Republicans and Democrats often act like opponents in a political boxing ring, but a group of Western Connecticut State University honors students are ditchin' the labels and trying to find solutions to our nation’s problems that incorporate everyone’s ideas.
We spoke to the group, Views from the Center, during the election -- but what are their thoughts now that we have a winner? We followed up with members Andrew Nelson and Taylor Wolff about their thoughts on Obama’s reelection and their hopes for young Americans’ futures.
MTV ACT: How do you think Obama's reelection will affect young Americans' everyday lives?
ANDREW: It’s difficult to tell. Once again, Obama won the hearts of a lot of young Americans. With that said, he also has a lot to prove to young Americans. Obama’s stance during the election on gay rights, immigration policy and women’s rights proved to be popular rhetoric. Unfortunately, until there is visible action in those areas, a lot of young Americans will be patiently waiting.
TAYLOR: While I think Obama’s second term may reinvigorate or deplete confidence amongst some young Americans who wish to see meaningful legislation passed, I also think most young Americans’ everyday lives will may remain quite similar to the status quo, at least until we can see the effects of his policies aimed at tuition and healthcare. Also, perhaps the decisions that Obama makes in the coming future in terms of energy production will effect everyday life too for young Americans (i.e. the gas pump), but probably not in the short-term.
ACT: What about our lives in the long term?
ANDREW: I believe the outcome of the fiscal cliff is going to depict how are lives will be affected at least for the next few years. Given its Obama’s second term I anticipate a more aggressive president, whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen.
TAYLOR: Obama’s decisions regarding the economy, particularly the deficit, will most likely affect young Americans in the long-term. Additionally, the effects and full implementation of Obamacare may be one policy to look forward to in light of Obama’s reelection. Moreover, it will be interesting to see whom Obama appoints to the Supreme Court in the coming years, as several justices are expected to resign. A more liberal court may have a larger effect on young Americans in the future, especially in terms of laws regarding abortion and campaign finance.
ACT: What are the fiscal cliff negotiations, and take us through your own bipartisan solution to them.
ANDREW: The fiscal cliff negotiations are complicated but with cooperation the cliff can be avoided. President Obama believes in raising taxes on upper-income taxpayers, for example by extending the Bush tax cuts except for those who earn $250,000 or more. Another example would be by limiting the value of deductions for upper-income taxpayers. Conservatives have recommended increasing the age for Medicare and Social Security, therefore, decreasing the eligibility to receive those benefits. Conservatives are also adamant in keeping Bush-era tax cuts and this would include wealthier earners. Thirdly, conservatives propose raising $800 billion by closing loopholes and deductions while lowering tax rates.
Here are my suggestions: First, the aforementioned proposal from the right, to increase the age that a citizen is eligible to receive both Medicare and Social Security would be a prudent compromise. The intent would be to help increase the longevity of the programs by preventing the funds from running dry. For example, increase the age a person is eligible to receive those benefits by two months a year for the next thirty years. If implemented this could help preserve the program without casting too much of a burden on society.
Secondly, I would suggest extending the Bush Tax Cuts for all earners but limit the value of deductions on upper-income taxpayers. For example, there could be increased tax rates on income from investments; this would include capital gains and dividends. An increase tax on capital gains would have wealthier earners paying higher taxes and therefore appeasing the lefts proposal of increased tax rates on the wealthy.
TAYLOR: See policy proposals on ViewsFromTheCenter.com.
ACT: Being members of a bipartisan group, do you think party lines ever hold us back from progress?
ANDREW: Absolutely, I personally believe individuals can be easily blinded by their political ideology. It’s easier to choose to be a liberal or a conservative, and simply write off your opposing side’s viewpoint. Being part of the Views From The Center group at Western CT State University has taught me the importance of seeing both sides. It has also taught me how to put aside my personal ideologies and think of common sense solutions to what may be perceived as complex problems. As there are always two sides to a story, no one political side has the perfect answer.
TAYLOR: I do not think party lines prevent all progress, especially slow progress. In fact, I believe that part of the reason for having a Constitution was to stop one faction from getting too much power, and to preserve the interests of minorities in addition to the majority.
ACT: Do you think change starts with the government, the individual, or a combo of both?
ANDREW: It is definitely a combination. The government has a lot of positive attributes but in order for a society to function properly its people must do their part. For example, without a doubt, government funded social programs for the poor are important but on the individual level, I also know, I need to do my part to care for those in need. The opportunities to be involved in ones community are endless and on a personal level, it is inspirational to see change happen within your community.
TAYLOR: I think change should start with the individual because (1) the government is made up of individuals, (2) the government adheres to individuals (of, by, and for the people), and (3) individuals can bring about the innovation capable of change. Although the individual can utilize the government, the individual has to be the starting point and part of the means to make our government (and the individuals that make up our government) knowledgeable and accountable to make the right decisions.
ACT: Where do you hope our nation will be in 4 years, and what do you think it will take for us to get there?
ANDREW: To begin, I’d love to see a congress and overall a Washington that can work together. I’d love to see America begin tackling bigger issues. For example, issues such as child poverty (of the 35 most economically advanced countries, The U.S. ranks 34th) or the country’s high incarceration rate, both which are often ignored in political debate. Lastly, I’d like to see more use of soft power in American foreign policy. For example, helping build sustainable development in countries where it is needed. I believe achieving these goals is going to take a great deal of bipartisanship. It is also going to take a restructuring of how Americans see their role in the world. If America is the great democracy it perceives itself to be then let our nation statistics and actions both at home and abroad prove it.
TAYLOR: A hope our national will be in a better place economically and politically four years from now. I hope we will be paying off our debt effectively and efficiently. I hope we are decreasing our carbon emissions. I also hope meaningful legislation is passed within a Congress that is accountable, transparent, and bipartisan. I also hope for more and better communication from individuals to the government, and a government made up of people willing to listen to the voices of the left and right to create common sense solutions.