Category: Political Updates

The Looming Sequester: HOW WILL IT AFFECT YOU?

Words: Charles Regnante

Washington, D.C. – Sequester. It’s not a word we often hear. Recently, it’s the most talked about word in print and electronic media. According to Dictionary.com, the word sequester means “a general cut in government spending”.

What’s the big deal about the government cutting spending, you ask? Doesn’t that happen everyday? Spending cuts are normal but a sequester means that government programs at almost every level will be cut at the same time.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, $85.3 billion is expected to be cut from the federal budget in fiscal year 2013. The affects of which will be felt from our nation’s capitol to the smallest towns in our states.

On March 1, if Congress does not find a compromise to halt the federal sequester, cuts will be made to government programs including education, the environment, health, military, law enforcement., defense programs, Medicare, and unemployment benefits.

Since our town [Baltimore] is located near the greater Washington, DC area, the sequester could have devastating effects on the many people who work in or for the federal government. According to the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, approximately 50,000 county residents are federal employees or government contractors.

“The federal government is a major employer and a huge contributor to the local economy on every level,” said Maureen Thomas, executive director of GovConnects at the Howard County Chamber of Commerce to Columbiapatch.com.

“We have lots of folks that work at Fort Meade,” said Howard County Executive, Ken Ulman on the C4 Show Thursday morning. “We’re at war, this cyber war… to think that we’d reduce the workforce at Fort Meade or the people who are protecting our networks, that doesn’t make sense.”

If sequestration were to hit in Maryland, it would entail funding cuts to teachers and schools, work-study jobs on college campuses, Head Start Programs and environmental funding.

A White House report also said sequestration in Maryland could mean furloughs for 46,000 civilian Department of Defense employees, lowering gross pay by about $353.7 million.

Pam Klahr, the president and CEO of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce condemned the unpredictability of the cuts in a Columbia Patch Article.“Chamber members have been saying since last year that the uncertainty surrounding the federal budget – from the Fiscal Cliff to the latest threats of major cuts — is discouraging them from expanding their operations and hiring more employees,” said Klahr. “Businesses need predictability. The uncertainty causes great distress, and businesses are in a wait-and-see mode.”

While the sequester debate rages on in the media and halls of Congress, there is one thing that the majority agrees upon, it’s critical that we address our nation’s deficit program. Whether federal government cuts comes in the form of a sequester or over time, Congressional Republicans and Democrats must set aside their political viewpoints and differences and be willing to compromise for the well-being of the nation.

SGA General Assembly

SGA

Ellicott City, MD – On February 1, 2013, the Student Government Association General Assembly met to discuss upcoming events. Directed by student body president Farhan Bader, a junior, topics included a spring pep rally and a third school dance.

First, students debated the best activities to rev up the spirit at the pep rally occurring on Friday, February 8. They agreed that a ping-pong match, a basketball game, and a few rounds of blanket races would rouse the crowd.

Next, they dealt with the tricky problem of the school dance. As vice principal Kevin Dorsey explained, a failure to improve student behavior could result in a loss of dances in the future. “We’re trying to change a culture,” he told the General Assembly. “You haven’t seen the girls crying in my office because, caught up in the pressure of the moment, they did things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.” With this in mind, the students proposed various solutions. Pep rallies, punishments, and alternative options were suggested, but none were agreed upon at that time.

Discussions will continue at the next meeting, whose date is yet to be decided.

Be sure to show your spirit and wear school colors to the pep rally on Friday.

Obama Reigns in 2nd Term: Presidential Inauguration

Inauguration-1.24

Words: Charles Regnante, Political Correspondent

On January 21st, President Barack Obama took the ceremonial oath office to begin his second term as the United States President. January 21st also happened to be Martin Luther King Day. The inauguration went as planned with a number of singers such as Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé performing traditional American songs. Afterwards, the crowds went wild as the president stepped out of his vehicle lined up on Pennsylvania Avenue and waved to the public for a short period of the inaugural parade. The parade didn’t exactly attract the same amount of viewers as it did when Obama was first inaugurated but there was a decent amount. The highlight of the day was the President’s inaugural address, which focused mostly on themes of unity and progress.

President Obama began by reverting back to the nation’s founding, saying that what binds the nation together is not the “colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origin of our names,” but instead the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Coming back to the theme of unity, Obama said that “together” the country has modernized its economy and educational system. He then rearticulated that “together” we discovered that the free market only works when there are “rules to ensure competition and fair play.”

At the end of his speech, Obama stated what he believes is needed to further America’s journey towards its highest ideals. The President stressed equal pay for women, gay rights, voting rights, immigration reform, and higher employment as the keys to the country’s progress. Remarking on the Newtown shootings, Obama stated that, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.” The president pledged to further the American journey as part of his oath, and urged all Americans to strive to fulfill the same oath to the flag that is “not so different” from the oath he just took.

The Fiscal Cliff: Fixed or Delayed?

Words: Charles Regnante

Washington, D.C. – On January 2nd, three hours shy of the midnight deadline, the White house and congressional leaders reached a deal to fend off the so-called fiscal cliff. But did Congress reach a deal or delay the problem once more?

Under the agreement brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Congress would permanently prolong the Bush income tax cuts at $400,000 and below, keep the estate tax threshold at $5 million and extend unemployment aid for one year. It would also briefly delay the sequester of billions of dollars in across-the board spending cuts for another two months. The cost of continuing current-spending levels will be compensated for through an even mix of tax revenue increases and subsequent spending cuts. Half of those cuts will be in defense spending; half will be in non-defense spending.

The deal involves other tax provisions as well: It extends the child tax credit and the college tuition credit for five years, individual and business tax extenders for two years, and Medicare for one year.

In my opinion, Congress has partially delayed the fiscal cliff and partially cleaned it up. The Fiscal Package does nothing to address the debt ceiling, which the government just hit on December 31st. Thus, prolonging another major political fiscal fistfight in the future. All in all, Congress has partially averted a crisis through bipartisan compromise.

Photo used with permission from Andy Withers

Happy Holidays

Pictured Above: The Wingspan Staff decorates our publication room for the holiday season.

Photos: Navraj Karla

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays. The Wingspan will be on a online publication hiatus as we spend the holidays with our families and friends. Daily online publication will resume on January 2, 2013. See you next year!

Is The President’s Speech on the Connecticut Shooting the Beginning of Real Change?

Words: Charles Regnante

President Barack Obama emotionally addressed the people of Newtown, Connecticut at an interfaith vigil on Sunday. After assuaging victims’ families in classrooms at Newtown High School, the president said he would do everything in his power to “engage” a dialogue with Americans, including increasing law enforcement and mental health professionals, because “we can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change.”

The president was not specific about what he thought would be necessary and did not even use the word “gun” in his remarks, but his speech was broadly perceived as a prelude to a call for more limits and restrictions on the availability of firearms. The president later asked whether the country as a whole could ask itself whether it was doing everything it could to meet its obligations in protecting all children. “This job of protecting kids and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, with the help of a community, and the help of a nation.”

The president took the first minutes of his speech to recite scripture and remember those lost when alleged shooter, Adam Lanza broke into the elementary school with a semiautomatic rifle and two handguns, opening fire before committing suicide. After the president cited the names of the faculty members who died in the attack, he gave a few words of sympathy. “They responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances; with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care,” he said.

The president said on Friday it was time for “meaningful action” to prevent such tragedies, “regardless of the politics.” This is a slight but noticeable shift for Obama, who has not actively pursued stricter gun control during his four years in office despite pledges to do so during his 2008 candidacy. But with so many young victims, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists emerged over the weekend suggesting now was the time to push gun control.