I Rebut Tim Part 1.

Ok, still no one has replied here. But, I do have a friend on Tufts Dems, Tim L., a self-described Christian Socialist, who attempted a multi-part rebuttal to my previous post. I have pasted it here, so that my response will not give me the appearance of tilting at windmills or debating straw men. Since Tim’s posts came piecemeal, I’ll deal with them one by one.

Tim: There are some people who simply can’t survive on what they have. Should they depend on private charity to survive? No. As long as there are people going hungry or homeless by no fault of their own while many have too much money for their own good, it is the obligation of the government to provide for them. That is one of the most perverse things about capitalism: you are tricked into believing that you should save up capital for capital’s sake, even if you have so much money that you will never have need of all of it. The main conservative principle that people are entitled to this money is based upon greed, and the wrongful assumption that all people who are poor are poor because they are lazy and that they could become rich if they tried. The structure of a free-market economy is such that some people profit while some get screwed over; conservatism tries to mask this fact by saying that taxes are preventing the poor from reaching their full potential…and all that other b.s. that Rush Limbaugh is spewing.

Mike’s Demonstrably Superior Response (MDSR): Ok, Tim, you say I think that the poor should have to rely on private charity to survive. Well, first I would point out that the poor should first rely on themselves to survive. Failing in that, I would hope private charity would save them. You say that the poor should not have to depend on private charity, why is this dependence objectionable and governmental dependence not? Since the government gets its wealth from private citizens, isn’t your system just concealing the fact that the poor need the wealthy to survive, whereas mine makes the arrangement open, honest and voluntary? Your argument that capitalism “tricks” people, is completely baseless, and you give no reason why this is the case. So too is your complete mischaracterization that my belief that people have a right to their earning is based on greed, and that poor people are poor from some fault. The whole premise of my post is that the right to one’s property and one’s wealth stems from a right to one’s life, not greed. And I don’t assert that the poor are poor out of fault, but because, for any number of reasons, they fail to provide a valuable enough good or service in the marketplace. Some people would indeed still be poor if taxes were dramatically lowered, people who through stupidity, disability or pure dumb misfortune have little to offer. However, a major cause of poverty is a lack of jobs, and if government weren’t collecting such a large percentage of the nation’s wealth, that wealth would be at work creating jobs, largely eliminating unemployment and abject poverty. Liberals never seem to understand this. As Ronald Reagan put it “The more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.” Your confiscation of wealth from the economy destroys jobs, which in your mind necessitates more confiscation to alleviate the poverty your program just caused, so you confiscate more, then more people lose their jobs, and it continues downward in a self-reinforcing spiral. So, again I would echo “Rush’s b.s.” and say that not only is your policy misguided and foolish, but that it is also most cruel to those you claim to help.



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Progressive Enthusiasm and the Health Care Debate

I know it’s summer and some of us have more important things going on than following politics and reading this blog, but luckily for you all, I don’t.  I’m relaxing and mentally preparing to head back to Tufts in the fall for senior year, but politics never fade far from my mind.  This summer we’ve seen a very intense health care debate flaring up all over the country (even in liberal suburban Connecticut: check this out).

Commentary from the left and the right persistently asks the question: why are conservatives so passionate, so mobilized, and getting so much publicity, when all of those Obama liberals might as well be invisible?  Well, for one, Democratic activists haven’t been silent, health care demonstrations around the country have attracted hundreds and even thousands of participants in support of reform, and amidst the loudest anti-reform voices, there are quiet, more polite liberals in the background.  But I digress.

Democrats who supported Obama haven’t been as vocal in support of this reform bill as they could have been.  The progressive grass- and netroots that did most of the legwork to elect President Obama have been relatively quiet and laid-back as the health care debate gets going.  The energy and excitement coursing through Obama supporters in the campaign of 2008 is nowhere to be found.

Jonathan Cohn calls it “The Enthusiasm Gap” in a recent article in The New Republic.  Polls are showing that Americans still largely support the major components of health care reform as proposed by the White House, but…well, no one seems to be doing anything about it.  Crazies on the right are up in arms, hanging their representatives in effigy and accusing Obama and Democrats of being everything from socialists to granny-murderers, and the response from the left has been…casual, to say the least.  No one seems to know why, but I have a few ideas.

Liberals are ambivalent about the legislation on the table to reform health care because, in essence, they’re worthless, watered-down proposals that won’t have much of an effect.  As a proponent of single-payer health care, which would not only reduce costs to the individual but actually cover everybody, the bill Barack Obama is pushing is disappointing, to say the least.  Most depressing, we can look back at the Hillary-care effort from 1993 longingly; that proposal included many of the provisions we are losing every day.  Now, Obama-care is but a shadow of the long lost reform efforts of the Clinton administration.  There is even talk that the public option may be dropped entirely.

Is this change we can believe in?  More importantly, the first few months of the Obama administration have disappointed progressives on numerous other levels.  One of the President’s first official actions was to bailout corporations like AIG to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars, and he has been slow to act on many campaign issues that got him elected in the first place: Afghanistan is getting worse, not better; the pull-out of Iraq has been slow and with only mixed results; and the Bush-era crimes against humanity have yet to be investigated, let lone prosecuted.  The list of disappointents is miles long.

As any self-respecting liberal ought to tell you, we as a movement are far from giving up.  The recent Netroots Nation convention of progressive bloggers and activists confirms that there is still energy and excitement on the left for “change we can believe in”.  But we’re tired of the endless compromises coming out of the White House and the Democratic caucus in both chambers of Congress.  We worked to elect the President, and finally, for the first time in my political life, I expected to have a voice, however small, in the decision-making process in Washington.  It hasn’t quite materialized–although I’m not ready to give up yet.

And whenever I get really down about the lack of progress on important issues like health care, I remind myself that it could certainly be worse.  Imagine the country under President McCain and–I shudder to think–Vice President Palin.  A scary picture indeed.

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The Rise of a Democratic SuperMajority

Hi all, I’ve been out of commission with oodles of work; the end of the year is fast approaching. but I figured I check back in quickly to point out something I’ve been noticing. With President Obama’s new decision to push immigration “reform,” I have begun detecting a worrisome pattern. Now, I must issue a disclaimer to those who will discount this as a conspiracy theory: I do not have any evidence that the following is in anyway consciously planned or connected. I merely wish to point out the cumulative effect that a series of Obama/Dem policies will have.

Since the inauguration, the newly dominant Democratic Party has embarked on a course, which, if successful, will almost certainly lead to a semi-permanent Democratic majority in the national government. I’m not talking so much about demographic shifts, which are used after almost every election to “prove” that one party or another has achieved a permanent numerical superiority. No, I’m talking about actions that are not a product of demographic or ideological shifts, but actions that will cause such shifts.

Now, nearly 50% of the country pays nothing or even receives a net gain from the income tax system. This means that there is nearly a majority of Americans with no personal incentive to keep income taxes down. Dems are pushing the card-check bill in Congress, the passage of which will lead to vast and rapid proliferation of unions across the country, almost irrespective of the desires of the workers themselves. This means that there will be a massive increase in the power of one of the Democrats’ most powerful lobbying and interest groups: the Unions. The Stimulus Bill’s coercion of states into permanently expanding their welfare roll means that more people will become reliant and used to government largesse. And, last, the new measure to legalize that estimated 12 million illegal immigrants into naturalized citizens, will mean 12 million new voters with a strong tendency to vote Democrat. All of these measures point in one direction: a new age of Democrat dominancy of the national culture.


I hope I’m wrong, and I hope these initiatives fail, but I foresee that if they do succeed, the Democratic Party will have succeeded in making itself almost impervious to challenge over the next decade.



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Connecticut Politics

If, six months ago, you asked any Connecticut resident, including myself, whether or not Chris Dodd would serve another term as our Senator, the answer would almost certainly have been an unequivocal yes.  Even after his frankly idiotic bid for the Democratic nomination for president and the Countrywide mortgage scandal that he still claims to know nothing about, reelection for Dodd seemed a sure thing.  But then, as incumbents seem wont to do at times, Dodd went and got himself caught up in another, even worse scandal, this one related to the AIG bonus mess.

Even so, the Dodd name is so impenetrable in Connecticut politics (Chris’ father, Tom Dodd, served in Dodd’s seat before him).  Dodd seems committed to continuing on as Connecticut’s senior senator, but there is a growing list of potential challengers who want to see Dodd kicked to the curb.  From his own party, there is Roger Pearson, a Greenwich Democrat who once served as the town’s first selectman.  Pearson has already formed an exploratory committee to challenge Dodd for the Democratic nomination, but insiders give him little chance of unseating the longtime incumbent in a closed primary.

On the Republican side, however, big names are quickly lining up in order to get a chance to challenge Dodd in a general election.  The clear frontrunner at this point is former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, who represented me in the 2nd district until, with the help of many Tufts students, Joe Courtney (A’75) took out the incumbent in the closest race of the 2006 cycle, winning by a final count of 83 votes [disclaimer: I volunteered for both of Courtney’s campaigns and interned in his district office in the summer of 2007].  After that narrowest of defeats, many expected Simmons to try again in 2008, but he stood aside to allow Sean Sullivan to challenge Courtney, and the results was a sweeping win for the incumbent.

Simmons right now is leading a crowded field, but not by much.  In the most recent poll, conducted by Research 2000 for the liberal blog DailyKos, Simmons ended up with 40% to Dodd’s 45%, and State Sen. Sam Caligiuri took 30% to Dodd’s 51%.  Most of the difference, it seems, comes from name recognition.  82% of those polled had no opinion of the lesser-known Caligiuri, who is a rising star in CT Republican ranks.  Beyond these two, who have both formally announced their candidacies, much speculation focuses on the likely candidacies of former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Tom Foley, and 2004 Dodd challenger Jack Orchulli.

So is Chris Dodd a lame duck?  In the first quarter of this year, Dodd raised an impressive $600K+ total.  But…there’s a little more to the story.  Dodd raised only $4250 from 5 Connecticut residents, pulling everything else from out of staters.  This is troubling for a 30-year incumbent, to say the least.  This will likely be one of the most closely-watched senate races in the country in 2010, so stay tuned for updates.  Maybe Dodd will even give me a job on his campaign (probably only if he’s REALLY in trouble).


-Will Ehrenfeld

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Education Reform

Earlier this week I had a phone interview with a charter school, where I will hopefully be working for the summer.  So I got to thinking…what’s the best way to fix our schools?  Should we be working on reducing the achievement gap by opening new, more rigorous schools, or fixing the ones we have?


The bigger problem I came to, as I considered how to approach this interview, is how we even measure achievement and progress in fixing schools.  Are standardized test scores a reliable indicator of performance?  If we cant rely on No Child Left Behind to hold schools accountable, what else is there?  My own point of view is that multiple choice tests are pretty much worthless in terms of measuring achievement and in terms of actually teaching kids.  But if we try to measure essay responses across schools and even across the country, are grades comparable?  I would argue no.

This is probably hard to hear for students coming out of high school with sky-high SAT scores and who aced the Regents’ exam or the MCAS or whatever your state test is.  It took me awhile to balance my own skill at standardized tests with the unfairness they engender in students’ who don’t have all the benefits I had growing up.  Just because I did well on the SAT’s doesn’t mean they can be considered a reliable indicator of college success–although I’m doing pretty well in college, so there’s a bit of a correlation there.  But, as you will soon learn if you haven’t already, correlation does not equal causation.

So what’s the next step?  It seems like there are so many problems facing public education, especially in urban areas, that the path to fairness and equality is unreachable.  For a lot of successful people, especially those with decision-making power over schools, the suggestion that schools are failing is anathema to their own experiences and backgrounds.  There’s no chance that Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or Arne Duncan (Sec. of Education) ever attended a school that was subpar in the way that millions of students do every day in places like Boston, Hartford, the Bronx, Compton, and all over the country.  But the reality is that many public school students are struggling without access to the resources that the vast majority of Tufts students have always had.  Don’t believe me?  Pick up a Jonathan Kozol book; I recommend “Shame of the Nation”.

Like I said, solutions have been widely debated and it seems like at this point, everyone has agreed that fixing the school system will be too hard and should be postponed indefinitely.  I hope that changes soon, and along with the rest of the world, I have a great deal of hope in Pres. Obama.  I don’t have the answers, but if there is going to be a debate on here like I hope there will be, I want to set out groundrules.

1. Don’t recite tired party rhetoric.   School vouchers won’t fix anything and everybody knows it.  The Democrats barely have a policy, so I’m not criticizing the Republicans…but it doesn’t work.  Vouchers would steal money away from the failing school districts and create a vicious cycle of diminishing funds from poorly-performing schools which would eventually lead to massive school closings and a lack of access to quality education.

2. Be creative.  Right now there aren’t a lot of ideas on the table, at least in mainstream discussions.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of potential fixes or adjustments you could make.  The problems are vast, so don’t limit your thinking to testing reform or isssues related to specific schools.

3. Don’t be a fatalist.  Public schools aren’t all bad (your classmates at Tufts have gone to the best public schools in the country).  Look to the good things you might know of from your own experience and think about how they might be transferrable to schools with less money available and fewer resources.


I’m looking forward to hearing from people about this topic.  And, like one of my professors here says often, everyone is an expert on education because you’ve all been there; everyone goes to high school so everyone has a perspective on it.  What’s yours?

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Obama’s Trip

So, President Obama is overseas and he appears quite popular.   However, and unfortunately for him, his popularity didn’t lead to any concrete results.  He may have been well received, but failed in his two goals:  to get Europe to commit to more stimulus spending and to get more nations to commit troops to our military efforts in Afghanistan.  Again, President Obama may have become more popular by talking about closing Guantanamo or by changing the “War on Terror” to the “Overseas Contingency Operation,” but those who hate us are just laughing as the G20 countries ignore his wishes (and some of our haters are testing rocket launches to boot!)

In other news, Congratulations to all members of the class of 2013!  I look forward to seeing you at April Open House!


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Horowitz On Academic Freedom

So, last night was Tufts Republicans’ big event. We brought David Horowitz to campus to speak on the necessity of academic freedom. First the club took Mr. Horowitz out to dinner at Sagra’s. Afterward, we spoke in Barnum. The speech went well, and covered a variety of topics on the need for more balance in our universities. He discussed the fall of Larry Summers over at Harvard, the absurdity of the premises of many Women’s and Africana Studies Departments, and much more. The question and answer section went well, the questioners were respectful and there was some good debate, and after, Horowitz signed copies of his new book, “One Party Classroom”. We also made the front page of the Daily today, which combined with Horowitz’s appearance on the Howie Carr Show and my op-ed in the Tufts Daily yesterday, means TR got pretty good media coverage this week. I’ve still got lots of work to do, but my next post will be returning to my debate with Alex and Tim.

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