Unlimited contributions to parties would be disastrous

You can’t even watch the playoffs these days without being bombarded by political attack ads by groups who won’t say where they get their money.  Some political operatives now tell us if party committees could just take unlimited donations, the ads by these outside groups will go away. If you’re buying that, I bet they’ve got a bridge to sell you as well.


Four Congressional races to watch

Pundits are understandably focused upon the contentious presidential race. However, let’s peek through our periscopes at which individual congressional races could influence the mindset of next Congress.

This is important because of the looming fiscal cliff regarding the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the sequestration cuts. Can the voters lead the Congress to step back from the chronic dysfunction and gridlock which marred the work of the 112th Congress?

The 2010 elections brought in a new Republican majority in the House and a stronger GOP influence in the Senate, which saw compromise as craven, preferring to push partisan brinksmanship over the issues revolving around debt, deficit and tax policy. That resolve guided the House Republicans and tied the cloture resistant Senate in knots.

Four races will likely become talismans for determining the mindset as Congress heads toward the cliff: three in the House and one in the Senate.


America's seaports critical to US jobs, economy

With the cooler temperatures of fall now upon us, retailers across the country have begun the preparations for what they hope will be a busy and successful holiday season. However, unbeknownst to many consumers is how heavily businesses large and small depend on our nation’s transportation infrastructure system, including America’s seaports.

In fact, almost everything we touch comes through a seaport. From the clothes we wear to the coffee we drink, we depend on goods moving quickly and efficiently via seaports and connecting infrastructure. This dependency requires a critical investment in our transportation system — an investment that will not only create jobs directly, but also indirectly through a stronger manufacturing supply chain that carries goods from the factory doors to our front doors.


Obama's debate dilemma

As we know, President Obama’s puzzling performance in the first presidential debate was roundly criticized. Depending on the news source, Obama was characterized as laconic, listless, tired, defeated, lazy or worse. As the handwringing continues, Obama supporters have rushed into the lurch with more advice than one can shake a stick at. All seem to coalesce around the rather basic idea that he must be more aggressive and spirited in the next two debates. Obama seems to have taken some of that advice to heart. On the stump the very next day after the debate, he contrasted the person sharing the stage with him with “the real Mitt Romney” who has been campaigning for over a year. 

For the president’s supporters, that might be a good sign. But the first debate revealed a much deeper set of problems and choices the Obama campaign faces as it retools for the next two debates. 

First, the problem. The fact is that during the first debate Obama simply forgot the basics of debate strategy. 


After the debate: Romney's busy first day

There was considerable discussion during last night’s debate about what Mitt Romney would or would not do on Day 1 of his presidency, and whether Day 1 would be Inauguration Day or the day after the election on November 6th. It remains a mystery why the President would cede this rhetorical possibility to his opponent (Obama: “Well, first of all, I think Governor Romney's going to have a busy first day,”) but it is in fact an important consideration to ponder. Presidential transitions are fraught with the complexity of changing the leadership of a massive federal government and the secrecy imposed by Washington superstitions. So what do we know about what occur on that Day 1?


From reigning to campaigning: Beauty Queen political candidates

We talk a lot about politicians’ appearances. President Obama’s suits, Mitt Romney’s perfect hair, Paul Ryan’s abs, and Hillary Clinton’s make-up. Even their spouses’ dresses got tongues wagging at the recent political conventions.
While conversation about politicians’ appearances can distract from discussion of their policies, both aspects are important. Economist Daniel Hamermesh has found that voters favor politicians who they find better-looking than their opponents. A polished appearance projects confidence - that even in a stressful situation you can hold yourself together.  And no candidate knows this better than the beauty queen.
This fall, three Miss America contestants will face their toughest competitions yet: runs for political office. There’s Shelli Yoder, Miss Indiana 1992 and second runner-up to Miss America, who secured the Democratic nomination to run for U.S. Congress in the Ninth District of Indiana.


Sequestration cuts could seriously impair medical research

Federal sequestration cuts are expected to dramatically affect funding for all areas of health care research. But nowhere, perhaps, would the effect be more chilling than in  the still-fledgling field of lupus research.

The automatic cuts would become effective January 2, 2013, unless Congress intervenes, and would sharply curtail the pipeline of research funds flowing to scientists through the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. As physicians who have devoted our careers to biomedical/clinical research, we are worried about the effect the cuts will have on the very recent but hopeful progress that has been made in lupus research, and also on the viability of our academic institutions and others like them around the United States. 


Though deeply divided, Wisconsin is still a blue state

It has been a tumultuous couple of years in Wisconsin politics. Starting with the election of Scott Walker and his elimination of public worker collective bargaining, Wisconsin has been deeply — and very evenly — divided. Through recall, the Democrats managed to take back control of the state senate (a significant but largely symbolic victory, given that the legislative session had already ended and much of the Walker agenda had already been enacted), but they failed in winning back the governor’s seat. Whether this is because people are uncomfortable with the concept of the recall, as some have said, or they are supportive of Scott Walker’s policies, as others have said, I don’t think this tell us much of anything about what Wisconsin will do in November. In addition, I doubt Wisconsin will provide the deciding Electoral College vote for the upcoming election. Look to larger states for that—Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania.


Republican war on the environment

It isn’t your fault if you tune into the House of Representatives floor proceedings this week and mistakenly think you’re watching “Groundhog Day.” During the last week Republicans will call the House into session before the November elections, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor have chosen to bypass the important issues that the American public is asking for action on – a comprehensive jobs package, a bipartisan farm bill, dealing with the looming fiscal cliff and sequestration – in order to once again consider several extreme anti-environment and anti-public health bills that have already passed the House before but which will never pass the Senate or be signed into law by President Obama.


Yes, we are better off than four years ago

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As the Democratic convention gets under way, here in Charlotte and across the nation, there’s only one question that counts for voters: Are you better off today than you were four years ago?