Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Progressive Coalition Forum

Last Tuesday, Matt Buccelli and I were invited on behalf of the College Democrats to participate in the Progressive Coalition Forum.

What was that? A friendly discussion with members of the College Dems, EcoAction, NAACP, H*yas for Choice, and GU Pride about what the next most important steps for the Obama administration are.

We brought up ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND GLOBAL WARMING as a national security, social justice, and economic issue.

For more information about the interconnectedness of the ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, and GOVERNMENT, I highly recommend Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It's an AMAZING read if you're into either economics, energy, or politics. (A.k.a., if you're a Georgetown student.)

Want to hear more about the ProCo Forum?

Obviously, Matt and I brought up ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND GLOBAL WARMING as our "area" for President Obama to address. What it comes down to is that when a country is importing most of its energy, that's a national security issue. Should any country (whether it be Canada [harmless enough?] all the way to Iraq, who lies in the top ten countries we import from) decide to cut off their oil supply to us, what would we do?

Also, when it comes down to it, global warming is a social justice issue. It is NOT coincidential that the poorest countries and most disenfranchised people are the ones affected by global warming. These people often live in equatorial parts of the world [for many sociological/historical reasons], where global warming has the greatest effect.

It's also an economic issue. The U.S. has, for too long (in my opinion), been investing in old technologies. Why are we not investing in clean energy? China and India certainly are and when they beat us out in creating more efficient solar energy, it will be absolutely devastating for the U.S. economy.

The obstacles for overcoming this issue are three-fold:
  1. Fear of unemployment. A valid fear, but people need to realize that there's going to be structural unemployment when we're investing in new sectors.
  2. Lack of government incentives. Why are our brightest students all studying finance? Because that is where the money was. (Obviously, there's going to be a time-lag... but you get what I'm trying to say.) There are few incentives for students going into science/engineering - and if they are, it's usually health care because that's what the government subsidizes the most. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about finding the cure for cancer, but this is a legitimate obstacle. If the government gave more incentives for creating alternative energy sources, people would take up engineering.
  3. Poor education. There's not enough emphasis on math and science. According to the US Department of Education, U.S. 8th graders scored below average in math and U.S. 12th graders were among the lowest in the world - outperforming only Cyprus and South Africa. [Side note: SERIOUSLY??] (To clarify: this was a study covering over 40 countries, from all continents [minus Antarctica] and ranging from most to least developed.)
Fixing this issue is going to require a different kind of stimulation than we, as Americans, are used to. But Matt and I advocated cap-and-trade as a good first start.

Now for what the other groups had to say:

The College Democrats' issue was WITHDRAWING FROM IRAQ BY 2011. The war in Iraq is a huge burden to our economy. The challenges are sticking to a deadline and following through with promises.

The NAACP wanted to address the FLAWED CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. They brought up police brutality against minorities and failing social institutions, which feed people into the criminal justice system. They think that the Obama administration, not necessarily legislation, needs to address this issue, if only to bring it to light.

H*yas for Choice brought up the REMOVAL OF ABSTINENCE-ONLY SEX-EDUCATION PROGRAMS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION. They believe that a more comprehensive education is necessary to give our young adults full, educated choices. The biggest obstacle to this is mythology - pro-choice is NOT the same as pro-abortion. One small victory was the repeal of the Mexico City policy, which requires NGOs to neither perform/actively promote abotitions to get money for funding.

GU Pride talked about MARRIAGE EQUALITY and giving full benefits to same-sex members of household for government employees.

What I found pretty interesting about this forum was how interlinked some of these issues are. As NAACP brought up, the flawed education institution greatly affects both the criminal justice system and energy independence.

The College Dems made a valid point about the Iraq-War drain on our economic system, using money that could be invested in our future.

As far as H*yas for Choice goes, contraception/abortion has always been a pretty political issue. What I'm interested in is overpopulation and the world is simply going to run out of resources for people to exploit. I would absolutely never condone killing of people to free up resources, but I was reading in my sociology textbook about Urbanization. There are families in the world where it's common to have children in the double-digits - and these are often the poorest families. If we gave all women (I say women because it most greatly affects them) the education about the choices they could make, the world would definitely be a different place.

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