Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa Caucus

So I've never really been *that* into politics, but I've started listening to NPR recently (oh, about 8 weeks ago?) and they've been talking a lot about the 2008 Presidential Election, and so I've gotten a new, fresh outlook on politics. Please note that these thoughts are my own, and are not an endorsement for any candidate. The quotations are taken directly from the candidate's own websites, linked below.

Some thoughts on Senator Barack Obama, the clear winner of tonight's Iowa Caucus for the Democratic Party, particularly as they are relevant to my current life and lifestyle, or are generally important to me...

  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit: "This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year's tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due."
    • I like this, a lot. I believe that access to higher education should be made easier, and making community college tuition basically free will do it. Also, $4000 could go a long way for many families who send their children to local public universities (certainly not a huge dent in the tuition of private institutions, but still, its $4000 less that parents will have to pay).
  • More Streamlined Financial Aid Process: "Obama will streamline the financial aid process by eliminating the current federal financial aid application and enabling families to apply simply by checking a box on their tax form, authorizing their tax information to be used, and eliminating the need for a separate application."
    • Less paperwork. 'Nuff said.
  • Early Childhood and K-12 Education: I like the "zero-to-five" plan. Read more about it on his website. It has become clear to me, in my study of child development, as well as through my time as a hebrew school teacher and camp counselor that there is only so much that kids can be affected once they grow up a little bit. The more positive, enriching, and engaging the early years are, they better the later years will be. I like his plans for reforming the No Child Left Behind legislation, including improving assessments and shifting the focus from "teaching to the test" to a more full education. He also has quality ideas regarding improved teacher education, which we badly need. He is also big on technology literacy, and importantly for me, science literacy.

  • Science Research: "Barack Obama supports doubling federal funding for basic research, changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology."
    • Emphasis added. 'Nuff said.
  • Climate Change: "Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050." He will also "develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."
    • It looks like somebody was listening to Al Gore, and more importantly, the scientists. Time for someone in a real position of power and authority to do something about it. The energy-saving lightbulbs that I use can only do so much to curb carbon emissions. He also supports next-generation biofuels, and hopes to make us oil-independent by doubling fuel economy standards...and reducing consumption by 35% by 2030.
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The remaining issue of importance for me, and he doesn't really say much about this: "Obama will make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a key diplomatic priority. He will make a sustained push – working with Israelis and Palestinians – to achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state in Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security."
    • He doesn't say anything about the status of Jerusalem, nor about the settlements or the right-of-return, or Israel's right to defend itself, or anything. We ALL want peace in the end, and many people are willing (or eager, in some cases) to create a two-state solution. So, what next?

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