Author Archives: Shawn_Scanlon

More Prop 8… in theatrical form!

by Shawn Scanlon

Prop 8 continues to be a hot issue, well after the election, with a recent poll showing that religion and class played a larger role than race did in how voters decided on Prop 8.  Food for thought, anyway.

Also, I found this to be an entertaining video, and I’m hoping that you do as well!

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Filed under Media, Religion, Uncategorized, Voter Demographics

Civil Unions < Marriage

Due to the recent passage of Proposition 8, the class (and nation) has had a lot of discussion of the issue of Gay Marriage.  We haven’t really focused on what rights Gay Couples are not permitted to have.  This is a quite brief rundown on why Civil Unions are lacking as an answer to one of the Civil Rights issues in our time.

 

Civil Unions do not (and are unable to) confer federal rights.

 

With regard to taxes, couples in a civil union can file a joint tax return, but they can’t do so for federal taxes.  It is oftentimes advantageous for couples to be able to file jointly; gifts to a partner or other transfer of assets can be taxed in a civil union.

 

When one’s partner dies, it is procedural for the survivor’s social security benefits to increase to a level commensurate with the couple’s earnings, rather than just the survivor’s earnings.  From a personal standpoint, I have seen the positive impact of such a program: my Grandmother has been on survivor’s benefits (as well as SSI) for years.  Those couples in a civil union can’t collect survivor’s benefits.

 

Health insurance issues are another example of missing rights.  (Deep breath)  Ok, here we go.  This one’s a bit of a doozy, as this is the most complex of the issues surrounding the inadequacy of civil unions.  Here are a couple of concerns regarding civil unions and health insurance:

  • Employers can choose whether or not they would like to provide health insurance benefits to spouses in a civil union if their private health plans are not subject to state law.
  • Even if subject to state law, most states do not compel employers to cover spouses in civil unions.

Additionally, in places like Vermont, children born to couples in a civil union are presumed to be the child of both members in the civil union.  This presumption is not present in other states; the couple would likely have to go through the adoption process.  This seems complex, but let me give an example:

  • Kristin (a woman) has a child while in a civil union with another woman, Jamie.
  • They decide together to name their baby girl Madison.
  • If the couple separates, and Kristin moves to Pennsylvania with Madison, then Jamie will not be presumed as a parent to the child.
  • This means that although the child was born while the parents were in a civil union, Kristin would have the ability to deny Jamie the right to visit, even if Jamie was willing to move to Pennsylvania to remain close to little Madison.

I believe that we all want to find love someday.  If I find that, my friends, family, and society should be happy, regardless of who it is.

 

Shawn Scanlon

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Easy Like Sunday Morning…

by Shawn Scanlon

Colorado seems to be heading for a breakup with the Republican Party.  Rather than look at the demographics or address the policy preferences of each party, (which we’ve already done in class) why not compare Kerry 2004 to Obama 2008?

We’ll be comparing campaign bureaucracies.  In 2004, I was a member of the Kerry-Edwards campaign team, so I speak with a bit of knowledge on the organization.  Statewide, we had 9 regional campaign offices.  There were a half-dozen “satellite” offices that were more or less affiliated, but Kerry-Edwards had 9 offices.  Each office was large, and had a lot of resources to muster.  The strategy was simple: each of the 9 regional offices would assign organizers to a district within the region to recruit volunteers.  The problem: this strategy made the campaign seem top-heavy and clunky.  My assigned district was 25 minutes from the office that I worked out of.

Fast-forward to 2008.  The Obama-Biden campaign has 50 offices in Colorado.  Most of the Obama offices are much smaller than ours were in 2004, but this campaign structure appeals to activists.  Each field organizer is never more than 10 minutes from their assigned district, and volunteers have a myriad of options to choose from when deciding where to volunteer.  Rather than renting one very large office, (half of the office building I worked in was rented by Kerry-Edwards) Obama-Biden is renting smaller spaces, and spreading the wealth.

Let’s look closely at JeffCo, where there was only one campaign office in 2004.  In 2008, volunteers have the choice of 5 campaign offices: Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Littleton or Morrison.  It is much easier for volunteers to give their time to the campaign.  Plus, there’s a bit more energy for Democrats:

There remains a significant enthusiasm gap between the candidates: While 67 percent of Obama supporters are enthusiastic about their candidate, just 31 percent of McCain supporters are enthusiastic about theirs – a drop of six points. (via CBS News)

This may seem like a small issue, but having and army of volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls contributes to success.  Once early voting ends on Friday, the real ground game begins.  Obama’s small-scale approach may make a large difference in Colorado’s breakup with the GOP.

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Rescuing Wall Street

by Shawn Scanlon

The Bailout legislation that recently passed was the only way to help the ailing economy.

At least that’s how it was sold to us. But the salespeople were wrong.  There were a myriad of ways that government could have helped during these difficult times.  But let’s look at at from a different perspective.  What bad things might have happened if the bailout legislation had not been passed?

  • College students are unable to receive loans to pay for tuition.
  • GM fails.  Every single person working there loses their job.
  • Home sales will plummet without the availability of credit.

Now, these aren’t the only economic problems that we might have faced sans-bailout, but those were three very strong arguments for passing the bailout legislation.  Here’s the problem: both political parties see a top-down $800 billion solution as the best approach to help the American economy.  A working-class friendly solution might have looked a bit more like this:

  • Government has an interest in the industry that they are subsidizing equal to the shares that are purchased, rather than giving money without control.  For example, the government could have purchased shares of AIG at $3 each; to have had a controlling stake would cost $4.035 billion.
  • College students would still have access to Pell grants and government loans.  The current crisis would have zero effect on the availability of these programs.  However, some students may have trouble finding private lenders.  The government could expand their loan programs to cover these students struggling to find loans.
  • Or, as another option, give every college student in America (pdf) a scholarship for $5,000.  This second option would cost $83.5 billion.  This would cut college costs in half for students attending public universities.  Students would still qualify for Pell grants and government loans.
  • GM has 266,000 employees.  A job works program could employ 1 million Americans for five years at a cost of $200 billion.  The average salary would be $40,000.
  • This last claim is simply untrue.  Rather than plummeting, home sales have done quite well, even in the current market.  People are still buying houses, and the government does not need to guarantee home ownership; giving mortgages that people can’t afford is a problem.  People with good jobs and good credit ought to own homes.  The government ought to treat the illness, not the symptom.

During the debate over bailout legislation, there were sober folks on each side of the issue providing good information.  So no, it wasn’t “smart” people versus “dumb” people in this debate.  In fact, a story on NPR noted that 200 economists (each of them smart) did not agree that the bailout legislation was necessary.  Of course, there were other economists who did believe that it was important to pass said legislation.  I don’t doubt their intelligence; I simply disagree with their method for stimulating the economy.

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Filed under Domestic Policy, Media

Calm down, try some Yoga. To my worried, liberal friends.

by Shawn Scanlon; Every_Man_A_King

Between Palin, McCain’s attack ads, and renewed Republican confidence, Democrats are worried.  My advice: calm down, take a breath, and look at Colorado/Virginia.

Colorado and Virginia are a crucial part of any Republican strategy.  They have 22 electoral votes, enough to ruin McCain’s chances at winning the race for the White House.  Virginia and Colorado are now more blue than red.  That’s right, in just 8 years, they both went from deep red, to swing state, to likely blue.  Likely blue, you ask?  Yup.

As we have seen in exit polls, those with a Bachelor’s degree or higher are more likely to vote democratic than those who do not hold such a degree.  There are only 5 states with a higher percentage of people with Bachelor’s degrees than Virginia or Colorado: they all went for Kerry in 2004.  These two likely will go for Obama this time.  According to the U.S. Census, 32.7% of Coloradoans have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.  In Virginia, it’s 29.5%.

Additionally, these are states with young voters, which tend to go for Obama.  Both Colorado and Virginia have median ages that are below the national average.

If we assume that Nevada, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire are the swing states, McCain must win over 60% of those electoral votes.  That is a tough task.

Fight hard, Obama fans, but keep this in mind: if Republicans think that they’re winning, they’re just plain wrong.

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McCain’s Rancher Problem

by Shawn Scanlon; Every_Man_A_King

Are you a part of the Republican base? Are you integral to any campaign strategy in Colorado? Well, I have a message for you, straight from John McCain.

You aren’t important.

Oh sure, he’ll say nice things about you, and give good answers to easy questions. But recently, he staked out a position that no Colorado politician would seriously consider. He said he wanted to renegotiate Colorado’s water rights. This isn’t a very hot issue in the media, but Coloradoans care about this issue.

The last time Colorado had the chance to vote on a water issue was in 2003. Referendum A was on the ballot, headed up by then-governor Bill Owens. It got crushed at the ballot box. In fact, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, 67% of Coloradoans voted against it (warning, large PDF file!).

Voters perceived it as urban centers taking water away from rural communities. It was deeply unpopular on the Western Slope. Now, it’s one thing to be on the unpopular side of an issue, and it’s entirely another to commit electoral suicide. Take a look at the Western Slope counties that Bush won in 2004; his wins are in red.

Here’s a lesson in local politics for John McCain: don’t mess with Colorado water. Referendum A failed in every single county. That said, opposition was strongest on the Western Slope. Western Slope counties in red voted 70% or higher against Referendum A.

In San Juan county, only 12 voted for Referendum A. That’s not a typo. 12 people, total.

Lest you think Coloradoans aren’t passionate about water, keep in mind that 622,716 people voted against the issue in an off-year election. Ken Salazar sums up his thoughts on renegotiating the compact:

Senator McCain’s position on opening up the Colorado River Compact is absolutely wrong and would only happen over my dead body.

Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer has a position on renegotiation as well:

Opening it for renegotiation would be the equivalent of a lamb discussing with a pack of wolves what should be on the dinner menu.

Whether he realizes it or not, John McCain just gave the political equivalent of the middle finger to Colorado ranchers and farmers.

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Filed under American Electorate, Colorado, McCain, Republican, Rocky Mountain West, Uncategorized