- Reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons
- Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
- Background checks on all gun sales
- Ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets
- Harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals
- Approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Gun policy has been a very contentious issue in recent years, especially in the light of the incidents at Sandy Hook and Aurora. As a result Obama has made some key proposals:
The last few years have proved to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Although unemployment has fallen, it has been minimal with latest figures showing it stands at 7.9%. Economic growth remains just as bad at 2% meaning that people are not spending and jobs are not available. The economy of the USA is very fragile and would not take much for the economy to crash again into another recession. Issues that could cause this include the debt crisis in Europe which has severely impacted the free flow of global trade. Other issues include gridlock in Congress and the fiscal cliff. Although there has been slight recent improvements in the economy, there is still a long way to go.
The Fiscal Cliff And The Budget Deficit
The Fiscal Cliff was a series of tax increases and spending cuts that would effect virtually every American and could potential cripple the already weak economy. The idea was that the Democrats and Republicans would act to prevent cuts to defence and social programmes dear to either side, as well as the expiration of a temporary payroll tax cut and the low tax rates dating back to the George W Bush presidency. The proposals are so drastic that they could throw the economy into a deep recession.
Next month, on February 24th 2013, Italy will hold a general election to establish who is to become members of the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the two houses of the Italian parliament.
Previous president of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, resigned after the problems with the European sovereign debt Crisis as well as facing charges of a sex allegation with a prostitute who was underage. However, in December 2012, Berlusconi announced he was standing for president again for The People of Freedom Party. Soon after he announced this, The People of Freedom Party withdrew their support for government resulting in Mario Monti’s resignation as president of Italy – stating that he could not govern with a loss of support for his platform.
As Joe Biden (the Vice President) put it earlier this week they are ‘the centre of [the USA's] future’. He said this in the lime-light of the White House’s push for major reforms of the US immigration system
Hispanics currently make up 10% of America’s population which means that they have significant influence in elections. Furthermore, the number of Hispanics in Congress reached a record 36 meaning that they are section of society which simply can no longer be ignored.
The Hispanic population overwhelmingly support the Democrat with President Barack Obama winning 71 per cent of the Hispanic vote in November, compared to only 27 per cent for Mitt Romney. The vice president said the stark election results meant politicians now understood the “awesome potential” of the Hispanic community and realised that it “must be courted”. However, the Hispanics have also infiltrated the Republican party with well known senators, such as Marco Rubio (Florida), being one. Rubio embraces immigration reform highlighting that the Republicans growing call to address and connect with the Hispanic community.
Obama has unveiled his gun policy proposals despite a lot of opposition from those on the right of the political spectrum. The proposals were released on Wednesday after receiving urgent cries for changes to the constitution and laws surrounding gun control. Obama announced that “we have an obligation to try” to reduce violence and called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and wider background checks on gun buyers.The National Rifle Association (NRA), a very powerful US gun lobby group, declared their rejection of Obama’s proposals, saying that “attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation”.
This is a quick summary on how the two major parties of America, the Democrats and the Republicans, have transformed since they were established in the 18th century. To understand this, you must understand what traditions and ideologies are. A tradition is a long established custom or belief and ideology is a system of ideas and ideals of how people think, for example a conservative ideology.
In the 18th century the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were established which would form the basis of the Democrats and the Republicans. The Federalists believed in centralised government and are what is known today as the Republicans. The Anti-Federalists (otherwise known as the ‘Democratic-Republicans) believed in decentralised government and are what is known today as the Democrats. In 1828, Andrew Jackson (who was the president from 1829-37) renamed the ‘Democratic Republicans’ the Democrat Party and began to establish a liberal ideology which believed in protecting the interest of the poor.
By the 1860s, Slavery was a big issue on the agenda. Southern Democrats, in contrast to today, preached the economic virtues of slavery whilst Lincoln’s Republican Party, in the North, opposed it, and as a result won the civil war (1861-1865). This created an era of Republican domination in America.
A Super Political Action Committee is an organisation which raise unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. In January 2010, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v FEC, and in July 2010 Speechnow.org v FEC, both served to lift many spending and contribution limits – these decisions enabled the amount of SuperPACs to increase rapidly!
SuperPACs, however, must publicly disclose their finances and they cannot coordinate with candidate or parties, BUT they are free to advocate directly for or against a candidate. The impact of SuperPACs is hard to judge, and with it being such a short term since the 2012 US Presidential Election figures are yet to be officially confirmed. However, this is their impact in from the 2010 mid-terms:
1) In September 2010 SuperPAC spending exceeded $8million
2) There was just over one SuperPAC a day registering with the FEC every single day
3) ‘American Crossroads’, a SuperPAC in support of the Republican Party and supported by Karl Rove (former adviser to George W. Bush), contributed more than half of the total spending
4) Republican SuperPACs outspent Democrat SuperPACs by more than 3 to 1
In the wake of the Aurora, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania shootings in 2012, the debate over gun law in the USA has been sparked, and whether citizens of the USA should have a ‘right to bear arms’ as seen in the second amendment of the constitution.
President Barack Obama has made his stance for firmer gun control clear stating that there needs to be “change” and would he would “use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this”. Here is what he had to say:
What is Democracy?
Democracy, and a democratic governing body, is something which most countries strive for. It involves accountability (where the government, or a representative, has to be responsible for their actions) and independent sources of information where different political beliefs are tolerated. Government decisions should also be able to be influence by the people as to prevent a ‘tyranny of the majority’ – which basically means to stop those who are in the majority in an opinion on something should not overrule those who are in the minority without balanced debate and negotiation. But, all in all, it is about the people, and as Abraham Lincoln once put it, it is:
“Government of the people, by the people, for the people”
How democratic is America?
Some say not enough and this encompasses the idea of elitism where groups and individuals are able to dominate the issue at hand in an unfair way. An example of this could be seen by the way ‘American Crossroads’, an influential Republican SuperPAC (something I shall discuss in a later post), contributed half of the total expenditure of the 2010 Mid Term Elections. This could, therefore, have been one of the key reasons why the Democrats lost at the election with the Republicans gaining 63 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 senate seats.
The Fiscal Cliff is the popular short-hand term used to describe the issues the US government will face when the terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect.
At midnight on 31st December 2012 a number of changes took place:
1) The end of last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts (resulting in a 2% tax increase for workers)
2) The end of certain tax breaks for businesses
3) Shifts in the alternative minimum tax that would take a larger bite
4) A rollback of the “Bush tax cuts” from 2001-2003
5) The beginning of taxes related to President Obama’s health care law
At the same time as all this, the debt ceiling deal of 2011 will come into effect…
Over the past month, there have been attempts to a reach a deal. President Barack Obama had originally proposed plans to raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000, but then offered to raise that threshold to $400,00. John Boehner (Speaker of the House of Representative) had offered for the tax cut to expire just for those earning more than $1m, but this was scrapped because of lack of support from his own party.