Political Bickering over Immigration

Immigration has been cornerstone of policy debate for decades.  The debate has focused on many different aspects of the reform, but the U.S. economy and border protection have always been at the epicenter of the discussion.  As expected, policy approach for the immigration reform is divided across party lines. Democrats emphasize economic benefits of a larger labor market and the right for a path to citizenship for immigrants residing in the country while republicans focus on border security and amnesty threats.

The argument put forth by the Democratic Party is a moral one, based on the United States immigration heritage.  President Obama and his party emphasize the need for a road to citizenship for undocumented residents who currently live in the shadows of our society.  The President argues that these residents have contributed to the U.S. economy and have placed roots and families in this country, yet the United States has not rewarded their hard work and dedication.  On the contrary, the current immigration system has left 11 million undocumented residents living in fear of our institutions. The President especially focuses on the children of undocumented parents (‘The Dreamers’) who were brought to this country through no fault of their own. To be clear, this liberal view does not neglect the need for undocumented individuals to admit they have broken the law; on the contrary, it assumes immigrants will be required to pay adequate penalty in fees and taxes for their illegal stay in the United States.

Republicans, on the other hand, are fearful of setting a precedence for lax immigration reform, which, they argue, will encourage illegal immigration in the future and put in question the security of our borders.  The republican view also brings to question the effect on the economy of the 11 million illegal residents who would become citizens (and therefore would be entitled to all government and social services) as a result of Obama’s reform.  Consequently, policy aspects discussed by republicans focus mostly on work permits for illegal immigrants, rather than options for citizenship.

While most politicians agree that the current immigration system is broken, their idea for the reform is different.  The Democratic Party supports an ‘open door’ immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants while republicans focus on employment permits, arguing that illegal immigrants have broken the law and should not be awarded a citizenship.  Until common language is agreed on and consensus reached, the battle for immigration will continue, with no productive implications for residents living in the shadows of illegal immigration.

Free University education

Prompt: “Governments should offer a free university education to any student who has been admitted to a university but who cannot afford the tuition.”

The United States federal government has been a cornerstone key player in educational policy since the very beginning of the union and throughout its history to this day.  Presidents donated land to universities and enacted laws that granted free college enrollment for veterans.  Today, President Obama is fighting his own fight for increased low-interest loans for students.  However, historically, states have been a lot more proactive in terms of educational policy and should continue to be in the vanguard of free university education for low income students.

The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution reserves the right for states to regulate areas not covered in the constitution (and therefore not within the jurisdiction of the federal government). Education is not mentioned in the Constitution and thus falls under the powers of the states.  For that reason, the role of the federal government is generally limited to offering financial aid to states (FAFSA) to help in the delivery of educational agendas.  Federal and State financial aid money is then allocated based on the financial need of the student (need-based financial aid).  However, the maximum amount of federal aid grants for any student is about $6,000 while private university tuition may be as high as $30,000 yearly.  In New York State, students are also eligible for state need-based aid, but that amount cannot exceed $5,000 annually leaving-in some cases- a $20,000 ($80,000 in 4 years) financial gap to be filled in with interest bearing loans.

Many young high school graduates are overwhelmed by the cost of tuition and the prospect of having enormous debt after graduation.  Relatively high unemployment rate (nearly 9% in some states) only adds to their nervousness and often acts as a critical factor against the decision to attend college.  As a consequence, less young people enroll in college and even less graduate from 4 year institutions (drop-out rate has also been on the rise).  This negative trend will certainly have an adverse effect on the competitiveness of the United States economy, unless states recognize the need for greater financial aid for students who are not able to afford university tuition.  Some states have already taken steps in that direction—Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma is the first tuition-free college in the nation.

Increasing university tuition is one of the most critical reasons deterring students from attending college.  The President and the Federal Government have offered a number of aid packages to help lower this cost.  However, it is the state governments that have to explore aggressive financial aid reforms to support low income students in their decision to continue education.  Stronger financial aid packages for students from low income backgrounds will not only ensure an increase in college enrollments, but also prepare our nation to compete with the demands of the future labor market.

What regulations should apply to U.S. companies doing business abroad?

PROMPT: In the U.S., businesses must comply with federal regulations regarding labor practices, product safety, and environmental impact. Although they raise the costs of doing business, such regulations are generally regarded as a legitimate way to balance the public good against corporate profits. When U.S. companies operate in other countries, however, many of these regulations no longer apply. Some argue that if U.S. companies meet costs associated with these regulations and the additional costs of doing business abroad, their ability to compete is diminished. Others maintain that some U.S. federal regulations should be implemented only in selected countries. Another view is that U.S. companies have a moral obligation to observe all U.S. federal regulations when operating abroad. In your view, what regulations, if any, should apply to U.S. companies doing business abroad? Carefully explain the rationale for your position.

Today’s globally connected economy is governed by several international organizations that safeguard the rights and freedoms of citizens around the word.  Organizations such as the World Bank or the International World Trade Organization have jurisdiction over companies doing business internationally.  Accordingly, I believe that U.S. based companies with businesses abroad have first and foremost the obligation to obey international law, rather than U.S. regulations.

It is my belief that international trade regulations should follow a similar provision to the Supremacy Clause in the United States where the federal law prevails over the law of any state.  In this case, international organizations should have the right to oversee business practices and enact laws.  Laws enacted internationally should then be obeyed by every company doing business on a global scale, regardless of regulations in their native countries.  The only exception to this rule should include any business conduct not overseen by international law but one that has a directly adverse effect on the U.S. safety and economy, such as money laundering, corruption or espionage.  In those rare instances, companies have the obligation to obey the U.S. law.

Although international law may not fully cover the extent of the U.S. law as it relates to business operations, these gaps in policy will be adjusted by public relations pressures.  The assumption is that conscious customers in the United States are unlikely to buy a product that was produced in unethical conditions.  In order to satisfy targeted clientele, companies will respond by implementing social responsibility programs and high standards for their production lines.

I believe that U.S. companies doing business abroad should adhere to international laws governing business. Only in cases where United States safety is threatened, they should be obliged to follow the U.S. law.  International Organizations such as the World Bank should take precedence in governing international issues the same way that the Constitution is a supreme law of the land in the United States. The rest of the issues will adjust with the market demand for ethically produced goods.

American Lobby

First, some facts:

In 2013 there were 12,341 registered lobbyists who have actively lobbied.  Total lobbying spending: $3.23 billion.  Top industries: Pharmaceuticals/Health Products, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Computes/Internet and Electric Utilities.  Top spenders included: US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Northrop Grumman, National  Cable & Telecommunications Association.  (Comcast Corp, AT&T, Google and Verizon made it to the top 20).

(opensecrets.org)

Lobbyists represent special interests at all levels of the government.  Their practice is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution (freedom of expression and the right to petition). Lobbyists have to register with the Secretary of the U.S. Senate and the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Theoretically, the role of lobbyists in the legislature is a positive one; they are experts in the field they represent.  The idea is right—policymakers can’t understand every industry and the extent of their decisions on those industries.  Anyone can lobby (read: try to influence) the government, even ordinary citizens.  In fact, citizens often try to influence decisions in Washington by sending letters about a particular issue.

However, the right idea has evolved into a practice of lavish parties, fundraisers and 3 lbs. lobsters, which just isn’t so right.

To me, lobbyists represent one side of the story (usually, the richer side of the story).  In turn, their influence leads to poor understanding of industries and poor policymaking.  The government should obtain their expertise from unbiased sources, not a registered rich elite.

Apparently, lobbying and bribing are two different things.  The only one obvious difference seems to be that one is legal and the other one is not.  But what do I know, apparently lobbying in the European Union is in no consistent manner regulated or controlled, at all.

NYS Infrastructure

High-profile infrastructure projects and transportation advancements have had a significant impact on the economic development and growth of New York State. Tappan Zee Bridge and the Erie Canal are two examples of major infrastructure megaprojects that have transformed NYS into a major economic and industrial hub:

– The canal caused a population surge in western NYS. “Erie Canal ensured the status of NYC as America’s premiere seaport, commercial center and gateway to the interior. It helped New York become the ‘Empire State’ – the leader in population, industry, and economic strength”
(http://www.eriecanalway.org/learn_history-culture_build-nation.htm)
– The Tappan Zee Bridge and NY Thruway have made Westchester County become a major transportation hub linking NYC and the New England Area. (The Tappan Zee Bridge: Where Do We Go from Here? By Robert T. Hintersteiner).