Thursday, May 3, 2012


Ok in my Govt 170 class we have been discussing health care and education.

Health care is currently seen as a product for purchase and not a right, like education is. It is an item that is purchased on the free market so it can be expensive if you don't have insurance or enough of it. But in the United States there is a rule that no person is turned away from a hospital ER and the patient is billed later. The problem with that is a significant amount of those bills go unpaid so those unpaid bills are passed onto consumers who do pay their bills. This free rider problem is a by-product of a free market system. Health care is currently being debated in national politics and some are adverse to mandatory health care but the facts show(sorry I don't have these facts currently available) that if everyone was to pay into a system the overall price of health care would be cheaper. But then there are dissenters who say they don't want the government telling them how and where to spend their money.

I don't get why people just don't want to pay for health care as a single country, especially if that product can be cheaper in the long run. Everyone will eventually use the health care system, so why not just make it cheaper for everyone.

This country is individualist, which I think is a good thing in some respect. But I think this is a, cut off your noes to spite your face moment. I also think that it is a sad existence when a man made invention called money replaces human emotion.

There is enough money, food, water, housing, land to make the United States prosper but it is dead set on allowing people to work for low wages, drink contaminated water or live on the streets because they didn't know how to make a better living for them selves.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Information Nation at the LAO

I apologize for my lack of posting but it's only because I have been busy with mid-terms and this week busy with spring break. No I haven't been wearing an 18 pack beer box for a hat while screaming at the top of my lungs at some body of water.

Since my last post I had been studying for my mid-terms, which means I have been re-reading information that has already been regurgitated on this awesome blog. So in my time did I learn anything new? Why yes I did....

I learned about a wonderful website called the Legislative Analyst's Office or better know as the LAO.

The reason you should be aware of this website is because it is the check and balance on all things related to California and money, or so they claim. (this is for you skeptics out there)

To keep this short and simple I recommend you take a look at it and brush up on some of your favorite topics: education, parks and recreation, health care and Gov. Browns new budget that includes his new tax initiative or even the dreaded bullet train.

The nice thing the LAO has done is they have broke down topics into easy to access categories so we. the citizens, can more easily find what is important to us. You don't have to be an expert on everything that is California but it would be good to know whats going on in areas that interest you.

Just in-case you didn't see the hyper-link above you can click on this --> LAO OFFICE LINK

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Submerged State of Politics

A topic that was recently discussed in Govt 170-public policy, was this idea of a submerged state of politics. Politics that takes place between a few people mainly political parties and interest groups. I am sure you are not surprised but is this essential for politics to take place?

During the health care reform fiasco after Obama took office the public became aware that politics is full of small deals and hook-ups between interested parties. Most of the public was outraged and dare I say disgusted by this but for those in office it was business as usual.

The submerged state in a nutshell are deals that have been in place for years and even decades. They come in the form of loop holes and tax brakes, normally they are aimed the more affluent income brackets. The nurturing of particular sectors of the economy by legislators has become useful in ways that protect their political future. The deal makers in the submerged state are rich, powerful and influential, which makes change hard to hope for because the status quo is difficult to change. Also the submerged state has become hard for the average individual to notice it and even those affluent citizens don't realize what they are really getting.

Suzanne Mettler discusses the submerged state in an article titled "Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era," and she states that Obama has been trying to change the status quo with his time in office but there was a system set up before he was in office. This system is strong, hard to defeat and some are not willing to put their jobs on the line to change it.

I just want to take up one point here and that is the idea that some are not willing to put their jobs on the line to change it. Why wouldn't they? Don't they care about the poorer people? Mettler says that even if the submerged state is expanded to the lower and middle class Americans the policies wont get much positive feed back from those who receive it. Also those who stuck their neck out on the line to change those policies wont get recognition for it.

Simply the poorer a person is the less they pay attention to policy change even if it affects them but also even if they did notice it this group of voters are not likely to make campaign contributions to keep them in office.

Mettler makes a good assumption when she said that an attempt to alter or change the submerged state is a great challenge that is a politically high risk venture where the rewards are few. The challengers will meet the reformers quickly and armed for battle while, "their supporters and those of behalf of whom they engage in such struggles are unlikely to even appreciate their efforts not to mention offer assistance."

Another point that my professor brought up that I failed to notice in this article is that those who are receiving loop holes and tax breaks don't see it as a form of government assistance or welfare. They may not realize they are getting welfare because the policies are shrouded in names like subsidies. People who are taking food stamps know they are using welfare but someone who takes a student loan or uses a tax write off may not.

One of Obamas biggest policy changes was direct lending of student loans from the government. Prior to this change banks gave out student loans that were backed by federal government. So if a student defaulted on their loan everyone paid for it through their taxes and paid for it at a higher premium than if it did not go through a third-party lender.

The question I leave you with is, would Americans rather have crappy public policy through regulations instead of just subsidizing? Which in the long run may prove to be cheaper anyways.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

1st Amendment is not absolute

*This post is fairly sensitive and I will be updating it as I find out more on the 1st Amendment. If you find a discrepancy please post it in the comments. The topic is long and I didn't want to bore anyone to much so I didn't even come close to noting a majority of the Supreme Court cases. I will post more in the future with small explanations.

 That is correct, the government can restrict freedom of speech under certain circumstances. It's few and far between but it can happen. So when is your freedom of expression allowed and when is it not?

It is easier to discuss when it is not allowed. Freedom of speech and expression is fairly broad and if a law is introduced to censor it must be specific.

1.Censoring the student newspaper, the classroom is a place for education and the principal has the authority to determine what is in instruction, articles are to sensitive for the age group

Hazelwood School district v. Kuhlmeier 1988
 2. Promotion of illegal drugs at a school sponsored event. A student had a sign which read, "bong hits for Jesus."  Supreme Court sided with the school, saying that the sign was stating the use of illegal drugs and that the school is entrusted with the supervision of students.
Morse v Frederick June 2007
 3. The use of 'fighting words' may not be protected.
- Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire 1942
 4. The government can prohibit the time, place and manner in which expressions are permitted. 
The government may lawfully regulate the time, place and manner in which First Amendment activities occur, provided the rules are content neutral. Rules are content neutral if they treat all speech the same, regardless of its content. that are content based, that treat different content of speech differently, must undergo increased judicial scrutiny. They may be found constitutional but the burden on the government is much higher to justify them. *1
5. Material that is found to be a threat to specific individuals.
6. The control of the volume of a concert but it can't control the content or anything else.

Protection extends to....

1. Distribution of literature, leaflets and signature gathering: door-to-door, in public places such as side-walks and malls.
 2. Discussing ideas even if they are not friendly and the majority doesn't agree.
 3. Protesting is allowed but depending on the city and or state there may be regulations on obtaining a permit but the law for this must be content neutral.
4. Flag burning is allowed even if it is unpopular.

Harvard Professor Zechariah Chafee, in his 1941 work, argued that freedom of expression is essential to the emergence of truth and advancement of knowledge. The quest for truth “is possible only through absolutely unlimited discussion,” Chafee said. Yet, he noted that there are other purposes of government, such as order, the training of the young, and protection against external aggression. Those purposes, he said, must be protected too, but when open discussion interferes with those purposes, there must be a balancing against freedom of speech, “but freedom of speech ought to weigh heavily on that scale.” *1

Constitutional scholar, Alexander Meiklejohn, agreed for the most part with Chafee’s interpretation of the First Amendment. He said that only expression that incites unlawful acts should be punishable. Further, he said, incitement does not occur unless an illegal act is actually performed and the prior words can be directly connected to the act. Then, and only then, can words be punished in spite of the First Amendment. *1
Chafee and Meiklejohn felt that the voters must be well informed to make wise decisions. Both endorsed Milton’s “marketplace of ideas” concept, and Meiklejohn supported Milton’s view that truth will prevail in this clash of ideas. *1

*1: Overbeck, Wayne; Belmas, Genelle (2011-01-17). Major Principles of Media Law, 2012 Edition, 1st Edition (Kindle Locations 2226-2227). Cengage Learning. Kindle Edition.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Showing up is key!

In Govt 170 and 180 classes we have talked about how California and the country for that matter listens to old people because the vote is mass amounts. Why doesn't Medicare or social security get cut or reshaped in any way? It's because when any elected official mentions it all the old people start moaning and groaning but the AARP lobby group moans and groans on a larger scale.

Voting is key and understanding what the options are is just as important. The idea that one vote doesn't make a difference is right when it is thought about in context of how much time it takes to learn about all the issues versus the actual effect on an individuals personal everyday life. If millions of people decide that their vote doesn't matter then turn out tends to be lower. In the California 2008 general election 60% of eligible voter turned out to vote for President compared to 1996 which was at 52%, according to Dr. Michael McDonald CA voter turnout results.
Voter turnout had not been that high in California since the 1960s. In California it is important to participate in voting because to pass anything of serious importance such as raising taxes the legislation needs 2/3 majority to pass in the state house and senate, something that is extremely hard to get. So the next step is to get it passes as an initiative and this is something that goes to the voters. In California's next state election cycles there might be a tax initiative on the ballot from Jerry Brown. Click here for a link to an article about a tax hike for education 

The United State is voter driven and for the most part the voters opinions matter. In the Federalist #10, James Madison called it a fragmented national institution, which means that the government is broken into: the House, Senate, President and Supreme Court. The selection process of the House is selected by the people, the Senate by the legislature, President by the electoral college and the Supreme Court is appointed. So who is in office is important and it starts with the citizen voter.

This fragmented institution is also in place so no single office has a majority of the power. The terms are different so that passions of the moment and common impulse don't dictate. The House serves 2 years and unlimited terms, Senate is 6 years and unlimited terms, President serves 4 years and 2 term limit and the Supreme Court serves for life. The Senate also rotates election cycles every 2 years but only 1/3 of the chambers is up for election at one point.

Citizen's opinions do matter and they have the ability to let them be heard by casting a ballot.

In the wake of the Occupy movements we have witnessed that people are fed up with the status quo. They are gathering in parks and city squares all over the world and I hope they all line up to vote on election day. Teach-ins on the issues to inform the public about what is going on in their state. For those of us in California out state  government is structured after the national government.

Recommended reading: Federalist Papers #10 and #51, Google them they are available online for free.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tax payers can get their money's worth from my education

Who do I think I am anyways! Do I think I offer any well thought and insightful information on anything that has to do with politics? Well, actually I do think I have some good things to say but they may tend to be some regurgitated information from the news with some extra academic information slapped on the outside. BUT stick with me here I just may have a good idea.

In the Golden State of California we have the forced kindness of people who pay taxes and some of those taxes go to subsidize the state education system. I happen to go one of those institutions, California State University, Sacramento. In my opinion I think there are wonderful professors for around the cost of $4,000 a semester for California residents.

Now a $4,000 a semester price tag seems like a steal for education that is subsidized, and depending on who you are it can be. But in 2011 tuition went up 22% and this had the students demonstrating on campus with marches and sit-ins, something I took part in. There were various reason why students were angered at the rising tuition such as: classes being cut, admin services being reduced and the President receiving upwards of $60,000 to remodel his kitchen for entertaining purposes of course, while making over $200,000. The students getting upset and mass amounts of money going to ridiculous places is not what this is about though.

While the protests and sit-ins were taking place the media was covering them and the best place to debate is in those news article online comment sections. Only the best and the brightest make comments there. There were people saying that the students were spoiled, whiners and that they, the taxpayer, did not want to pay into the system any longer. That the students should pay for it themselves to really appreciate the education because no one helped them when they were in college. I was answering most of these posts as the unofficial news blogger of the sit-in on CSUS's campus. From that experience this is where I came up with this glorious idea, to blog about my classes thus passing on information to the tax paying citizen. Because of my current classes schedule I feel the information I am gaining is important to every person in California.

So this blog is now dedicated to you, the wonderful CA tax payer, you can now reap an immediate benefit of your money because we are an inpatient society, which is not your fault either we can collectively blame technology. So what are you going to learn this semester.....

My classes this semester are: Govt 170 Public Policy Development, Govt 180 California State and Local Government, Journalism 135 Public Affairs Reporting and Journalism 153 Mass Media Law.

You can expect to get information about: what to read and why to read it, facts and figures and other important information. This is purely educational and in no way constitutes cheating as I will not be posting my full notes or tests but may post my papers after they have been graded and corrected by me.

I just want you, the tax payer, to feel like you are getting something for your money and in turn I get to share some important, vital and interesting information about California government and politics, and some journalism stuff as well. You can expect some other posts about my student organization activities but I will explain that later because I have reading to get done.

I hope you enjoy this semester.

Brandon Marshall
Senior Govt and Journalism Student
CSU Sacramento