Education, Senate News, White House 2016

Sen. Sanders: Free college for all

Independent senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposed a massive bill yesterday that would make tuition at colleges and universities across the United States free for students to attend.

According to the post announcing the legislation on Sen. Sanders’ official website, schools would not charge tuition as the cost would be paid for by both the federal and state governments (two-thirds by the federal, one-third for state). In addition, the legislation would create an increase work-study programs, ban the federal government from making a profit on loans, and would create incentives to encourage colleges to bring down costs. The total cost of such legislation would be upwards of $700 billion over the next decade.

On his website, Sen. Sanders argued that if the U.S. economy is to remain competitive in the global market, then a college education should not leave graduates buried in debt and should be something readily available to all who wish to attend.

Sen. Sanders also pointed out that other modern countries have surpassed the United States in the number of college graduates they produce and the quality of the education those students receive.

“We once led the world in the percentage of our people with a college degree, now we are in 12th place. Countries like Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many more are providing free or inexpensive higher education for their young people.  They understand how important it is to be investing in their youth. We should be doing the same.”

The Vermont senator went on a media offensive yesterday to try to gather support for the bill. Among other things, Sen. Sanders appeared on MSNBC to promote the legislation, held a press conference with student organizations and recent college graduates, and peppered his social media account and website with various quotes and statistics about the rising cost of higher education.  Below is a taste of some of the senator’s social media blitz

In order to pay for the huge price tag, a tax on Wall Street transactions by hedge funds and the like would be created. With a Republican-controlled Congress currently in power, it would appear that the legislation to begin with would never pass in its current form. With a tax on Wall Street, the bill’s already slim chances are virtually non-existent.

Elections, White House 2016

Lindsey Graham joins crowded Republican presidential field

Another day, another Republican presidential candidate enters the field.

Longtime South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham announced Monday on “CBS This Morning” that he will look to receive the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

During his appearance, Sen. Graham said he decided to make a run for the White House because “…I think the world is falling apart and I’ve been more right than wrong on foreign policy.” Below is more from Graham’s interview on CBS.

Out of the now seven candidates in the growing Republican field, the 59-year-old has the most Washington experience on his resume.  In his third term in the United States Senate, Graham has made waves as a strong opponent of President Obama, particularly of his foreign policy decisions. However, the senator has expressed support of the president’s amnesty program that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to have Social Security numbers and work permits.

While Graham has a strong conservative record on the whole, far-right Tea Party politicians (such as fellow senators and presidential candidates Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky)  and supporters have bashed established Senate Republicans like Graham and John McCain (R-Arizona) for being too moderate on issues such as Second Amendment rights.

Earlier this year, Graham had strong words for Sen. Cruz after the Texas senator wrote in a fundraising email that the Second Amendment is the “ultimate check against government tyranny.” Speaking to TalkingPointsMemo.com, Graham argued  that “an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets.” Graham also told TPM the following:

“I think the Second Amendment allows people to protect their homes and their property and be secure in their persons,” the senator said. “I think in a democracy the best check on government is voter participation. I think the First Amendment probably protects us more there.”

Sen. McCain, who is a good friend of Graham’s, has previously stated his belief that Graham would be the most qualified presidential candidate in the 2016 race. “Lindsey Graham. First, last and always,” said McCain.

 

Elections, White House 2016

Cruz announces presidential bid

The Grand Old Party has a brand new presidential candidate.

After reports surfaced late Sunday night that he would enter the race, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) officially launched his presidential campaign at a rally Monday morning in Virginia (the video of his speech can be seen above).

In his address, Sen. Cruz made an impassioned case for his mission aimed directly at the most conservative voters and members of the Republican party. The one-term senator said a potential Cruz administration, among other things, would seek a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the elimination of the IRS. Sen. Cruz also made his case that citizens need “to reclaim the Constitution of the United States” and encouraged conservative voters to “[rise] up and re-ignite the promise of America.”

(Photo by Getty Images)
(Photo by Getty Images)

In a nod to the conservative Christian/Evangelical sects of the party, Sen. Cruz also alluded to his desire to see pro-abortion and gay marriage laws scaled back. Cruz called for a defense of “the sanctity of human life and…the sanctity of marriage.” In the past, the senator has supported the Defense of Marriage Act and believes states should have the power to regulate if they want to allow abortions and to what extent.

The Texas senator has generated much controversy and anger from those on the left and even in his own party for his hardline conservative positions. Some on Capitol Hill have yet to forgive Sen. Cruz for his role in bring about a shutdown of the federal government two years ago, in which Cruz and other freshman Republican senators refused to fund the government without the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

(Editorial Note: THAB [yes, trying out this abbreviation of “To Hill and Back” for a bit] was actually in the middle of writing a piece on a potential Cruz campaign for the “Race to 45” series on presidential candidates. So expect that article, which will be more in-depth, on Sen. Cruz and other potential candidates in the coming days/weeks. Stay tuned.)

Analysis, Elections, White House 2016

Race to #45: Hillary Clinton

Ready for Hillary? (Photo by Gary Cameron of Reuters; photo from MSNBC.com)
Ready for Hillary? (Photo by Gary Cameron of Reuters; photo from MSNBC.com)

On Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, someone will raise their right hand, place their left hand on a Bible, and promise to uphold the Constitution as long as he or she serves as the 45th President of the United States. We obviously still have a long way to go before that moment happens, but potential players from both major parties are already starting to lay down foundations for possible runs to the White House. This series will profile some of those possible candidates and attempt to sift through the facts, fiction, and bias to show where each candidate really stands on the issues that matter to you- the citizen and voter- the most.

The first installment will discuss the person widely assumed (remember what happens when you assume?) to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination- Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Biography: Born Oct. 26, 1947 in Chicago, Ill.; Oldest of three children; married William Jefferson Clinton in 1975; Gave birth to the couple’s only daughter, Chelsea, in 1980; Became a grandmother in 2014

Education: Graduated in 1969 from Wellesley College; Graduate of Yale Law School, Class of 1973

Political Resume: Worked on George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign; Served on the team that advised the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate hearings in 1974; Worked for Jimmy Carter’s successful presidential bid in 1976; First Lady of Arkansas (1979-81, 1983-1992); First Lady of the United States (1993-2001); Led the 1993 Task Force on National Health Reform for President Clinton; Served as U.S. Senator from New York from 2000-2009; Selected by President Obama to be U.S. Secretary of State (2009-2013)

Where She Stands On: 

  • The economy/free trade
    • December 2007 debate (on if she would prioritize passing a balances federal budget each year): “Well, fiscal responsibility is a very high priority for me. We don’t have to go back very far in our history, in fact just to the 1990s, to see what happens when we do have a fiscally responsible budget that does use rules of discipline to make sure that we’re not cutting taxes or spending more than we can afford. I will institute those very same approaches. You can’t do it in a year. It’ll take time. But the economy will grow again when we start acting fiscally responsible. And then we can save money in the government by cutting out private contractors, closing loopholes, getting the health care system to be more efficient. We’ll do all of this at the same time, but the results will take awhile for us to actually see. “
    • January 2008 debate: “I regretted voting for the bankruptcy bill and I was happy that it didn’t get into law. By 2005, there was another run at a bankruptcy reform, motivated by the credit card companies and the other big lenders. I opposed that bill. There was a particular amendment that is very telling. It was an amendment to prohibit credit card companies from charging more than 30% interest. It was one of the biggest lobbyist victories on that very bad bill that the bankruptcy bill represented.”
  • Environment/energy
    • December 2007 debate: “I advocate a cap and trade system. What the auction of pollution permits is taking that money and invest in new technologies, new ways of getting to our objectives that I’ve outline inside my energy plan. I want to use some of it to cushion the costs tha will come on to the US consumer. It’s not just enough to tackle global warming, we’ve got to enlist the help of the next generation. My fifth grade teacher said it was to study math and science, but it gave me an idea of contributing to my country.”
  • Foreign policy
    • 2013 New York Magazine interview: “I thought it was essential that as we restore America’s standing in the world and strengthen our global leadership again, we needed what I took to calling ‘smart power’ to elevate American diplomacy and development and reposition them for the 21st century. That meant that we had to take a hard look at how both State and A.I.D. operated. I did work to increase their funding after a very difficult period when they were political footballs to some extent and they didn’t have the resources to do what was demanded of them.”
  • Immigration
    • From her 2014 book Hard Choices: “In 2009, more than 55 million Americans were immigrants or the children of immigrants. These first- or second-generation Americans were valuable links back tot heir home countries and also significant contributors to our own country’s economic, cultural, and political life. Immigration helped keep the US population young and dynamic at a time when many of our partners and competitors were aging. Russia, in particular, faced what President Putin himself has called a ‘demographic crisis.’ Even China, because of its ‘One Child Policy,’ was headed toward a demographic cliff. I only wish that the bipartisan bill passed the Senate in 2013 reforming our immigration laws could pass the House.”
    • According to OnTheIssues.org, then-Senator Clinton voted in 2006 to allow illegal immigrants to participate in Social Security and other social services, as well as to build a fence alongside the Mexican border.
  • Gun control
    • Wall Street Journal, May 2014: “”We’ve got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime,” she said. “And I don’t believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people.”
    • April 2008 debate: “I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands.”

What Supporters Say: People who have supported Clinton in the past say her resiliency would make her a strong president, often pointing to the way she publicly handled the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s. Other supporters say she has a leg up in reaching middle-income families when talking about the economy. The fact that she is a woman also seems to play a big factor in reasons why at least some people support her. Take a look at this March 2014 Gallup poll, which asked people what would be the best thing about Hillary Clinton occupying the Oval Office:

(Image from Gallup.com)
(Image from Gallup.com)

What Opponents Say: The area Clinton will likely be hit the hardest on (if she chooses to run) will be on foreign policy. She was the head of the state department during the deadly attack on the American embassy in Benghazi in 2012, and conservatives have routinely hit her hard on that security failure whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself. No matter what the actual facts are with Benghazi, Clinton and her team will surely spend much of their time addressing attacks and questions from the right relating to the matter. Her comments on her personal finances also seem like a sure bet to be brought up by Republicans as a way to portray her as out-of-touch with the needs and wants of average Americans.

Fundraising Ability: Democratic donors are apparently already lining up to give millions of dollars to a Clinton campaign. On the amount of money reportedly set to be given once the operation is a go, one donor was quoted as saying “it’s going to be like nothing you’ve seen.” If the past is any indication, Clinton would appear to have the support to back up such a lofty prediction. According to OpenSecrets.com (which tracks things such as political spending, re-election rates, voting numbers, etc.), then-Senator Clinton raised nearly $230 million by the end of May 2008 in her effort to secure the Democratic nomination for president. In spite of the lofty total, Clinton was left with over $20 million in debts after she left the race in June. Check out the table below, which shows how her fundraising efforts couldn’t keep up with what the campaign was spending over the last four quarters of the campaign (again, the table and stats are from OpenSecrets.org):

hillary funds

Likeliness of becoming party nominee: 75%*. This is assuming she runs (thus the asterisk). These odds are based more on a gut feeling rather than any complicated formula. Obviously a lot of unforeseen issues or scenarios can arise between now and primary season. It seemed everyone thought she would be the nominee in 2008, but then Barack Obama popped up from seemingly nowhere to claim the nomination. She seems to be the favorite for the Democrats right now, but that could change based on her performance and if she corrects her mistakes from 2008, as well as if other seemingly strong challengers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Biden, and others enter the fight.

(Writer’s Note: I have to say a big thank you to OnTheIssues.org, which tracks the positions and stances of American politicians. The site was a great help to me in writing this, especially with the quotes on various topics. I strongly recommend visiting the site to get a more in-depth look at the voting records and positions of politicians across a large variety of topics.)