C. write and vote on laws that greatly affect millions of citizens across the country. Congressmen, whose children attend the best private schools in the country, tell millions of others how public education should operate. Congressmen, who live in gated communities and have personal bodyguards, determine how we are allowed to protect ourselves.

This power seems to have given politicians the feeling that they are the top of society. This elitism is clear to those who not only listen to them but also view these politicians’ actions. As the state of the economy worsened over the last several years, we were told by politicians that “we all need to make sacrifices.” At the surface, this seems to be somewhat noble. But what sacrifices did we see from the federal government? Were politicians’ salaries cut? While the country limped along in double-digit unemployment, the President of the United States was throwing party after party at the White House. I’m not saying the President can’t hold a party; it just seems strange for him to talk down to us that we need to make cutbacks while he is so openly living in luxury.

The hypocrisy continues throughout the nation’s capital. It was only a few years ago that Congress rammed through Obamacare. Neither the American people nor those that passed the bill knew what was in it. Apparently it does not matter if legislation is fully understood. This law requires Americans to buy a product or pay a penalty if they choose not to purchase it. Anyways, it turns out that those who passed the law do not wish to be bound by it. Congress has been pushing hard to become exempt from the law.

Another example of blatant elitism is insider trading laws. Citizens are not allowed to make trades in the stock market based on nonpublic information. When it comes to D.C., things are a little different. The Stock Act of 2012 clarifies that lawmakers and their staff cannot trade on nonpublic information that they have acquired from the nature of their job. However, they are not prohibited from investing in companies and industries that they are investigating or regulating. Think of the corruption that this must cause. Congress may be instituting certain regulations based on personal investments. The Stock Act was passed not too long ago. This means that lawmakers were not bound by these rules until recently. Many of them became rich off of insider trading that was technically legal regardless of its morality. The Wall Street Journal had an article back in December (“Lines Blur When Lobbyists Invest”) about insider trading laws concerning lobbyists. The report was not good. The regulations placed on lobbyists’ ability to invest “are vague and limited.” Howard Marlowe, a current lobbyist said “it’s the Wild West” in terms of investing for him and his colleagues. He referred to the subject as “a blind spot.” This is something that can only be fixed through the voices outside of Washington, not from within.

Politicians in D.C. love to point fingers and divide the country. We must stop fighting amongst each other. The next time you hear someone attack your neighbor, do not fall into the trap of envy and hatred. Look at the person stoking the fire and evaluate their motive. We must remember that Americans are not defined by the amount of money they currently make; they are defined by their hard work and their potential for success.

CLASS WARFARE Part 1: Rich vs. Poor

Obama-Class-Warfare-Strategy

Clay Olsen | January 22, 2014

Something that we have heard constantly for many, many years and something that I guarantee we will hear much more of during this year is class warfare rhetoric. Recently, the newly elected New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, made a speech in which he stated, “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities… We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can” have X, Y, and Z. He reminds me of the ignorant kid from second grade who ran on free ice cream for his class presidential campaign. It is an old speech that never actually produces results. But let us continue our investigation into this philosophy known as class warfare.

This tactic is not a new one. It has been around for much longer than any of our lifetimes. The scheme was given the spotlight by a man named Karl Marx. Marx believed that the upper class, the bourgeois as he called them, was suppressing the working class, the proletariat. In order for the proletariat to regain ownership of his livelihood, he must join his fellow man and overthrow the evil bourgeois class. Now this is undoubtedly a quick summary of his ideas, but that is the meat of it. I believe that this idea is being rammed through the minds of the American people, and I fear it will hurt our country.

A great example of the implementation of class warfare attacks is the 2012 election. Of course, you can look at any recent presidential election and see similarities, but it is easiest to view the one that is freshest in our minds. Right now, think to yourself and use one word to describe Mitt Romney based on what you heard during the campaign. Well, if you watched any news or heard any speeches you all probably thought of the same word: rich. Yes, Mitt Romney is an extremely wealthy man. And because this is what you thought of when I asked you to describe Romney, the media will give themselves a pat on the back because that was their goal, to paint Mitt Romney as a rich, old, white man. The amount of Romney’s wealth was constantly being pointed out and yet no talk of how he achieved his success.

His previous private sector career was described as a destructive one. Supposedly Romney’s job was to fire a lot of people and steal their money. Isn’t that horrible! In actuality, Romney was part of a company that would get calls for help from struggling businesses. Romney and his team would meet with the executives of the company to learn about the business. They then would advise them about what a smart plan would be to move forward and grow. Sometimes this involved saying, “If you employ all 100 of your employees, you will go bankrupt so for now, you have to let 15 of them go.” Now a fool would look at this and call Mitt the devil for causing the firing of 15 hard working Americans. Yes, some lost their jobs in these processes, but all 100 employees would have lost their jobs had not the company taken their advice. As the company grows, it can hire 20 or 30 or 50 more people. Mitt Romney did not make his money in an unethical fashion. On the contrary, he made his money by doing more for the private sector than we could hope to do. Yet he was demonized for his earnings.

A lot of this class warfare rhetoric sprung from a movement that was started in 2011 called Occupy Wall Street. The premise of the movement was to educate people about the “1 percenters.” They wanted to get people furious at the extremely wealthy people in America. Well this classy movement bled out due to rapes, drug overdoses and murders that occurred within their “camps” and now belongs to the history books. What stuck was this notion that if you are not in the top 1%, you should be angry and demand more to be squeezed from the rich and given to you. A common theme coming from the Obama campaign was that “the rich need to pay their fair share.” It was thought that the rich needed to pay more taxes. Fun fact: the top 10% pays for 70% of the income taxes in this country due to a progressive income tax system.

The liberals’ thirst to take more money is almost comparable to their fierce craving to spend us into oblivion. Democrat campaigns are relying on a certain message: “The rich guy doesn’t deserve his wealth. Vote for me so I can take it away from him and give it to you.” Soon Democratic primaries will amount to the candidates attacking each other by pointing out that one did not spend enough or that one did not tax the rich enough. Sadly, this is what politics has become. We are being taught by politicians to hate our neighbor if he has a bigger house, nicer car, or better job than us. We are being taught that that neighbor deserves to have more taken away from him. We cheer at the thought of higher taxes being implemented on those that are a step above us. Well I have a message for our politicians: we the people are not split into bourgeois and proletariat classes. We the people are a united country that doesn’t need a handful of corrupt men telling us who deserves what. There was a time in America when men aspired to be greater. And this aspiration was accompanied by hard work, not hatred.

AR 16 Tarnishes Student Representation

UT students of diverse interests and beliefs gather at the Student Activities Center food court for lunch and coffee

Danny Zeng | October 22, 2013

“What is Student Government for?” Well hopefully for all students. From this fundamental premise do I strongly take issue with a current Student Government resolution AR16: In Support of Undocumented Students and Undocumented Longhorn Week (which by the way was last week), for it caters to the interest of a particular group and fails to represent a plurality- perhaps even majority – of students on campus.

The proponents of this resolution had repeatedly argued on precedent, citing a SG resolution in 2010 in support of major components of the DREAM Act. I must ask though: if precedent is good enough, then why even elect representatives into office or attempt to periodically “reaffirm” former legislation? The very nature of seeking reaffirmation in this case is a legislative choice that forgoes the power of the precedent.  Put it another way, if that 2010 resolution is already good enough, why push for a separate legislation now to reaffirm its substance? While consulting precedents is a prudential course of action, it does not mean precedents are infallible and sacrosanct; our government has overturned its own precedents many times throughout the nation’s history. If the precedent argument sustains, Student Government’s passage of AR 16 tonight in implicitly endorsing a particular student group’s agenda would in effect open up the floodgate for all student organizations, religious, cultural, political, etc. to seek declarative recognition for their contributions and activities on this campus.

The proponents also argue that the resolution is simply intended to show support for fellow Longhorns. Yet, AR 16 specifically mentions the University Leadership Initiative, which in my view is an overtly political campus group. In an October 5th tweet from the group, the ULI announced, “Come out and support us as we march for immigrants rights here in Austin!” [this conveniently blurs the line between legal immigration and illegal immigration but that aside…] Similarly, in the group’s press release on August 26th of this year, it stated that “If Congress is serious about passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, then it should take into consideration family reunification.” Actually, I and many others happen to believe the contrary: serious immigration reform requires us to move away from family reunification and toward a more talent-based system, a dramatically different policy preference. From the context I have provided using ULI’s own words, I would suggest to you that ULI is an organization with a clear and stated political agenda. The passage of AR 16 would thus only narrowly represent one point of view in a controversial, heavily contested political issue.

Proponents’ Letter of Concern on October 15th charges, “how is it that our ‘representatives’ are willing to deny many of our family members, friends and classmates the support that they deserve?” I honestly feel bad for our student government representatives who are in effect being bullied to support this resolution or else be perceived as morally deficient, for not doing the “right” thing. Basing their arguments on victimization and the rhetoric of “deserve,” proponents’ use of guilt tripping tactics not only undermine civil discourse, it unnecessarily creates fissures within the UT community. In fact, if you ask me, may I suggest that most of our Student Government reps open-mindedly and almost apologetically kowtows on this issue because they are so respectful (afraid) of our undocumented activist peers. If anything, the power to deny is well within the court of proponents.

In summary, I reject the notion that Student Government of this University of Texas necessarily has to support and advocate for activities, initiatives, beliefs, and goals of any particular student group on any overtly controversial political issue – at the expense of other students’ beliefs – when the issue could be best left to the campus political community to hash out. If one student group could steer the legislative agenda of our student government, then SG would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for special interests on this campus. Let us all do our fellow Longhorns the decency of respecting their diverse experiences and upbringings and not cavalierly disparage and dismiss hardships that they have lived through as fellow human beings.

Popular Much?

Danny Zeng | October 10, 2013

The President and the Congressional Democrats’ most recent decision to shut down the government is reflected in their approval ratings.

AP released its most recent poll yesterday with a sample of 1,227 participants and +/- 3.4% of errors with a 95% confidence interval. The President’s approval rating slipped 13 percentage points since April, from 50% to 37%. A majority of Americans disprove how the President is handling federal deficit and managing the federal government.  Even a plurality of Americans seem to give the President a thumb down on issues such as the economy, unemployment, healthcare, immigration, and gun laws. There can be no doubt that constant news framing, acerbic opposition rhetoric, and late night talk shows are eroding politicians’ popularity among the people.

While the President’s rating slipped in the latest poll, Congress is diving off the rating cliff itself. Polling at a meager 5% approval, the lowest since summer of 2010, our nation’s legislative body is a non-legit slate of work – nay “work” would be too generous a usage in this context. Even though Congress has such a historic low approval, the structure of Congress, a body comprised of 535 elected members, make it nearly impossible for high ratings: any miscreant group of legislators could poison the well rending the body the least liked branch of government.

When asked about to what extent do people think the President or Republicans should negotiate to end the shutdown, a majority of Americans want to see politicians working harder to open up government for business. It is interesting to point out from the poll that a vast majority of Americans (lower 90s) do not feel the impact of the shutdown. It is similar to the popular demand for  PCL to open 24/7 here at the University, but yet such action has so little consequence for vast majority of students.

One question that is very telling about the public’s understanding of the current issue in Washington is “In general, do you support, oppose or neither support nor oppose raising the federal debt limit in order to avoid defaulting on U.S. government debts?” Almost half, 46%, of Americans neither support nor oppose raising the debt ceiling. I have zero idea what these folks have in mind in terms of options on the table.

News flash: the debt ceiling WILL be raised, like dozens of times in recent decades. The issue here is still long-term spending. The GOP in Washington recognize that the debt ceiling provides them with leverage to deal with deeper fiscal problems that this President and his party allies in Congress have refused to do. The market does not need to freak. The journalists need to stop writing doomsday stories on a U.S. default. This crescendo-like, crisis-driven, cliff-diving, who-blinks-first sort of high-stake game of chicken has unfortunately become the new normal of Washington politics. At the end of the day, average Americans suffer as result of campaign-oriented, chest-pumping posturing.

To be fair, the system incentives little negotiation, compromise, or working together as result of attractive political gains.

Political gains: constant news coverage a.k.a free PR, shifting public attention allows for unorthodox law making to grant favors to special interests a.k.a. long-time supporters in the interim, prime pump campaign chests for 2014 through a war of blames, activate and mobilize the base for future campaigns, Mr. Smith goes to Washington…to become filibuster YouTube stars, etc.

Public losses: civic dysfunction that breeds public cynicism, stress on our constitutional system, showmanship over statesmanship that provides marginally low entertainment values compared to the gravity of these issues (unless you are C-SPAN nut job), losing competitive edge to up-and-rising countries abroad, and ultimately affecting lots of people’s livelihoods.

Despite the perverse incentives in place, I strongly urge the President to come to the table and do the job he was elected to do – LEAD. The power of the purse has resided with Congress since its inception. No President should willy-nilly stonewall on the question of who gets the say on what government funds – that’s the primary responsibility of Congress. I urge the President to respect the demarcation of powers (and not listen to liberal columnist’s call to take the issue into his own hands), lead the conversation and cease to stifle sensible negotiation opportunities over his predictably-poor-performing pet policy project that a significant plurality of Americans don’t like and don’t want.