Come January, President Obama might be sent home to a bitter Chicago winter with his tail between his legs. The same goes for Governor Romney if his multi-million dollar campaign to unseat the President fails. But for whoever starts off another presidential term in 2013, the critical issues facing the United States will remain unchanged.
On Saturday, September 22, the BU Alumni Association hosted the panel Critical Choices: Issues on the Desk of the Oval Office, featuring four panelists from the Political Science Department. Department chair Graham Wilson, Professor Neta Crawford, Associate Professor Douglas Kriner and Assistant Professor Katherine Einstein participated.
“As we began to plan this program…I thought to myself, well maybe by this point people have seen so many opinion polls about who’s ahead and who’s behind, that we shouldn’t just focus on who’s going to win and why,” said Wilson at the opening of the panel. “…Once the shouting is over, once the returns are in, once its all settled, what are the fundamental choices that this country needs to face up to, or can’t avoid facing up to, depending on your point of view?”
Speaking to an audience mostly of BU alumni, the panelists addressed the issues in which they specialize. Kriner, who focused on the domestic policy, labeled two key budget issues that have “the standard modus operandi (method of operation) in Washington sort of flipped on its head.”
“These [issues] are the extension of the Bush tax cuts or their expiration in January, as well as the automatic sequestration of a large amount of federal spending as a result of the failed budget compromises of 2011,” Kriner said.
Kriner emphasized the importance of these two issues in the coming year.
“Most of the time, [if Congress does not act, for] 95 percent of the issues in Washington… policy remains the same,” said Kriner. “On these two issues, if Congress doesn’t do something, policy changes dramatically.”
Einstein spoke on the three domestic issues of youth unemployment, state budget shortfalls and immigration. Touching on a subject, she noted that while the unemployment rate for those under 25 is still a high 9.4 percent, for those with only a high school diploma, the rate is 30 percent.
“These periods of unemployment in young workers are devastating,” said Einstein. “Economic research shows that early bouts with unemployment and underemployment can have a permanent impact on career prospects and lifetime earnings.”
Einstein also added that unemployment for young adults causes a shift in the lifestyle young Americans had before them. Two-thirds of those seeking bachelor degrees take out loans, causing them to hold off on buying homes and cars. Nearly a quarter of adults ages 20 to 30 lived with their parents between 2007 and 2009, compared to 17 percent in 1980.
Borrowing money begins itself at the federal level, where 37 cents of every dollar is borrowed, according to Wilson.
“A lot of people have said that markets change faster than government policies…and that amount of debt [we are accumulating] can be [potentially dangerous] if the economic situation were to change, if interest rates internationally started to rise rapidly,” Wilson said.
Crawford reiterated that there is “an intimate connection between the domestic and the international” when it comes to addressing America’s critical issues, such as agricultural subsidies that affect food prices all over the world, climate change and energy and tax policies.
“There are many interlinkages here which I think Congress needs to think about clearly and we need to know about and participate more actively on,” Crawford said, emphasizing especially on global warming.
Statements by all of the panelists frequently returned to other widely-conversed issues such as health care, defense spending and partisan politics. A question-and-answer session followed the panel as well. To view the panel in its entirety, click here.
Critical Choices: Issues on the Desk of the Oval Office is Part 1 of BU’s Road to Washington, a political panel series continuing throughout the election season. More on-campus panels will be hosted by the BU Alumni Association throughout October and November.